IT HAS no doubt been an extremely difficult and testing return to term for those at Hardenhuish School in Chippenham.

Last week, sixth form student Thomas Griffiths was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 12-and-a-half years after he pleaded guilty to killing Calne teenager Ellie Gould, who was also studying at the school.

Nobody could have ever imagined such a horrific case to have unfolded within such a small, tight-knit community, a community I know well having lived there myself for many years.

As Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taylor said following sentencing on Friday, there were no red flags or warning signs when it came to Griffiths’ behaviour.

I am pleased that the investigation team were able to swiftly arrest Griffiths and ensure he was sentenced within six months. However, I am very alive to the fact that the ramifications of this incident will no doubt be felt through the school community and the wider community of Calne, for many years to come.

I am full of admiration for Ellie’s friends. Seventeen can be a challenging age for many young people, with exams looming and potentially big changes ahead depending on what academic or personal paths they choose to take. Despite this, Ellie’s friends have remained focused on fundraising in her memory for Riding for the Disabled – a charity which Ellie was extremely passionate about. They are a true credit to their school, as well as their families. I am certain that the help and support arranged by headteacher Lisa Percy has been fundamental to the mature and supportive way in which the young people dealt with Friday’s court hearing.

Since Griffiths was sentenced, I know that many people have had questions about the length of jail time he will serve. It is important to make clear that it is not the role of the police to comment on the sentences handed out by the courts. Our job is to identify those responsible and provide a comprehensive file to the CPS to ensure the relevant charges are brought against the offender. I fully understand that this may be frustrating for those close to Ellie and my thoughts are with everyone who knew her, especially Ellie’s parents, brother and sister, who will be experiencing unimaginable pain.

Investigations of this scale will no doubt impact on those directly involved in the case, none more so than staff and officers from the Brunel Major Crime Investigation Team. Despite dealing with death and the destruction it can cause on a daily basis, this case has been challenging on a number of levels and I would like to personally thank them for the professionalism and dedication shown throughout this investigation.