Officer retires after 48 years service

A career spanning a staggering 48 years will draw to a close for a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer on New Year's Eve, leaving a lifetime of memories and experience.

John Ahern will retire for the second time - once as a detective in 2000 and now as a member of police staff at the Specialist Crime Review Group.

"It's been 48 years of my life. But it's time to go. I'm looking forward to doing other things." His outstanding service has seen him travel all over the world and deal with countless murders and serious crimes in what he describes as "the most fantastic career".

The 65-year-old never wanted any other job than to be a police officer and joined up in 1963 shortly before he turned 17 as a police cadet. At 19 he took his full training and became a police constable, first serving on patrol in the Old Street area of Shoreditch. He can't remember his first arrest but thinks it was probably for drunk and disorderly behaviour as that was bread-and-butter work for young PCs on the streets.
John had ambitions to be a detective and after four years became a fledging DC in Walthamstow and then Plaistow.

He served on a variety of boroughs and various cases spring to his mind, including his first encounter with a bank of press photographers in the 1970s outside the Old Bailey as he successfully convicted a paedophile. The offender was caught hovering over a pram in north London, about to abduct and sexually assault a baby, and the case attracted a great deal of press interest.

Also memorable was the investigation into a prolonged series of robberies and rapes in the early '70s in the Woodford and Loughton areas. The suspects were literally caught in the act by John and his fellow officers and the suspects received long prison sentences.

John moved on to work for central units, notably the fraud squad and the serious crime squad.

The work, probing international company fraud, took him all over the world to such places as Florida, the Bahamas and Europe as the detective carried out investigations, often giving evidence in court cases abroad.

In 1994 John began the job that he sees as the ultimate in the MPS, running a murder team. Until his first retirement in May 2000 he worked on dozens of cases.
He said: "That has to be the highlight of my career. I believe for a detective it is the most important job the Met - investigating the death of another human being.
"I had a good team around me and it is enormously satisfying to help grieving families by finding the people responsible for the death of their loved ones."
John worked on many memorable cases but one has stuck in his mind - Richard Cajee, aged 30, shot four times in the back of the head by his wife Farah and her lover in South Woodford in 1998.

John said: "That one stays with me because Farah was the most manipulative woman I ever met. She played the grieving widow so well and went to great lengths to concoct alibis for herself and her lover. But she couldn't conceal the firearms residue on her car steering wheel and was subsequently convicted."
John retired in 2000 on a Friday but by the following Monday was back at work, as part of the newly formed review team that had been set up following the Stephen Lawrence enquiry to ensure no investigative opportunities were missed by employing fresh eyes to look at cases.

The team began by looking at current unsolved murders, searching for new leads or forensic opportunities, and then passing them back to murder teams to consider again.
As the team expanded, first based at Woodford and then Stratford, they began reviewing some 230 cold cases. A notable success was recently with the conviction of 54-year-old Wilbert Dyce, given a whole life term in 2010 after murdering Norma Richards and her two daughters in 1982 in Islington. A DNA match to Dyce was found when the case was reviewed and the investigation reopened.
John said: "I've been told I've reviewed 100 cases since 2000, not just murders but other serious offences too. What is really satisfying is that the families are so grateful that you are even looking at their cases again. So many of these crimes can now been progressed with the advances in forensic technology and it's important people know the Met does not give up, we are always looking for new opportunities to identify the people responsible.

"These families never ever forget the death of their loved ones and the fact the Met is still interested is some comfort to them. "The unsolved cases from my time as a DCI do stay with me and I feel uncomfortable I couldn't solve them. After serving as a DCI it was good to continue the work through the review teams."

John's work as a review officer has also led to enquiries into deaths in other countries, including helping secure a prosecution of manslaughter after a five-year-old boy was killed in the Bahamas by an out-of-control boat. Following the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami, John and a team went to Thailand to review police procedures, especially around identifying victims. He said: "We took a lot away from that, a lot of experience from other police forces across the world.

"I witnessed first-hand the devastation the tsunami left behind. It was difficult to comprehend the destructive power of water and other disasters the world can subject us to."

The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe met John and his wife on Monday, 12 December to thank him for his years of service - and share a slice of Christmas cake.
But John, who lives in Essex, doesn't intend to take it easy. On the to-do list is to be a volunteer at the Olympics, travel and to fulfil three ambitions; see Real Madrid play at home, attend a Formula One Grand Prix and see a Test match somewhere in the world other than the UK.

He would like to go back to New Zealand, having visited in January with his wife Rowena, despite having found himself caught in the massive earthquake that devastated Christchurch.
He said: "I've never experienced anything like it. The pavement, always just there, suddenly buckled and the world turned upside down."
So will he miss his job?

John, who has a grown-up son and daughter and four grand-children, said: "I have had a wonderful career and worked with really dedicated detectives which enabled me to pursue the job I had always wanted to do.

"It's been 48 years of my life. But it's time to go. I'm looking forward to doing other things."

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