How police investigation led to manslaughter conviction of Aleksandras Aleksiunas
A Lithuanian man has begun a nine-year jail sentence after being convicted of the manslaughter of a man he stabbed and strangled. Aleksandras Aleksiunas was cleared of murder, but convicted by a jury of manslaughter. Here reporter MARK NAYLOR reports on how the police investigation unfolded.
Specialist police teams had to hack through vast areas of dense woodland in often poor weather in a bid to find the dead body of the man Aleksandras Aleksiunas stabbed and strangled.
Despite the jury's decision to clear Aleksiunas, 26, of Burke Street, Scunthorpe, of murder and convict him only of the manslaughter of Arvydas Skrinkas, the police are satisfied they charged the right man.
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Steve Hibbitt, of Humberside Police's major incident team, said: "We respect the jury's decision. It's not for the police to comment on the jury's decision. Their role is central to the English justice system.
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"Their role must be respected at all times but I would like to send out a message to reassure the public that we are not seeking anybody else in relation to this inquiry. There aren't any other suspects."
He said that the Lithuanian man blamed by Aleksiunas for the killing had been interviewed but eliminated from the inquiry as a murder suspect because he could account for his movements in Scunthorpe at the suspected time of the killing. He became a witness and not a suspect.
"The police case and the evidence gathered by the inquiry and presented to court is that one person committed the killing of Mr Skrinkas," said Det Chief Insp Hibbitt.
"The jury verdict doesn't alter that. Nobody else is sought or suspected, so the public shouldn't be concerned or worried."
He said that, a couple of days after the killing, Aleksiunas left the country at Leeds Bradford Airport, leaving his mobile phone behind. He also set fire to his car in Scunthorpe and threatened the victim's girlfriend, Agne Jozenaite, with a similar fate to that of her partner.
"The investigation was thorough and meticulous," said Det Chief Insp Hibbitt. "It included extensive inquiries in the Lithuanian community and the investigation was almost unique in the first week particularly because it was conducted entirely in Lithuanian through interpreters.
"We recovered CCTV from Leeds Bradford Airport, East Midlands Airport, down the M1 corridor to Nottingham, all of which pinpointed the movements of Aleksiunas.
"There was extensive phone analysis, meticulous examination of the deposition site (where the body was found) and items recovered included the burnt-out vehicle in Scunthorpe."
He said: "We hacked our way through woods, shoulder to shoulder, with a specialist team. We found him on January 10.
"There were dozens of specialist police search teams, police body dogs and Humberside Police mounted section. There was also a voluntary search and rescue team.
"It was a huge search. The weather was atrocious. We couldn't get the helicopter up because of the weather. There were significant other demands on the police because it was Christmas and New Year. It was a difficult terrain.
"We maintained the focus for nearly two weeks. When they found the body, the only thing visible was the toes of a white sock protruding from a concealed location, deep in the woods. It was a fantastic piece of police work to do that. At least from that we could give the family the comfort of knowing we had found him."