Rankine Road, Tunbridge Wells
A murder inquiry brought police to the front door of a property belonging to Town & Country Housing Group in the quiet Kent town of Tunbridge Wells.
The search for human remains at one of our properties was unlike anything any of us have ever been involved in before and sent ripples through our tight knit local community of Sherwood in Tunbridge Wells.
Although the dig at Rankine Road took place in April, our role in this began at the start of the year. We were contacted by Kent Police who asked us for details of the property going back to the 1950s, when a possible crime was alleged to have taken place.
A former tenant, who lived in the property from the 1950s to 1980s, was suspected of being involved in the disappearance of a teenage girl and relatives of the tenant believed human
remains may have been buried in the garden.
Kent Police led on the investigation and our first formal involvement came on 8 March when our tenancy services manager, Anna AlexanderWilliams, and the neighbourhood housing manager, Dave Comerford, met with them to discuss the approach that was going to be taken.
A week later, on 15 March, we met again, this time with of cers from across the force in attendance, from forensic investigators to pathologists, to agree a timescale of events. The search for remains was scheduled to start on 16 April, giving the police a month to set up their specialist teams.
The next job was for Anna to visit the family and explain what would be happening. It was the rst the tenant had heard about the situation, and her reaction, as you would imagine, was
one of shock. The main thing for us was to provide as much support as possible during the ensuing period. The tenant also had her own liaison of cer who she could contact day or night if needed.
We chose Anna to lead on this matter as she had known the tenant for a long time; she was her housing manager for a number of years and had a good personal relationship with her.
At Town & Country, key members of our staff and board were kept informed of developments while the tenant was also sworn to secrecy.
In the lead up to the search, police had distributed leaflets to everyone in the neighbourhood explaining what was happening and that the current occupants were in no way implicated in the investigation. They had also issued a press release informing the media to prevent rumour spreading. The tenant and her family were moved to a local hotel. On the morning of 16 April the search began, and from 8am police of cers began turning up at the property. After a full day and a second morning of searching, nothing was found and the family were
moved back into the property.
Naturally the whole event attracted a huge amount of media interest and underlined the importance of team working, both internally and with our counterparts at Kent Police.
It obviously had a big effect on the local residents, and I am sure the ramifications may have been stronger if human remains were found. But now,thankfully, the community seem to be getting on with life as normal.