It was once branded as an ‘enchanting’ gem of a seaside resort, attracting 5million visitors a year and hailed by the author Thomas Hardy as a ‘city set in a garden’.

Yet Bournemouth’s pleasures have turned sour for many locals as a series of horrific crimes cast a shadow over the resort – including last week’s fatal stabbing of 34-year-old beloved mother and wife Amie Gray.

The picture-postcard appeal of the resort has made it one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations ever since the arrival of the railways in the Victorian age.

But modern-day residents have become alarmed about a rising tide of crime ranging from harrowing murders, rapes and violent attacks to daylight drug-dealing and threatening anti-social behaviour.

The town has been compared to the ‘Wild West’ following a spike in attacks – with the crime rate last year amounting to 83 offences per 1,000 people, as opposed to a Dorset-wide 61.T

he number of violent and sexual offences in Bournemouth recorded by police last year rose by 1.5 per cent to 11,551, compared to 11,378 in 2022.

Bournemouth West MP Sir Conor Burns has been raising concerns about crime across the visitor attraction and calling for more police presence in the town centre.

In another shocking attack, Afghan asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai fatally stabbed aspiring Royal Marine Tom Roberts in Bournemouth in March 2022.

Police have been seen using metal detectors at Durley Chine following the death of Amie Gray

Police have been seen using metal detectors at Durley Chine following the death of Amie Gray

The town previously saw Thomas Betteridge stab Cameron Hamilton to death in August 2003 - Betteridge was later jailed for nine months for manslaughter

The town previously saw Thomas Betteridge stab Cameron Hamilton to death in August 2003 – Betteridge was later jailed for nine months for manslaughter

Concerns have been raised over crime in the resort including reported rapes last summer

Concerns have been raised over crime in the resort including reported rapes last summer

Women's football coach Amie Gray, 34, was found stabbed on Durley Chine Beach last Friday

Women’s football coach Amie Gray, 34, was found stabbed on Durley Chine Beach last Friday

He told the Commons: ‘There are individuals who abuse the system – that’s wrong as a matter of principle but it’s also a serious safeguarding risk to genuine children.

‘It’s important that we weed out those cases of abuse because it poses such a risk.

‘I’m afraid we’ve seen some very tragic instances such as the murder that occurred in Bournemouth at the behest of somebody who had posed as a child.’

Ms Gray’s death is far from the only police inquiry in the area in search of answers – while fears have also been raised over a spate of rapes and violent assaults.

And locals have told of rising crime and security worries, with one saying: ‘There’s definitely been a noticeable increase in anti-social behaviour and crime in Bournemouth in the last few years.’

Women’s football coach Ms Gray, from nearby Poole in Dorset, was found with stab wounds on Durley Chine Beach last Friday night and died at the scene.

Dorset Police originally arrested a 17-year-old boy on Saturday but revealed they had later eliminated him from their enquiries, urging the public against ‘unhelpful speculation’.

The beach has remained cordoned off and officers are continuing investigations at a site which would otherwise be welcoming happy travellers at this time of year.

The west side of Bournemouth Pier has been closed to the public after the killing of Amie Gray

The west side of Bournemouth Pier has been closed to the public after the killing of Amie Gray

Bournemouth has been one of the UK's most popular holiday locations ever since the arrival of the railways in the Victorian age

Bournemouth has been one of the UK’s most popular holiday locations ever since the arrival of the railways in the Victorian age

The town in Dorset on England's south-western coast welcomes 5million visitors each year

The town in Dorset on England’s south-western coast welcomes 5million visitors each year

Holiday-makers are seen here flocking to be beside the sea in Bournemouth in August 1961

Holiday-makers are seen here flocking to be beside the sea in Bournemouth in August 1961

Chidren were pictured playing on the beach on England's south-west coast as part of a staff outing from Laing's London office in May 1953

Chidren were pictured playing on the beach on England’s south-west coast as part of a staff outing from Laing’s London office in May 1953

Modern-day locals worry its glory days could be behind Bournemouth amid rising crime fears

Modern-day locals worry its glory days could be behind Bournemouth amid rising crime fears

Seaside resort Bournemouth, seen here in the mid-20th century, attracts hordes of visitors

Seaside resort Bournemouth, seen here in the mid-20th century, attracts hordes of visitors

A 20-year-old man from Croydon, south London, has now been arrested on suspicion of Ms Gray’s murder, it was disclosed last night. 

Det Supt Richard Dixey, of Dorset Police’s Major Crime Investigation Team, said: ‘The enhanced visible policing presence in the area will remain in place and we would continue to strongly encourage anyone with concerns to please not hesitate to speak to any officer who will be able to listen and provide appropriate advice.’ 

Sir Conor has described Ms Gray’s killing as a ‘ghastly killing’ and a ‘tragic death’, while insisting it was ‘important to remember that these events are headline because they are thankfully still rare locally’.

Dorset Police said a second woman, aged 38 and also from Poole, was still being treated after she was seriously injured in the horrific attack. 

Sir Conor and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council leader Vikki Slade raised concerns earlier this year after they reported drug-dealing they witnessed in the town centre – only for 999 call operators to recommend they dial 101 instead.

The MP said: ‘There’s no point reporting crime if the police don’t respond to a crime – this is the big frustration.

‘We’ve got to be really clear – council, business, community can do so much, but the police are central to the town. It’s time for some straight talking.’

Local firms and other Bournemouth organisations have teamed up in a new initiative called Against Business Crime, which is urging more victims to report offences.

The group said: ‘Running any kind of business currently is challenging enough without having to deal with rising levels of theft, verbal & physical abuse and anti-social behaviour.

Sian Gray (left) is pictured with her wife Amie Gray (right) who was found with stab wounds on Durley Chine Beach in Bournemouth last Friday night

Sian Gray (left) is pictured with her wife Amie Gray (right) who was found with stab wounds on Durley Chine Beach in Bournemouth last Friday night

Amie Gray, a women's football coach, is seen holding an award for clubwoman of the year

Amie Gray, a women’s football coach, is seen holding an award for clubwoman of the year 

The east side of the pier has been busy with beachcombers while the west side stayed shut

The east side of the pier has been busy with beachcombers while the west side stayed shut

This map shows where last Friday's crime, under investigation by Dorset Police, took place

This map shows where last Friday’s crime, under investigation by Dorset Police, took place

‘However, we also see low levels of actual reporting to the agencies that have a statutory responsibility to deal with this activity.’

Ms Gray’s death is far from the only police inquiry in the area in search of answers – while fears have also been raised over a spate of rapes and violent assaults. 

And locals have told of rising crime and security worries, with one saying: ‘It’s alarming, the number of rapes and stabbings in Bournemouth lately – it’s rough down here now.’

It emerged during the investigation into aspiring Royal Marine Tom Roberts’ death that his killer Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai had been on the run from murder charges in Serbia when he arrived in Britain, and was later convicted in his absence of gunning down two people with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

He had posed as a young Afghan orphan in order to gain entry into the UK in 2019, but in reality he was a 19-year-old man who was wanted by police in Serbia for the shootings in an apparent argument over people smuggling.

The case prompted then-immigration minister Robert Jenrick to announce new scientific age assessments of migrants who claim to be children.

Among the crimes investigated by police was the rape of a woman on Horseshoe Common in Bournemouth in the early hours of August 11 last year.

That was the third rape attack in central Bournemouth in 10 months – and came just a week after 18-year-old plumber Cameron Hamilton was stabbed to death in the town centre following an evening out. 

Thomas Betteridge was found guilty of Mr Hamilton’s manslaughter in March this year and was jailed for nine years the following month.

People have been unable to go on to the beach west of the pier due to the police cordon (seen on Saturday)

People have been unable to go on to the beach west of the pier due to the police cordon (seen on Saturday) 

Flowers have been left for Amie Gray and a second stabbing victim who was seriously injured

Flowers have been left for Amie Gray and a second stabbing victim who was seriously injured 

A forensic officer takes a photograph of evidence on the beach in Dorset

A forensic officer takes a photograph of evidence on the beach in Dorset

Bournemouth Crown Court heard from a witness that Betteridge had described in a ‘boastful way’ about having ‘sliced up’ the victim and ‘shanked him’. 

Meanwhile, mystery remains over the deaths of two young people in ‘dangerous’ seas in Bournemouth on May 31 last year – with another eight people injured.

Sunnah Khan, 12, had been swimming near a pier with her siblings when she was pulled under the water that afternoon.

She later died in hospital, as did 17-year-old Joe Abbess, who had been at the beach with friends.

Officers impounded the Dorset Belle boat shortly after the deaths a 40-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, but Dorset Police said on July 14 last year that no criminal offences had been committed.

Other potential offences reported last year included the alleged sexual assault of two girls aged 10 and 11 on June 25, a week after a 17-year-old boy said he was touched inappropriately while in the sea close to the resort’s pier.

Also that month a man in his 30s suffered a fractured skull when hit on the head with an unknown weapon in broad daylight as he walked through the Lower Gardens.

And on the first day of June a mass brawl involving 50 people erupted on the beach.

Dorset Police told at the time of a 25 per cent spike in 999 calls since the summer season began, compared to the same period 12 months earlier.

Cameron Hamilton

Thomas Betteridge

Thomas Betteridge stabbed to death Cameron Hamilton, left, during a brawl in Dorset

Bournemouth has seaside appeal for tourists - but people living there have raised concerns

Bournemouth has seaside appeal for tourists – but people living there have raised concerns

This antique black and white photo shows the resort in south-western England last century

This antique black and white photo shows the resort in south-western England last century

Bournemouth boasts a seven-mile-long beach as well as spectacular cliff backdrops

Bournemouth boasts a seven-mile-long beach as well as spectacular cliff backdrops

The force’s Det Supt Richard Dixey has tried to reassure residents as the hunt for Ms Gray’s killer goes on – visibly so across the mile-long stretch of beach cordoned off.

He said: ‘We understand the concern that the public will have as a result of this incident. There will be an enhanced police presence in the area.’

But many remain fearful, with Bournemouth resident Cathy Jacques saying: ‘I would suggest putting out a warning for women not to go out after dark right now as the killer is still out there.

‘Bournemouth isn’t safe anymore and hasn’t been for a few years now.’

Gemma Heawood said: ‘So scary to know whoever did it is still out there.’

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