Luke Harwood: Lead detective DCI John Sandlin says there was ‘no way’ murder could have been foreseen

16:26 18 April 2013

Luke's body was discovered near a stream running alongside Broadmead Fields, in Woodford Green

Luke's body was discovered near a stream running alongside Broadmead Fields, in Woodford Green


There was “no way at all” anyone could have foreseen how Luke Harwood’s story would end.

That’s the view of Det Chief Insp John Sandlin, the senior investigator in the murder case.

By his own admission, it was a hard one to work on – but the help of Luke’s family made it that bit easier.

“I’d like to thank the family for their support through an extremely difficult time,” he said.

“But every murder you deal with is difficult – and due to the seriousness and ferocity of Luke’s injuries, and the number of suspects, this was no exception.

“The attack on Luke Harwood was unbelievably violent. The injuries he suffered were horrific, his face was unrecognisable.”

Tuesday, May 29 was the first time DCI Sandlin knew anything about the horrific events that had happened on his patch the previous Sunday.

“I wasn’t on duty when Luke was found,” he remembered. “I came on the next day and was handed the investigation.

“I just sat there thinking: ‘Why was Luke killed and why was he dumped there?’”

But a year later, with the facts finally known, he doesn’t believe anything could have been done differently by the police or the council in the months leading up to Luke’s final days.

Havering Council had taken over the bungalow in March 2012, and Emma Hall and Tony O’Toole – James Danby’s friend – had moved in immediately.

“There was no way anyone could have foreseen what was going to happen that night,” said DCI Sandlin.

“A set of events that no one could have foreseen triggered what happened.

“No one could have known Luke’s accuser was going to be there and that Luke was going to move in.”

Tragically, the man who is said to have led the violence – Danby – shouldn’t even have been living in the house when Luke moved in.

“Danby wasn’t supposed to be there,” said DCI Sandlin. “But he was O’Toole’s friend and O’Toole was letting him stay in his room. The council wouldn’t even have known about it.

“Danby had a previous conviction for violence, and he’d been arrested for another matter weeks beforehand, but it had all been dealt with and he’d only spent a few hours in custody. There was no way anything could have been foreseen.”

He added: “The defendants acted in the belief that the victim had previously attacked one of their number. The woman involved was in no way to blame for the extreme and sustained attack that they then carried out and subsequently tried to cover up, and she could not have predicted what would happen.

“She has been crucial as a witness and I would like to commend her bravery in helping us achieve these convictions.”

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