A SERIES of high-profile Barnsley murder investigations have seen South Yorkshire Police homicide investigators at their busiest in more than ten years.

Local officers launched six homicide investigations in the borough this year, and 25 in the county - the most since 2007 - according to new research published by the BBC.

Barnsley’s figure - the second-lowest in South Yorkshire, ahead of Rotherham which recorded no homicides - is an increase on previous statistics from 2018 to 2019, when there were four murders logged by police.

Detective Superintendent Ian Scott, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “We understand how utterly tragic and destructive these crimes can be, both for families and for communities as a whole.

“Tackling violent crime is, and always will be, a top priority for us as a force and we will always seek justice for victims of crime and their loved ones.”

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The most recent conviction came last month when 38-year-old Martin Wilson, formerly of Monsal Crescent, Athersley, was found guilty of stabbing Stephen Riley, 43, on June 26.

Wilson was handed a life sentence - to serve a minimum of 25 years - and a concurrent 58-week sentence for breaching a restraining order, when he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court on December 17.

His accomplice, Julie Evans, 41, also of Monsal Crescent, escaped prison the following Monday after pleading guilty to helping an offender - receiving a 12-month community order and 30 days rehabilitation.

On October 2, Craig Woodhall, 41, received a minimum 18-and-a-half years in prison for murdering estranged wife Victoria with a machete on March 29.

The 31-year-old operating theatre technician was killed in the street in front of Woodhall’s neighbours on Windsor Crescent, Middlecliffe - in an incident which campaigners said brought the ‘seriousness of domestic abuse out from behind closed doors into our streets’.

A provisional trial date - June 1 - has been set for two men, Gabriel Andrei, 40, and Florin Andrei, 44, accused of murdering 43-year-old Catalin Rizea in Pinder Oakes Cottages, Measeborough Dike on October 12.

Two-day-old baby Keira-Mae Jones died in hospital on September 14, with a 31-year-old woman and 38-year-old man were arrested in Athersley on suspicion of her murder.

Six people were arrested on suspicion of the murder of 32-year-old Stephen Georgeson in Houghton Road, Thurnscoe on June 5.

And a second murder investigation in Thurnscoe came to a head in July when the family of Stafford Garner, 46, held a press conference at Wombwell Police Station seeking information into his death.

Stafford was found with serious head injuries in his home on Monsal Street on April 2, and died in hospital three days later.

Det Supt Scott added: “We have secured charges or convictions in all but two of the confirmed homicides, and extensive inquiries continue into the investigations which are ongoing.”