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Officer involved with solving one of South Tyneside’s most notorious murders retires

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A police officer who was involved in one of South Tyneside’s most notorious murder cases has hung up his helmet for the final time.

Bill Sproates, 64, joined the Northumbria Police at its inception in 1974 and has been a familiar face in police stations across the region over the last four decades - with his highest-ranking position coming as a detective inspector specialising in surveillance and major crime.

Bill is looking forward to spending more time on the gold course.

Bill is looking forward to spending more time on the gold course.

Mr Sproates initially joined Durham Constabulary’s police cadets in 1969 where he underwent his training before joining the force as a PC in 1972.

His policing career began in Jarrow – and took him on a journey that included everything from low-level anti-social behaviour to infamous murder enquiries.

When Northumbria Police was formed following the merge of Northumberland Constabulary and part of Durham Constabulary in 1974, Mr Sproates moved to South Shields CID – and it was there when he was involved in one of his most high-profile cases.

It came in 1979 when a woman’s body was found in a petrol storage tank at Velva Liquids, South Shields – an investigation that became known as ‘The Torso in the Tank’ murder.

He said: “The detectives who worked on that case still keep in touch. It bonded us forever.

“The team managed to bring the murderer to court and he was found guilty of the most serious of offences.”

After a five-year stint away from the force following his initial retirement in 2003, Mr Sproates returned to Northumbria Police as a licensing officer.

In this post he went on to set up the Sunderland and Washington pub watch schemes.

But now he has left policing for good as he looks forward to a well-deserved retirement - consisting of plenty of golf and cooking.

He added: “When I first joined the police it was just like Heartbeat – Nick Berry on a vintage motor cycle.

“It’s totally different now. I’ve seen the transformation in policing over the years, the emerging trends, the challenges and the different types of crime that officers now have to tackle.

“I’ve dealt with so many different things during my time here – from murder enquiries to big drug jobs, anti-social behaviour to pub licensing hours.

“But it’s the people who make this job what it is. It is a bit surreal now it’s coming to an end – but it’s been an incredible journey.”