From the country’s most high-profile crimes to a new life in Suffolk
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Many might describe Colin Sutton as a ‘proper copper’ - the sort with blue blood running through his family’s veins.
His father and great grandfather were police officers and his son has followed suit, now serving as a Pc in Wimbledon.
With Mr Sutton’s pedigree it is hardly surprising he ended up in charge of some of the most high-profile Metropolitan Police cases during his career.
Now retired and living in Suffolk he looked back at his career and spoke about two of the country’s most notorious criminals who he brought to justice.
During nine years as a senior investigating officer in the force’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command Mr Sutton headed 37 murder investigations, 35 of which were detected.
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The former Detective Chief Inspector is the man responsible for putting murderer Levi Bellfield behind bars.
Mr Sutton was also the officer called in to finally catch Britain’s most prolific rapist – ‘Night Stalker’ Delroy Grant - after previous attempts to catch him were hindered by errors.
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Mr Sutton said: “As individuals they couldn’t be more different. Levi Bellfield is just the most chilling, evil, self-centred, manipulative person I have ever met - truly, truly self-absorbed and self-centred, and would never do anything unless it is for him.
“His friends and family who we spoke to said ‘we always knew Levi was a wrong ‘un. It was just a matter of time’.
“However, when we spoke to Delroy Grant’s friends and family they said ‘Not Delroy. It can’t be Delroy. He’s the mainstay of the cricket team. He’s got a disabled wife he cares for’. He was very polite - charming almost.”
At their first meeting after Grant was brought into custody, Mr Sutton said he appeared relaxed even though he must have known he was facing a long prison sentence.
“We ended up talking about cricket and talking about England fast bowlers for the tour that was coming up, and there was a bloke who knew we had got his DNA and knew he was going to prison.
“Delroy came across as quite likeable as a person, and there’s the difference.”
In addition to the Bellfield and Grant investigations Mr Sutton was the senior officer at the scene following the death of MI6 codebreaker Gareth Williams in August 2010 which made national headlines. His body was found in a locked holdall in the bath of his flat in Pimlico.
Mr Sutton was also involved into the re-investigation into the deaths of four soldiers at Deepcut Barracks.
Mr Sutton retired in 2011 and moved to mid-Suffolk four years ago.
The 55-year-old is now a consultant for the national media and television news channels, but still finds time to do some investigative work for Trading Standards.
Never one to let the grass grow, Mr Sutton is also standing as an independent candidate for the post of Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner in this May’s election.
He has clear views on officers taking responsibility and does not believe they should be afraid to apologise for errors of judgment which are made under pressure or in good faith.
“I just think people should take personal responsibility for things.
“Hiding behind organisational contrition and saying ‘the Metropolitan Police is very sorry but we are never going to say it was Fred Smith who made the mistake’ is wrong.
“It’s a position we have moved to in the last 10 to 15 years and it’s not just the police who do it.
“It’s stultifying for creativity and progress.”
Before joining the police in 1981 it looked as if Mr Sutton’s career might take another path.
He said: “I was meant to be a lawyer. That was the plan. I read law at university.”
However, Mr Sutton had a change of heart and signed up with the Met.
“I kind of joined and never really knew what I was going to do. I didn’t really have any idea to be a detective.”
Mr Sutton rose through the ranks quickly in the early years, during which he served as a Pc in Tottenham on the Broadwater Farm Estate where Pc Keith Blakelock lost his life during the riots in October 1985.
His first involvement in a murder inquiry came after he and a colleague attempted to rescue two people from a fire in Enfield.
“I went in through a Chinese restaurant, up a fire escape, put the door in and went up a flight of stairs.
“It was a net curtain shop. It was like looking into an Aga. Two people died.”
Mr Sutton was then drafted on to a murder squad for a while – a move that clarified where his future would lie.
Later in his career he became a detective inspector and got involved in a murder investigation straight away.
His flair for detection meant he was rarely in uniform for the remainder of his career.
“It was the mental challenge that I liked I suppose.
“If you combined that with managing by trying to treat staff well, and picking who is good at what it’s not that difficult.
“There are different sorts of detectives. There are horses for courses.
“Some are people people, some are brilliant at going through reams and reams of paper – bank accounts, phone records, and some people have visual skills, such as going through CCTV.”
Between 2003 and his retirement in 2011 he was a senior investigating officer in the Met’s murder squad.
“I think I did it for longer than anybody.
“You think of little else particularly in the first few days (of a case). You have a case load of between 12 and 15 active investigations. That takes a lot of juggling and you have about six weeks to decide whether the investigation is going anywhere or not.
“I’m proud of what my team achieved on many occasions. I had a fantastically interesting life doing it.
“I saw things you should not see and would go to places you shouldn’t go or wouldn’t want to go.
“I saw the best and the worst of humanity. It was never dull.
“People ask if I miss it. There’s a great answer to that. I don’t miss it as much as the people who are still in it.
“It’s harder for the officers because much more is expected of them and there are fewer of them despite them being better trained and equipped than they have ever been.”
Mr Sutton sees no conflict of interest in now working in the media after having been a murder detective.
“I feel my loyalty is to the truth and to say it as it is.
“I am desperately supportive and defensive of the rank and file men and woman that form our police service.
“I’m very critical of the people at a level I was at and above, who made things difficult for them to do the job they want to do.
“I have never had anything but honest, straight-forward dealings with the media when I was in the police and since I have come out, because I think they do a job that is very important.
“They do a job which lets people know what’s going on and to have some understanding of what police are doing.
“I despair at the lack of contact that has developed between the police and the media over the last three or four years.”