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Community reacts to series of violent attacks in which one man murdered and two injured

PUBLISHED: 17:01 11 February 2019

There was a police presence in the High Street in Colchester for the whole morning on February 12 Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

There was a police presence in the High Street in Colchester for the whole morning on February 12 Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

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Neighbours have spoken of their shock after a man died from being stabbed in the back – just hours after another stabbing and a separate assault hours earlier in nearby streets.

Police at the scene of the incident in Ryegate Road Picture: JAKE FOXFORDPolice at the scene of the incident in Ryegate Road Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

Essex Police launched a murder probe on Monday after a man found in the street with stab wounds to the back was pronounced dead at the scene in Ryegate Road, next to Colchester’s Castle Park.

Just hours earlier, officers had been in neighbouring George Street where a 40-year-old man, who remains in hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries, was found with stab wounds to his back.

And at around 9.15am on Monday, police were also called to reports of an assault in East Stockwell Street where the victim was taken to hospital with injuries believed to be serious.

Police are investigating whether the two stabbings are linked but are not connecting the stabbings to the assault.

A public walkway was blocked by a forensics team to prevent the public approaching Ryegate Road and Castle Park Picture: JAKE FOXFORDA public walkway was blocked by a forensics team to prevent the public approaching Ryegate Road and Castle Park Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

Businesses and residents say they are in ‘potential problem area’

Robert Johnson, owner of the Rocks and Rubies shop in Museum Street, next to the crime scene, said: “This worries me, this is a concern.

“I spoke to one woman who is buying a flat in the area soon - she’s going to be on the other side of the park - and she’s come back to find this has happened.

“She has a teenaged son, she doesn’t know what to do now.

Essex Police vehicles gathered in number at the Castle Park entrance at the top of Ryegate Road, close to coffee shops, traders and just meters from the High Street Picture: JAKE FOXFORDEssex Police vehicles gathered in number at the Castle Park entrance at the top of Ryegate Road, close to coffee shops, traders and just meters from the High Street Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

“There’s one streetlight and one set of CCTV in this whole alley, otherwise it’s just dark at night. It makes this a potential problem area. They lock the park up but there is still plenty of alleys from Maidenburgh Road if you don’t want to be seen.

“My business and the two others in this street were all broken into in December - we need more support in this part of town.”

Jess Carter lives at the bottom of Ryegate Road and was walking back home with her young son after the school run.

She said that when she walked through Ryegate Road at 7.30am but there was no sign of a body.

The Dutch Quarter is in the centre of Colchester, containing some of the town's oldest homes and a tight-knit community Picture: JAKE FOXFORDThe Dutch Quarter is in the centre of Colchester, containing some of the town's oldest homes and a tight-knit community Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

“We are a tight-knit community in the Dutch Quarter but there are a lot of problems with anti-social behaviour, drugs and alcohol,” she said.

“I walked my children to school today with one of them on my shoulders - I’m usually more worried about needles on the floor than this kind of thing.”

In nearby Northgate Street, one resident who wished to remain anonymous said that she had seen Colchester change for the worse in her 25 years living in the Dutch Quarter.

She said: “I moved here because it was so close to the centre of town, I could nip out and come back quickly no problem.

Ryegate Road is a narrow street directly next to Castle Park, Colchester. Essex Police erected a wide cordon to keep the public away from the murder scene Picture: JAKE FOXFORDRyegate Road is a narrow street directly next to Castle Park, Colchester. Essex Police erected a wide cordon to keep the public away from the murder scene Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

“Now I wouldn’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night, not on my own. I don’t feel safe.

“You used to go into town on a weekend and see police walking the streets - that’s gone now. We need more police out there or these kinds of things will happen.”

Councillors hear concerns - but some blame police cuts

Colchester borough councillors expressed their sympathies and encouraged anyone with any information to come forward and speak to police to help them with their investigation.

Some of Castle Park's gates were not accessible and residents had to find alternative ways home Picture: JAKE FOXFORDSome of Castle Park's gates were not accessible and residents had to find alternative ways home Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

Ward councillor Darius Laws said: “One of the changes we have requested is to keep the lights on at night for the foreseeable future on those streets, but due to the way it is built it is a difficult place to police.

“The police need the information that residents have, little bits of information about the crimes they see, that help the police build the wider jigsaw they need to keep people safe.”

Michael Lilley, portfolio holder for public safety at Colchester Borough Council, confirmed that the council had asked Essex County Council, which is responsible for the streetlights, to extend their hours.

He said: “In George Street we will be keeping the lights on until 1am to reassure residents - we would like them on all night as we did for the Christmas season.

The Essex Police cordon around the murder scene grew as the investigation into the stabbing went on Picture: JAKE FOXFORDThe Essex Police cordon around the murder scene grew as the investigation into the stabbing went on Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

“Unfortunately, added CCTV would not have prevented the stabbing in George Street, but it would make it easier for the police to track the whereabouts of who committed this crime.

“What happened was completely wrong and when we have all the facts of the case we will look into what we have to change.

“However, we do not have enough police officers on the street thanks to budget cuts.

Mr Lilley said that in 2018 the council was able to fund some additional policing in the Dutch Quarter that gave officers an increased presence in the area.

One alleyway between Maidenburgh Road and Ryegate Road, blocked by Essex Police at one end as they investigated the murder Picture: JAKE FOXFORDOne alleyway between Maidenburgh Road and Ryegate Road, blocked by Essex Police at one end as they investigated the murder Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

“But the police can’t be there 24 hours a day,” he added.

“What we need is a return to the number of officers we had on the streets in 2010. Essex Police has lost over 600 officers since 2010.”

The investigation is in its early stages but anyone with any information is urged to come forward.

Anyone with further information should call the North Major Crime team on 101, quoting incident 208 of February 11.

Officers stood guard at public entrances to Ryegate Road after a man was found dead, stabbed in the back Picture: JAKE FOXFORDOfficers stood guard at public entrances to Ryegate Road after a man was found dead, stabbed in the back Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

You can also contact police online.

Alternatively, contact the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org

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