WEST Mercia Police has apologised to the family of a murder victim from the 1990s because the initial investigation did not treat the death as suspicious.

At Birmingham Crown Court in July, a jury found that 59-year-old Robin Ligus from Shrewsbury was responsible for the death of Brian Coles in Shropshire in 1994.

The 57-year-old’s body was found in October 1994 at his home in Higher Heath, near Whitchurch.

At the same hearing, Ligus was also found to be responsible for killing Trevor Bradley and he was already serving a prison sentence for murdering Robert Young, both in 1994.

After the initial investigation into Mr Coles’ death did not identify his killer, the case underwent a review in 2006 and links were made to the other killings. In December 2009, a comprehensive file of evidence was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service Complex Case Unit and following consideration of the evidence available, Ligus was charged in 2010.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman led a review of the 1994 investigation and found it to be unsatisfactory. Inconsistencies in the management of the original crime scene led to the incident not being treated as a murder until several days later.

Earlier this month, DCC Chesterman met with Peter Coles, Brian’s cousin, to personally apologise on behalf of West Mercia Police.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “As well as apologising to the Coles family for the quality of the 1994 investigation, I thanked them for the dignified manner in which they conducted themselves throughout what must have been a long ordeal for them.

“They waited nearly 17 years to see justice for Brian Coles and I am pleased they take some comfort from the high standard of the re-investigation, conducted by Detective Inspector Andy Parsons and his team.

“In 1994, those dealing with Mr Coles’ death made the judgement that it wasn't suspicious and as such it was not as thoroughly investigated as it should have been.

“However, the re-investigation lasted more than five years. The process was particularly difficult due to the absence of traditional evidential opportunities, such as DNA. But in the end, the tenacity and diligence of Det Insp Parsons and his team led to the findings at Birmingham Crown Court in July.

“I sincerely hope that their outstanding work, along with my apology, will help to restore the Coles family's confidence in West Mercia Police.”

Peter Coles added: “I would like to thank DCC Chesterman for meeting with me and for the letter of apology. I would also like to thank Andy Parsons and his team for bringing the case to a conclusion.

“They were so kind to all the families involved.”

Ligus will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on September 23.