“It is without doubt the strangest inquiry I have ever been involved with. How a happily married woman could vanish without trace on a sunny Saturday morning in a busy town centre is totally baffling.” – Detective Chief Inspector Colin Edwards(speaking in 1992)
One of the most baffling cases in North Wales police history, and one its biggest investigations, is the much celebrated disappearance of antiques dealer Trevaline Evans in 1990. Now, 26 years later, it is still commonly claimed by police to be one of the strangest cases they have ever investigated. Trevaline has long since been declared dead and it is accepted that she was the victim of a murder. But her body has never been found, there are no suspects, and no discernible motive for her disappearance. It remains as puzzling a case 26 years later as it did back in the summer of 1990.
Llangollen is a small town in North Wales situated on the edge of the River Dee and at the foot of the Berwyn Mountain Range. It has a population of less than 4000, but is a thriving visitor and tourist centre, with people attracted by the many beautiful and scenic walking routes it has to offer. The annual Llangollen International Eisteddfod and Fringe Festival attracts many thousands of visitors to the town in the months of June and July, and June 1990 was no exception.
Trevaline Evans was a 52 year old businesswoman who lived and worked in the town, running a small antiques shop on Llangollen’s Church Street. She was a family woman, happily married to her husband Richard, and had a son, also called Richard. Trevaline and Richard were also the proud and doting grandparents of two boys, Huw and Owen. The couple lived comfortably in a modest house on nearby Market Street, and were financially successful, owning a holiday bungalow in the North Wales coastal town of Rhuddlan. Saturday June 16th was a normal working day for Trevaline, who would open her shop, Attic Antiques, daily about 9:30am and remain open until about 4pm. Friends and neighbours of her and Richard were accustomed to popping in for chats throughout the day, along with browsing customers and visitors to the town.
Richard was away that Saturday at the couple’s holiday bungalow in Rhuddlan, having been there for a week at the time doing some renovations to it. Trevaline had accompanied him there at the start of the week, but had returned to Llangollen on the Wednesday before she had disappeared. When Richard tried calling home that Saturday evening, there was no answer. After having tried a few times, he rang neighbours and friends to see if they had seen or heard from Trevaline, but to no avail. Richard began to wonder if perhaps his wife had had an accident and was hurt somewhere, and again contacted their neighbours to ask them to visit the shop. Perhaps Trevaline had fallen and was hurt? His concern turned to alarm when the neighbour who had gone around to the shop reported that Trevaline’s car, a dark blue Ford Escort estate, was still parked in its usual spot just 30 yards from Attic Antiques. The shop was locked, and the sign that would become synonymous with the case, “Back in 2 minutes” was fixed to the door. Thoroughly alarmed, Richard contacted the police to report his wife as a missing person.
“Back in 2 minutes” would hardly suggest a woman who is about to voluntarily disappear, indeed, from the off, Trevaline’s disappearance is perplexing. Enquiries revealed that that Saturday morning, 25 friends and visitors had called into the shop. All of the friends who had visited testified that Trevaline appeared normal, relaxed and happy, and had made plans to go out with some friends that Saturday evening. When the shop was searched, Trevaline’s handbag, car keys and jacket were left there. A bouquet of flowers and some fresh fruit were also there that Trevaline had been given by a friend that morning, and that she had said she planned to take home with her. The note affixed to the door, when coupled with the items that remained in the shop suggest Trevaline had just nipped out on an errand and had not meant to stay out for very long.
The resulting police investigation turned into the biggest missing person’s enquiry in North Wales history, and no stone was left unturned. Posters with photographs of Trevaline were plastered around the town and neighbouring villages. House to house enquiries were conducted at every household in Llangollen and the neighbouring villages. The town and surrounding countryside were exhaustively searched, divers combed the River Dee and Llangollen Canal, and detectives exhaustively spoke to Trevaline’s family, friends and neighbours and tourists to try to ascertain Trevaline’s movements on that day. Over 1500 people were spoken to within a 12 mile radius of Llangollen. Appeals were made in the local and national press; televised appeals were made, and Richard offered a £5000 reward. Yet all this led to nothing, it was almost as though Trevaline had disappeared off the face of the earth.
The exact events of that day have never been fully explained, and indeed can never be for definite, but detectives can best estimate the following from what is known: At about 12:40pm, Trevaline left her shop, leaving the note affixed to the door. This time can be determined as near approximate because a friend spoke to Trevaline in her shop at about 12:30pm. Trevaline then bought fruit, namely an apple and a banana, in a nearby shop on Castle Street, which she was seen crossing at about 1pm. Castle Street is the main street in Llangollen and is about a quarter of a mile from Church Street, so allowing for travelling on foot and queueing in a shop on a busy Saturday afternoon, this timing would seem accurate. Again this sighting can be confirmed because Trevaline was sighted by people who knew her well, both in the shop and when crossing Castle Street. The last confirmed sighting of Trevaline, again by someone who knew her well, was 90 minutes later at 2:30pm near her home in Market Street.
That sighting is the last definite sighting of her to this day.
There were two more sightings of a woman matching her description following this, but neither have ever confirmed as being Trevaline. At 2:35pm, a woman matching her description was seen walking out of town along the busy A5 road, heading towards the town of Corwen. Then at 3:45pm there was another sighting, this time of a woman matching her description walking into Park Avenue, which borders the River Dee. It is possible that Trevaline returned to the shop just after she was seen at 1pm, although this has never been definitively established. What raised this possibility was the discovery of a banana skin in the rubbish bin at the shop. Of course, there is no way to ascertain that that was the banana she had bought at the shop that Saturday, it could have been from a previous day.
The most promising lead police had as a result of the massive enquiry were reports that Trevaline had been seen several times in the company of a man other than her husband. Described as “well dressed”, this man was seen several times with Trevaline on the days leading up to her disappearance. He was seen in deep conversation with Trevaline in her shop on the Thursday before she disappeared, and she was also seen walking into town with a similar well-dressed man the next day. Two witnesses reported they were convinced they had seen her in a Llangollen wine bar with this man on the Friday night before she disappeared. Trevaline was again seen having a “heated” conversation with someone matching the “well dressed” man’s description in the back of her shop on the day she disappeared. Was this the same man each time? An artist’s impression of this man was widely publicised at the time, but this man – or possibly these men – have never been identified and have never come forward. Who was he? Frustratingly, this artist’s impression is unavailable to reproduce here, but is considered no longer relevant to the police investigation anyway.
All leads were investigated to exhaustion but came to nothing; though as with many high profile missing person’s inquiries, in the years following her disappearance there have been several twists and turns with the Trevaline Evans case. To the credit of police they have investigated each possible angle. Sightings of her have been reported as far afield as London, France, and even a remote town in Australia, but none of these have ever been confirmed. In 1993, three years after Trevaline’s disappearance, police utilised specially trained body sniffer dogs to searching a canal bank near Llangollen. They had done so on the basis of a member of the public having an “overwhelming feeling” that Trevaline was nearby. The year before a large area of woodland in the World’s End area was searched after a spiritualist medium claimed she was convinced Trevaline’s body was buried there. World’s End is a desolate area in close proximity to Llangollen, but nothing was found despite extensive searching. In 1997, Trevaline was declared legally dead, but police had long since been convinced that she had come to harm and they were dealing with a murder rather than a missing person. To this extent, at one time police considered a link between Trevaline’s disappearance and convicted killer Robin Ligus, who is serving life for the murder of three men in Shropshire in the 1990’s. However, this was ultimately ruled out. With no other leads to pursue, the investigation was left inactive.
However, the inquiry was reopened and freshly appealed in January 2001, this time very much conducted as a murder inquiry. It concentrated upon Trevaline’s movements in the three days leading up to her disappearance, although by this time police had decided to disregard the artists impression of the well-dressed man from 11 years previously, describing it as “inaccurate now”. Posters of Trevaline were again put up in Llangollen and the surrounding area detailing her last known movements. House to house enquiries were again made in Llangollen, and a televised appeal was made for the second time on Crimewatch UK. Trevaline’s husband Richard was also arrested and questioned over her disappearance, but was ultimately released without charge. Once again, this investigation drew a blank.
As has been shown, it is a complex disappearance and TTCE believes that there are three explanations that are possible; Trevaline was abducted, Trevaline voluntarily disappeared, or Trevaline had some sort of mental episode and wandered off, perhaps suffering with amnesia. Starting with the latter, of course it is well documented for individuals to have sudden mental anguishes and to abandon all rational thinking. This can be triggered by a sudden event or as a result of a series of stresses. Trevaline and her husband had a happy marriage, and were devoted parents and grandparents. They had no money troubles, seemingly no stresses at all. Everybody who knew her who spoke to her on that Saturday were in unison that she was happy and had plans that evening – not the actions of a woman with suicidal thoughts. If she had had some sort of mental breakdown and had wandered off then it is more likely that she would have been recognised and found if alive. How far could she get on foot, with no money, without being seen? If she had committed suicide, then it stands to reason her body would have been found. Although the countryside around Llangollen is vast – the searches of the area at the time of her disappearance were equally as vast. The canal was dragged, the River Dee searched. Coal mines and caves in the area were looked into and local woods were searched. Surely a body would have been found had Trevaline committed suicide or died of natural causes? TTCE believes that this is an unlikely explanation for her disappearance.
Did Trevaline voluntarily disappear then, being of sound mind? As shown, Trevaline and Richard were financially secure and comfortable. They were happily married and Trevaline was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She had her own business, many friends and was well liked and outgoing. It seems extremely unlikely that she would voluntarily run off and start a new life. And if she was willing to disappear, however, then there are many questions that are raised.
Why was she leaving her life behind? There has been speculation that the well-dressed man Trevaline had been seen with in the days preceding her disappearance was a secret lover, and that she left to start a new life with him. This has never been proven and remains just that, speculation. The investigation scrutinised Trevaline’s life, and nothing was found to suggest she was having an affair. Trevaline’s friends and family also claim that this would be extremely unlikely. If however this was the case, it raises questions.
Why then did she not leave the night before, or first thing in the morning? Richard was still away, she could have left anytime, even days before. Why that Saturday? Why even open the shop at all, knowing she was going to leave it all behind that day? Why take no clothes with her – no clothing was found missing from Trevaline’s house -, and indeed, leave behind essential items such as a handbag, money and a car? Why would you use no money – Trevaline’s bank account was never touched after her disappearance? Why buy fresh fruit and flowers – only to leave them behind? Why go to the lengths of deliberately disappearing in such a way that created such an enigmatic disappearance, knowing how missed she would be and the furore that disappearing in such a way would cause? And can it really be believed that a devoted mother and grandmother would excommunicate herself from her family, willingly? At the time of her disappearance this possibility was examined thoroughly and was dismissed. Everything that is definitively known about that Saturday suggests that Trevaline had left her shop to do errands, and fully intended to return. The handwritten note was checked by family members, and the handwriting was confirmed to be Trevaline’s, not written by someone else.
No, it is the opinion of TTCE that Trevaline was abducted and murdered. It is also likely that she knew her abductor/killer, and it was someone that she felt familiar and comfortable with enough to be alone with. It seems likely that Trevaline set out to meet somebody that afternoon, but whether she did return to the shop or not at any point cannot be ascertained. TTCE is of the opinion that she didn’t return – why would you leave a sign on the door saying “Back in 2 minutes” if you had returned? Frustratingly, there is a window of about 90 minutes between confirmed sightings of Trevaline that afternoon where her movements are unaccounted for – was she with her killer during this time, and what were they doing? It is unlikely that she was abducted from the shop, as a forced abduction would have caused a disturbance and would have been witnessed – there are houses in very close proximity to location of where the shop on Church Street was. It no longer exists as a shop now, as the above image suggests. But the reader will still be able to appreciate how built up an area it is – surely an abduction would have been heard or seen? Trevaline would also be an unlikely choice for a random abduction – a middle aged shopkeeper? An easier random victim would be a hiker or tourist, a victim pool that Llangollen is rich in all year around. TTCE is of the opinion that Trevaline was taken soon after the last confirmed sighting of her.Where remains a mystery.
The abductor must have had a vehicle and must have been extremely calm and collected – Llangollen is one of the busiest towns in North Wales and on a Saturday quite near to the Eisteddfod, there would have been more people around than usual. No one reported seeing any sort of disturbance or scuffle between a man and a woman that day – so it seems likely that wherever Trevaline went, she went at least voluntarily to begin with. Perhaps the person she knew offered her a lift back to the shop? The abductor must have been able to restrain or incapacitate her, and then take her to places unknown to either kill her and dispose of the body, or just to dispose of the body because Trevaline was already dead. All this would have been done without drawing any attention to them – it is likely that the abductor had a house or premises and this is where Trevaline was taken and killed. TTCE believes that this was out of Llangollen, possibly up in rural North Wales or towards England. But this covers such a sheer massive geographical area, that without specific information pinpointing an exact area, it would be impossible to ever find a burial site unless one was discovered by chance. And none has been in 25 years.
Frustratingly, it is the lack of any real insight into what happened that afternoon that perplexes the most – all this is speculation based upon the scant evidence and leads in the case. There is no body. There is no discernible crime scene. There is no motive. There are no suspects. There is nothing in Trevaline’s past to suggest she had any enemies, or was involved in anything illegal or illicit. Her disappearance has the feel of being an impromptu crime, but a very well executed and very personal one. North Wales police claim that the investigation is not closed, but unsurprisingly is currently inactive. Sadly, most of the people who mourned Trevaline’s disappearance have now died themselves without ever knowing what had happened to her. Trevaline’s father, her brother David, son Richard JR and her husband Richard have all passed away now, but there is a surviving brother, Leonard, who still lives in the area. He has lived with the agony of not knowing for over a quarter of a century now.
“The officers who worked on the case at the time, the ones I got to know, have all retired. There are no new theories about what happened, or any fresh evidence, and I realise the police have financial limitations. I would like the investigation to continue, I am forever hopeful of finding out what happened.” – Leonard Davies (Trevaline’s brother – speaking in 2015)
Will the mystery of Trevaline Evans ever be solved?
The True Crime Enthusiast