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Kent & Essex Serious Crime Directorate detectives commended over Maidstone murder investigation and human trafficking case

Detectives who unravelled the truth surrounding the gruesome murder of a Maidstone pensioner have been commended for their work.

The decomposing body of John Birney was found tied to a chair in his Rocky Hill Terrace flat last June. He had been stabbed ten times, including in the eye and the back of the head.

Three people were soon arrested and Alison Tomlin, 50, who had been living with vulnerable Mr Birney, was charged with murder.

John Barham has been found guilty of murder. Picture: Kent Police
John Barham has been found guilty of murder. Picture: Kent Police
Allison Tomlin murdered John Birney. Picture: Kent Police
Allison Tomlin murdered John Birney. Picture: Kent Police

John Barham, 27 and formerly of Quarry Road, and a second woman were released without charge.

But Barham started bragging, apparently boasting he had stabbed someone in the eye and confessing he had murdered a man who had touched his girlfriend, Alina Korosteliova, vowing: “No one touches my bird.”

The former bodybuilder, who has a string of convictions for extreme violence, was later charged with murder.

John Birney was found dead in his flat
John Birney was found dead in his flat

The pair's trial was complicated by a lack of evidence they had acted together and the lack of a definitive cause of death, but eventually both were convicted and jailed for life and Det Con Geoff McCreery and investigating officer Donna Mencia-Kenny were praised by the judge.

The pair picked up an award for their tireless investigation at the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate awards ceremony last Friday.

Asst Chf Con Steve Worron with Det Con Geoff McCreery and investigating officer Donna Mencia-Kenny. Picture: Kent Police
Asst Chf Con Steve Worron with Det Con Geoff McCreery and investigating officer Donna Mencia-Kenny. Picture: Kent Police

Det Con Karen Mulroy, Det Srg Steve Payne, and Det Con Philip Kershaw were also honoured for their work in cracking a human trafficking ring.

The officers painstakingly investigated the exploitation of Slovakian people who had been trafficked into the country between December 2004 and November 2013.

Marian, 38, and of Windsor Road, Gillingham, and Josef Dzuga, 37, and of Salisbury Road, Chatham, arranged for accommodation and employment of trafficked individuals at various locations, including factories, recycling plants and fruit farms.

The brothers controlled their identity documents and bank cards and only passed on a small proportion of their hard earned wages.

Many were not able to speak English so felt they had little choice but to rely on the Dzuga brothers in order to survive.

In May the Dzugas were jailed for six years and became the recipients of the first Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Order to be served in Kent.

Josef and Marian Dzuga. Picture: Kent Police
Josef and Marian Dzuga. Picture: Kent Police

Asst Chf Con Steve Worron said: "Serious Crime Directorate officers and staff are committed to dealing with some of the most serious crimes in Essex and Kent.

"Sadly some of those cases result in tragedy. There is a common commitment across all of the departments to make sure the people who have committed those crimes are dealt with by the courts.

Asst Chf Con Steve Worron, Det Con Steve Payne, Det Con Karen Mulroy and Det Con Philip Kershaw. Picture: Kent Police
Asst Chf Con Steve Worron, Det Con Steve Payne, Det Con Karen Mulroy and Det Con Philip Kershaw. Picture: Kent Police

He added: "Whether conducting inquiries in the full gaze of the public or developing intelligence and preparing evidence behind the scenes it is the shared ambition to make sure justice is done that motivates all involved.

"Often a small proportion of the work completed is seen in the court cases. That is why these award ceremonies are so important. I am delighted that we take the time to formally recognise the dedication and commitment of the officers and staff tackling serious criminality in Essex and Kent."

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