Vigilantism will not be tolerated in West Norfolk, the man in charge of policing for the district has said in the wake of the convictions of members of the Frankham family.
They were convinced that the couple they kidnapped and viciously assaulted had not only stolen from Walpole St Andrew widow Gertrude ‘Gertie’ Frankham (75), but also murdered her.
Supt Dennis Lacey said: “They mistakenly believed an offence had occurred and rather than report it to us they took the matter into their own hands. This bordered on vigilantism and will not be tolerated in Norfolk.
“No matter how serious they think something is it must be reported to police to let us investigate it and let matters take their course.”
Det Insp Gary Bloomfield said that the couple kidnapped by the Frankhams had suffered “a horrific ordeal” particularly bearing in mind that the woman was seven months pregnant.
He said that when he and his colleagues from the major investigation team viewed the video of the “interrogation” of the pair, as the Frankhams sought to get them to admit they had killed Gertrude Frankham, they were shocked.
“There are not many things that shock police officers,” he said, “but we were aghast at what we were seeing.”
Supt Lacey said at one point on the tape, threats could be heard to the woman from the kidnappers that they were prepared to hurt the unborn baby.
He said: “I have been a policeman for 27 years and I have certainly never seen anything like it.”
Det Insp Bloomfield said that Gertrude Frankham had been “a poorly lady” ahead of her death, suffering from among other things angina and low blood pressure. Both a Home Office post-mortem examination after the exhumation and an independent one paid for by her family had failed to find any evidence she had died from anything other than natural causes.
He said: “The family still do not accept that despite the evidence, or lack of it. And no doubt they never will.”