Exclusive: Scotland Yard to re-open files on 2002 Camden Town murder
Cold case cops agree to look at Thomas Breen killing again as Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer intervenes on behalf of family
23 February, 2017 — By William McLennan
Thomas Breen died after being stabbed in Camden High Street
THE family of a murdered man whose killers have never been brought to justice have welcomed the news that detectives will re-examine the case nearly 15 years after his death.
No one has ever been charged over the death of 50-year-old Thomas Breen, who was stabbed to death in Camden Town in August 2002, and Scotland Yard closed the case in 2008.
But this week, after an intervention by Sir Keir Starmer and following years of pressure by the New Journal, Scotland Yard agreed to take another look. Mr Breen’s son, Stephen, yesterday (Wednesday) said it was a “very welcome step,” adding: “We are just hoping that a re-opening of the case may unearth some new evidence and hopefully lead to a possible prosecution. There’s no hatred for these people, there never was, but if someone loses a loved one to a brutal act such as this, I think that family is entitled to justice.”
His father, who was from Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, was working as a builder at the time of his death. He had been enjoying a night out with a friend when he was stabbed in the chest in Camden High Street in what was described as an unprovoked attack.
Thomas Breen’s family at his grave in Downpatrick
An arrest was made shortly after but no charge was ever brought.
In a letter earlier this month to Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the outgoing commissioner of the Met, Keir Starmer, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras, wrote: “You will, I know, appreciate how difficult it is for bereaved families in unresolved cases. I am therefore asking you to re-open the case of Thomas Breen and investigate it further.”
Mr Starmer, who was head of the Crown Prosecution Service before entering parliament, told the commissioner: “I am aware from my days as director of public prosecutions that, in some instances, the passage of time does not preclude the chance of further information or evidence emerging which can lead to charges and a conviction.”
Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and now the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, appealed for the Met to revisit the case
On Tuesday he received a response from assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan, who said her “thoughts are with the family of Mr Breen following this tragic murder,” adding that the Met “supports them in their wish to see those responsible for the murder brought to justice”.
She said: “The Specialist Casework Investigation Team from the MPS Homicide and Major Crime Command will now reassess this murder investigation and ascertain if a further review or reinvestigation is appropriate.”
Mr Starmer said yesterday: “There are no time limits on justice and I am pleased for Stephen and his family that the Metropolitan Police have now agreed to review the investigation into the tragic murder of his father.”
Mr Breen said: “Despite the passage of time there’s always the hope that there are still people within the community that know what happened. You have people who might have been afraid to come forward 15 years ago and things have changed, allegiances have changed, relationships have changed, there’s always hope.”
He added: “I’m sure there will be a few people who were behind this will be feeling uncomfortable. “I don’t know how they can live with themselves, the people who know them as well, how they can sleep at night knowing what they did?”
The long search for justice
It started with a night out in Camden Town and ended with a family rocked by grief, a 15-year fight for justice and one of the largest reward offers in UK murder history.
Thomas Breen, a 50-year-old builder, had come to London for work, leaving his wife and two sons at their home in Northern Ireland. He was stabbed in the chest in an unprovoked attack on August 10, 2002, in Camden High Street near the junction with Hawley Road.
His murder has frustrated police ever since and despite an arrest shortly after, no charges have ever been brought. When officers checked CCTV cameras covering the high street that night, it was found they were pointing in the wrong direction.
The canal was later searched for the murder weapon, while Mr Breen’s companion, traumatised by what he had witnessed, was given hypnosis to help clarify his memory. Relatives have been briefed that police believe they know who carried out the attack but simply can’t get the crucial evidence for a court case.
The New Journal visited Mr Breen’s family in Northern Ireland in 2009 for an interview in which relatives offered to top up – to £50,000 – the £20,000 reward tabled by police.
In 2012 it was revealed that one of the prime suspects may have contacted police to try and claim the reward for the themselves. The case files were closed in 2008 and last re-considered in 2010. It remains the only unsolved murder from a uniquely violent summer in which Camden was hit by a series of unrelated killings. Now the Met has agreed to take a fresh look at the case.
For Thomas’s family, the news shows that his death has not been forgotten and offers fresh hope that the vital piece of evidence may be finally unearthed.