Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:36 UK

Targeting serial domestic abusers

Laura Thomson and Stuart McDonald
Laura Thomson was murdered by her ex-partner in Ayr in 2008

An innovative way of tackling domestic violence is being pioneered in the west of Scotland.

Strathclyde Police has set up a dedicated unit to target some of the region's most dangerous serial abusers.

Last year 27,000 domestic incidents were reported across the force area. Seven of them were murders.

A special BBC Crimewatch programme has been following the officers involved with the new task force as they arrest and disrupt known abusers.

The 17 highly experienced detectives who make up the domestic abuse task force said they hoped to intervene before abuse escalates.

Chief constable Stephen House said: "We simply have to reduce the carnage in relation to domestic abuse in the west of Scotland.

"In the past 12 months, we have had seven domestic abuse murders and we can't let that continue.

We would just be sitting in a pub and he would turn up. He would go to every pub in Ayr
Toni Spiers
Friend of victim

"This task force is in place to try to intervene to stop that before it actually happens."

The Crimewatch on the Streets programme will feature a reconstruction of the case of 18-year-old mother Laura Thomson from Ayr, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Stuart McDonald.

He stalked her almost obsessively before stabbing her to death.

The night before the attack he came into a bar where she was drinking and told a friend he was "going to do her in".

The young mother's friend, Toni Spiers, told Crimewatch: "She wasn't allowed to talk to people or meet people.

"Drinking in pubs she wasn't allowed to sit anywhere near a guy.

Police raid
Officers raid the homes of known abusers to disrupt violent behaviour

"We would just be sitting in a pub and he would turn up. He would go to every pub in Ayr."

She added: "She was moving on and trying to achieve better things for her and her daughter.

"I think Stuart's attitude was, 'If I can't have you, then no one can'."

The programme will feature a clip from McDonald's taped police interview.

In it he told officers: "I remember picking up the knife and I lost the plot. I started stabbing her. I think that's what happened. Then I just ran away."

Violent behaviour

Those involved in the domestic abuse task force want to prevent similar tragedies.

Officers observe the movements of known abusers, visit their homes and make arrests aimed at disrupting violent behaviour before it escalates.

Clare McGuckien from the domestic abuse task force said: "If victims go to the police and speak about domestic abuse now they are going to be treated seriously and the police are going to respond properly.

"They are going to get that level of support that they didn't have before."

She added: "Previously, it was probably seen as an incident that has happened within the confines of a relationship and who are the police to interfere, but actually, if there is a crime being committed, then we will become involved."

The Crimewatch on the Streets programme has been following several major investigations and specialist units designed to target serious crime and dangerous criminals across the UK.

The programme will be broadcast on BBC One Scotland at 2100 BST.

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