“Why do that to such a gentle man? If they had wanted his money, he would have given it to them” – Sylvia Allett (Alan’s sister)
The rural hamlet of Lound, in the county of Lincolnshire, UK, should be unremarkable from many other English villages the length and breadth of the country. The Domesday Book even depicts Lound as consisting of nothing more than “18 households, 2 mills and a church”. And Lound would have stayed that way, had it not found itself to be the setting of one of the most brutal and horrific murders that not only Lincolnshire Police have ever seen, but within British criminal history also. A murder that still to this day remains unsolved.
Lound was, in 2009, the home of 50-year-old self-employed gardener, Alan Wood, who lived in Manor House, a small bungalow on a rural road just off the A1621. A link to a Google Map image of Alan’s bungalow circa 2009 can be found here
Alan was popular and well liked, and was considered by his family and friends as being laid back in nature, but a kind-hearted hard worker who enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. The eldest of three children of Jim and Maureen Wood, Alan had been born in Gillingham but had grown up in the village of Careby along with his sisters Janice and Sylvia. Upon leaving school, Alan had gone to work in the printing industry and found a role at Warners Printers in the Lincolnshire town of Bourne. However, after many years working there he was made redundant, and as an avid gardener, Alan decided upon a new direction in life. He had spells of employment at Rassells Nursery in Little Bytham, and later Barnsdale Gardens, before creating his own gardening business, Gardens TLC. Since 2006, Alan had also began working at the Sainsbury’s store in Bourne as a supplement to his income during the winter months where gardening work was scarce. By all accounts he was just as popular there, and enjoyed working the night shifts.
Alan had been married to his wife, Joanne, since 1992, but the couple had separated after eleven years of marriage. They were still on good terms and very close, however, and stayed in regular touch, even when Joanne had moved to live in Peterborough. Having no children of his own with Joanne, Alan instead devoted himself to his nieces and nephews and loved spending time with them. He was also an avid and accomplished photographer and was known to have done wedding photographs for several of his friends. Aside from photography, Alan’s other passions were cars and motorcycles, and he owned a black Triumph Speed Triple and an “E” type Jaguar. These were his pride and joy.
Alan had an active social life, although this seemed to centre around his local pub, The Willoughby Arms in Little Bytham. He was a well-known figure here, enjoying a few pints of lager and especially a packet of mini cheddars, and would always get involved in any events there. Be it a quiz night, a live music event or even a beer festival, Alan could be found there enjoying himself, and would often help out behind the bar or clearing up at such events.
So here we have a picture of a kind-hearted man, a popular and well liked man who was a hard worker and would always help anyone out. This makes what was to follow in October 2009 all the more difficult to pinpoint a motive for.
Early in the morning of Saturday 24th October 2009, a friend and co-worker of Alan’s arrived at his Manor House for a visit. However, the friend was dismayed and perhaps a bit disturbed to find both the front and back door wide open, and no response from calling out for Alan. Feeling apprehensive, the friend contacted Alan’s landlord, who arrived at the property to investigate further, and together the two entered the bungalow.
What they found was later described as being the most horrific crime scene ever witnessed in Lincolnshire police history.
Going into the living room, Alan’s body was found lying face down on the blood drenched floor. He had been dead for some time, and lay in a congealed pool of blood. His hands were bound with Sellotape, and there were massive wounds to his head that had been inflicted with a bladed object, where he had been stabbed repeatedly. Alan had been killed by having his throat cut, but perhaps most horrifically, it was determined that an attempt had been made to cut off his head. The house showed no signs of ransacking, and indeed, just Alan’s bank cards were found to be missing from the property.
The resulting police investigation, Operation Magnesium, was massive, and Alan’s life and last known movements were looked at to try to establish a motive, a time and date of death and hopefully, a suspect. But straight away, detectives hit a brick wall. No neighbours had reported hearing any sounds of a struggle or screams, and no clear motive was available. Alan had no known enemies or had had any known disagreements with anyone. He did not associate with any known elements of the criminal fraternity, and was not known to be involved in anything illegal or illicit.
It was established that Alan had last been seen alive on Wednesday 21st October 2009, where he was confirmed by CCTV as shopping in the Morrison’s supermarket in nearby Stamford that afternoon. He was also confirmed as to having visited his local pub, The Willoughby Arms, on his way back from here. He shared a drink and a conversation with bar staff and left at about 6:30pm. This was the last time Alan was seen alive, except for by his killer(s), so detectives had an unaccounted window of about 65 hours from Alan last being seen alive to his body being discovered. But forensic scientists examining the scene, plus a search of local CCTV and bank transactions, managed to produce a wealth of evidence that was to help pinpoint a likely time of death and point towards a local offender. Undisputable forensic evidence from the killer was also found at the scene.
What was the wealth of evidence found? This took the form of a footprint left at the scene by a size 8 Converse Mark LE Red trainer, and fragments of a bus ticket from a local Bourne transport company, Delaine, which was found stuck to the Sellotape used to bind Alan’s hands. But most crucially, a full male DNA profile from someone other than Alan was found from bloodstaining at the scene – had the killer injured or cut himself whilst attacking Alan, or had Alan caused an injury to his killer by attempting to fight him off? Unfortunately, to date no match for the sample has been found on the NDNAD in the UK, as well as an international search being made on at least 47 different databases.
Detectives believed that the likely scenario was that Alan was attacked sometime on the Thursday evening, having been disturbed from relaxing in bed reading by the sounds of a disturbance at his front door. He was then overpowered by at least one but more likely two men, who dragged him through to the living room and managed to restrain him by Sellotaping his hands. It was believed that Alan was then tortured in order for the killer(s) to gain his PIN number for his bank cards, being stabbed in the head and eye when he refused. It was believed possible that Alan may have been tortured over a period of time, with his killer returning to inflict more torture when given the wrong PIN. Alan was finally killed by having his throat slit, and then for no other discernible reason bar sheer blood lust, his killer(s) then attempted to cut off his head.
The reason that detectives were so certain that it was Thursday that Alan was attacked was that it was found that his cash cards had been used a number of times over the unaccounted last hours of Alan’s life. Eleven attempts in total were made, with only two being successful, in nearby Bourne and Stamford. CCTV was gleaned from several of these attempts which show a figure (definitely not Alan) with his features hidden using the cashpoint in West St, Bourne, at 9:00pm on the Thursday evening.
A witness also came forward to say that she had seen two men using a cashpoint in Sainsbury’s (the same store where Alan worked) at about 9:30pm the same evening. The CCTV was scrutinised and enhanced to provide these images of Alan’s suspected killer(s), and a photofit of one of the men seen at the Sainsbury’s cashpoint is also shown here:
“ATM Man” was described as being 5”9 to 5”11, of medium to slim build and possibly walking with a limp – which expert analysis of the CCTV revealed may be because the killer has one leg slightly longer than the other. He was described as dressing “smart casually” and wore what appears to be a distinct striped scarf. He was also a smoker as confirmed by undisclosed CCTV footage, and believed to have strong local knowledge due to being aware of the CCTV within the area and taking precautions to avoid recognition when being caught on it. The Delaine bus ticket also suggests a killer who is local, or with local knowledge.
It would appear from this that robbery was the prime motive here, but detectives could not rule out a more personal reason for such a horrific murder. Several possibilities were suggested, including Alan having fallen foul of someone when doing some gardening work in a prison years before. It was also suggested that Alan was a casual user of sex workers, and the motive for his murder perhaps had a root in some connection with the vice world. This has never been confirmed as being the case, however. But perhaps the most intriguing, and indeed, plausible theory, was that this was a case of mistaken identity. Was Alan mistaken for someone else, or did someone mistakenly believe that he was wealthier than he actually was?
The case has received massive publicity over the years, and has been featured on Crimewatch U.K twice as an appeal. It received massive local press and interest, and appeal posters in a multitude of languages were displayed far and wide in an attempt to gain possible information that may be held within the migrant community. The CBS Reality investigative series, Donal MacIntyre Unsolved, has also covered the case in 2015. Sainsbury’s offered a reward totalling £60,000, and a website was even established by Lincolnshire police – although as of 2017, this website is now defunct. A link to it is however available through the following archive link
Just four people have been arrested in connection with Alan’s murder over the course of the enquiry, and each has been released without further charge. It seems remarkable that despite the wealth of forensic evidence, good CCTV, and the crowning jewel of the DNA profile from the scene, that the crime remains unsolved to this day. The investigation is of course still open, but barring any new information or a familial DNA profile match, it remains upon the “Active with regular reviews” pile.
What then can be said about the killer(s)? As is commonplace on TTCE, I in no way offer the following as definitive, these are purely observations and hypothesis. To begin, I feel it very likely that there is more than one person involved in this crime. Alan was a physical worker and was relatively young, he would have likely been able to put up a struggle against a single attacker unless immediately incapacitated at the front door. Burglaries are also normally committed by offenders in pairs at least. I also believe it possible that once the PIN number was obtained from Alan through torture, one of the offenders went to the nearest cashpoint to ascertain that the number was correct, whilst the other guarded Alan and ensured he could not raise the alarm. It would be too high risk for a single killer to have tortured a person, leave him alone to ascertain he was being correct, and then return to inflict more torture if he wasn’t. More likely is the scenario that one offender tortured Alan whilst in mobile phone contact with the other one attempting to use the cash cards, and Alan was killed soon after the correct PIN number had been ascertained. The level of violence used may have been in a rage because Alan had mistakenly or deliberately given the killers the wrong PIN number.
Out of the theories presented as possible motives, I do not believe it likely that it is because Alan was a user of sex workers. This theory has been deemed unlikely by his family, friends and colleagues and no evidence has been found to suggest that the suggestion is even correct. Also, how many people are users? Why target Alan specifically? Unlikely. The same goes for the theory that Alan had somehow fallen afoul of someone whilst doing gardening work in a prison some years before. Nothing has been found to suggest that this has root in truth. I believe that Alan would have known if he had an enemy, and that he would have confided this knowledge in his family or friends.
The most likely scenario, I believe, is that Alan was targeted deliberately – but in a case of mistaken identity. It was found that Alan bore a strong resemblance to a manager at the Sainsbury’s store where he worked. Perhaps his killers had seen him, and mistakenly followed Alan home at a previous time, mistaking him for the manager. Alan’s Jaguar car may have supported the killer’s theory, and given the impression that he was a wealthy man. A friend of Alan’s, Ella Jenkins, agreed with this:
“It was his pride and joy and it looked fabulous, but was only probably worth about £500. I saw the manager at the funeral, he was the same build and the same colouring – it was kind of at first glance it was Alan, but he didn’t have glasses. My gut feeling is that they thought he had money, or that they thought he had the keys to the store”
Was this the reason for the levels of violence? Alan repeatedly denying he had keys to the store – because he was telling the truth and this repeated denial angered his killers?
What else then can be ascertained about Alan’s killers? I believe it very likely that the killers either live or have lived in the local area, or have very strong connections or familiarity with it. The cash machines used were within a relatively small geographical area, and there is also the evidence of the local bus ticket found attached to the Sellotape binding Alan’s hands. Plus the area in which Alan lived is a rural area and someone familiar with the area would know of a quiet way to access and egress the scene. This was possibly on foot, or a car was left nearby. I believe the killers were at the time in their late teens to mid 20’s – the overkill and amount of violence used shows an immaturity, and possibly in a drink or drug fuelled rage. “ATM Man” also appears to have the gait and dress of someone within this age range.
I believe that they knew of Alan, but did not know him personally – everyone he knew and worked with would have been spoken to and eliminated. I believe that the bungalow in which he lived had been visited or watched by the killers prior to the murder, in order to ascertain the best point of entry and exit, and to make sure there wasn’t a fierce dog or alarm system. The lack of a DNA match to the unknown bloodstaining found at the crime scene on the NDNAD is a puzzling aspect also. For someone to have used such levels of violence and to be cold-blooded, it boggles the mind that such a person hasn’t come to the attention of police before for previous serious offences, and therefore have a DNA sample on the NDNAD. They may not have killed before (and this could also explain the savage amount of violence used – because this was a first time kill) but it was certainly a person comfortable with violence and brutality. I believe that the killers were experienced thieves – this is certainly not a first time offence, and is possible that the killers may originate from the travelling community, and therefore may have escaped detection for previous crimes by moving around the country.
The crime itself shows signs of both organised and disorganised killers. Organised in that the killers managed to gain access to the house without any commotion being heard. They left no fingerprints and no murder weapon was ever found. They managed to leave the scene without drawing attention to themselves at all. When spotted on CCTV (which nowadays is practically impossible to avoid) the killers took steps to conceal their identity. Yet they carelessly left vital forensic evidence such as a footprint from a traceable shoe, a local bus ticket, and most importantly, a sample of the killers blood at the scene. They also had no way of knowing exactly when Alan’s body would be found and the alarm raised, yet still risked being captured on and possibly identified from CCTV by using the cards eleven times in the days following the murder – all for the sake of a maximum few hundred pounds that they could have gained from the only two successful transactions out of these.
To date, more than 20,000 people have been spoken to over the course of the enquiry. Manor House was kept as a crime scene for two years following the murder, before being eventually demolished. Television appeals have been made, and the murder has been the subject of both sensationalist and amateur documentaries, links to which can be found as a footnote. There is also an ongoing appeal to trace a Polish national, Pawel Wrzyszcz, a car washer who worked at a local car wash that Alan was known to have frequented with his Jaguar. Police are keen to stress that he is not a suspect in the murder, but may hold vital information. Precisely why Wrzyszcz is such a person of interest in the case is unclear.
As the eighth anniversary of Alan’s death approaches, his family and friends understandably find it a hard time. But Lincolnshire Police are keen to stress to them, and the public, that they havent and will never give up the hunt for Alan’s killers. The enquiry is still ongoing, but it seems that barring a match for the unknown blood sample appearing on the NDNAD from either the killer or a familial match, Alan’s killers will escape detection and this horrific and tragic crime will go unpunished.
But Alan is not forgotten. In the years following the crime, Alan’s family and friends created a memorial garden at his local, The Willoughby Arms, and gather there on the anniversary of his murder to remember him. A pint of lager is placed on the bar, along with a bag of Mini Cheddars. The garden has a touching tribute of a sundial that is inscribed with the following:
‘Sadly missed by all his friends and family, I’m going after this one …’ referring to words Alan often used before leaving the pub.
Anyone having information concerning the murder of Alan Wood should contact Lincolnshire Police on 101, quoting Operation Magnesium, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
The True Crime Enthusiast