Estate murder: ‘Please do not engage in trial by Facebook’

Police tape outside the house.
Police tape outside the house.
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ON THE BEAT: with Jim Tyner, Community Policing Inspector for South Holland

During the small hours of last Thursday morning, while most of us were sleeping, an incident developed in Coronation Close, Spalding. You will all know by now that a murder inquiry has been launched following the death of Warren Free.

For operational and legal reasons, you will understand there are many aspects of that investigation that I can’t discuss.

You will already know from media announcements that following the incident, seven juveniles who were arrested as part of the investigation have been released on police bail to allow inquiries to continue. This is not a finding of guilt or innocence: it is an investigative process.

Most people will know by now that I am a strong supporter of being open and honest and I regularly use social media and my weekly columns to share information with the public.

However, there can be a nasty side to social media. People without knowledge of the area or the circumstances can make comment on any subject they wish without repercussions.

I have been the victim of online trolls in recent weeks and I know of other victims who have recently been vilified online by anonymous commentators.

I do understand people’s thirst for information. I do also understand that the internet and social media sites have become sources of gossip and that this is part of human nature. I understand, but do not agree with, the clamour for ‘naming and shaming’ those who have been arrested. This would never be appropriate at this stage in an investigation and would serve no useful purpose.

I also think that I need to warn people not to engage in ‘trial by Facebook’. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the angry mob rampaging with pitchforks and flaming torches.

The investigation is continuing at a great pace. The last thing we need is for speculation and misinformation to jeopardise any future prosecution.

In any criminal investigation, the suspect is entitled to a fair unbiased trial. Please trust the inquiry team to do their job: if you have any relevant information, contact us on 101. Putting information on social media sites is neither helpful nor productive.

The death of Mr Free is truly shocking and so people’s reaction is understandable. It’s inevitable that some people will think that Spalding has gone to rack and ruin and has changed for the worse. I think society in general has changed and Spalding reflects national changes.

Many of the comments that have appeared on social media are from people with no connection to the Royce Road estate.

Many years ago I was the Beat Bobby for the Royce Road area and I have family who used to live on Royce Road.

The area has always had a tough reputation. However, I always found the community has a tough exterior but actually, it’s a close-knit community and, as a community, people are coming to terms with what has happened.

I went on patrol there on Saturday evening. It was a warm evening and children were playing in front gardens. The skate park was full of young people enjoying themselves.

I would urge people to think carefully about what they post on social media sites. We should give the community time to heal.