A contract to kill

When you’re working against the clock to prevent someone from being killed, every second counts.

It doesn’t get more pressured than that.

923 Pushpa GuildWhen the case of Paul Vass first came in, I ended up working 18 hours straight. This is common in the first few days of a major investigation.

There is no time to think of anything else as you are so focused on what you need to do to capture evidence to either catch the person responsible, or in this case stop him from carrying out a killing.

I joined the police in 1986 and these days leading a major investigation is a lot different.

We have so many specialist resources and experts now from scenes of crime officers to digital media investigators and analysts.

You can’t be an expert in everything, so my job is to co-ordinate resources from the different specialist teams to pull together the best case possible.

This was an unusual case as the murder hadn’t yet taken place, what we were investigating were plans for a contract killing.

For me this investigation was all about having the right resources in place to make sure we could act quickly and be in a position to lock him up.

We went over to Norfolk with small team and a firearms commander from Norfolk Police in order to carry out the arrest.

We were ready to go for the following morning but then had to bring everything forward to the early hours as information came in that he was planning to head off to carry out the murder.

In his room we practically found a DIY kit for a contract killing.

A gun, knife, and the contract he was going to get the victim to sign. It was chilling.

He is a dangerous individual who was motivated by revenge – a lethal combination.

In terms of job satisfaction it doesn’t get better than preventing someone’s death.

It was hugely rewarding.

This type of case was why I joined the Major Crime Unit (MCU). Trying to solve serious crime is where my heart lies and the cases we investigate don’t come any worse.

It is the end of the inhumane spectrum, dealing with murderers and rapists.

When I first started with Bedfordshire Police I was the first Asian female ‘regular’ PC. It was a difficult decision for me at the time because joining the police was not viewed as such a good career choice in my community than say a doctor or lawyer.

The Asian community also had a lot of distrust in the police from experiences back in India or Pakistan where there had been a lot of corruption. But I was determined to prove them wrong and help build trust in the force.

I spent 10 years doing foot patrol and community policing in Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard before becoming a detective. I was posted to Luton in 1996 where I worked in child protection and set up the economic crime unit for the south of the county – hitting criminals where they feel it hardest, their pockets.

It gave us a completely different approach to fraud investigations. I also worked in serious crime – really high risk jobs from kidnap to attempted murder. One of my more unusual cases was overseeing a bomb hoax at a university which led the successful prosecution of three students who were ultimately jailed.

Since arriving at MCU I have taken on a number of cases, including the cold case Berkhamsted rapes in Hertfordshire. Those cases are very rewarding – it was a privilege to be the person to call the victims and tell them that after 30 years the man responsible had finally been brought to justice. Some of the victims had put their lives on hold, just waiting for that day.

I always meet the victims, or the families of those who have died. It makes a difference to them to meet the person who is investigating. So you can tell them face to face that you are committed to getting justice for them of their loved ones.

In the Paul Vass case it was a bit different. I got to meet the intended victim and tell him we’d caught his would-be killer. If we hadn’t been able to act so swiftly it might have been very different circumstances.

Detective Inspector Pushpa Guild led the investigation into Paul Vass who was jailed this week of plotting to murder a Bedfordshire businessman.

Pushpa has been with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit since 2014. She joined Bedfordshire Police in 1986 and was the force’s first regular Asian female PC.


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