WHEN Colin Sutton finally hung up his truncheon after 30 years on the job he was leaving the sort of career books are written about and ITV dramas featuring Martin Clunes are based upon.

The former Senior Investigation Officer hailed as the ‘real manhunter’ led the London Metropolitan Police investigations that put serial killer Levi Bellfield and the ‘Night Stalker’ rapist Delroy Grant behind bars. Ahead of his appearance at the Abergavenny Borough Theatre earlier this week, Chronicle reporter Tim Butters caught up with Colin for a revealing chat on the super cop’s thoughts on policing, the justice system, the true crime genre, and the evil that men do.

“I think Levi was the one individual who stood out from all the other criminals I’ve dealt with because there was something very different and unnerving about him,” explained Sutton when musing about a lifetime spent locking up monsters.

Although the former policeman is reluctant to give his views on whether nature or nurture is responsible for the predators that walk amongst us, “It’s above my pay grade and best left to the experts,” he jokes, but when asked if he feels he’s ever come face-to-face with pure evil, he’s quick to point to Milly Dowler’s killer.

“Levi had a confidence and swagger about him that alongside his intimidating physicality and peculiar presence made you want to give him a wide-berth even if you were completely oblivious to his heinous crimes. It’s almost like we’re hard-wired to sense something’s not quite right with certain individuals.”

Also known as ‘The Bus Stop Stalker’ Bellfield was a serial killer and sex offender who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. In 2011 he was given another life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of 13-year-old Milly Dowler.

It was Sutton and his team’s diligence, perseverance, and commitment that cracked the case. Under their watch, no stone was left unturned, no CCTV tape unwatched, and no phone or car record unchecked. Their blood, sweat, and tears paid off and led them to Bellfield who was hiding naked in his attic at the time of his arrest.

Yet according to Sutton, even when in custody and during his trial, Bellfield appeared to believe he would escape the long arm of the law and get off scot-free.

“You could see in his demeanour and the way he conducted himself that he believed the same rules didn’t apply to him as the rest of us and somehow he was going to walk away a free man, even when things were going south,” explained Sutton, who added, “I must admit it was wonderful to see his eventual downfall. When he finally realized the world was wise to him and he was going away for the rest of his days, you could see him visibly crumple and the fight go out of him.”

Since justice was served and Bellfield was consigned to die in confinement, he continues to make headlines from time to time by sporadically confessing to other murders, claiming compensation for being attacked inside prison, and most recently announcing his intention to marry from behind bars.

Sutton told the Chronicle, “Levi loves to be the centre of attention and you have to take everything he said with a pinch of salt. His arrogance is the nature of the beast. It’s what protects individuals like him from looking too closely at who they actually are and allows them to do what they do. He craves the oxygen of publicity.”

Although during his tenure, Sutton was in charge of more than 30 successful murder investigations, the other name that is irrevocably linked with his time in the force is the ‘Night Stalker’ Delroy Grant.

The serial rapist plagued the streets of South East London for nearly two decades and was thought to be responsible for hundreds of offences at the time of his arrest in 2009.

Grant’s modus operandi was to break into the homes of elderly women in the middle of the night before sexually assaulting them.

When Sutton took over the case it had been active for over a decade. By switching the emphasis from the DNA swabbing of a large number of potential suspects to a large-scale surveillance operation, Sutton and his team were able to close in on Grant, who was finally arrested after committing a burglary in the target area.

Sutton explained, “Grant was a completely difficult character to Bellfield in many ways and had a Jekyll and Hyde type of persona. On one hand, he was this loving family man who looked after his wife and a pillar of the community and who was easygoing and charming, but flip that coin and you have a sadistic and opportunistic rapist.”

As a self-confessed ‘dinosaur’ who believes in the power of good old-fashioned policework to get the results, Sutton is not a keen advocate of behaviroural profiling to catch criminals but believes it can be useful once they have been apprehended.

“It’s a useful tool to have on your side in the interview room to help understand what makes them tick but when it comes to catching them, for my money you can’t beat the sort of simple detective work we’ve relied on for centuries.”

Sutton elaborated, “It’s difficult to understand how people like Bellfield and Grant end up doing what they do. I know there were incidents in both their formative years that didn’t help but not everyone who experiences a tough childhood becomes a killer or rapist, so there are no easy answers. However, people should understand that criminals such as Levi and Grant are in prison for life not for rehabilitation but to protect the public. There’s no doubt both would have gone on to commit further crimes. As well as getting justice for their victims you’ve got to think about the lives you’ve also saved by keeping them under lock and key.”

The famous Nietzche quote that reads,” Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you,” appears tailor-made for veteran homicide detectives who spend their working days face to face with the worst aspects of human nature. However, Sutton insists he refused to let his working life undo his faith in human nature because “I was always quite good at compartmentalizing my work and home life. Not everyone can do it but I think that’s why I left the force with no personal demons, It also helped hugely that I always had such a team of good people around me, which was also quite life-affirming when the going got tough. Having said that, you do look at the state of the world from time to time and worry.”

With certain well-known individuals online striving to perpetuate a misogynistic mindset in a new generation of males, Sutton is keen to stress that the logical conclusion of viewing females as second-class citizens results in the creation of monsters such as Bellfield, whose hatred of women, particularly blondes, is well-documented.

“I always say that females shouldn’t have to change their habits and be constantly vigilant of the threat out there and it’s up to men to start behaving themselves, but sadly we live in a world where ladies still need to be on their guard,” he explained.

The public’s appetite for true crime cases appears insatiable and as someone who writes books, presents TV shows, and gives talks within that genre, Sutton believes our interest comes from its basis in reality. “True crime stories are often far more gripping and have more twists and turns than even the greatest fiction,” he explained. “The fact that you’re dealing with characters who really existed and events that actually happened strikes a chord with everyone and can prove quite poignant. That’s why I think it’s always important to focus more on the victims and their families and less on the killers because that can lead into quite salacious territory.”

Although as Sutton points out serial killers are still thankfully a rare breed, just like the darkness at the edge of town, they’re always out there.

He told the Chronicle, “Murder isn’t something that happens in some faraway place it happens to ordinary people living ordinary lives. Sadly, no one thinks it’s ever going to happen to them, and when it does it turns everything we felt was safe, secure, and familiar in the world on its head. Thankfully, we still live in a country where we treat murder as a cardinal sin and when it occurs we throw all the resources and manpower at our disposal to catch the perpetrator. This is why I believe that true crime intrigues people because it’s the classic tale of good versus evil.”