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The Ossett “Exorcist” Murder

“You don’t want to see this one son. I’ve seen nothing like it before and I’ve seen a few. It’s the wife. She’s got no…He’s ripped at her son. It’s a right mess in there. There’s not much of her left. You don’t want to see it, eh?” – Police Inspector

This week on TTCE it is my pleasure to bring you the strange and compelling story of the case known as The Ossett “Exorcist” murder. This was the case featured in the premiere episode of The True Crime Enthusiast Podcast – links to which can be found at the end of the blogpost.

In 1974, in a case that shocked the nation, a particularly violent and shocking murder was committed by a peaceful and loving family man, who was overcome either by inner demons, or literal ones.

Ossett is a market town near the city of Wakefield, in the English county of West Yorkshire, and the kind of town that wouldn’t strike most people as the sort of place where a sensational bloody, horrific murders, talk of exorcisms and demonic possession would stem from. But it is in Osset where the sinister story begins.

The Taylor family called the Osset district of Havercroft their home in 1974, and this family consisted of 31-year old Michael Taylor, his wife Christine, their five children, and their family dog. The family and their home was considered mostly a cheerful and happy one by their friends and neighbours, and Michael in particular was described by those who knew him as mild mannered, but a generally kind and loving father and husband.

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It was noted, however, that he was sometimes prone to minor bouts of depression, the cause of which had been due to a severe back injury he had received a number of years before, and which had left him with chronic pain and an inability to find long term employment. Apart from this observation, nothing else seemed to be amiss or unusual in the Taylor household.

At the time, Osset had a highly religious population and most people regularly attending church, but the Taylors had never been particularly devout, mostly skipping church services that were held near where they lived.

In a belief that Michael’s periods of depression could be somehow eased with a spiritual intervention, a friend of Michael’s called Barbara Wardman took it upon herself to introduce  him to a church group called the Christian Fellowship Group, which was led by 21-year-old pastor Marie Robinson.

Whereas Michael had previously been non-religious, he soon began to attend regular meetings of the group, and he became an active member of the congregation. He became well acquainted with their teachings, and quickly fell under the spell of the charismatic Marie Robinson.

Michael began spending what seemed an inappropriate amount of time with Robinson, attending more and more meetings and gatherings of the group, and joining Robinson in congregations where they would use “the power of God” to “exorcise” people of their sins and speak in tongues.

They also began to engage in private rituals, in which both Michael and Robinson would stay up all night making the sign of the cross at each other in order to ward off what they believed was the evil power of the full moon. In fact, it soon became clear to the rest of the congregation that Michael had become rather enamored with Robinson.

Unsurprisingly, Michael’s attitude at home towards his family began to change as a result. He was spending less and less time at home with them, and when he was there he was sullen and irritable, and very argumentative. This was a total character change from the easygoing and peaceful way Michael had once been, and the assumption was that the church group was somehow exerting a negative influence on him. The character change and increasingly bizarre beliefs, erratic behavior, and bad attitude was clear to see to anyone who knew him.

But most notably to Christine Taylor, on whom it was not lost that Michael had an infatuation with Robinson.

During one congregation, Christine suddenly decided to publicly confront Michael about his relationship with Robinson, and openly accused him in front of people of being unfaithful.

Now, if it already didn’t sound bad or strange enough, it was at this point where Michael’s behavior would take a turn for the worse.

Michael is reported to have felt “an evil influence cast a shadow over him”, and then compelled by this force, vented a sudden fury on surprisingly not Christine, but Robinson. He lashed out at her, verbally and physically, to the point that several other churchgoers in the congregation had to physically restrain him, fearing that he would seriously hurt himself or someone else.

Perhaps as a good example of the religious mania that was running through the group, Marie Robinson herself later testified as to what happened when Michael attacked her: She said:

“I suddenly glanced at Mike and his whole features changed. He looked almost bestial. He kept looking at me and there was a really wild look in his eyes. I started screaming at him out of fear. I started speaking in tongues. Mike also screamed at me in tongues… I was on the verge of death and I seemed to come to my senses. I knew that only the name of Jesus would save me and I just started saying over and over again ‘Jesus’. When Chris (Christine) heard me calling on the name of Jesus she started saying it too, and I believe firmly that it was only by calling on His name that I was not killed”

Michael would claim later to have had no memory of this incident.

Surprisingly, despite this frightening violent outburst, the following day Michael was to receive full forgiveness and a church absolution from Robinson for what had happened. But none of the rest of the congregation could forget the outburst, and Michael was closely watched following this episode.

It soon became apparent that his deteriorating, out of character behavior seemed to now be permanent, and was in fact getting worse as time went on, with his sanity clearly slipping. The seriousness and frightening condition that Michael was in was so severe that several local ministers became involved, and came to the realization that Michael might be under the influence of demonic forces. Finally,  the local vicar came to the controversial conclusion that an exorcism should be performed on Michael.

Two ministers, by the names of Father Peter Vincent and the Rev. Raymond Smith were brought in to carry it out, and the exorcism was set to happen for midnight on the 5th of October, 1974, at St. Thames Church in Barnsley. That night, in front of the congregation of the Christian Fellowship Group, the two ministers began the harrowing ritual, which would prove to last throughout the night and well into the next morning.

As soon as the exorcism had started, Michael went into uncontrollable convulsions and fits, and bouts of scratching, spitting, and biting, requiring him to be forcefully tied to the floor. Over the next 8 hours, Michael was subjected to all sorts of indignities, such as having crucifixes shoved into his mouth and being doused with holy water. All throughout, Michael was growling and snapping at anyone who came near him. The priests in charge of the exorcism claimed that the ceremony had managed to ascertain that there were about 40 demons inhabiting Michael’s body, representing such traits as incest, bestiality, blasphemy, lewdness, heresy, masochism, and carnal knowledge. As one can imagine, these alleged demons did not go easily from Michael, each one having to be reportedly dragged out kicking and screaming. After 8 hours of this, by 8 AM on October 6th 1974, the priests carrying out the exorcism could no longer continue through exhaustion.

Strangely, it was decided that the exorcism would have to be finished at a later time, although the priests claimed that three demons, those of insanity, anger, and murder, were still stubbornly possessing Michael and had not been successfully removed yet.

Apparently, the congregation who had been present for the exorcism agreed in part, for one witness to the terrifying events, a minister’s wife named Margaret Smith, was to claim later that she had received a warning in her mind from what she believed to be God, saying that the demon of murder was going to escape from Michael and kill Christine. She pleaded with the two priests to complete the exorcism, but they dismissed her warnings and instead told Michael and Christine to go home to rest and prepare for the next and final part of the exorcism, which was to be performed the following day.

Now, whether there were really demons still infesting Michael Taylor’s body or not, or whether he had succumbed to a full on psychosis and had been tipped over the edge by the events of that night, what would follow that day was nothing short of pure evil and insanity.

It was about 09:45 the next morning, October 7th, and not two hours after Michael and Christine had been sent home to rest up to prepare for the next part of the exorcism, that a police patrol car passing through the normally quiet streets of Osset came upon a shocking and un-nerving sight.

Coming around a corner, the officer in the car, PC Ian Walker, was confronted by the sight of a man stumbling around in the middle of the street, naked, and covered head to toe in blood. His body was slicked with it. Stopping the car and approaching the man, PC Walker saw the man curl into the foetal position, and heard him ranting and screaming over and over:

“IT IS THE BLOOD OF SATAN”

Unsurprisingly, this had attracted a crowd of onlookers, some of which knew the disturbed man.

It was Michael Taylor.

The police officers who had approached the man immediately called for an ambulance, fearing that Michael had hurt himself or someone else, and tried his best to talk to and calm Michael, who was still screaming and senseless, ranting only about Satan. He continued screaming as the ambulance from the local hospital arrived and he was placed into it and taken away. The crowd of onlookers who had crowded around the ambulance now told the police that the deranged maniac was Michael Taylor, and gave the officer his address, to which the patrol car then went to.

PC Walker, upon arrival at the Taylor house, was surprised and perhaps apprehensive to find a police car there already, which he later found out had been summoned for by frightened neighbours who had heard a commotion. PC Walker approached the house but was stopped by the sight of his Inspector emerging from the front door, bending over, and vomiting.

“You don’t want to see this one son. I’ve seen nothing like it before and I’ve seen a few. It’s the wife. She’s got no…He’s ripped at her son. It’s a right mess in there. There’s not much of her left. You don’t want to see it, eh?”

Feeling that he had go in, PC Walker stepped into the Taylor house and was to see exactly what his shook his inspector had meant.

The interior of the front room was destroyed, with signs of destruction apparent even from a cursory look. Blood covered every surface of the room, along with flesh, pulp and brain matter, and on the floor of the living room lay the bodies of Christine Taylor and the family pet dog, almost unrecognisable. The blood that had covered Michael Taylor was Christine’s blood. At about 09:30 that morning, in the Taylor family home, Michael had killed his wife Christine, the woman that that he loved and the mother of his children.

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In a maniacal and deranged attack, Michael had stripped off and strangled Christine, and had literally torn off her face. There was no murder weapon involved – He had gouged out her eyes and ripped out her tongue with his bare hands, tearing the rest of her face down to the bone, so much so that she was left unrecognisable. Whilst Christine had died of shock and asphyxiation on her own blood – mercifully quickly – Michael had turned his attentions to the Taylor pet dog, strangling it and literally ripping it limb from limb. He had torn its legs from their sockets, and hair and teeth and eyes from the skull. He then left the house screaming, and was found by PC Walker a short time later.

It was described as being the most horrific crime scene that any police officer who had attended it was ever to see

Michael was taken into police custody from the hospital, and when interviewed some hours later – when he was deemed rational to talk, he was asked to try to explain what had happened: He told Detective Inspector Brian Smith about the exorcism that had occurred only hours before, saying:

“It was a long night. They danced around me and burned my cross because that was tainted with the evil. They had me in the church all night. Look at my hands. I was banging on the floor. The power was in me. I couldn’t get rid of it and neither could they. They were too late. I was compelled by a force within me to destroy everything living within the house”

Although Michael claimed he could remember nothing of the actual murder, claiming to deeply love his wife, when asked by DI Smith how he felt, Michael replied:

“Released. I am released. It is done. The evil in her has been destroyed.”

Although he appeared to have no motive for his actions, Michael Taylor was charged with the murder of Christine Taylor and was remanded to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire to await trial. Whilst on remand, Michael was reported to have spent most of the time in silence or sleeping. Perhaps some part of him never wanted to face what had happened, and how five children had in the space of a single day lost a mother – and a father.

The crime was a sensation – horror such as this belongs in fiction and should not happen anywhere, let alone in a sleepy Yorkshire market town. It created a media frenzy, and the bloody crime, coupled with the background of exorcisms and alleged demonic possession drew huge amounts of interest to Michael Taylor’s upcoming trial.

Michael Taylor’s trial for the murder of his wife Christine began in March 1975, and upon it commencing, the jury were advised by the barrister for the prosecution, Mr Geoffrey Baker QC, that the evidence they were about to hear:

“will make it difficult to believe that you are not back in the Middle Ages”

Neither prosecution nor defence denied at the trial that Michael Taylor had severe mental issues. Michael himself testified, again claiming that he had no recollection of the actual killing, that he had deeply loved his wife and had been under the control of evil supernatural forces, and that he had suspected that Christine had also been possessed by demons. He offered no other explanation.

The lynchpin of his defence was the discrediting of the Christian Fellowship group, and the Anglican and Methodist priests who had carried out the exorcism. Mr Ognall QC, for the defence, claimed that the Christian Fellowship Prayer Group was actually more of a fanatical cult, and had managed to influence Michael by using potent mind control and indoctrination, feeding his already existing mental issues. At one point, he  described the group as:

 “Neurotics, feeding neurosis, to a neurotic”

Blame was also apportioned to the exorcism itself. The prosecution claimed that the ritual had taken its toll on an already mentally disturbed man, and coupled with the warped religious ideals and beliefs that the Prayer Group had instilled in him, these negative influences had pushed Michael over the edge into a realm of madness and murder. Mr. Ognall made an impassioned personal statement during the trial that illustrated just how much responsibility the church was viewed to have held in the horrific crime, saying:

“I am aware that it is generally regarded as improper for an advocate to express any personal feeling or opinion about the case in which he is engaged. I am afraid I find it quite impossible to observe such constraints in this case. Let those who truly are responsible for this killing stand up. We submit that Taylor is a mere cipher. The real guilt lies elsewhere. Religion is the key. Those who have been referred to in evidence, and those clerics in particular, should be with him in spirit now in this building and each day he is incarcerated in Broadmoor, and not least on the day he must endure the bitter reunion with his five motherless children.”

The jury found Michael Taylor not guilty of the murder of his wife by reason of insanity. Deemed to be both clinically and legally insane, he was sent to Broadmoor Secure Hospital, where he would remain for 2 years, followed by another 2 year sentence at Bradford Royal Infirmary before being released back into the world, apparently cured.

The aftermath of the trial was a public outcry over the use of exorcisms within the church, and indeed this became the last recorded exorcism to be carried out by the Anglican Church. But they defended themselves to the full. Throughout the trial, and in the years following it, the chief Anglican priest who had been in charge of Michael’s exorcism, Father Peter Vincent, continued to insist that Michael Taylor had indeed been inhabited by demons, and that the Osset case had indeed been an authentic case of demonic possession. Father Vincent’s career in the Church was unaffected following the case, and even he seemed to be, almost having little consideration for a family destroyed and the horror of what had happened. He would only simply say:

“God will bring good out of this in His own way”

It was only Peter Vincent’s partner in exorcism, the Reverend Raymond Smith, that seemed to admit that the situation had not been handled well and that the “exorcism” had indeed failed. He was quoted as saying:

 “If people come to me in trouble of any kind, I will try to help. I would give such comfort as I could, but I am only an ordinary human being, with human failings”.

What then, became of the main player in this horrific story? After his release from hospital, it is reported that Michael Taylor went back to live in Osset, although one can only wonder at the relationship he would have had back there after such horror. How would his relationship with his children have been – if there even was any type of relationship? How does a person even begin to start again after such horror?

Michael would continue to display odd behavior and to suffer bouts of depression, as well as making a total of four suicide attempts over the following years, still haunted by his actions that October morning. These involved cutting his wrists and jumping from a bridge, in which he badly injured his back and legs. Surprisingly for such a sensational and chilling crime, he dropped out of the news and the public eye for many years.

But Michael Taylor would enter the news again in July 2005, when he was arrested for sexually harassing and having inappropriate conduct with an underage girl. During his court hearing on these charges, Taylor was said to have told police that it was all his fault, and then said:

“Am I going to Broadmoor for murdering my wife?”

Taylor had spent a week in custody over the sexual assaults, and during this incarceration the psychiatric problems that had existed in 1975 had manifested themselves once again. Upon being bailed, however, they had disappeared. His previous charges from thirty years before were deemed to have no bearing on the current case, and he was deemed to have a low to medium risk of re-offending. This led him to a relatively light sentence of a 3-year stint of community service, but with a condition of psychiatric treatment.

The case of Michael Taylor and the Osset Exorcist Murder raises many questions for debate.

Could someone who had committed such a horrific crime and was found insane really be well enough to rejoin society within four years? Is evil an outside force that can infect a person, or does it always lurk within? It perhaps ventures into the realms of the supernatural, but what if there really are such things as demons that can possess a person and drive them to commit heinous or violent acts that that person would normally never commit? Or is it just simply a form of psychosis?

Many people connected with the Osset murder will have debated these points long and hard over the years they have had to remember and think about it. Five children, who undoubtedly have families of their own now, lost a mother in a horrific way that they will never forget. How do you even begin to rebuild your lives following such horrific events? Michael Taylor himself has been so tortured by not being able to understand his actions that he has attempted suicide four times. Members of the jury and the court who sat through the trial will never forget what must have been some of the most horrific crime scene photographs ever shown in a court, and disturbing and frightening accounts that they were to hear. But perhaps the effect that the case was to have on people is best summed up by an account given by PC Ian Walker, when interviewed about the case as one of the officers on the scene years after his retirement. He said:

“Of all the incidents in which I was involved in 30 years of Police work, nothing affected me like this one. The stupidity and futility of it all, the complete and utter waste of life and destruction of a family, not to mention the death and other traumas, are far beyond anything else I have ever come across. Obviously my wife asked questions but there are some things that you do not take home, and this was one of them. However, within the next 24-48 hours the news hit the national newspapers and the TV news bulletins. You just bury it and get on with your life as best you can. Before this event I was agnostic… and now I was an atheist.”

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

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Who Murdered Alan Wood?

“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

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Alan Wood

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.

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Alan pictured with his wife Joanne

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.

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Manor House crime scene

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.

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Who was “ATM Man”?

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:

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Photofit of suspect using Sainsbury’s cashpoint

“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.

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“ATM Man” is again caught on CCTV following an attempt to gain cash.

Footage of “ATM Man”

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

 

Links:

Operation Magnesium Press Pack

Crimewatch U.K Reconstruction Jan 2010

 

The Murder Of Elsie Frost

“It struck me as being cold, isolated, desolate, everything about a nasty place. She shouldn’t have died there; nobody should.”- Colin Frost (Elsie’s brother)

Shortly after lunchtime on the afternoon of Saturday 9th October 1965, 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost left her home in Manor Haigh Road, Lupset, Wakefield, to go sailing at a nearby lake, the Horbury Sand Quarry or the Millfield Lagoon, as it was known locally. By all accounts, Elsie Frost was a happy, fun-loving teenager, the middle child of railway worker Arthur and Edith Frost, and was growing up in a close-knit, loving family who did a lot together. Pretty and dark-haired, Elsie was a prefect at Snapethorpe High School in Wakefield, a hard-working pupil who  had dreams of becoming a teacher and had just been chosen to be the next head girl at her school.

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Elsie Frost

She was respectable and well-liked, and had no known boyfriends. Along with some of her other friends, Elsie was a keen and regular sailor and that Saturday, Elsie had been asked to help supervise a group of younger children who were learning how to sail. It was a cold October afternoon, and Elsie dressed in a white blouse and yellow sweater, a printed cotton skirt and red quilted anorak – her favourite outfit. Putting her sailing clothes in a duffel bag and saying goodbye to her family, she put on her brand new pair of shoes and set off down to the lake.

It was the last time her family were ever to see her alive.

At 4:15pm that afternoon, local father Thomas Brown was out for an afternoon walk with his young children and dog. The family were heading on a path that skirted the River Calder and a passed by a canal, with a tunnel leading underneath some railway lines. The area was known locally as “The ABC Tunnel”, due to the 26 stone steps that led down to it from the embankment.

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The ABC Tunnel and ABC Steps in 1965

Upon approaching the tunnel, the family made a horrifying discovery. Thomas Brown was later to tell the inquest:

“When we got to within five or 10 yards of the bottom of the steps, I saw a girl lain there, whom I now know to be Elsie Frost. She was lying with her left arm on the second step and her head was lying on her left arm and her right arm was above her head on the next step. She was crouched up in an awkward position with her legs underneath her body in a kneeling type of position but more on her left hand side. I went up to her and asked her what was wrong and got my hands under her armpits and picked her up. When I spoke to her I did not get any reply. I did not realise she was as badly injured as she was. At this time, my son was at the top of the banking. I tried to persuade the children to go home but they wouldn’t.”

Within minutes, others had appeared on the scene, and whilst they waited with Elsie’s body Mr Brown ran to call for an ambulance and the police. They included lock-keeper Ralph Brewster and John Blackburn, Elsie’s sailing instructor from the lagoon, and as would be established at the inquest, the last person to see her alive. Also present was a 19-year-old amateur photographer who had been taking photographs of the river Calder. Upon arriving, police cordoned off the scene for examination, and removed Elsie’s body to Wakefield Public Mortuary where a post-mortem examination was undertaken. A search of the area for a possible murder weapon got underway, and the standard police house to house enquiries began.

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Police searching the scene of the crime

The post-mortem examination found that Elsie had been stabbed five times — twice in the back, twice in the head, and once through the hand as she tried to shield herself from her killer— with the fatal blow piercing her heart. She had not been sexually assaulted, and the pathologist concluded that she was still a virgin at the time of her death. Her cause of death was given as ‘shock and haemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds’. Seven hours after she had left home that afternoon, her father had to visit Wakefield Public Mortuary to identify her body. The Frost family was left shocked and stunned, and reeling from what had happened – so much so that Elsie’s parents both needed sedation. Whilst the family tried to come to terms with what had happened, the massive manhunt for Elsie’s killer continued. Even Scotland Yard was to lend support and officers.

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Police divers search a nearby river

Piecing together Elsie’s final known movements, it was established that Elsie had chosen to walk home a different way to the rest of her friends, and had taken the route that led along the towpath and through the 30ft ABC Tunnel, to avoid scuffing and dirtying her new shoes. It appeared that the attack had happened as Elsie walked through the ABC Tunnel, where she was savagely attacked from behind. Despite her grave injuries, Elsie had managed to stumble through the tunnel to the bottom of the steps, where she collapsed and died just minutes before being found by Thomas Brown and his children. A trail of blood leading from the place where Elsie was stabbed to the bottom of the ABC Steps confirmed this.

The hunt for Elsie’s killer was heavily publicised in the national press in the weeks following the murder, with fear and suspicion cast especially across the community of Lupset, uneasy with the thought of having a brutal killer in their midst. Children who could once play free now found themselves kept an eye on and curfewed, and such activities as Scouts or Brownies extra supervised. Police had gone door to door questioning every man who lived in the area, with some 12,000 in all spoken to, and a reconstruction of Elsie’s last known movements had been made.

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Local press at the time of the murder

Aside from the thousands of people in the locality who were interviewed, and thousands of witness statements taken during the manhunt, police did have other clues to go on. Many people seen near the ABC Steps that day were traced and spoken to, but were ultimately eliminated from the enquiry. A tan coloured 12in leather knife-sheath with a stag’s head motif had been found tossed over a wall near to the murder scene, but a knife that matched it was either missed or never found, despite a large number of knives being taken and tested as a potential murder weapon. The murder weapon has never been found. Several people also reported seeing a bearded hitchhiker in a nearby road, and a well dressed driver of an Austin Cambridge car that was parked near the scene. Neither of these men were ever traced. The film from the young amateur photographer’s camera had also been examined in case the pictures provided any clues – but this again drew a blank.

The former MP for Wakefield from 1987-2005, David Hinchcliffe, was a 16-year-old youth in the area at the time, and was one of those interviewed. Years later, he described local feeling at the time:

‘The police came to my house, and they came to my friends’ houses. We were asked where we were on the day in question. I was watching Wakefield Trinity Rugby League team play at their Belle Vue Ground. There were six or seven thousand people there and I was with friends so I had an alibi. I had to produce a sheath knife. It sounds strange now, but most boys at that time would carry a sheath knife. You carved wood with it. You used it for making spears and as part of play. They did a lot of questioning of people in our area. A lot of work was put into talking to people about where they were when this murder occurred.’

Ultimately, all who were spoken to were eliminated from the enquiry. As is standard, even members of Elsie’s family were repeatedly spoken to and asked to provide their movements on the day of the murder. Elsie’s former brother-in-law was one of those questioned, and was to describe it years later:

“We were put under a lot of pressure, where were we at what times, when we had last seen Elsie. It wasn’t just that they asked you once. They would come back a week later and ask you all over again but with a slightly different phraseology to try to catch you out. They interviewed everyone. Before the questioning, everyone was pointing fingers at each other. My wife trusted me. I think she accepted the fact that I was going to be questioned because everyone was. The police had a job to do.”

The inquest into Elsie’s death was held in January 1966 and many people gave evidence. One of these was John Blackburn, the teacher who was in charge of the school sailing club, and the last person to see Elsie. He told the inquest:

“I beckoned to Elsie and took her out in a boat to give her some instruction, as she had previously got into difficulties when navigating one of the boats. I was out with Elsie Frost in the boat until about five minutes to four. She then helped me to pack away the boats before leaving”

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Horbury Lagoon in 1965

By the time the inquest was held, there was still no definitive motive for the killing, although many motives had been suggested and examined. The evidence pointed to an opportunistic crime, a random attack. Yet the savagery of the wounds Elsie received suggested an attack that was deeply personal and committed by someone filled with anger and hatred. A possible secret boyfriend who killed her after a row was suggested, and perhaps more intriguingly and credibly, it was suggested that Elsie could have been murdered to silence her after stumbling upon two men indulging in homosexual activity whist she was walking home (homosexuality was unlawful in the UK until 1967). Whilst a clear motive could never be established, the coroner’s jury did believe that it could name the culprit. The role of the inquest at that time could actually accuse a named person of murder, rather than just the role it plays nowadays which is to establish certain facts and a cause of death. Newspapers the following day reported: “Elsie: Man accused of murder”

The accused was 33-year-old Ian Spencer, a former railway fireman and labourer who had actually given evidence and appeared at the inquest as a witness. Spencer had been in the area of the murder on that Saturday afternoon, but had insisted that he had been home at least 45 minutes before the murder occurred. Simpson’s wife, mother-in-law, and a family friend could all confirm this – but were never called by the coroner to speak at the inquest. The finger of suspicion was pointed at Simpson when subsequent inquest witnesses contradicted his story, and claimed that they thought they had seen him close to the area where Elsie’s body was found at around the crucial time. The jury decided unanimously that the cause of death was murder and “that there is a prima facie case against Ian Bernard Spencer”. Basically, Spencer was being accused of the crime, and was committed to face trial. Ian Spencer spent more than two months in custody before being cleared at a magistrates court. It was here that it was concluded there was no case to answer, and the jury were instructed to find Spencer, “not guilty”. He was released, but his wrongful arrest and the subsequent case of mud sticking was to forever blight him. Police were to visit Spencer in the following years whenever another murder occurred to ascertain his movements, leading him to feel the need to document his exact movements at all times for alibi in a series of notebooks. Simpson documented dates, times, places he had been – and even the exact mileage of his car. This practice continued for many years, long into his retirement, only stopping when a series of strokes led Simpson to be taken into a residential care home. He remains there to this day. When interviewed about his accusation by a local newspaper many years after the murder, Spencer’s family said:

This has followed him all his life and we want him to be left alone. I understand that Elsie’s family want closure but we do not want his name dragged up every time. He is not a murderer. He was never convicted of anything. He is one of the softest, kindest people I know but he has had to live with this most of his life. It is not fair. He is an old man and deserves to have his last years in peace. Our family deserves to put it behind us as he never did anything and was cleared.’

But back in 1966, when Simpson was cleared, police were forced to admit that they were back at square one with their investigation.

It is not just Ian Simpson who has suffered painfully as a result of Elsie’s murder. Her family never really recovered from her death – her father couldn’t even ever bring himself to discuss the murder, or to even view photographs of Elsie. Both of her parents are now dead – her mother Edith in 1988, and her father Arthur in 2003 – but her brother and sister are still alive, and have pushed for the investigation into Elsie’s murder to be re-opened in an effort to gain some closure for the family and justice for Elsie. They have of course never forgotten their sister, nor has the local community. On the 50th anniversary of Elsie’s death, St George’s church in Lupset was packed with more than 100 mourners, and the touching tribute of 14 doves were released in Elsie’s memory – a dove for each year of her life.

Finally, her murder was the subject of an investigative BBC Radio 4 programme in 2015, which resulted in an encouraging amount of new information being received. This helped re-open the investigation that year, and the possible theories concerning Elsie’s murder were reviewed in context with the new information. The programme makes for interesting listening, and links to the full programme covering the case can be found here: Who Killed Elsie Frost?

A line of appeal focused upon in the 2015 re-investigation is the identity of a man who was seen cycling near to the murder scene around the time Elsie was killed. This man was described as:

A white male, 25 to 30 years old and riding a black bike with a basket on the front and wearing a white lab type coat possibly of the style then worn by someone who could have been a delivery boy, butcher or abattoir worker.

There was also a line of enquiry to try to establish the identity of a man seen near the murder scene at around the crucial time that day. He was described by Detective Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton:

“A common description of a person of interest which has come from some of the calls has been of a man wearing a brown, potentially duffel, type coat with dark hair who was seen on the canal towpath.He was of medium to thin build and in his early 20’s. He was described as carrying a bag by some witnesses, and was possibly of what was described as a scruffy or ‘student type’ appearance.”

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Who was the man in the duffel coat?

Similar theories that were examined 50 years previously were also re-examined, including the “mystery boyfriend” theory. But there is still no evidence to support this.
And a further blow to the investigation comes with the reports that police have never retained Elsie’s bloodstained clothing – they were either destroyed or returned to her grieving family, and so there is nothing that a possible workable DNA sample of her killer can be obtained from, even though technology now exists that would make this possible. Most of the original files from the 1965 investigation have now also been destroyed. And perhaps most frustratingly, the file on Elsie’s murder has been closed at the National Archives until 2060 – for reasons that are at best, unclear. The latest hurdle in a crime in which so many details remain unexplained.

What can be the motive for Elsie’s killing? I believe that this was a crime committed in either a rage, or out of fear – that explains the savagery of the killing. It is likely, or would at least be expected, that a boyfriend would have been known by someone, if not by Elsie’s family then at least by one of her friends – and I consequently do not believe this is a serious line of enquiry, although understand the need to investigate it as an avenue. It is more likely that Elsie was chosen at random by a sex offender in the area at the time. The absence of rape or attempted sexual assault should not discount a sexual motive to this murder – it is more likely that the killer had to flee. Several reports were commonplace of men “flashing”, exposing themselves to women and girls for sexual kicks – did someone expose themselves to Elsie and then pursue the frightened girl, killing her to save themselves being caught and identified? Was this possibly the man in the duffel coat? The theory of Elsie having disturbed two men indulging in homosexual behaviour is also of course possible.

Several theories abound, and there is much more in-depth research concerning the case than is recapped here. During my own research for the TTCE post I came across several theories presented – from responsibility for the crime being laid at the feet of notorious names from the annals of British crime, such as Peter Sutcliffe, Ian Brady, and even Jimmy Saville; to reported cover-ups concerning the investigation by the West Yorkshire Police. There is much information available for the reader to delve into and form their own conclusion, and the crime is still examined today by many the armchair detective. A recommended site can be found at : http://www.whokilledelsiefrost.com/

Frustratingly, it is also unclear as to why so much emphasis was given to Ian Spencer as being a suspect in the murder. One could be led to strongly suspect that Spencer was the unfortunate victim of a case of having a suspect in the frame, with police choosing to fit evidence around the suspect in mind? Indeed, it is fortunate that a higher authority decided to see sense and that there was no case to answer concerning Spencer’s guilt – otherwise the annals of victims of miscarriages of justice would have had another name added to their lists, along with the Stephen Downing’s and the Stefan Kiszko’s of this world.

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The ABC Steps as they appear today

In 2016, a 78-year-old man was arrested in Berkshire in connection with Elsie’s murder and released on police bail, however was subsequently re-arrested in March 2017. It is reported that a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration in charging him with Elsie’s murder. However, there is no further report available as to the status of this. Reports also account that this man is being looked at by South Yorkshire Police as a possible suspect in the unsolved murder of Anne Dunwell in May 1964, which was previously recounted on TTCE, and a link to which can be found here: The man arrested is an already convicted murderer and sex offender, and on 25 August 2017 he was charged with a rape and abduction in Deepcar in 1972. Next week on TTCE his crimes will be focused upon, and an examination as to his possible culpability in the murders of both Anne and Elsie will be discussed.

 

Is it possible, that the killer of Elsie Frost may still face justice for her murder…?

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was The South Yorkshire Strangler?

“We have a beast at large who has killed once, and will possibly try to kill again” – Detective Chief Superintendent Clifford Lodge (speaking in 1964)

Maltby, Wakefield, May 1964. 13-year-old Anne Dunwell had been visiting her aunt in Bramley, just a few miles outside Rotherham, South Yorkshire, with whom she had been planning to stay for a few days. Anne lived with her grandparents in the nearby village of Whiston, and on the evening of Wednesday 6th May 1964 she had decided to return to their home in Sandringham Avenue to keep her grandmother company, as her grandfather was working a night shift. At 9:15pm, she left the friends that she had been with that evening, and made her way to the bus stop opposite the Ball Inn, Bramley, to catch the 9:29pm bus that would take her back home to Whiston.

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Anne Dunwell

Anne never caught that bus, and she never made it back to Whiston.

At 7:30am the following morning, a lorry driver travelling to work, Thomas Wilson, made a gruesome discovery whilst driving down Slade Hooton Lane, a winding and remote country lane between the villages of Carr and Slade Hooton. He was later to describe the scene:

“I was driving down the lane when I saw what I thought was a tailor’s dummy with its feet in the hedge and back on the manure heap. I thought it was a practical joke and drove on. When I got to work, I told my brother-in-law what I had seen and to make sure we drove back. We went within two yards of the body, which had a stocking round it’s neck, and noticed that the legs were badly bruised. There were also bruises on the face. The arms seemed as if they had been placed behind the back”

The body was that of a young female, and was naked – except for a pair of stockings wrapped tightly around the neck. It was some hours later revealed to be the body of Anne Dunwell, and a post-mortem was to reveal that she had suffered a savage sexual attack, before ultimately being strangled with her own stockings. No other clothing was found near the body.

A massive police hunt was immediately launched, with a mass widespread search of the surrounding areas being undertaken and enquiries made in the area to establish Anne’s final movements. Within a week hundreds of actions had been completed and thousands of statements taken. Anne’s last known movements were traced, and it was established that she never caught the 9:29pm bus, no one could recall a girl matching her description being on the bus. Someone matching her description was seen near the bus stop at around the crucial time, however. Had she been abducted off the street – or had she got into a car after accepting a lift from her killer? Anne’s family firmly believed that she would never have accepted a lift from a stranger – so police worked on the theory that Anne had either been forcibly snatched from the bus stop, or had begun to walk towards home and had accepted a lift from her killer – who must have been someone she knew.

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Ulley Reservoir

Five days into the investigation, the search area moved to Ulley Reservoir, some six miles from where Anne’s body was found. Walkers had found some items of clothing, including a pale blue coat with a Peter Pan type collar, at the water’s edge – and this was soon identified as belonging to Anne. A specialist team of police frogmen from Nottingham searched the reservoir, and were soon to find other items that were identified as having belonged to Anne. This included the distinct wicker basket that she was carrying when last seen alive. It was many years later, thanks to advancements in forensic science, that the clothing was to provide useful evidence and insight into Anne’s killer.

Detectives were also left to sift with a multitude of potential suspects, suspect vehicles, and potentially crucial sightings. After an appeal had been made to “courting couples” who had possibly been in the area of the murder scene at the time, and therefore may have seen something of relevance to come forward, one such couple did. They reported seeing a dark-haired man, sharp featured and about 18-25 years old, and a girl parked in blue saloon car at about 11:00pm in a clearing in Slacks Lane, a lane in close proximity to the bus stop where Anne was last seen. The courting couple remembered the sighting vividly because the couple in the saloon car had been “struggling” – and their car headlights had picked this out as they had passed. The “struggling” couple were never identified or came forward for elimination – was this Anne and her killer?

By the end of May, detectives were no further in their investigation despite having spoken to more than 10,000 people during the enquiry. They did, however, have a suspect that they wished to trace, and an identikit picture was placed in the local press. This man, known as “Pete” was described as being:

“aged between 21 and 27 years of age, of medium build and between 5″5 and 5″6 tall, with a thin, pockmarked face and nose. He had short dark brown hair worn in a wavy, brushed back style, and was clean-shaven”.

The man also drove a dark grey Mini van and was known to offer lifts to young girls – including pupils of Wickersley Secondary Modern. Anne’s school. Several names were given to the incident room as a potential identity for “Pete”, and although these were investigated, no arrests were made and the identity of “Pete” could not be ascertained.

Despite the massive investigation, no arrests were forthcoming, and the enquiry into Anne’s murder was gradually scaled down, until it remained a cold case for many years. However, with the advances in investigative work and forensic science, in 2002 South Yorkshire Police re-opened the enquiry with the full support of Anne’s surviving family. The original statements and actions were looked at, and an appeal about and reconstruction of Anne’s last known movements was shown on Crimewatch U.K. Even after all this time, new witnesses came forward offering information. This included a woman who was 15 at the time of Anne’s murder who went to school with her, and who had seen her on the night she died walking along Bawtry Road in Wickersley, heading towards Whiston at about 9:45pm. This seemed to confirm police suspicions that Anne had never boarded the bus that evening, and had instead begun to walk towards home. She was halfway home when she met her killer.

Also highlighted was a different person of interest, alongside “Pete”, that was also never traced, and who rapidly became the prime suspect in Anne’s murder. A witness who had been spoken to at the time of the original 1964 investigation was re-interviewed about her statement and was now able to provide additional information. The witness had described seeing a girl, likely Anne, walking towards a van parked near The Ball Inn on the evening of Anne’s murder. In addition, this witness now recalled that the driver of the man was wearing “shiny cufflinks”. This became significant because it tallied with other descriptions of a person of interest who was reported in 1964, but one who was never traced.

This man was seen, crucially, in the Ball Inn just a week before Anne was killed, where a barmaid recalled serving him brandy. The witness who gave the description recalled talking at length to the man, who he recalled mentioning that he had worked in Rotherham and Doncaster at times. The Ball Inn held live entertainment on Wednesday evenings at the time, and was consequently full of people who had travelled from the Sheffield and Doncaster areas – yet despite so many people this man stood out and was remembered. The man talked about psychology at length, and gave off the impression that he was well-educated. He was also chain-smoking “Craven A” cigarettes, which he kept in a silver case, and he wore distinctive jewellery. This was a distinctive ring with a blue coloured stone worn on the middle finger of his left hand, a gold wristwatch with round black face and gold roman numerals and hands on a gold expanding bracelet, and cufflinks that were described as having a gold surround, with a red design of a female carrying an open umbrella.

A detailed physical description was given of the man, and he was described as:

 “a male, in his mid 20s and 5ft 7in tall with a slim build and dark eyes. He had short auburn hair and spoke with a soft Scottish accent which police believe could be from the Inverness area. He was wearing a dark green suit, checked shirt, tan shoes, and cufflinks” 

And the man was also driving a small van that may have been grey, green or blue. This matched with several other descriptions of vehicles that police wished to trace and eliminate from their enquiries – including a small grey or light green van that was seen parked on a small track near a disused mill on Green Lane at about 10:15pm on the night of Anne’s murder. A Google Images snapshot of this location is shown below:

Google Maps:

This is just two hundred yards from where Anne’s body was found early the next morning. The driver of the van was never traced.

Surprisingly for such a detailed description, this man was never traced. It seems remarkable that police were aware of “the Scotsman” back in 1964, but could never find him. Perhaps it is worth remembering here, without attempting to sound so critical, that policing was very different back then and it was down to old-fashioned “door knocking”, rather than the tools that today’s investigators have at their disposal. Perhaps it was the poor information management and filing system, with sheer vastness of information, details of sightings of vehicles and persons received that it meant that many such a crucial person was lost in the mix. It would be more than 10 years later when these problems were more tragically highlighted, and again concerning Yorkshire police, with the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Perhaps the most important breakthrough in the re-opened enquiry in 2002 was the obtaining of a workable DNA profile from the clothing that had been used to strangle Anne. Forensic scientists were able not only to obtain a DNA sample of the killer from traces of semen found in the knots, but were also able to show that the killer suffered from gonorrhoea. But a match for an existing profile on the NDNAD for the killer has so far proved negative.  Medical confidentiality has frustratingly provided a stumbling block and closed off a possible avenue of investigation for police – as Anne’s killer would have required medical treatment for such a condition.

What can be said about Anne’s killer? Whilst both the “Scotsman” and “Pete” remain important persons of interest that require elimination from the investigation, one must bear in mind that the physical descriptions of each of these persons were made more than fifty years ago. This effectively renders each description as useless now – unless someone can provide solid, reliable evidence that names a person that matched all or many of the aspects of the descriptions, whom they reliably and with reason, have grounds to suspect. Then of course, depending upon if the person is still living (which is only a possibility now due to the passage of time), a simple DNA test would be able to incriminate or exonerate such a person.

It is likely that Anne’s killer was from the Yorkshire area, and was expressly familiar with the areas of Bramley and Whiston. The key locations to the case are all within a relatively small geographic area, and the area where Anne’s body was dumped is remote and suggests a local knowledge, someone either having lived around the area or worked there. The reservoir where her clothes were dumped also suggests this. Of course, as the killer had a vehicle this is not an offender necessarily confined just to these areas, he could have come from further afield. But offenders tend to operate in areas of comfort and familiarity to them. It is likely that the killer of Anne Dunwell had offended before, although he may never have been arrested before. If he had, it would have been most likely for sexual offences, or offences of violence. He is/was certainly a violent man, and likely one that would have experience at approaching young girls, or be practised at enticing young girls into a vehicle. If Anne was last definitively seen halfway home at 9:45pm that evening, then she was taken very close to home from a relatively busy main road. No screams were reported as being heard, meaning that he was either very good at quickly restraining Anne, or was good at being charming and appearing genuine and non-threatening and gave her no cause to be wary. It is of course a sad fact that fifty years ago, young girls were especially less wary about accepting lifts from strangers, but perhaps he wasn’t a stranger – perhaps Anne knew him well enough to accept a lift.

The killer had access to a vehicle, perhaps a car but more than likely a van of some type. A van would offer ample room within the back to commit a rape or a physical assault. Police re-investigating the crime in 2002 released details that would seem to support this. When Anne’s clothing was recovered from Ulley Reservoir, it was of course dirty and covered in silt. But it also contained traced that led detectives to believe that Anne had come into contact with foundry slag or coal dust residue at the time of her death. This was a very house-proud girl who was wearing her brand new, favourite coat that night – she certainly willingly would not have got it dirty. It is possible that she met her death in the back of a vehicle, or perhaps a building, where such materials were kept. Mini vans of similar description and colour were reported frequently around the general area on the night of the murder – including the important sighting of one just 200 yards from where her body was found at around the time she was last seen alive. Plus, the killer required a vehicle to transport Anne’s clothes to where they were found, six miles away.

It is likely that the vehicle sighted at 10:15pm parked just 200 yards away from where Anne’s body was found was the killer’s vehicle. It is a scant few miles from where she was picked up by her killer, and if she had accepted a lift just a short distance from home, only to be taken elsewhere, she would have surely panicked. This would mean that the killer would have had to restrain her immediately or at least after a short time. It was likely that she was raped and strangled shortly after she was taken, and was left at the body site just a short time later. The timings of this would fit perfectly within the 30-minute window of Anne last being seen, if of course it was her sighted walking towards Whiston at 9:45pm, to the vehicle being sighted parked on Green Lane.

Did the killer of Anne also strike again, again in Yorkshire and not too far away, about a year later? In the next post on TTCE, another crime, the unsolved case of a victim of similar age, and a relatively short geographical distance from Anne’s killing, will be examined and possible comparisons made.

More than 50 years have now passed since Anne Dunwell met her killer whilst walking home that Wednesday evening in May 1964, and her killer has never yet been brought to justice. It remains the oldest unsolved murder on the files of South Yorkshire Police. I believe that it was likely a stranger abduction, and that Anne was taken by chance. Someone known to her would have more than likely been highlighted as a suspect, barring sheer fluke or very poor police work. The information was seemingly there at the time of the initial investigation, although in 1964 the benefit of computing and the modern-day HOLMES investigative system were not available. With today’s tools of detection, it would be very likely that Anne’s killer would be identified and would face trial for his crime. Indeed, there exists a DNA profile of Anne’s killer, and several reports exist of varying stages in the investigation. Some reports say that following the re-investigation, the pool of suspects in Anne’s murder had been narrowed down to just two suspects – both of whom were now dead. Other, more recent, reports will claim that an elderly sex killer, who has been securely detained for more than 45 years now, is being looked at as a significant person of interest in Anne’s murder. The crimes of this perpetrator in question will be looked at and recounted in a post on TTCE in the very near future.

For further information concerning Anne’s murder, I thoroughly recommend author Scott C Lomax’s “Unsolved Murders in South Yorkshire” (a review of which has featured on TTCE previously and can be found here:). Within, the author covers Anne’s murder and details both the original investigation, and the re-investigation in great depth, and makes for an informative and well researched read.

This is a horrendous crime, and Anne’s family have suffered greatly over the years because of her callous murder. Her grandmother was to have a nervous breakdown because of it, and Anne’s father’s health gravely declined in the years following his daughter’s murder. Each went to their graves not knowing who was responsible, and it is finally left to Anne’s only surviving relative, her sister Irene Hall, to fight for justice for her sister and to ensure that Anne is not forgotten. Speaking on the 50-year anniversary of Anne’s murder, her sister Irene told how the crime still affects the family:

“We are truly grateful to all of those who have already helped the police, but I appeal to those who, for their own reasons, have kept information to themselves for so long,” says Irene. “Anyone who knows anything about the death of Anne, however small or trivial they think it may be, please contact the police. “It is possible that the person responsible may now be dead but did they admit what they had done? Please if anyone can help us finally get justice for Anne, have the courage to make that call to the police. We can only hope that one day Anne’s murderer will be identified, giving us closure on a 50-year nightmare and allowing Anne to finally be at peace.”

Anyone having any information concerning Anne’s murder should contact police on 101, or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was Bath’s Widcombe Hill Killer?

“We found the body in the garage – it was quite a horrendous sight.” Sergeant Bob Allard, Avon and Somerset Police

Nearly 40 years ago, a brutal and seemingly motiveless murder occurred in the quiet suburb of the Widcombe Hill district of Bath, England. The crime is largely unknown, which is surprising considering its savagery, and remains in limbo as a cold case on the files of Avon and Somerset police.

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Beryl Culverwell

Fifty-two year old Beryl Culverwell lived with her husband Anthony, 57, in their comfortable detached house, “Woodholme”, in Widcombe Hill, Bath. Anthony was a successful stockbroker, working from offices in St Nicholas Street, Bristol – whilst Beryl busied herself as a charity worker and trustee, working for a long-established voluntary organisation named the Bath Maternity Society. This organisation was established in 1886, and its goal is giving assistance to young married and unmarried mothers, who find themselves in financial difficulty. Beryl’s role involved her visiting young mothers in hospital or at their homes, attempting to help in any way that she could – be that recommending financial help from the society in deserving cases, or simply just as much as offering emotional support and a shoulder to cry on. Beryl also volunteered elsewhere in her busy life, working at the local community centre in Widcombe Hill where she helped out with events, and ferrying senior citizens to and from the community centre. She was highly regarded in her work and volunteering, and was much-loved. Her entire family circle was a happy and close one, Beryl and Anthony had celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1978, and their quarter century together had produced two sons and a daughter, who were young adults themselves.

Friday 13th January 1978 was a bitterly cold evening, and Anthony arrived home from work just after six pm that evening to find Woodholme in darkness, although Beryl’s Renault car was parked in its usual spot on the drive. Although unusual for the house to be in darkness at this time, it was not uncommon. Sometimes, throughout the course of her work with the Society, Beryl would visit a young mother living within walking distance of the Culverwell house. Being a caring person, Beryl would often stay and comfort an upset young mother – which was a common occurrence in that line of supporting. Perhaps Beryl was still out at such an appointment.

But whilst Anthony was initially unconcerned when entering the house and calling out for Beryl, but getting no reply, it was when he took stock of the kitchen that he began to become uneasy. There was food shopping strewn across the kitchen table, perishables that should have been put away immediately in the fridge such as bacon and chicken. Beryl’s purse lay on the table next to a half full glass of ginger wine, and something had been left burning in the oven. Anthony turned it off and found it to be a blackened, burned pastry. By now worried, Anthony searched for any messages Beryl may have left for him, and checked room by room throughout the house – perhaps Beryl had taken ill and collapsed, or had had an accident?

A search of the house proved fruitless, and the only possible place left to look in was the large garage, which was reached by a door through the downstairs utility room. This door was, however locked from the house side – so Anthony thought it unlikely that Beryl was in there. But he decided to check anyway – and in doing so was to make a discovery that would shatter the lives of himself and his children.

Turning on the light, Anthony immediately saw Beryl lying on the garage floor in a large pool of blood. He rushed over to try to gain a response, but Beryl was sadly dead, having bled heavily from massive and severe head and body wounds. Nearby to the body, Anthony noticed one of the family kitchen bread knives lay discarded – heavily bloodstained. Beryl’s sheepskin coat also lay nearby. A shocked and distraught Anthony immediately summoned the emergency services, and when they arrived, it was quickly confirmed that Beryl had been savagely clubbed a number of times across the head, and then stabbed in a maniacal attack with a knife taken from her own kitchen.

Examining the scene and trying to piece together the likely events of the day, it appeared that upon getting home after a shopping excursion that day, Beryl poured herself a glass of ginger wine and was about to make some lunch. It was known that she had a 2pm appointment with a young local mother that afternoon – and investigation revealed that she failed to keep this appointment. Was Beryl dead by then? Also at the scene were a pair of secateurs that had been taken from the garage and used to cut the telephone wires in the house, then left in the hall. But aside from this out of place object, there was no sign of any violent struggle in the house itself. There was no bloodstaining apparent, and nothing had been kicked or knocked over in a struggle. It was apparent that Beryl had been killed where she was found – had she disturbed an intruder and fled to the garage, or had an intruder broken in and forced her there, then killed her. And why?

Beryl’s body was taken away from the scene for a post-mortem examination, whilst the murder investigation team, headed by Detective Superintendent John Robinson, began the enquiry. From the onset, police were plagued with questions at every turn. It didn’t seem to be a sex crime – there was no sign or reports of Beryl having been sexually assaulted, nor of her clothing having been interfered with. Nor did the motive appear to be robbery – not only did nothing appear to be missing from the house, but there was also no signs of any ransacking – and Beryl had money both found on her person and in her purse, which was found on the kitchen table. No unexplained fingerprints or forensic evidence left by the killer(s) were found in the house, and apart from the secateurs left in the hallway and the kitchen knife in the garage, nothing else seemed out of place in the main house. Nor had anybody in the vicinity heard any screams or sounds of a struggle.

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Widcombe Hill as it appears today

House to house enquiries in Bath, concentrated within the Widcombe Hill area got under way, road blocks were also set up and passing motorists questioned as to whether they had seen anything or anyone suspicious on the day of the murder, and an appeal was made to local guest house proprietors asking for information about any sudden arrival or departure, in case this person may have been the killer. Known local criminals were looked at and questioned, a mass search of the surrounding areas was undertaken, and hundreds of statements taken from people in the local area. A detailed look at Beryl and her families lives, their friends and work acquaintances was undertaken in an attempt to establish a possible motive – or a suspect.

By Monday 16th January 1978, the inquest into Beryl’s death had been opened and adjourned for further investigation, and full details of the post-mortem were revealed. The pathologist had discovered at least 5 separate blows to Beryl’s skull that had been caused by a heavy, blunt instrument; and 21 separate stab wounds to Beryl’s body inflicted by her own kitchen knife. Cause of death was concluded as being shock, and loss of blood, as a direct result of these wounds. The estimated time of death had been between four and five hours before the body was discovered. This tended to support the police theory that Beryl had been attacked whilst preparing lunch. But police were still unable to pinpoint a clear motive – a thorough examination of Beryl’s life revealed no secret lovers, no one who was known to dislike her, or nobody that had fallen out with her in any way. She was loved or liked by all who knew her, and wasn’t involved in anything illicit or unlawful.

Police had managed to establish a few lines of enquiry at the time of the massive 1978 investigation, but none were to provide any advancement in the search for Beryl’s killer. There were several crucial sightings of a vehicle that police wished to eliminate from the enquiry, a yellow Ford Cortina Mark III that had been sighted parked outside Woodholme at about 2:00pm on the afternoon of the murder. More crucially, the same car containing two men had also been seen turning out of the driveway of Woodholme at about 2:45pm – the witness was certain about this because the car had shot out of the driveway at considerable speed, driving erratically and almost hitting another car as it sped off. Police staged a reconstruction using a similar car in an attempt for further potential witnesses to come forward, but despite this, the vehicle was never traced. Nor was a description of the driver or passenger ever established.

That weekend following the murder, police believed that they had found a crucial clue with the discovery, half a mile from the Culverwell home, of a bloodstained man’s handkerchief. The location where it was found led police to consider the possibility that it had been dropped by Beryl’s killer when fleeing fled from the rear of the house and across fields, before heading into Bath itself. An appeal was made to dry cleaners within the area, as it was believed that Beryl’s killer would have been heavily bloodstained and police asked for any reports of bloodstained clothes being brought in for cleaning. But before a week had passed this lead had been eliminated from the enquiry. A reliable witness was found that had seen a man with a nosebleed throw the handkerchief away – some days before Beryl’s murder.

Although this was a forensic clue that led nowhere, it is reported that detectives did have another clue, one giving the origin of the weapon used to club Beryl – it was slivers of the butt of a shotgun. Parts of the butt were found in the pools of blood in which Beryl’s body lay, and enough could be gleaned from piecing fragments together to ascertain that the weapon was an old-style model with a Rogers side lock action. A line of enquiry with local gun dealers as to anybody who had approached them asking for repairs to be made to such a gun, however, proved fruitless. Several anonymous telephone calls to police by a person claiming to have found such a weapon in some remote hills in the Bath area were also unable to be traced.

The enquiry eventually was wound down as one line of enquiry petered out after another, and although not closed, it remained officially “active with regular reviews” for many years. In January 2003, on the 25th anniversary of Beryl’s murder, a re-appeal was made however, and the case featured as an appeal on Crimewatch UK. However, it did not generate much new information, perhaps no more than rekindling local interest. By this time, Beryl’s children had families of their own, and her husband Anthony had passed away never knowing who was responsible for the murder of his beloved wife.

This is a savage crime, and one that there is relatively little information readily available to research. I did manage to source a book entitled “Bristol and Bath Whodunnit?” by author David Kidd-Hewitt that covers Beryl’s murder in a chapter, and in using this text for reference for this post I have remained faithful to the author’s findings. However, other sources contain a piece of important information that is not featured within this chapter, and I believe it worth mentioning here because it may affect any profile of Beryl’s killer. A Freedom Of Information request available online concerning undetected homicides in the Avon and Somerset area from 1946 onwards details Beryl’s murder. It contains the following:

13 January 1978 BERYL CULVERWELL 52 YEARS White – North European “WOODHOLME” WIDCOMBE HILL BATH. MRS CULVERWELL WAS FOUND MURDERED IN THE GARAGE OF HER HOME. SHE DIED FROM STAB WOUNDS AND SEVERE HEAD INJURIES. HER BODY HAD BEEN TIED WITH TWINE. UNDETECTED ACTIVE WITH REGULAR REVIEWS

This is the only reference available to Beryl having been found bound with twine.

What then, is the likely profile of Beryl’s killer? Firstly, it must be remembered that so much concerning this case remains unknown, and what scant information there is only serves to raise more questions than provide answers. There is no discernible suspect, and the exact motive remains unclear. It should also be emphasised, as regular readers will be familiar with, that I in no way offer the following as definitive, it is pure hypothesis based upon the available information.

No physical description exists of a suspect in the murder, and due to the large passage of time since the murder any physical description would be useless anyway. I believe that the house was deliberately targeted, and that there was more than one killer. The houses on Widcombe Hill appear large and tend to be detached, and would offer attractive targets for burglary as they suggest affluence and rich pickings. Burglars also tend to operate in pairs, and this is not your classic striped jumper glass cutter masked burglar as depicted so often in film and TV. A likely scenario is that Beryl arrived home after shopping that morning, and began to prepare a lunch for herself. This explains the food in the oven, and the timing can be near definitively confirmed because the ever punctual and reliable Beryl failed to keep an appointment at 2:00pm.

It is possible then that her killer – or killers, because evidence suggests that this was the work of more than one offender – knocked on either the front or back door and burst in when it was answered, or crept in and surprised Beryl in the kitchen at gunpoint. She may or may not have been tied up – if she was, then this would suggest more than one offender – and taken to the garage. Or perhaps she was threatened at gunpoint by one offender, and marched to the garage to secure something to restrain her – perhaps strong twine, that would need a knife to cut? Two offenders would also account for the telephone lines being cut – one does this whilst the other one guards the victim. It must have been done before Beryl was killed – what would be the point of doing so after such a brutal murder? Why were the telephone lines cut anyway? To allow ample time for the offender to escape, or to stop Beryl from contacting help? This seems the only likely reasons to do so. But this also serves then to suggest that Beryl’s murder was unplanned – because if the intention is to not leave someone alive in the house, there serves no purpose in doing this.

It is possible that Beryl tried to flee to the sanctuary of the garage – where she could have locked herself in – but why not scream or try to leave the house, or to alert neighbours? Was she then caught and clubbed into unconsciousness? But why then the need to commit such a ferocious attack –, or did she try to escape from the garage, was clubbed into unconsciousness, and then the offender(s) panicked, stabbed and battered her repeatedly, then fled before anything could be taken? Or did bloodlust take over – or did she even recognise her killer and said so, causing her death? The witness statements detailing the yellow Ford Cortina that contained two men leaving the scene, driving very fast and very erratically, all support the scenario of it being a bungled robbery that led to an unplanned murder. This is also supported by the use of a knife from Beryl’s own kitchen to stab her, and the fact that it was left at the scene. This seems unplanned and disorganised. If the killing was planned, the killer would have likely taken away a murder weapon with them, not left it at the scene. They would have also left the house quietly, without drawing attention to themselves.

But what if the killer(s) HAD gone to the house with the deliberate intention of killing Beryl? I believe this also could be a possible scenario, and it could also be possible that Beryl was killed by someone that she knew. There are reasons to believe that she, or the Culverwells, were known to her killer(s) at least. Consider that Beryl’s car was on the driveway. Would an offender really choose at random a house, however affluent and remote it appeared, if a car was visible in the driveway and it appeared that someone was at home? In the middle of the day? Unlikely – unless you were familiar with the family and recognised which was Beryl’s car and which was Anthony’s. This suggests either someone who had watched the house for a period of time and had learned the family routines – or someone who knew Beryl. If it was someone she knew, this would also the support the reason for the lack of signs of forced entry and the lack of any screams – Beryl may have admitted the killer(s) willingly to the house, not suspecting that she had any reason to fear them?

If this was the case, and her killer was someone she knew, then who was it? Beryl’s life, and the lives of her family, were scrutinised in an attempt to identify a suspect or a motive. Nothing, no-one stood out. Everyone who knew the Culverwell family was spoken to and looked at as potential suspects – friends, neighbours, family and colleagues. All were eliminated from the investigation. There was no obvious motive to be found; no affairs, no dodgy dealings, no long running feud or even crossed words with anyone were found. Was it someone that she had met in the course of her volunteering, perhaps the estranged partner of one of the young mothers that she had counselled – who had taken a grudge against someone they believed had helped their partner to get free from their control? Had this person followed Beryl and gone to her home to confront her that fateful day?

What are the possible motives for the murder then? Sex, robbery, or personal. It is unlikely to be a sex crime – there was no reported rape or indecent assault, and Beryl was found fully clothed. A sex attacker would have left the victim in a state of at least some undress, and would also have committed the sex attack in a more comfortable location rather than a garage. Whilst there is ample precedent of a sex attacker killing the victim, the level of violence is unusual, strangulation would be more likely a method.

I believe that a personal motive would have been identified and that if someone did have a grudge against Beryl, then this would have come to attention during the initial police investigation. It is highly unlikely that if a person feels strongly enough about an individual to not only desire to, but to actually set out to murder them so brutally, that it remains kept entirely to themselves and no one else has an inkling of this. I believe the initial motive here was robbery. Beryl was a trustee of the Maternity Society – did someone believe that there may be large amounts of cash readily available to her – but this graduated to an unplanned murder when Beryl attempted to escape or fought back, and perhaps the killer(s) left in a panic, all thoughts of robbery abandoned. It does not explain the savagery of the crime, however. Bloodlust, or hatred?

I believe it likely that the killer, or killers, of Beryl Culverwell had offended before the murder, but were at the younger end of the offender scale, no older than early to mid 20’s. If it was a shotgun that was used to brutally club Beryl, it suggests to me a younger, less mature offender. An experienced burglar does not take a shotgun to burgle a house – but a younger, less experienced offender may do so, perhaps out of bravado or to fulfill some macho fantasy. I also believe it very likely that the killer(s) have committed other crimes following this killing. It is too savage a crime and too much forensic awareness was shown at the scene for this to be a first-time offender, although this may have been the offender’s first murder.  There is likely to be a history of violence in the offender’s past, and possibly housebreaking or theft. This killer was in the files somewhere. I believe it most likely that there was more than one killer – as stated above, this is supported by the sighting of a  vehicle containing two men driving away. Two people would also possibly explain the different methods of attack – it suggests two persons attacking at once, perhaps in a rage, or perhaps one forcing the other to do so to attain dual culpability. The killer(s) would certainly have been familiar with the area of Widcombe Hill, perhaps living in the local area, or perhaps working there or having been schooled there.

Of course, after so many years that have now passed since Beryl’s murder, the possibility exists now that the offender or offenders are themselves dead now. If they are still alive, they will be middle-aged to elderly themselves. They may have moved away from the area, or be in prison or a hospital. Or they may still live close by, hoping that fortune smiles upon them and that they never face justice for their crime. They have gotten away with murder for nearly 40 years now. The family of Beryl Culverwell deserve that good fortune and justice more than her killer(s).

Anybody with any information concerning Beryl’s murder should contact police using 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

The “Beauty In The Bikini” Murder

“He is still on the loose. But he has been a very lucky person this guy. He has destroyed my life overall, but he is still free. For people who don’t know me and have never known me, then I can understand where they are coming from. The hard thing is the ones who do know me and still have this lingering doubt that I was involved. That does hurt and does hurt quite badly. I had nothing to do with it.” – Peter Heron

Middleton St George is a small village that lies on the main commuter route to Darlington, a borough in the North-East of England. Relatively small in population, it’s a quiet area only really notable for a few minor points of interest. Just over a mile away is the former RAF station RAF Middleton St George, which is now the minor UK international airport Durham Tees Valley, and historically the village lay on the direct line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. But in 1990, Middleton St George gained another point of interest, albeit a darker one. It was the scene of a brutal murder that, to this day, no-one has ever been convicted of.

It was a golfing holiday in 1984 that brought them together. Peter Heron, then a 49-year-old company director of a haulage firm, was on a golfing break with friends up in the Isle of Bute, in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde. He was married to his wife of 20 years, Catherine, with whom he had three daughters; Beverley, Ann-Marie and Jacqui, and the business he was company director of was doing very well for itself. Whilst on this break, Peter got talking to attractive Ann Cockburn, a resident of the Isle and herself a mother of 3 and who had been married to a policeman for 15 years, Ralph Cockburn. Peter and Ann hit it off famously after finding out they had a mutual friend back in Darlington, and they stayed in touch, with a clear mutual attraction between both.

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Ann Heron

It is unclear exactly when a relationship began between the two, but soon after they had met, Ann visited Darlington to see her friend – and looked Peter up whilst she was there. An affair between the two followed, and both left their respective spouses to set up home together. Soon afterwards, when both were divorced, Peter and Ann married at Yarm Road Methodist Chapel in Darlington, with a luxury reception following at nearby Wynyard Hall. The wealthy couple then set up home in beautiful Aeolian House, a large secluded property set off the busy A67 Darlington to Yarm road, quite near to the village of Middleton St George. After a while, relations between Peter, Ann and their respective children thawed somewhat, and life was good.

Until 3rd August 1990, that was.

That day, Peter had gone off to work at the haulage firm, GE Stiller Transport, as usual. As the couple were quite affluent, Ann did not need to work full-time but instead had a part-time job helping out as a care assistant. That day, she wasn’t working but had instead been shopping to buy a birthday present for an 18th birthday party that she was attending that evening. Peter had come home from work for lunch, as was customary, at about 1:00pm, and Ann was home by then. When he left to return to work just before 2:00pm, Ann decided to take advantage of the sunshine. It was the hottest day of the year, and Ann had decided to sunbathe in the grounds of Aeolian House. She was midway through a book about the paranormal, “The Ghosts Of Flight 401”, and with her collie dog by her side, lay down on a sun lounger to catch some rays.

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Peter and Ann’s home, Aeolian House

At about 6pm, with it still warm, Peter arrived home. Ann’s empty sun lounger was at the front of the house, where she had moved it to avoid dust being kicked up by a farmer ploughing a neighbouring field. The radio was still on, Ann’s cigarettes and lighter lay next to it, and a half full glass lay at the side. Finding the door open and the dog outside, Peter called out to Ann to announce that he was home. No answer. Moving through the house, Ann was found in the living room of the house lying face down in a pool of blood, a gaping wound in her neck. Her bikini top was still in place, although the bottoms had been removed. Peter checked to see if Ann had any signs of life, and finding there was none, then rang the police, and a friend, Paul Stiller.

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Scenes of crime officers investigate the scene of Ann Heron’s death

Police arrived and made a thorough examination of the scene and grounds of the house. Nothing appeared to have been stolen, and there were no signs of any ransacking or searching the property, indeed, the house was still impeccably tidy. There was no sign of forced entry to the house, and the outdoors showed no signs of disturbance – although Ann’s book and a pair of shoes were found under a tree about 15 metres away from the sun lounger. The post-mortem report concluded that an estimated time of death was about 5:00pm, and that the cause of death was due to shock and massive blood loss from the wound to Ann’s throat. Ann had had her throat slit with an implement that the pathologist estimated could have been a cut throat razor, or a work tool such as a Stanley type knife, but no murder weapon was found at the scene. There was no sign of any sexual assault to Ann, or any signs of her being beaten or involved in a struggle. It seemed as though she had just been killed, then dumped where she lay. It wasn’t a robbery, and it didn’t seem to be a sex crime – was there another motive not immediately apparent?

Within the first few months, the intense police investigation had seen more than 7,000 people spoken to, over 4,000 witness statements taken, and surplus of 100,000 man hours spent on hunting Ann’s killer. With everyone spoken to who knew Ann, they all echoed the same: she was attractive, well liked and popular with those who know her. She wasn’t found to have any enemies or people wishing her harm, had no disputes with anybody that were known, nor was any evidence found to suggest that she may have been involved in anything illegal or was having an affair. Ann and Peter were described as happy, comfortably off couple, and were popular and well liked. Peter made a tearful public appeal for anyone having information about the identity of Ann’s murderer to come forward, and offered a £5,000 reward. But public and police sympathy for the widower, whilst initially strong, was soon to turn and to be replaced with suspicion, and even accusation.

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Peter Heron makes a public appeal in August 1990

As in most cases of murder, the stranger killer is a rarity and the killer is usually someone known to the victim. As a result, those closest to the victim, for example a spouse or family members or close friends will be looked at as persons of interest first and foremost with a view to eliminating them from the enquiry. Considering a possible case of utoxicide, police looked at Peter Heron as a suspect in his wife’s murder. As both the husband of the victim and the person who found the body, police scrutinised his alibi for the afternoon of the murder. That afternoon, he had been in his office from 2:00pm until 3:00pm, when he had left to attend a meeting with a potential client in the nearby village of Cleveland Bridge until 4:30pm, when he had headed back to the office. He had left the office at 5:00pm and headed home, albeit not via the usual way he would travel, instead driving through Croft and Middleton St George village before arriving home and finding Ann’s body at about 6:00pm. The reason for this departure would be revealed later. His movements seemed to check out, for although he would have been initially arrested as a suspect and questioned, he was released without charge. However, he wasn’t particularly open about his private life when questioned by police, and it emerged that Peter had been having an affair with a barmaid at the golf club that he was a member of, although the affair was ending at the time. His lover was 23 years younger than him, and worked in nearby Croft. This was the reason he had not taken his direct route home – he was trying to see his lover on the way home. When this fact was revealed by a national newspaper, it turned suspicion onto him. He was called “murderer” to his face by passers-by, and even his daughters were nearly involved in a fight in a local nightclub due to someone making accusations against him.

This is a crime that occurred 27 years ago now, and in that time several lines of enquiry have been pursued in the “Beauty In The Bikini” murder, as it was christened by the press. A number of persons of interest that police wished to trace and eliminate as a result of the investigation were identified, however were never traced. A male jogger was spotted near the house at around the time of the murder – he has never come forward despite repeated appeals. Perhaps more crucially, the driver of a blue Ford Sierra car was seen speeding out of the driveway to Aeolian House at the estimated time of the murder. The driver was described as being “early 30’s, extremely suntanned or swarthy looking, with dark hair that was longer on the sides than on top”. The car screeched onto the road and swerved around a Volkswagen that was travelling past Aeolian House, before accelerating away towards Middleton St George. It narrowly missed a collision with the Volkswagen, and the occupants of that vehicle were supported in their sighting by a passing taxi driver, who had to slow down to avoid a collision with the oncoming Sierra. Regrettably, none of the witnesses manage to gain even a part of the vehicle registration number. This driver was never found. Was he the killer?

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A still from the Crimewatch UK reconstruction showing the blue Ford Sierra car speeding out of the driveway of Aeolian House

What could have been the same blue car was reported sighted parked in a lay-by near to Aeolian House by another witness, who also provided crucial information years later that suggested Ann may have been out somewhere else on the afternoon of the murder. The witness was driving a HGV past Aeolian House at about 4:15pm that day when he saw Ann, whom he knew, driving towards him and indicating to turn into the driveway of the house. He flashed his lights at her in acknowledgement, and she waved in return. The witness noticed two other people in the vehicle with Ann; a male in the passenger seat who had his hands on the dashboard, and another person in the back seat. The witness was adamant of what he had seen and was convinced that this was Ann, and another person in the cab at the time confirmed the story. Was this Ann, and if so, where had she been and who was in the car with her?

There were a couple of other minor developments over the years concerning the case. In 1994, an anonymous letter arrived at the offices of the Northern Echo newspaper. It simply said:

Hello editor, it’s me. Ann Heron’s killer

Copies were also received by police, and were sent to Peter Heron. The author was never identified. Was this the work of a crank, the killer, or was it sent with a purpose to make out that the killer was still out there?

Then, many years later a retired shop-worker came forward and offered information about a sales rep who had visited the card shop she worked at in Newton Aycliffe many years before, who she said claimed that he had killed Ann Heron. The woman, known only as “Sylvia” claimed that the rep had gone into the back to talk to the manageress about a possible order:

“They were gone about ten minutes and he came out first. He looked at me and smiled, although it was more a smirk than a smile. The manageress came behind and she was physically shaking. She was frightened. She said, ‘you’ll never believe what he told me.’ He had told her that he had killed Ann Heron but he was never going to be caught because he was moving to Australia. I don’t know why he said it, although the manageress looked a lot like Ann Heron. She wouldn’t go to the police saying he was probably just ‘playing silly beggars.’ It was only years later that I read about the murder and it really shook me because the description was exactly the same as that of a man seen speeding off in a car from the house. Swarthy, dark, early 30s, it was exactly the same. I know it is just hearsay but I think the police should have at least interviewed me properly.”

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Peter Heron in 2015

But perhaps the most significant development in the years since Ann was killed is that fifteen years after the murder, in 2005, Peter Heron was arrested and charged with Ann’s murder. The reason for the arrest? A simple speck of his DNA. It had been taken from Ann’s body at the time of her autopsy, and had been stored as evidence. Through advancements in forensic technology, the sample, which was related to sexual activity, was able after 15 years to produce a genetic fingerprint. It did – that of Peter Heron. He was arrested and charged with Ann’s murder two days later on the basis of this evidence, but ultimately, the CPS opted not to pursue charges against him following a review of the forensic evidence. Peter Heron never went to trial and was freed, but has never got his name cleared as he so wishes. Quite public in his indignation of his treatment at the hands of Durham Police, Mr Heron has given countless interviews to newspapers, and even wrote an open letter to the Chief Constable of Durham Police, a copy of which is attached here

What then, can be ascertained about the crime? This is not a post to point the accusatory finger at anyone, it is to present the known facts concerning the case and to make an analysis and offer hypothesis based on the concrete evidence. There are also many observations that I will make, and they are intended to be just that – hypothesis and observations. Firstly, what was the motive for the murder? It is unlikely to have been robbery – nothing was reported as having been stolen, and there was no ransacking apparent, even though a cursory look at the property would suggest to the onlooker that this was a house of wealth. Police attending the crime scene also testified to the tidiness of the house throughout. And ultimately, burglars do just that – burgle. They will flee if disturbed, and a dog is a deterrent. The removal of Ann’s bikini bottoms would suggest a sexual motive – but there were no signs of Ann being raped or having had consensual sex that afternoon. Also, why would a sex killer not remove the bikini top also? It is not reported as to where the bikini bottoms were found – these would expectedly be in the near vicinity of the body – or had the killer taken them away? There also exists the possibility that the entire scene was staged to make it look like a sex killing or an attack elsewhere – the strange positioning of the shoes and the book, the removal of only bikini bottoms, the lack of a barking dog.

Nor is it abundantly clear as to precisely where Ann was attacked. Her body was found in the living room, but it is suggested that it was placed there. Was she attacked outside? It is reported that she had moved her sun lounger to the front of the house – meaning that she could have been seen by a passer-by. Also, it is reported that her book and shoes were found underneath a tree about 15 metres from the sun lounger – which would look like at least some sort of disturbance had occurred outside? Was there any mass bloodstaining – which would have been apparent at the point of attack – outside in the garden? If not, and Ann was killed where she was found, that suggests that the killer was someone known to Ann. It is unlikely that a woman would admit a stranger to her home whilst she was alone and dressed in just a bikini – self-consciousness would kick in, like the need to put on a robe. And also, would Ann’s dog have attacked a stranger to protect its mistress? There are reports that Ann’s dog could never again trust a stranger following the murder – just how much should be read into this is a matter of opinion.

It has been suggested that perhaps Ann was having an affair, although her family have been steadfast in denying this as a possibility. I believe that it should be considered. Ann and Peter’s life together had started as the result of an affair – and he himself was involved in a secret affair at the time of her death. Both had history of unfaithfulness, and it can be argued that that is a personality trait that is never lost. Was Ann also seeing someone? A secret lover would explain someone being in the house who was familiar with the layout, whom Ann felt comfortable enough to be with dressed in such a state. It would also explain why Ann’s dog was not reported as barking – perhaps because the killer was someone the dog was familiar with? But then, why would a lover kill her? Or was the killer the partner of a lover who killed Ann in a fit of rage after finding out and confronting her about the affair? I believe it also could be a strong possibility that Ann’s murder is connected to Peter’s affair. Did a jealous partner of Peter’s lover perhaps take revenge in the most horrific way? Or was perhaps, someone hired to kill Ann?

Concerning the man seen speeding out of Aeolian House at about 5:00pm – he has never come forward or been traced, despite repeated appeals and even a televised reconstruction on Crimewatch UK in December 1990. It is correct that this is the main person of interest in the crime – he can be placed leaving the scene by several witnesses, and driving off erratically. Yet, he may not be the killer – he may have discovered Ann dead in her home and driven off in a panic, thinking he may be blamed. Was this man the possible secret lover? What is possibly the same car was reported as being seen parked in a lay-by near to Aeolian House – a secret lover may perhaps leave a car nearby to avoid being seen/discovered/out of discretion? Yet, there is no identikit picture available of the driver, despite an available description. The line of enquiry concerning the jogger sighted nearby also led nowhere – yet one would expect this person to live within the local area, jogging is a very territorial pastime. It is hard to believe that one would not have heard about such a high-profile case and not come forward to eliminate themselves. Again, no description is available, and there is no record of any serious examination of this line of enquiry.

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The last photograph taken of Ann Heron before her death

Instead, what would be a natural instinct and understandable for people to think, the main focus of suspicion seems to have been pointed at Peter Heron for complicity in his wife’s murder. It must be said that at the time, he was automatically considered a prime suspect, as is always the case with the other party in a spousal homicide. Peter was the last person known to have seen Ann alive, and he found her body. He was involved in an affair at the time, suggesting that all was not well between him and Ann. His bloody fingerprints were found on the telephone in the lounge, on the roof of his car outside, and traces of Ann’s blood was found on his person. Yet, this was explained off by him claiming to have touched her to see if she was still alive upon finding her, and then going outside to lean on the car to compose himself. He did have an alibi of being in a meeting that afternoon, and so has witnesses to corroborate his movements. Yet his movements that afternoon were out of the norm and gave, I believe, ample time to commit the crime between journeys to places that he can definitely be placed at. He was also not forthcoming about the affair – when, if the estimated time of death is correct, he would have had to own up to to provide an alibi. Why did he not, when he must have known it would be in his best interests to? He has acknowledged publicly, but never spoken of the affair, instead choosing to keep his former lover out of any publicity. It has arguably turned much public opinion against him, and created suspicion in the minds of people, and more importantly, the police. His arrest and charge in 2005 show that he was still considered the prime suspect – yet the evidence that formed the basis of the charge, a DNA sample taken from his wife in his own home, stretches credibility of a realistic conviction and instead suggests desperation for a conviction on behalf of the police. Peter Heron and members of the family have given countless interviews to the press concerning his arrest, charge and release, a selection of which are reproduced in the following links, and make for interesting reading. Others can be found online.

Interview with Peter Heron

Interview with Anne Marie Cockburn (Ann’s daughter)

Yet it is my opinion, and perhaps this is the effect of how the media reports, that it comes across as less concerned with catching the killer and gaining justice for Ann, rather more with gaining a public apology for how Peter has been treated and portrayed in the light of what must be understandable suspicions However, he has never been tried or convicted of the crime and like him or loathe him, it is up to the reader to determine for themselves his culpability, if any.

Ann Heron’s killer has never been brought to justice, and it is now nearly 27 years since she was killed in her own home that hot day in August. Aeolian House is now a kennels and cattery, Peter Heron having sold it finally ten years after the murder. The family who now own it claim that they feel a presence, albeit not an unfriendly one, in the house, and often detect a smell of cigarette smoke, which is strange because none of the occupants of the house are smokers.

Aeolian House in August 2016

Ann Heron, however, was a smoker – does she still occupy the place where she spent her final moments of life?

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

The Summervale House Murder

“It was dark in her flat when we went in. We found her lying on the floor. There was lots of blood on her clothes. I felt for a pulse but there was none. I ran out and called an ambulance.”Estrellita Villacamea

Summervale House, in the Werneth district of the town of Oldham, Greater Manchester, is a 16-storey block of flats situated near the busy Manchester Street roundabout just off the main A62 road. The Werneth area is a blend of low-level housing, commercial premises and industrial units, close to Oldham’s Spindles Shopping Centre, and situated less than two miles from the Royal Oldham Hospital, but the blocks of flats dominate the area. It was on the 7th floor of Summervale House that a young nurse was brutally murdered in a frenzied attack in her own home nearly 15 years ago now.  Her killer has still never been brought to justice, although police do believe that they know the identity of her killer.

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Debbie Remorozo

Debbie Remorozo came from a large family in the farming and fishing village of Kinalansan in the Philippines. In 2000, when Debbie was 24 years old, she came to live and work in the UK, finding employment as a coronary care nurse at the Royal Oldham Hospital. It was a job that she loved and worked hard at, and Debbie was well liked by her colleagues. She was attractive and had male admirers, but was claimed to have had a boyfriend in Birmingham and was not known to be casually dating anyone else at that time. Indeed, the impression she gave off was that she held what many would consider to be old-fashioned views about relationships. Debbie lived alone in a flat on the seventh floor of the Summervale House block of flats, about a mile and a half from the hospital where she worked, and although had friends, Debbie did not socialize much. Her life seemed to revolve around her job, although she was also a regular churchgoer. She was described as being “austere” in how she lived, often opting to work overtime and saving as much money as possible to send back home to her family in the Philippines.

“What is startling is the simplicity of Debbie’s life. She would get up, go to work and do 12 to 14 hours, come home, make a meal and go to sleep. Her sole purpose was to generate cash for her family back in the Philippines.” – Detective Superintendent Steve Heywood (speaking in 2002)

On Saturday 7th December 2002, Debbie had worked a day shift at the hospital as was part of her 8hr shift rotation pattern. She had turned up for work at 7:00am and had been due to finish at 3pm, but stayed longer to write-up her notes from the shift. Colleagues described this as being normal practice for Debbie, on what was a normal, uneventful shift. Uneventful, apart from one slight event. Not long before she finished for the day, Debbie took a telephone call at work which colleagues were later to tell police had left Debbie seemingly “distressed”, although she didn’t share any details with her colleagues. It has never been revealed as to the identity of this caller, or even if it was possibly connected with her murder. She then completed her shift paperwork and left the Royal Oldham Hospital. It was customary for Debbie to walk the relatively short distance from work to home, and colleagues did not report her as saying she had any plans to go anywhere other than home after finishing work that day. She was caught on the hospital CCTV at 3:27pm leaving the grounds, wearing her nurses uniform, dark blue NHS issue jacket and distinctive orange bobble hat, and heading in the direction of Summervale House.

Summervale House – June 2016

She was spotted on the CCTV at Summervale House arriving home between 3:45pm and 3:55pm. It was clearly identified as Debbie, where she is seen using a key to gain access to the building. The Summervale House complex was at the time protected by a steel fence surrounding the grounds, and was manned 24/7 by a security guard/concierge. Inside, electric mag locks and fob access controlled access and egress on not just the external doors, but also the internal doors that led off to the corridors on each floor. It must have appealed to the security conscious Debbie to live in such an environment.

The CCTV showing Debbie entering the building was the last time she was seen alive by anyone except her killer.

The following day, Sunday 8th December, Debbie was due to again work a day shift at the hospital from 7:00am to 3:00pm, but never turned up. It was not like the conscientious Debbie to have slept late, so concerned colleagues called her several times but to no avail. Finally, after several attempts throughout the shift, and concerned that Debbie was ill or had had an accident, one of Debbie’s worried colleagues, nurse Estrellita Villacamea, went around to Summervale House to investigate. What she was to find there shocked and scared her to the point where herself, and many of the other Filipino nurses who worked at the Royal Oldham Hospital, considered leaving in fear that a brutal killer was amongst the midst of the closely knit Filipino community they belonged to, and that any one of them could be targeted next.

At 5:40pm, Estrellita arrived at Debbie’s block but found the door to Debbie’s flat locked and no response coming from repeated knocking. By now alarmed, a spare key was obtained, and Estrellita entered the flat. Debbie was found in the living room. She was fully clothed and was laid out on the floor of her lounge in what was later described as “a crucifix shape”. Blood covered her clothes, and a table cloth covered her face and upper shoulders. She had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck, chest and back in what was described as a “frenzied” attack, with wounds penetrating her heart and lung. Two bloodstained kitchen knives were found in the flat. Estrellita immediately checked for a pulse to see if her friend was still alive, but when she found there was none, contacted police.

Police arrived on the scene rapidly, and quickly established that there were no signs of forced entry to the flat. There were no signs of anything being taken or any ransacking, and Debbie had not been raped or sexually interfered with. The subsequent autopsy established that it was likely that Debbie had died between 4:00pm and 7:00pm the previous night, very soon after she had arrived home from work, and that death had been due to shock and massive blood loss from her wounds. Enquiries with other residents of the flats revealed nothing – no one had heard any sounds of a disturbance or screams that Saturday, and no bloodstained killer was witnessed fleeing the building or caught on CCTV – although traces of Debbie’s blood were found in the stairwell of Summervale House. The lack of any signs of forced entry to the flat suggested that Debbie had willingly let her killer into the flat – suggesting someone that she knew. Her family and friends confirmed that Debbie was a security conscious person and would never have willingly let a stranger into her home. This was echoed by police.

 “We think Debbie knew her attacker. Debbie was a careful person who would not let anyone other than someone she knew into her flat – someone who could have been in the block” – Cold case investigator Andy Tattersall 

Without a clear motive, a team of 30 detectives were forced to look more closely at Debbie’s life – perhaps something would jump out and provide a clue as to why she was killed? Nothing did. No one was discovered with a motive for wanting her harmed in any way – police were just left with a picture of a quiet, well-liked and hardworking devout Catholic whose life revolved around her work. There were no secret boyfriends or love affairs discovered, and Debbie was not involved in anything illegal or immoral. Aside from speaking to Debbie’s friends and colleagues, the congregation at the church Debbie attended, and members of the Oldham community in general, detectives even travelled to Debbie’s home village in the Philippines to speak to her family and people who knew her there, to see if anyone there had information that could help – or even a motive could be found originating from there. Nothing was found, and the investigation soon ground to a halt. A few weeks after her murder, Debbie’s body was flown home to be buried by her devastated family.

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Police Appeal Poster 

She was remembered by friends and ex colleagues at a special mass at St Patrick’s church at Oldham on the first anniversary of her death, and by that time there had been little progress made in the investigation into her murder, despite a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Debbie’s killer. Convinced that the key to Debbie’s murder lay within the closely knit Filipino community, appeals had been made throughout several Filipino communities nationwide in both English and the Filipino language Tagalog. A man of 26 and a woman of 31 had been arrested in connection with Debbie’s murder, although both had been interviewed and later released without charge. The following year, scientists had managed to obtain a DNA profile from evidence taken from the crime scene that detectives believed could identify or eliminate Debbie’s killer, although it has never been revealed the item that this sample was obtained from, nor the form that it took (blood, saliva etc). Detectives working on the case had after a while become convinced that they had identified Debbie’s killer – and had gone so far as to prepare a file of evidence. But senior lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service decided that obtaining a successful conviction in the case was an unrealistic prospect – and subsequently refused to authorise a charge being made. With this decision, plus the lack of any further progress being made, Debbie’s murder was classed as a cold case. It has been re-appealed several times over the years, but remains officially unsolved to this day.

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Debbie’s colleagues and friends remember her at a special mass on the anniversary of her death

There is relatively little information available to research about the case apart from what is recounted here, but what is a common thread is that Debbie’s murder is only officially unsolved. To prepare a file of evidence for prosecution means that police were suitably convinced that they knew the identity of Debbie’s killer, and had evidence that could at least place them at the scene of the crime. A former detective who worked on the case said:

“I’m hundred per cent sure I know who’s done it. And people out there will know who’s done it.”

But with no charge being authorised, Debbie’s murder is still officially classed as a cold case. For legality, there are no details available about any suspects or the specific kind of evidence that is held with regards to the identity of Debbie’s killer. Those examining are left to surmise the events, which is hindered by the lack of detail available concerning the murder. What is available tends to raise more questions and possibilities than provides definite answers. It should be noted that the following is in no way suggested as being definitive, it is a working hypothesis.

Examining what is known, it is likely that Debbie knew her killer, or killers. This is not the work of an intruder breaking in and the murder being the work of a robbery gone wrong. Nor is this likely a sex crime – sex as a motive would at least show some evidence of attempted rape or clothing being disturbed. None was reported. Police from the outset have always believed that someone went to Debbie’s flat with the intention of arguing with her or for a confrontation – and this seems likely. Debbie would not have allowed a stranger into her home – and a burglar/opportunist attacker would seriously not choose a 7th floor flat of a relatively secure block to target for a random break in. No one suspicious was reported entering or leaving the building that Saturday, and no screams or sounds of a struggle were reported. TTCE believes that her killer was either a neighbour of Debbie’s or at the very least someone she was acquainted with who lived or worked in the same block or complex, or a visitor that she authorised entry to. A killer living in Summervale House would support the fact that traces of Debbie’s blood was found in the stairwell of the block, but no bloodstained killer was seen leaving at any time that day. Did the killer(s) go home and clean up – perhaps only needing to go as far as a couple of floors up or down? Of course, it is entirely possible that Debbie’s killer was a visitor, and cleaned themselves up as best as they could in her flat, before composing themselves enough to leave.

TTCE believes that Debbie’s murder may not have been necessarily pre-meditated. It was reported as a “frenzied” attack, and more than one knife was used to brutally stab her to death. Yet the knives had not been brought to the scene – they were Debbie’s own knives, taken from the kitchen and left at the scene. Was this an escalation of an argument and a knife was grabbed in the midst of a struggle, or was Debbie attacked when she was unawares and incapacitated with a stab wound, before being repeatedly stabbed again? There is also the possibility that there was more than one killer responsible. The use of more than one knife to stab Debbie suggests two people working in tandem, perhaps one restrained her initially whilst the other stabbed her? It is reported that the attack happened in her lounge, but this is where the lack of details available about the scene make a hypothesis difficult. For example, were there any signs of Debbie having made tea or coffee for any visitors? Was there any heavy bloodstaining to the sofa or chairs? Where exactly were the knives found, and why were two used – did one break? Did the attack happen solely in the lounge, or was their evidence of a scuffle in another room? Did Debbie’s body show any signs of being beaten? It is details like the answers to these questions that help paint a picture of the events of the murder, which in turn helps narrow down the field of suspects.

Also, much is reported of Debbie’s body being laid out in a “crucifix” shape and having her face covered. The shape she was lay in could be the result of how she naturally fell, or her killer may have stabbed her repeatedly whilst she was lay on the floor and inadvertently moved her into that position. Or she may have been deliberately posed like that. Her face was also covered with a tablecloth – and whilst it is believed that this was an act of remorse by the killer, this should not be accepted as fact too quickly. It may have been done to stifle any screams, or even have been an attempt to smother Debbie. It may have even been done out of guilt, or just been used by the killer(s) to clean themselves up and just happened to fall across her face when discarded. But without access to crime scene photographs to ascertain the exactness of the position of this, and Debbie’s body, these are points that could be misleading and possibly points that have been over-sensationalised.

What then, was the likely motive for Debbie’s murder? TTCE believes the likely motive was a personal one, the result of someone having a serious grudge against her. Police have always been convinced that her killer(s) went there that day to confront Debbie – but why? It is unlikely to have been over money – Debbie was frugal and did not live beyond her means, and was not reported as having been in the habit of borrowing money to or from people. Debbie’s life was looked at in enough depth to know that she was not involved in anything illegal or immoral either, so this too is an unlikely reason for the source of any argument. TTCE believes that the most likely reason for anybody to confront Debbie would have been jealousy, or perhaps as a scorned lover. Debbie was a very attractive woman and it is known that she had male admirers – yet kept them at arm’s length. Perhaps one of these admirers came to confront her about being rejected? The possibility also exists – and this is a very real one – that Debbie’s killer was a woman, or perhaps the multiple killer theory is correct – after all, why would a single killer use two knives? Perhaps someone viewed Debbie as a love rival or the reason a relationship failed or was unrequited, and she was stabbed to death in the heat of the moment in a crime of passion – perhaps in mid argument? There are many documented cases of love rivals committing the most horrendous of crimes in the heat of passion – a red mist just descends. Was Debbie’s murder in the same vein?

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Police appealed in Tagalog to Filipino communities around the country

Police do have a DNA sample that they believe was from the killer, and DNA evidence is very conclusive. Yet for the CPS lawyers to refuse a charge based on an unlikely conviction being able to be obtained, this supports the theory that the profile will match someone who could readily explain away a reason for their DNA profile being in Debbie’s flat, meaning that Debbie’s killer was indeed known to her. TTCE believes it likely that her killer has been spoken to – and identified, possibly even arrested – but has so far managed to escape justice. The murder of Debbie Remorozo is at a standstill now, and investigators are left awaiting either new information coming forward, a confession from someone who has her death on their conscience, or more conclusive scientific evidence being obtained – which is an unlikely prospect after so long, and as a DNA profile already obtained wasn’t classed as enough evidence, one wonders what other forensic evidence could possibly be obtained now? A tree planted in memory of her in Oldham’s Maltby Street grows now, and Debbie’s family still live in hope that before that tree grows much further, her killer will be brought to justice. Debbie does not deserve to be forgotten.

“We are still hoping though that with the help of scientific approach and new technologies now, justice for my sister will be served soon. Fourteen years have passed (and) we never heard again from the Manchester police and investigators. We’ve been hopeless and frustrated since then not knowing where and how we can get results of the investigation and the reason why someone killed my sister” – Dennis Remorozo (Debbie’s brother)
Anyone with information concerning Debbie’s murder can contact GMP’s Cold Case Unit on 0161 856 0320, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Death Of A Brighton Schoolboy

“Keith was very studious and wanted to buy a compass set so he could finish his geometry homework. There was only one shop in Ovingdean so he decided to walk to town. That was the last time I saw him.” – Peter Lyon (Keith’s brother)

Travelling by car, just 1.6 miles separate the Brighton and Hove village of Ovingdean and the eastern city suburb of Woodingdean, both of which are situated in a tranquil and picturesque area of the Sussex Downs. The former is a small village with a population of just over 1,200, whilst the latter is larger in population, although this is staggered over a greater area. This distance will be even less on foot, if a person were to take one of the many paths connecting the two areas that sprawl the area, and that are popular with walkers and pet owners. One such path is a bridle path that leads through an area known locally as “Happy Valley”. It is an idyllic spot that offers a view of the English Channel in the distance. However, “Happy Valley” should be considered a misnomer – because for 50 years now, this spot on this path through “Happy Valley” is still remembered locally as the scene of a brutal, as yet unsolved murder.

Many people remember the first week of May 1967 for different reasons – for example, Elvis and Priscilla Presley had married that week, and Zakir Hussain became the first Muslim president of India on Saturday May 6th 1967. Closer to home though, and more on the mind of 12-year-old Brighton and Hove schoolboy Keith Lyon than world events or celebrity marriages, was a simple mathematical compass.

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Keith Lyon

Keith lived with his family, parents Valda and Ken Lyon, and younger brother Peter, in a grand home in the village of Ovingdean. Ken Lyon was a well-known and popular band leader in Brighton, and it seemed that Keith had inherited some of his father’s musical genes, as he was a promising young musician. The family was quite respectable and happy, and Keith did well enough in school to attend Brighton and Hove Grammar School, which he enjoyed and where he continued to flourish at as a hard-working and apt pupil.

That Saturday, the 6th May 1967, was a lovely sunny day, and for Keith and his brother it was pocket-money day. Keith had 4 shillings (just over £3 today), and wanted to spend it on a geometry set and compass that he needed for his homework. As Ovingdean had only a single shop, and there was a bit more variety of shops in nearby Woodingdean, Keith decided that Saturday afternoon to make the short journey to the next village and back. Setting off at around 3pm, Keith headed off to Woodingdean on foot, walking along the bridle path that connected the two villages and that ran through Happy Valley.

Just over an hour later, at about 4:15pm, a 16-year-old girl was out dog walking in the area. She was a pupil of the nearby Roedean Girls School, which is overlooked from the bridle path, and was walking along the path when she got the shock of her life. Lying on a grass bank at the side of the path, heavily bloodstained and clearly dead, was the body of a young boy clothed in a grammar school uniform. It was Keith; he had been stabbed to death and left at the side of the path. The girl immediately fled in fear and contacted police, who arrived at the scene quickly and cordoned the area off.

Looking at the body in situ, Keith’s clothing had not been disturbed, but his trouser pockets had been turned out, and his money and a set of keys was missing. He was heavily bloodstained (a pathologist noted 11 separate stab wounds to his stomach, back and chest area) and there was no sign of a murder weapon at the scene. It was imperative that the police enquiry got off to the best and most proactive start.

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A mass search was undertaken of the local area surrounding the murder scene

Arguably, it did. As a massive house to house enquiry got underway, a makeshift incident room was set up immediately at a nearby primary school, and a massive search of the area was undertaken by police, who had extra officers drafted in from all over Sussex. Police search teams and dog handlers were used to search fields, woods, farm buildings and empty premises, looking for Keith’s abandoned keys or more importantly, a murder weapon. This was believed to be a sharp, serrated knife. Assisting police in their search was the use of a powerful magnetic mine detector from nearby Aldemaston Camp, which was capable of drawing out metal from inches underneath the ground. However, this failed to find anything in the immediate areas of the murder scene that police searched.

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A powerful mine detector was used in the search – but found nothing

But a bloodstained, serrated knife with a broken tip was found a day or so later near the rear of nearby Fitzherbert School, and handed in to police by schoolboys. The blood on the knife was found to be of the same blood type as Keith’s.

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The knife found in the grounds of Fitzherbert School – was it the weapon used to kill Keith?

In the days following the murder, a wax dummy from a tailor’s was borrowed, and dressed in clothes identical to those that Keith had been wearing was used in a reconstruction in an attempt to jog any potential witnesses memories. This reconstruction did bear fruit – two women who lived nearby came forward to say that on the same day and around the time Keith was murdered, they saw four youths involved in a scuffle near the path – in fact the witnesses used the word “sparring”. They did not intervene however, and later saw three youths fleeing across nearby fields. A local bus driver also came forward to say that on the afternoon in question, two youths had been passengers on the No 3 bus he was driving to the nearby Whitehawk estate, and both were in an “agitated” state. They had got on at Vines Cross Road and stayed on until the Whitehawk Garage stop, before getting off in a “blind panic”. Were these connected to Keith’s murder? No physical or clothing descriptions were available of any of these boys. If this wasn’t Keith and his killers – and TTCE believes that it was – then these were crucial witnesses that never came forward.

After the two women and the bus driver had come forward as witnesses, police adopted the view that Keith’s killers were a gang of local youths and his murder was a result of a robbery having gone wrong. There was evidence to support this – Keith’s killer(s) would have been significantly bloodstained, and evidence was found to suggest that the murderer had used a nearby public lavatory in Lawn Memorial Park to clean up. A public lavatory that would have only been apparent to someone living in the locality. A mass questioning and fingerprinting of local youths got underway – but even though thousands were spoken to and fingerprinted over the course of the enquiry, this did not lead to any arrests.

In fact, by the time of the coroner’s court inquest into Keith’s death in December 1967, the investigation was at a standstill. Police had taken 6,000 palm and finger prints, had undertaken more than 75,000 house to house enquiries, had taken 2,000 written statements taken, and interviewed nearly 2,000 children from more than 15 schools in the locality.  There was local rumour and suspicion about the identity of those responsible, but there were no firmly established suspects. Although people had been arrested in connection with the murder, they had been cleared, and no-one had been charged with Keith’s murder. A coroner’s jury returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown, but the enquiry into Keith’s murder remained inactive.

On the one year anniversary of the murder, Keith’s still grieving family offered the reward of £1,000 – a substantial amount at the time – for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Keith’s killer. It was never claimed. With a lack of incoming information, the investigation remained back at a standstill for a number of years following this, but in 1974 it came to life again. Det Supt Jim Marshall of Sussex Police announced that new evidence had “come to light” that opened a new line of enquiry concerning Keith’s murder, though it is unclear and unreported as to what this evidence was. It did lead to scores of people being re-interviewed at the time, but again, ultimately lead to nothing. Controversially following this re-investigation, crucial evidence from the enquiry was misplaced for many years, and was only found in a locked storeroom at a Brighton police station following the turn of the century. This included the clothes Keith had been wearing at the time of his death, and the suspected murder weapon – the knife with the broken tip.

Although Keith’s murder has today fallen into the category of a cold case subject to periodic reviews over the years, it still creates headlines from time to time. An appeal had been made a number of times on Crimewatch UK, and in the mid 2000’s, three men in their 50’s were arrested on suspicion of murder, but were ultimately released and eliminated from the enquiry. None of these men were ever named, and there is no record of what led to their arrests. But it is reported that police now have partial DNA evidence that could link the murderer to the scene. As forensic examination has evolved in the years following Keith’s murder, technology now exists that has enabled scientists to obtain a workable DNA sample from the evidence that was presumed lost for so many years, namely Keith’s clothing. But of course, a match for this DNA profile has so far remained elusive from the DNA database. So Keith’s killers have not offended since, at least not since the inception of the National DNA database in April 1995.

Looking at the case, TTCE is of the impression that Keith was attacked on his way to Woodingdean with the killer or killers coming from that direction. No geometry set was found throughout a massive search of the area, and a geometry set is not something that a young boy is murdered for. It is not reported if there were any witnesses who remembered seeing Keith leaving Woodingdean that afternoon – so it is likely he was attacked on his way there. It’s possible that he was followed, or met his killers on the way, and they were youths of similar age, possibly slightly older, than himself. The plural is used because there is more than likely to be one killer – this is supported by the evidence of the two women who witnessed four boys “sparring”. It would also suggest why a 12-year-old fit and healthy boy did not run away when confronted by someone attempting to rob him – perhaps he had been restrained by one or two others? Three boys were then seen running away over nearby fields, and as said previously, if they weren’t the killers, they were at least crucial witnesses – yet never came forward despite a MASSIVE enquiry that was after all focused upon local youths? Why would they not do so, unless they had something to hide?

Police considered the possibility that Keith had been deliberately targeted for the murder, but he wasn’t found to have anyone bearing a grudge against him and was popular and well liked at Brighton and Hove Grammar school. Keith’s murder seems likely to have started out as a robbery and gravitated to murder in an opportunistic crime. There was no reported evidence of any sexual assault or Keith’s clothing being removed or interfered with. He was killed where he was found and his body was not hidden from view, despite the availability of bushes on the path in which to hide it. A sex killer would likely abduct and would use a vehicle – which is impractical on a bridle path. His pockets were turned out and emptied of money and property, but this also raises the question – what was the need to kill Keith?

A 12-year-old boy could easily have been overpowered and successfully robbed without the need to be stabbed so repeatedly. TTCE believes that there are several possible reasons for the stabbing. It is possible that Keith knew his attackers and could have identified them, or is possible that Keith retaliated when attacked and his assailant then drew a knife, saw red, and stabbed him in the heat of the moment? There also exists the possibility that Keith’s killer was a violent psychopathic youth who enjoyed killing immensely – and Keith was always going to die that day.

The angle that Keith was targeted because he attended a different school and was middle class was also looked at. This appears a promising theory – the posh boy robbed by youngsters from a “common” school. Several reports claim that Keith was wearing his grammar school uniform that day – or at least part of it – so this would have been identifiable and possibly would have singled him out as the target of bullies. It was fashionable of the time (as is more and more so commonplace today also) for youths to arm themselves with knives. Was this what happened? Or did one of the youths commit murder in some macabre attempt to gain notoriety and status within a group?

TTCE believes that the killers were from the local area at the time. Perhaps not Ovingdean, but looking at the geography of the events more than likely Woodingdean, or possibly the nearby large Whitehawk estate. Knowing the bridle path itself would suggest local knowledge – an offender does not commit a crime in a place unfamiliar to them, this would bring with it the risk of interruption and detection. Also, the location that the knife was found was in the grounds of Fitzherbert School. Although Fitzherbert school no longer exists today (a private hospital stands on the site where it was), it was on the edge of Woodingdean, and the Lawn Memorial Park toilets that were found bloodstained were just yards away from it. If the offender(s) were fleeing, wouldn’t they flee unconsciously via a place familiar to them for easy egress – for example, towards the school that they went to, dumping an incriminating murder weapon on the way before cleaning up as soon as possible? As well as pointing to local offenders, it also points to an unplanned murder and the offenders panicking and fleeing upon realising the enormity of what they had done. Keith’s keys were never found – but a set of keys on a person can be explained off more satisfactorily than a knife. They were likely dumped elsewhere, perhaps in a pond or even in the sea.

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Police speak to a local cub scout troop about Keith’s murder. Thousands of local children and youths were questioned.

It is almost certain that the killers of Keith Lyon were spoken to, likely also fingerprinted, during the initial investigation into his murder, but police failed to recognise their guilt, or the killer or killers managed to lie or bluff successfully. It is likely that each corroborated the other’s alibi, either out of fear of discovery, peer pressure, or a misguided sense of loyalty. They may have gone on to offend again, or that may have been a shocking one-time event that shocked and horrified them, yet cowardice and guilt has prevented them from confessing, knowing the punishment that would come. they have lived with for 50 years now, eating away at them. As is the case with the parochial thinking in any unsolved crime, local rumours have abounded to the identity of Keith’s killer for many years now. Suspicion has been pointed at several youths who attended the Fitzherbert School at the time. Rumours also abound that a family immigrated to Canada very soon after Keith’s murder – and a member of this family was a highly likely murder suspect. Of course – there is no evidence to substantiate any of these claims, rumours do not constitute evidence.

It must be remembered that the 50 years that have passed since Keith’s murder have brought with them drastic advancements in technology and tools used in the detection of crime. In 1967, there was no DNA fingerprinting, no CCTV, no social media available to mass and rapidly appeal, no HOLMES. Policing was very much of the “knocking on doors” type at the time and one must have sympathy with the investigating team. They had relatively little evidence from the crime scene, and any fingerprints on the knife found (if indeed, it was the murder weapon) must have been either of poor quality or very partial for a match not to have been found, If any of today’s investigative tools had been available to police at the time, it is highly likely that Keith’s murder would have been solved. TTCE believes that the identities of Keith’s killers were recorded at the time, and that somewhere in the murder file will be their names. They may have moved away from the area today, they may be abroad, in prison or hospital, perhaps even dead by now after so many years. But police do have a useable DNA profile now available to them, and it is possible that with each day that passes, an entry will be added to the DNA database that will provide a familial link to this sample. And police can finally close in on the killer of Keith Lyon. It seems that bar a conscience getting the better of someone and a confession forthcoming as a result, this is the only possible source of a solution.

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Keith’s headstone

Sadly, it will have come too late for Keith’s parents, who never got over his death. It broke the health of his father Ken, who died in 1991. Keith’s mother Valda died in 2005, never knowing who was responsible for her son’s death. Today, both are buried near him. Keith’s brother is still alive though. A father himself, he longs for Keith’s murderer to be brought to justice. A number of years ago when interviewed by a local newspaper at the scene of his brother’s death, Peter Lyon said:

 “It destroyed our family. It turned me into an introverted, introspective person. I have lived for nearly 40 years with this nightmare and I do not know what I would do if I knew Keith’s killers would get away with it forever. For God’s sake, now is the time to come forward. There is nothing worse than shielding a cowardly child-killer.”

Anyone having information concerning Keith’s murder should contact Sussex Police via 101.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

 

 

“The Phantom Of The Forest” – Part 2

The “Phantom” had been identified.

On the 28th June 1982, a police constable from the Warrant department of West Yorkshire Police discovered that a man named Barry Peter Prudom had failed to answer court bail following a serious assault in Leeds in January 1982. What stood out was that Prudom’s date of birth was 18th October 1944 – the same as PC Haigh had written on his clipboard. Because the close proximity of an attack in Leeds and the date of birth written on the clipboard seemed a real solid lead, photographs of Prudom – together with others – were shown to the police officer who had been injured in the shooting at Dalby Forest, PC Kenneth Oliver.

PC Oliver unhesitatingly picked out Prudom as the man who had shot him, and Prudom’s fingerprints matched those taken from the abandoned green Citroen car. Police now knew beyond any doubt the identity of “The Phantom Of The Forest”. A picture of Prudom was issued to the press and public with the warning that he was wanted for questioning in connection with the shootings, and was to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.

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Barry Peter Prudom

So now police knew the identity of the man they were hunting – but they were still no closer to finding him.

On Wednesday 30 June, police were approached by a survival expert named Eddie McGee, who was a former Army PT instructor and author of several survival textbooks. He was well-trained in the art of tracking, having learned from Aboriginal tribes in Australia and Pygmy tribes in Africa, and offered his services to assist in the hunt for Prudom. This was immediately accepted, and Mcgee and a colleague began to track the fugitive, beginning at the scene of Sgt Winter’s murder.

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A wanted poster of Prudom is fixed to one of the many blockades throughout the Dalby Forest area

In the Dalby Forest area, a makeshift “hide” was quickly found that the wanted man had been using, and McGee and colleague followed tracks from it in a search that took them all of the next three days and led all over the Old Malton and Malton areas. Many of the tracks were very recent – Prudom had not left the general area, but instead seemed to be playing a cat and mouse game with police hunting for him. Mcgee was also of the opinion that Prudom was near the point of exhaustion due to being kept on the move by the constant police presence.

The manhunt moved into its endgame early on the morning of 04 July 1982, when police received a telephone call from a Mr Maurice Johnson of East Mount, Malton. Mr Johnson spoke to police at 05:45am and reported that he, his wife and adult son had been held hostage at gunpoint in their own home by Prudom since 5:00pm the previous day. He had not harmed any of them, but had tied them up. During the time they had been held hostage, Prudom had confessed to them the murders of PC Haigh, Mr Luckett, and Sgt Winter, the attempted murders of Mrs Luckett and PC Oliver, and the burglary at Mrs Johnson’s bungalow. He had left their home at 05:00am. The Johnson’s had waited for a period of time from Prudom leaving the house before contacting police, even going so far as to turn on the upstairs lights to make Prudom think they were going to bed – in case he was still watching the house.

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Eddie Mcgee

Immediately the area was surrounded and the village sealed off, and by 07:30am, McGee and an armed escort had began to search the rear of the Johnson’s house for footprints. Mcgee found one that was very fresh almost instantly, and followed tracks across the grounds of the nearby Malton Lawn Tennis and Bowling club that terminated near the remains of some fencing panels that leaned against a stone wall and that were covered with brambles and bracken. Mcgee, whilst stealthily examining the scene, noticed that whilst the majority of the brambles were thick with early morning dew, there was a black patch where the dew had been brushed off. Suspecting that he was hot on Prudom’s trail, Mcgee was to later describe the moment:

“I took out a probe and went forward, feeling the ground There was a little bit of blue plastic bag which casually moved to one side. I put my hand forward to lift up the probe and as I did – suddenly a foot few back and sent me rolling back. I jumped in the air, but didn’t shout. I retraced my steps and disappeared around the back of the wall, then motioned to the officers “there!” – we’d got him” – Eddie McGee

Armed police soon surrounded the area where Prudom had been cornered and shouted to him to surrender – but there was no answer.

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Armed police surround a cornered Barry Prudom

Shortly afterwards, Chief Inspector David Clarkson of West Yorkshire Police, and Inspector Brian Cheton of North Yorkshire Police – both armed officers – approached the fencing panels and attempted to move them away from the wall. The response was a shot fired from inside the fencing, and both officers moved back to a safe distance. They did, however, fire four shotgun rounds in return. Further calls to surrender were again met by silence, so further shots were fired and two percussion grenades were thrown. The officers then returned and again attempted to remove the fencing panel – and this time were successful. Beneath it, Barry Prudom lay dead, with a pistol on his chest pointing upwards. He had been stopped just 100 yards from the Task Force Control Headquarters – where the hunt for him was being directed from.

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The scene of Prudom’s death

The 17 day manhunt, which in total had involved 4,293 officers from 12 different police forces, and had cost £347,000, was over.

Who was Barry Peter Prudom, and why had he embarked on such a rampage? Born in 1944 as the illegitimate son of  dressmaker Kathleen Edwards and soldier Peter Kurylo, Barry never got to meet his father. His mother married a man named Alex Prudom in 1949, and Barry took his stepfather’s surname. He spent his early years in a terraced house at 39 Grosvenor Place, Leeds, and was educated at the local Blenheim Primary School and Meanwood Secondary School. By no means academic, he nevertheless showed promise at sports, where he was described as being especially good at boxing and cross-country running. Prudom’s youth was punctuated with bouts of minor criminal activity and mischief, but never anything too serious or involving violence, and his youth was otherwise unremarkable from many of his fellow classmates and contemporaries. Upon leaving school, Prudom managed to gain an apprenticeship as an electrician, and reportedly this was a role that he showed real promise and aptitude in, and could have had a successful career at. He married a girl two years his junior in October 1965, aged 21, and he and his wife Gillian went on to have two children, a daughter in 1966 and a son in 1970.

The year before his son was born, Prudom had enrolled in the TA SAS Volunteer 23rd Regiment that was based in Leeds. He had always been an enthusiast of firearms and the military, and not wanting to be part of a “normal” regiment, Prudom enrolled in SAS 23. He participated in many weekend camps and manoeuvres and was described as a fitness freak, but because he had an apparent dislike of discipline, was told he was unsuitable for the SAS. Bitterly disappointed, Prudom still retained his enthusiasm for a “mercenary” lifestyle. Police who searched his home after the manhunt found several survivalist textbooks – including one called “No Need To Die” – written by a tracker named Eddie McGee! It transpired that Prudom had attended at least one lecture given by Mcgee on the subject of surviving in the wild and living off the land.

Devoted to his family, Prudom worked hard to provide a good and prosperous lifestyle for them. He worked away in the oil fields of the Middle East to provide for his family, but in 1977 his wife Gillian left him and took their children after she had had an affair with a neighbour. They divorced soon afterwards. After the divorce was finalised, Prudom met a girl called Carol Francis, who was half his age, and the couple took up a nomadic lifestyle, drifting around the country from place to place. Both would only occasionally work, with her taking sporadic employment as a waitress whilst he worked periodically on oil rigs. The couple then went to Canada to adopt the same lifestyle, followed by a period in the United States, before returning to the UK and settling down to an existence in a mid terraced house in Leeds, not too far from where Prudom had spent his early years.

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Prudom’s house in Leeds

It was the period spent in the USA that Prudom was able to obtain the pistol that he used in his rampage, a Beretta Model 71 Jaguar, smuggling it back to the UK when he and Carol returned in 1981.

The couple reportedly rowed lots, and after Barry attacked and severely wounded a 54-year-old motorist with an iron bar in January 1982 (the offence that he had not answered the court date for), Carol left him and returned to live with her mother. When Prudom’s name had been released to the media as being wanted for questioning, Carol made this appeal to the fugitive through the media:

 

“Barry, if it is you that the police are looking for at Malton, I would like to appeal to you now to give yourself up, before anyone else gets hurt. So please stop this now. If it is you they are after, I would like to see an end to it now before matters get worse. So listen to what the police are saying, and do anything they say for the good of all”

Police Chief Constable Kenneth Henshaw of North Yorkshire Police issued this statement to the public:

“Under no circumstances should anyone approach this man. He is a dangerous, ruthless, callous individual who will not hesitate to shoot at anyone. Anyone who approaches him is in extreme danger of being killed – he is obviously a trained marksman”

What triggered Prudom to initially kill has never been clearly ascertained, but Prudom’s mind had seemingly snapped after Carol had left him, and he had brooded and fantasized throughout the subsequent months until he had left his Leeds home that mid June, armed and mentally ready to kill. He was never to return.

The inquest that opened in Scarborough on Thursday 7th October 1982 called several witnesses to it, including PC’s Oliver and Woods, Mrs Sylvia Luckett, and several witnesses who had seen the shootings and had encountered Prudom throughout the manhunt. But it was perhaps the evidence given by the Johnson family that best offered an insight into Prudom’s rampage. Mrs Bessie Johnson, who had been held hostage along with her husband and son on the final night of Prudom’s rampage, told how she had been surprised in her kitchen by Prudom, who had pointed a gun at her and said, “You know who I am, don’t you?” She replied that she didn’t, and Prudom had marched her into the sitting room at gunpoint, and tied her and her husband together with string. He had then cooked fried egg and bacon, but had been disturbed by the Johnson’s 43-year-old son. The son was also tied up and Prudom told him:

“You stupid bastard..if you had run the other way I would have shot you.”

Once all three had been securely tied up, and having seen himself on a television news bulletin and learned that a tracker was searching for him, one whom he knew and expressed admiration for, Prudom told the Johnson’s of his exploits over the previous weeks.

Mr Johnson related how Prudom had described the shooting of PC Haigh:

“I was in a clearing and had been asleep all night in the car. This policeman approached me and questioned me, he mentioned something about me hitting a man with a bar in January. He was going to take me in, so I immediately shot him” – Barry Prudom

Prudom then described how he had moved to Lincolnshire and broken into the home of Mrs Jackson and tied her up, but knew that she would be released the next morning when the bread delivery driver arrived. Next, Prudom told the Johnson’s how he had travelled on foot to the village of Girton, where he had broken into the Luckett’s home to steal their car. He claimed that he had shot the Luckett’s in self-defence after George Luckett had pointed a gun at him. He had then fled in their car, the number plates of which he had substituted stolen ones for, and driven up to Bickley Forest, where he got lost. This was the night that Prudom attempted to kill PC Oliver, and it was following this that Prudom made his way to the Malton area, living rough in the forest hide for a number of days. He had emerged from his hide and entered a shop in Old Malton to buy sausage rolls and bread, but had been reported as suspicious by a member of the public.

This was the day Prudom had shot and killed Sgt Winter. He told Mr Johnson:

“I heard one copper shout “Watch it, Dave!”.The policeman climbed a wall and I caught up with him. I thought, “I will have this bugger” and shot him. I feel sorry in a way but not really. He was a policeman” – Barry Prudom

He then untied the Johnson’s hands and told them he would be leaving in a few hours, but Prudom finally left the Johnson’s house at about 5:00am the next morning. He had taken food from their larder, which he perhaps prophetically described as “My Last Supper”, and had armed himself with his pistol and a two foot machete.

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The pistol used by Prudom to kill his victims

Throughout the night, each member of the Johnson family had tried in vain to appeal to Prudom to give himself up, but each time he replied that he would never let the police take him alive. He vowed to take his own life and as many police officers with him as possible before that would happen. He had nearly 60 bullets on his person as a testament to this claim. His final words to the Johnson’ before leaving were:

 

“I am going to die but I will not be the only one. There is nowhere for me to go. Thanks for everything”

Dr Sava Savas, the pathologist who had performed the autopsy on Prudom, noted that Prudom’s feet were badly swollen and bleeding, supporting the view that he had been exhausted and had been kept on the constant move by the manhunt. He also found that although there were 21 separate injuries to his body that had been caused by pellets as a result of police fire, the two main wounds were a shotgun pellet in Prudom’s forehead, and a bullet inside his head that had been fired into the right side that was characteristic of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was Dr Savas opinion that either head wound would have caused instant unconsciousness, but that the more likely cause of death was the self inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of Prudom’s head.

A coroner’s jury supported this, taking just 18 minutes to record a verdict of suicide.

The focus of Prudom’s hatred seemed to have been directed at police, and it seems that his mind had finally snapped. Even if he had gone on the run to avoid what would seemingly be an inevitable custodial sentence for the January 1982 assault, there is no explanation for why he chose to add such an appalling catalogue of murder and violence. He was fit and an experienced outdoorsman, had proved that he was able to evade capture and was skilled at living off the land – he could clearly have gotten away with little or no bloodshed and may never have been recaptured. Yet Prudom proved himself ruthless – cold bloodedly shooting several people and never once just attempting to wound, or warning before shooting. It can be argued that he immensely enjoyed killing, and wanted to go out in some sort of blaze of glory. Yet in his final moments when confronted by the armed police he so wanted to kill, his nerve failed and Prudom took his own life. Following his death, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a Leeds cemetery.

The verdict of suicide brought a close to the case of Barry Peter Prudom, and the manhunt that had paralysed the areas where “The Phantom Of The Forest” had struck with fear. A manhunt that at the time was the largest armed police operation that the country had ever seen, involving over 12 police forces, resulting in 17 days that had gripped the nation.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

The Murder Of Allan Graham

“He just went to the shop, which was perfectly normal for an eleven year old kid, and never came back” – Dennis Baron (Allan’s brother)

Nearly 50 years have now gone by since one of the most infamous unsolved murders in the North-East of England was committed in the winter of 1970. On a bitterly cold January day, an 11-year-old boy disappeared from a street in Newcastle where he had been playing with his friends, and he was not seen again until he was found murdered on farmland just a few miles away the very next morning. Whoever killed him was never caught, and nobody has ever been arrested in connection with his murder. It should be noted that information available concerning the case is rather sparse, and what is available can be contradicting and solicits more questions than provides answers. As usual, TTCE will recount the facts that are known before making any possible analysis that can be made.

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Allan Graham

Allan Graham would have been approaching his 60th birthday this year. He may have married and have raised a family of his own, and he may even have been a grandfather now. But Allan never got that chance, because the 1970’s were just three weeks old when, on the 24th January 1970, he disappeared whilst on an errand visiting a shop in a busy Newcastle street. Reports surfaced, albeit years later, of a man in a van who seemed to know Allan and who drove off with the boy in his van after calling him to get into the vehicle. Allan was never seen alive again, except by his killer.

Like most boys of his age, Allan was football mad and was outgoing and boisterous, being what his half-brother Dennis Baron described as a “lad’s lad”. Although he came from a broken home, living with his mother Mary Wells in Gateshead, Allan was described as being happy and full of life. He had half-brothers some years older than himself that he idolised, and over the weekend of the 23rd to 25th January 1970, Allan and his mother were staying with one of these brothers, Dennis Baron. Dennis was 25 at the time, and lived just four miles away from Allan and his mother, across the River Tyne in the district of Benwell.  Allan regularly visited his brother’s home, and had made many friends in the area.

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The house in Gerald Street where Allan had been staying

Allan was outside playing football with some of these friends that Saturday afternoon, the 24th January 1970, when he was summoned by his mother and told to go and collect some cigarettes from Appleton’s sweetshop and tobacconist, which was located on the end of Gerald Street where Dennis lived. A convenience store stands in the place of Appleton’s now, but the rest of the street has not changed too much since the 1970’s, it remains terraced and well populated. Allan had just 50 yards to travel to the shop, but when he hadn’t returned after 30 minutes his mother was at first cross, thinking the boy had got distracted and had rejoined some type of game along with the other children. Going out to scold him, she was annoyed that Allan was nowhere to be found, and returned back to the house. When hours had passed, during which time darkness had fallen and Allan had not returned for an evening meal, any annoyance was long forgotten and was replaced with alarm. After a fruitless search of the Gerald Street area, and nearby Hodgkin Park, Allan’s worried family reported him missing.

Of course, this was long before the age we now live in, where computers and smart phones are commonplace. Whereas today any missing person appeal can be widespread near instantaneously via social media, and this information is available to read and re-distribute on a wide variety of platforms, a missing person’s appeal in the 1970’s was much more basic. Allan’s family, neighbours and volunteers searched the local area far into the night in a police coordinated operation. A description of Allan was circulated, and police patrols were told to be on the lookout for the missing boy. What began as a missing person enquiry was, however, sadly to take a more sinister and tragic turn just a few hours later.

Callerton Grange Farm stands about 7 miles away from the Benwell district, in a remote location in between the villages of Ponteland and Throckley. A farm worker making an early start at the farm at dawn on the morning of 25th January 1970 made a horrifying discovery. Lying in a water-logged ditch adjacent to Callerton Grange farmland off Stamfordham Road was the body of Allan Graham. He had been strangled. Shaken, the worker abandoned all thoughts of work for that day, and contacted police.

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Detectives investigating Allan’s murder outside Appleton’s sweetshop

What was to be a massive police murder enquiry was launched from that instant. The scene was sealed off, and samples were taken from Allan’s body and the surrounding area. House to house enquiries were made in the Benwell area where Allan had disappeared from, the Throckley area where his body was found, and the Gateshead are where he lived. Allan’s family were questioned extensively, his friends and school friends were spoken to, and his life and background were looked at to try to establish a possible motive.  All known sex offenders within the local area were spoken to, and even a reconstruction of Allan’s last known movements was made just a week after his disappearance, with Allan being played by a policeman’s son.  The reconstruction aired on the day of Allan’s funeral at Gateshead’s Saltwell Cemetery, the 31st January 1970.

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Locals gather as the last known movements of Allan Graham’s life are reconstructed

Police quickly formed the opinion that Allan’s killer knew him, and this wasn’t a stranger abduction. They believed that he was deliberately targeted, and the attack had a mixture of a homosexual and a “vengeance” motive. Believing that the answer to whoever killed him may lay in some overlooked part of Allan’s life or interests, these were examined more closely. Allan’s diary was scrutinised for any clues, and local pigeon breeders were spoken as it was discovered that Allan had a vested interest in pigeons, and knew many of the traders and racers. But all of this led to nothing, no one at the time came forward to say that they knew anything or had seen anything the day of Allan’s disappearance that could help further the investigation. Every possible lead led police to a dead-end.

By July 1970, the investigation was at a complete standstill. No one had been arrested in connection with the murder, and police had no clear suspects despite interviewing hundreds of people and taking thousands of statements. Every lead that police had had been followed up and had lead nowhere, and the investigation remained shelved until 1972, when a separate investigative team reviewed the evidence in a fresh look. This review too proved unsuccessful, and even a £100,000 reward offered in 1974 by the now defunct News Of The World newspaper for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Allan’s killer failed to bring any new information in. Allan’s case joined the annals of UK unsolved murders, and was left subject to periodic reviews for many years.

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Allan’s mother poses with a commemorative portrait of her murdered son. His killer has never been found.

Finally, in 2014, The Newcastle Chronicle newspaper ran a feature over several weeks focusing upon some of the North-East’s infamous unsolved crimes, and Allan’s murder was featured as part of this. It prompted yet another review of the case, by Northumbria Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, and this time, modern policing techniques and advancements in forensic science would be available. But arguably, this served to highlight flaws in the original investigation. Following the newspaper feature, important witnesses who could provide what would have been crucial evidence at the time of the initial investigation came forward with information that, for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained, was not taken at the time.

Allan’s childhood friend Ken Brown, from Arthur’s Hill, contacted the Newcastle Chronicle following the feature to say that he had been playing with Allan and another friend, Dave Bryson, moments before Allan vanished. Ken was to describe Allan going into Appleton’s shop to get cigarettes, and went on to say:

“When he came out of the shop this van was there on the side of the road. There was a man in the driver’s side with the window open. He shouted, ‘Allan get in here now’ or “Come on Allan, get in here now”, and Allan started to run away. This person in the van definitely knew Allan, and the way he shouted at him sort of upset me. It was like he was getting told off. It was very abrupt. We never saw Allan again after that.”

Ken went on to describe the van as being taller than a car, dark blue in colour and having two rear doors and one on either side. The vehicle had chrome front fittings and bumper, and round headlights. The driver of the vehicle was described as being:

“Aged between 26 and 30, of slim build, and with dark hair, combed back-over with a greasy product like Brylcreem. He was wearing a light blue shirt and a donkey jacket. He spoke with a Geordie accent”.

Dave Bryson tragically died in 2001, but his aging father Matthew also came forward to echo Ken’s story. Matthew remembered Dave telling him he had been playing in the street with Allan the day he disappeared, and heard a man shouting his name from a car or van. Matthew said:

“My son used to knock about with him and he played with him on the street. Our Dave was playing with him that day. He was in the shop with him then they went around the corner together and were kicking a ball about. Then he heard a bloke shout at Allan saying: ‘Come on, get in here’. Then he ran off. I think our Dave was the last one to see him alive.”

According to Ken and Mr Bryson, uniformed police officers spoke to both boys on the day Allan’s body was found, and told them that they would call at their homes to take a formal statement from them with their parents present. For reasons unknown, this never occurred. Mr Bryson too assumed that police did not need to speak to his son when no visit materialised.

“The police knew I had been with Allan that day, but not one person actually came to my house” – Ken Brown.

Allan’s surviving family, his brothers Fred and Dennis Baron, were critical of this and the initial investigation as a whole:

“I don’t understand why no one come forward until now. A week after Allan died the police did a televised reconstruction. He was missing for eight hours before he died. Mum was desperate to find out who did it, and was always very sad and frustrated that Allan wasn’t given justice. I only hope now that the police identify the killer before my time is up. What Ken is saying ties in with what we always thought. I still believe it must have been someone Allan knew as he was a lad’s lad and a little fighter so he would have put up a fight if someone tried to get him into a car.” – Fred Baron (Allan’s brother)

This is a very sad crime, not just because it remains unsolved and for nearly 50 years a family has had to live with the constant reminder that the killer of a son and a brother has escaped justice, but because it seems to highlight a very flawed initial investigation. It seems incredulous that such important witnesses were not spoken to immediately and a formal statement recorded, and a description of both suspect and vehicle issued. Had they been, there is a massive chance that Allan’s killer would have been found.

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Fred Baron, pictured at his brother’s grave.

What then, can be ascertained about Allan’s murder? Unfortunately, the absence of clear and detailed information available about the crime as a whole makes this difficult. It is therefore important to understand that the following is in no way definitive – it is speculation based upon the known facts of Allan’s murder. Police theory was that Allan’s killer knew him and vice versa – TTCE is inclined to agree with this. The fact that he went missing from an area that he did not live in and was just visiting suggests that someone knew he would be there that weekend. Gerald Street was, as is now, a terraced and heavily populated street with children playing outside. No one reported seeing Allan being snatched, and a stranger abduction in such an area would bring with it a high risk of being seen or foiled. Conversely, unlikely, whereas a streetwise schoolboy would not be alarmed getting into the vehicle of someone known to them. This would not draw direct attention as there would be no scene or struggle.

Allan was found strangled, and police were inclined to believe that the motive was a mixture of sexual and vengeance. Again, the absence of information makes this difficult to ascertain. It is not reported if Allan was found clothed or unclothed, it is not reported if he was strangled manually or with a ligature, or if there was any evidence of an actual or attempted sexual assault, and if his possessions were still on his person – all points if which clarified would help to confirm or deny these theories and could provide important pointers to provide an insight into the psychological makeup of Allan’s killer. It is very likely that the motive was of a sexual nature – an 11-year-old boy is not a lucrative target for robbery. Nor can it have been an argument over a woman both killer and victim were involved with. Vengeance is a possible motive – but what does an 11 year old boy do to warrant being killed in revenge for? TTCE believes that perhaps not vengeance is a motive here, but possibly Allan had witnessed something that his killer wanted kept quiet? Or perhaps Allan had been groomed by his killer, and when propositioned sexually had refused and caused a scene, and his killer had strangled him in a panic? It would be likely that if vengeance was a motive, Allan’s body would have shown signs of being beaten – there is no report of this, which tends to support the theory of a sexually motivated killing. It is equally possible that Allan’s murder was unplanned and was a spur of the moment crime, perhaps even having been killed accidentally during sexual activity gone wrong? But again, due to the lack of clear report of the crime scene, the state of Allan’s body etc makes these theories pure speculation.

It was reported that the ditch in which Allan’s body was found was waterlogged, and that it had rained throughout the night before his body was discovered. This may have removed any workable forensic evidence, although samples were removed from his body and the surrounding area and were retained up until 2016. However, despite DNA tests using the latest advancements in forensic DNA recovery being performed on these surviving samples, obtaining a DNA profile from these has so far proven unsuccessful.

Police believed initially that Allan had been killed around the area of Gerald Street soon after getting into the van. This seems highly unlikely. It would be too risky an area to strangle someone for risk of detection – it is more likely that Allan was killed near to where he was found. The area his body was dumped is open countryside, so the risk of his killer being disturbed or spotted is minimal. It was also under cover of darkness, which added extra cover for the killer. The location suggests a killer very familiar with the local area – perhaps because it is his home turf? There is of course, examples of the predatory travelling sex killer – the names Robert Black and Brian Field spring instantly to mind – and it is of course possible that Allan was the victim of such an individual – but it is impossible to assign guilt to anyone with such a lack of distinct evidence. If this were the case, and Allan was killed by a travelling sexual predator, then it would be more likely that Allan’s body would have been dumped much further away than 7 miles away (Black for example was known to have dumped victims up to hundreds of miles away from the sites of their abduction).

It seems that the best opportunity to catch Allan’s killer was missed, and that this was at the beginning of the initial investigation. If Ken and Mr Bryson can be classed as reliable witnesses (and there is no reason to suggest that they are fabricating or falsely recollecting their accounts), then there were people who had seen Allan’s likely killer well enough to describe him and his vehicle at the time of his disappearance, and this is information that was not acted upon for reasons unknown. It is incredulous to believe that this wasn’t the information which the initial focus of the enquiry stemmed from – it is surely basic and crucial information to find out and this would surely have come out. Yet if this is true and police never followed it up, then questions must also be asked why it took over 40 years for these witnesses to come forward and repeat this information, despite repeated reviews and re-appeals – and a substantial cash reward being offered? If somebody you know is found murdered, and the crime remains unsolved – then you tend to remember details vividly and take a keen interest. Because the information was received after such a large passage of time, it is rendered largely useless now. Any physical description of the driver is now useless. It is unlikely that the vehicle would even still exist – plus there is no record of any registration number.

This largely sums up how frustrating the Allan Graham case is – a series of constant dead ends and missed opportunities. There are no clear suspects or motive, plus very little known definite facts about Allan’s final movements. A lack of such information means that it is impossible to profile Allan’s killer accurately. He may have been a repeat offender or it may have been his first offence. It may have been sexually motivated or may have been vengeance based. He may have continued to offend prolifically, or he may never have offended again, ashamed of what he had done but too cowardly to come forward and admit guilt. He may be in prison, in hospital, or even abroad. Or he may still be walking the streets of the North-East. The passage of time means that if Allan’s killer is still alive, he would be elderly himself now – of course, if he is even still alive.

What lines of enquiry do detectives have at their disposal now, nearly 50 years later?

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fairlamb, of Northumbria Police Homicide and Major inquiry Team, is leading the review, and said in 2016:

“It was a huge inquiry in 1970. It lasted six or seven months and there were hundreds of people interviewed and thousands of statements taken. But 1970 and 2016 are poles apart in how we investigate. So, we are reviewing what was done then, and what we could do now – it just needs some fresh eyes. We never stop investigating as we could get some new intelligence and we will always look at it. We will be speaking again to any officers who were involved in the original investigation. We are also hoping to speak to other members of the public and Allan’s family again to see if they can recall anything they recall that can help us identify who was responsible for his death.”

Sadly, this came too late for Allan’s mother to see her son’s killer brought to justice, as she passed away in 2001. Allan’s surviving brothers, Fred and Dennis Baron, still hold out hope, however slim, that Allan’s killer can still be found and brought to justice. It seems however, that barring a DNA match or a deathbed confession, whoever killed young Allan Graham will remain as much of a mystery as it has done for the past 47 years.

Anyone with any information concerning Allan’s murder should contact Northumbria police on 101

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Death of the Coventry “Dancing Queen”

“She was found reclining in a chair and was obviously dead from the most apparent glance” – Professor James Webster (examining pathologist)                            

The city of Coventry is the 12th largest city in the United Kingdom, and apart from being known as the place where, in history, Lady Godiva rode naked through the city on horseback to protest against high taxes being levied on the city folk, it is also well known for the mass destruction inflicted upon it during bombing by the Luftwaffe in the Second World War. Indeed, following the most intense bombing campaign of the war on 14 November 1940, so much of the city was destroyed and so much destruction reigned, that Joseph Goebbels coined the phrase “coventried”, which was used by himself afterwards whenever describing similar levels of destruction to other targets. After the war, the city was restored and many families who had lived through began to rebuild their lives. The Mogano family, who lived in the Coventry district of Radford, were one such family.

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Penelope and Carlo Mogano

The Mogano family consisted of 46 year old Carlo Mogano, his 45 year old wife Penelope, and their two sons. Although of Italian heritage, Carlo and Penelope had met on the Isle of Wight, where both had been born and brought up. They had married in the 1930’s, and had moved up to Coventry, where Carlo worked in the Daimler factory. Carlo and Penelope were separated for a while when the house that they lived in was destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. As a result, Penelope and the two children returned to live in their home town of Ryde on the Isle Of Wight, returning to live in Coventry at a new house following the close of the Second World War.  By 1951, the Mogano family had settled in a house at number 7 Holland Road, Radford, and life adopted a “make do and mend” pattern, as was commonplace back then. Carlo had risen to the position of production manager at the Daimler factory by 1951, with Penelope a full time housewife and mother. The couple were respected and thought of highly amongst friends and neighbours, with their interests centering around family life, their garden, and the old style ballroom dancing – of which the Mogano’s were very enthusiastic about and a scene they were heavily involved with.

Monday 18th January 1954 was a bitterly cold winter’s day, and as usual Carlo and Adrian, the Mogano’s youngest son, had come home from work and school respectively for lunch. Penelope had made their lunch, and had planned to visit the couple’s friends, Mr and Mrs Sydney Worrell, to take afternoon tea with them at 3:00pm. Both Carlo and Adrian left the house to return to work and school at 1:45pm. Adrian was late returning home that day, as he had been asked by his mother to collect laundry on his way home from school, but when he did return at 4:50pm, he found both the front and back doors locked. With no answer after repeated knocking, Adrian waited on the doorstep, thinking his mother had been held up at the Worrell’s house. When Carlo arrived home from work an hour later and Adrian was still on the doorstep freezing, father and son were both perplexed, then concerned, and entered the house.

Entering the house, nothing seemed to be in disarray. The kitchen was clean and tidy and all of the crockery had been washed and put away, although there were no signs of any preparation for the families evening meal. The lounge was tidy, with all brasses polished and the fire cleaned out and swept, ready for that evening. When Carlo went through to the dining room, however, he made a horrific discovery. Slumped in a chair, almost unrecognisable, was the body of his wife. Blood covered the entire room, the walls ran with it and the ceiling, floor and easy chair she was slumped in were saturated with it. Penelope had been savagely, almost maniacally, been battered to death – so viciously had she been attacked that the majority of her head had been caved in. Her face had also been horrifically mutilated. A bloodstained 12inch carving knife lay across Penelope’s lap. Shaken and grief stricken, Carlo ushered his son out of the house and called the police.

Police who arrived on the scene found no signs of any ransacking of the property, and nothing appeared to have been stolen. Whilst the body of Penelope Mogano was taken away for a post-mortem, the house was sealed and a forensic examination of the scene began. House to house enquiries got underway, an incident room was set up, and Carlo Mogano was taken into Coventry Police Headquarters for questioning – as the obvious suspect. After a ten hour interview, he was released the following morning – with police satisfied that he was not responsible for the savage murder of his wife. Carlo remained dignified and mystified as to who would want to kill Penelope, and why, and offered police as much assistance as he possibly could.

“There were no secrets between my wife and myself, and she had no particular dance partner other than me. As far as I know she hadn’t an enemy in the world. I think it was impossible that she knew her attacker” – Carlo Mogano

Shaken by such a brutal crime and believing that they were hunting “a maniac”, the Chief Constable of Coventry Police, Edward Pendleton, was quick to summon the assistance of Scotland Yard detectives. Detective Superintendent John Edmunds and Detective Sergeant Ted Williams were subsequently despatched to Coventry to assist and advise on the investigation. Whilst the Mogano’s life and background was looked at in an attempt to establish a motive and/or any suspects, detectives awaited the results of the post mortem.

The post-mortem report on Penelope Mogano was disturbing, and gives a hint as to the exact horror and brutality of the murder. Extracts from the final report are as follows:

“Obviously she had very grave injuries, she was fully clothed and had injuries of more than three types. The total number of injuries was 25. The first were defensive or protective injuries to her hands which she had held up to protect herself. The second type were severe facial mutilations made with an instrument such as a knife and focused around the mouth. This not only severed the lips but served to cut the tongue in half also. The third group of injuries were the most serious and were inflicted by a blunt instrument, most likely a hammer. So great was the damage that she had no floor to the base of the skull. This had caused considerable damage to the brain, and she was almost bled white. This had been a healthy woman, and the cause of death was shock due to multiple injuries, including gross skull fracture and lacerations to the brain” – Professor James Webster (conducting pathologist)

The pathologist reported that there were no signs of any sexual assault, and with no signs of robbery or ransacking, why had Penelope been targeted and killed in such a brutal, horrific way?

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One of the final photographs of Penelope Mogano

The time of death was estimated at being no later than 4:00pm, but Penelope had never arrived at the Worrell’s house for 3:00pm as expected. She was alive when Carlo and Adrian left the house at about 1:45pm, so this gave police a window of just over an hour, during which it was believed Penelope had met her brutal death. Evidence supporting this timeframe was found in the house also. On the bed in the main bedroom, a clean and laundered dress was laid out. When Penelope was found, she was wearing “house clothes covered by an apron”. Her husband was insistent that Penelope, who took pride in her appearance and dress, would never have gone visiting dressed in such a way, nor would she have invited in any caller dressed in such a manner. The scene almost suggested that Penelope was preparing to change clothes to keep her afternoon tea appointment when the killer struck. Yet there was no sign of a break in, and the killer had locked both doors when leaving – so it appeared that Penelope invited her killer in. This left police with three theories: Penelope had been killed by a stranger posing as an official of some kind; Penelope had been killed by a person that she knew well, or Penelope had been killed by a couple, again people that she knew.

Police investigation into Penelope’s life found nothing that would stand out and mark her for someone wanting her dead. The Mogano’s were the height of respectability, and there was no evidence found of either Penelope or Carlo having an affair. Enquiries revealed that the couple’s social life focused mainly around old time ballroom dancing, where they were active members of Radford’s Savoy Ballroom. From the beginning of the enquiry, police focused upon this, believing the key to unlocking the murder would be found in this line of enquiry.  Perhaps a jealous dance partner? All members of the dancing club were spoken to but this advanced the enquiry no further, apart from police learning one thing. In September 1953, Penelope had made steps to change her lifestyle. The Mogano’s had previously been involved in fostering children, and at that time had a foster child living with them. Without any warning, and for reasons that are unclear, Penelope had withdrawn all involvement with the foster services and the child had returned to the children’s home. She had also resigned from the Radford Townswomen’s Guild, of which she had been an active member, giving the reason that she was exhausted from the regular dances she and Carlo attended, and needed to rest in the afternoons. But from December 1953, she had been seen on several occasions leaving the house in the afternoons with a pair of dancing shoes wrapped in brown paper. Carlo, when asked about his wife’s movements, was unaware of these excursions, and was unable to explain where Penelope had been going. Nor could any of her close friends, who were equally mystified. Had she been taking secret lessons from a dance partner or instructor? Despite a widespread appeal, no-one came forward to say that they had been instructing or dancing with Penelope during this time. Where had she been going?

Holland Road 2014

Police searched the house in its entirety, and a thorough search of all open areas and gardens of Radford was conducted for the murder weapon, considered to have been a 2lb rounded head hammer. Drains were examined, ponds were dredged and Radford common was fingertip searched for the item, but it was never found. They did however manage to recover partial fingerprints from the crime scene, but this trail went cold when none of the partial prints were found to match any fingerprints that were held on police files. All local traders and delivery persons in the area were spoken to and eliminated. A check of all known violent local offenders was made, but one by one all of these were ruled out as suspects. Feeling that the person who committed the murder must have done so in a frenzy and with “maniacal force”, police even made checks with all mental hospitals in the county to ensure that a patient had not gone missing on the day of the murder – but this again drew a blank, as no one was reported as being unaccounted for. Police even took the then unprecedented step of compiling a questionnaire that was distributed to more than 1,500 homes in the Radford area. Simple, to the point and effective, it is reproduced here:

  1. Who are regular callers and what is the reason for them calling? Give date and time
  2. Other callers. Give date and time.
  3. Who called on January 18th? Time.
  4. Do you know Mrs Mogano?
  5. Did you see her on January 18th?
  6. Have you seen her with anyone other than her family?
  7. Who calls at 7 Holland Road regularly?
  8. Have you seen a car near 7 Holland Road?
  9. Are you interested in Old-Time dancing?
  10. Are you a member of the Townswomen’s Guild?
  11. Where were you between 2pm and 5pm on January 18th?
  12. Any other information?

It produced very little information. Nobody reported having heard any screams or shouting coming from 7 Holland Road at the crucial time, and nobody had been seen running from the Mogano house in bloodstained clothing. All people who were spoken to could provide alibi’s for the day of the murder. But the questionnaire and house to house enquiries did produce descriptions of two people that police wished to trace.

Reports came in of a man who had called at at least 20 houses in the Radford area on the pretence of being an electrical inspector. He had managed to con his way into several houses, always ones occupied by lone housewives, on the pretence that he needed to check points and switches for sources that may be causing reported electrical interference. Once inside, he would make what some classed as improper, others directly sexual, advances towards these women. He was described as being aged 25 to 30 years old, 5″2 to 5″6 tall, having thick wavy black hair, a full and rosy complexion, having a “nice, musical laugh”, and speaking with a London accent. He was said to be wearing a dirty, dark blue overcoat and a red plaid shirt, with no tie or hat. Reports of this man came in from all over the county, all stating that he had made improper suggestions and advances. Sightings of a person matching this description were reported as being in one of the pubs close to Holland Road, and intriguingly, lurking near bushes near the Savoy Ballroom in Radford. But perhaps most crucially, the man was reported as having called at the home of a housewife at 1:30pm on the day of Penelope’s murder – at a house just 180 yards away from number 7 Holland Road….

The other person police wished to trace was a man who was seen exiting a telephone box in nearby Heathcote Street, just 300 yards away from Holland Road, on the afternoon of the murder. At about 3:30pm, a witness saw a man leaving the kiosk with a makeshift bandage wrapped around his right hand. The bandage was heavily bloodstained. The man waited for a number of minutes after exiting the kiosk, so the witness, who was sat in a parked car nearby, was able to get a good look at him. He was described as being in his mid 20’s, about 5″6 tall, having dark hair and a sallow complexion, and wearing a black overcoat. After a number of minutes, the witness recalled him running off in the direction of nearby Keresley. What was likely the same man was spotted hitchhiking nearby about 30 minutes later by another witness. Some bloodstains were found in the kiosk, albeit more than a week after the murder, but could never be positively identified as being Penelope’s blood. Despite both witnesses trawling through several logbooks of criminal mug shots that police held on file, neither witness could identify the man they had seen.

Neither this man, nor the “bogus electrical inspector” were ever traced or identified.

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Press release following the funeral of Penelope Mogano

By the end of February 1954, the enquiry had stalled. Residents of the area were left scared in their own homes, chilled that someone the police described as “a maniac” was still at large. The questionnaire had only produced a few leads, all of which had been investigated but lead to dead ends. 25,000 statements had been taken and each one gave a solid alibi for the person concerned. No murder weapon had been found, and police were still trying to work out a possible motive for Penelope’s death. It led police to issue a statement saying that they believed the killer had been spoken to already, and that somebody was shielding him or her out of misguided loyalty or affection, out of fear, or perhaps out of guilt? When every lead available to investigating officers had been examined as fully as possible and had still not advanced the enquiry, it was eventually wound down. Although the file has never been closed, it was eventually classed some time later as an unsolved murder and was effectively left on file.

It is easy to sympathize with the police here. With the psychological profiling, HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) computer system that collates all information concerning an investigation so that it is available at a keystroke, and advancements in DNA and forensic science that are investigative tools of today so commonplace, it is easy to overlook the fact that 63 years ago, none of this existed and police had to rely on the “knocking on doors” methods. Due to the lengthy passage of time since Penelope’s murder, the chance of a successful detection of her killer is now minimal bordering upon impossible. The killer would likely themselves be very elderly now, if not dead. Physical descriptions are moot now, and it is unknown if any of the items removed from the crime scene were retained for the possibility of DNA testing using the technology of today. Because it is impossible to ascertain the sex or indeed, number of the killer(s), or a clear motive, it is only the killers psychology that can be examined. Although no fingerprints on file matched ones taken from the Mogano dining room, TTCE believes that this was not the killer(s) first offence – this is a level of violence that is reached. It is easy to dismiss such brutality as “the work of a madman”, but this is unlikely. Although fingerprints were left at the scene, the killer showed enough awareness to be able to be admitted to the house without drawing any attention to themselves or suspicion. They brought and removed a weapon with them, they were also able to leave without being seen, suggesting a focused and organised killer, one likely very familiar with the Radford area, but not necessarily living there at the time. The killer(s) possibly owned or had access to a car also, unique at that time.

What then, was the motive for such a savage killing? Police considered and ruled out several different theories. It was not considered to have been for financial gain, or as part of a robbery gone wrong. Nothing was taken, the house wasn’t ransacked, and a robbery gone wrong would unlikely involve two different weapons. Although the mutilation and violence used is specific and prolific, and suggests someone who hated Penelope, ergo someone that knew her, it is difficult to believe that this as a reason would not have come to light with such an exhaustive in-depth police investigation. No concrete evidence was found to suggest that anyone bore her a grudge, but two bizarre incidents came to light that made police think that the Mogano’s DID have an enemy, perhaps one that stemmed from the dancing circles they were involved in. Just three nights before the murder, the home of Sidney Worrell -who lived nearby to the Mogano’s on Bassett Road and who was a leading figure in the dancing circles the Mogano’s belonged to -suffered an arson attack when person(s) unknown started a fire, using petrol, in his downstairs pantry through an open window. The fire was quickly extinguished and no one was hurt, however. Coupled to this was the fact that three months before Penelope was murdered, person(s) unknown placed petrol soaked rags underneath the bonnet of the Mogano’s car and set it alight. The car was not damaged too severely.

Were the two incidents connected, and was it somehow tied in with the dancing circles? It seems unlikely to have been some sort of grudge concerning dancing – as said before, any grudge or falling out would surely have been noticed by other club members and would have come to light during police enquiries. It is more likely that the two incidents of attempted arson were malicious pranks committed by youngsters out of devilment. Serious, determined arson aimed at a specific target would have been successfully carried out and brutal savage murder is a massive jump. It cannot be said definitively if it was a personal attack – although the severe mutilation and use of more than one weapon would suggest that the killer had targeted Penelope specifically. Police at the time of the initial investigation considered the possibility that the killer was a woman, or part of a couple. There are several aspects of the crime that suggest either as a possibility. Penelope may have allowed a female that she knew into her house because she didn’t recognise her as a threat. This woman may then have carried out the assault – most likely a hammer attack first that would have incapacitated Penelope and rendered her unconscious – then carried out the mutilation and cleaned up, perhaps hiding any bloodstained clothing with an overcoat when leaving. Or it could have been a couple, again that Penelope knew, and the couple could have wielded a weapon each? It is unlikely that anyone in 1954 seeing a couple leaving the murder scene would have associated them with murder. It did not happen – couples did not kill. It took the deeds of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley a decade later to make people aware that indeed, couples DO kill. Of course, with the lack of definitive evidence available concerning the Penelope Mogano case, this must all remain speculation.

Purely because Penelope had not been raped or interfered with, TTCE does not believe that the motive for the killing being sexual should be discounted purely for these reasons. TTCE had a very interesting conversation with retired police officer and published true crime author Chris Clark concerning the case. Chris is the author of the definitive book concerning other crimes committed by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (Chris’ book is reviewed here) and is very approachable and deeply knowledgeable concerning cold cases. Chris offered the opinion during our discussion that a possible suspect in Penelope’s murder is infamous Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel. The crimes of Manuel are well documented enough that recapping them here serves no purpose, but Manuel, who was hanged in 1958, is long suspected to have committed other murders across the UK. He was very familiar with the Coventry area, at one time living there, and was a known sex offender and deviant who was known to use a knife and blunt instruments as weapons. It is entirely possible that a sexual deviant killed Penelope, gaining sexual gratification from inflicting pain and seeing fear, and Manuel would certainly fit this criteria. It is possible that the killer gained arousal and masturbated from seeing the destruction inflicted. Possible, but unfortunately can never be proven. However, TTCE recognises the credibility of Manuel as a suspect very highly.

Whoever did kill Penelope Mogano, and why, remains today as much of a mystery as it did from that fateful day in 1954. Carlo Mogano lived for another 32 years afterwards, never knowing who had killed his wife right up until his death in March 1986. No one has ever come forward to confess to the murder, and no serious suspects have ever been publicly named, nor anyone ever charged in connection with the crime. Frustrating as every line of enquiry seemingly lead to a dead end, it seems that sadly due to the passage of time, coupled with the absence of any clear evidence pointing to any suspects, the murder of Penelope Mogano may forever remain in the annals of UK unsolved murders.

The True Crime Enthusiast

The Savage Murder Of “Dr K”

“She would have been knocked unconscious. Then her killer poured something over the body and set fire to it to kill her. It’s a horrific murder and we are concerned because we are not getting the help from the public which we need.” – Det Supt David Speake (Senior investigating officer, speaking in 1986)

One of the biggest ever murder hunts in the history of West Midlands Police began 31 years ago, and involved the brutal and bizarre slaying of a well-respected Birmingham general practitioner, 53-year-old Polish born Dr Danuta Kaczmarska. It is a savage crime that remains unsolved to this very day, despite a massive enquiry at the time and subsequent re-appeals over the years.

Coniston Close as it appears today

Coniston Close in the Hall Green area of Birmingham has been a middle-class area for many years, filled with spacious houses, several of them being three storeys. It is a quiet residential street, and in 1986, Dr Danuta Kaczmarska owned one of these houses. Danuta was unmarried and lived alone, and was a general practitioner running a thriving surgery in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham with over 4,000 patients on its books. Polish born, Danuta had begun practising medicine in Birmingham in 1971 and by 1985 had built up such a large surgery through her professionalism, caring nature, and impeccable medical record. Danuta, or “Dr K” as she was known to patients and surgery staff, was popular, well-liked and respected.

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The new year of 1986 was just three weeks old when firefighters were called to Danuta’s home on Coniston Close on the afternoon of January 22nd 1986. Concerned neighbours had contacted them after witnessing smoke drifting into their homes sourcing from Danuta’s house. Firefighters who made a forced entry discovered a macabre and disturbing site. Danuta was found in the kitchen of her home. Clearly dead, her body had been set alight and was severely burnt, almost beyond recognition. The kitchen was in a state of disarray and was smoke damaged, but not so much so that firefighters could see that it was severely bloodstained. Danuta’s burns were so severe that a positive identification had to be made through a dental record comparison. She had also been gagged with a tea towel, and left lying on the floor

As a murder enquiry was launched from an incident room at Sparkhill Police Station, the post-mortem on Danuta Kaczmarska was carried out. Cause of death was determined as being from at least seven blows to the head, which had fractured her skull in several places and had probably been carried out by a killer using a heavy blunt weapon that was most likely an axe. She had been gagged with a kitchen tea towel to stifle any screams, and her body then set on fire – although it has never been revealed what accelerant was used to cause this. The murder enquiry got under way with extensive house to house enquiries, a detailed examination of Dr Kaczmarska’s life, relationships and work, and a detailed forensic examination of the scene carried out. But the enquiry was to raise more questions than provide any possible motives or solutions.

For the level of obvious violence in such a savage and horrific murder, surprisingly no one in the vicinity was reported as having heard any screams or sounds of a struggle. No one had been seen entering or leaving the house, and there was no evidence of a break in – suggesting that the killer was either known to Dr K personally, or it was someone who she had allowed access to the house and had no reason to suspect, perhaps posing as a bogus official. The killer had also locked both doors when leaving the scene, and taken the key away – a duplicate key was never found. Also, nothing appeared to have been taken, no cash or valuables were missing. The rest of the house was clean and tidy and showed no signs of any ransacking, plus Dr K’s handbag was found in the kitchen untouched. Bizarrely, two empty champagne flutes were also found in the kitchen – and they had been recently used. There was no bottle found at the scene, but the cork and foil from a champagne bottle were found in the kitchen. Had the killer taken it away when leaving, possibly because it had fingerprints on it?

Police from the outset of the enquiry suspected that Dr Kaczmarska was not targeted at random, and that her killer was someone known to her or who knew of her. However, this was a list of enormous proportions due to the 4,000 patients from her surgery, on top of her family, friends and acquaintances. This theory was supported by information provided by her sister Irena, who spoke to Danuta on the evening of the 21st January and was told by Danuta not to phone back the next day because she had a visitor coming in the afternoon. Who was this visitor? Although unmarried and what could be classed as a “spinster”, the more police looked at her personal life, the more it became apparent that Dr Kaczmarska had almost led a double life.

Police discovered that in contrast to the respectable GP that was well liked and respected by her patients and colleagues, by night she frequented many pubs and bars in some of Birmingham’s seedier areas, socializing with drug addicts, the gay community and the petty criminal element. She was also discovered to be a regular user of contact magazines – the kind used to meet people for a mixture of company and sex. Indeed, for all her professional and confident demeanour, Danuta was described by one police officer who was on the investigating team as being:

“A very emotionally insecure and vulnerable woman who sought love and affection”

Although Dr Kaczmarska was described perhaps too sensationally as a “Jekyll and Hyde” character, was the killer someone from this “Hyde” aspect of her life?

The murder investigation at the time was one of the biggest in the history of the West Midland’s Serious Crime Squad. A surplus of 150 police officers interviewed all of Dr Kaczmarska’s patients, many colleagues, and friends the length and breadth of the country, with more than 6,000 people being spoken to in total. Well publicised newspaper and media appeals were made, appeal posters were published and distributed, and police staged a reconstruction in an attempt to jog any potential witnesses’ memories, with a policewoman re-enacting the last positive sighting of Dr Kaczmarska – walking home from the Hall Green Waitrose supermarket on the afternoon of her death. A televised reconstruction was also featured on BBC’s Crimewatch UK programme, and Danuta’s friends and family offered a substantial £5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her killer. It all led to nothing – despite extensive enquiries and an impassioned appeal to the social circles in which Dr Kaczmarska moved for information, no clear motive for Danuta’s murder has ever been identified. No murder weapon has ever been discovered either.

A former lover and colleague of Dr Kaczmarska, her ex surgery partner Dr Salim Naiada, was arrested and questioned as a possible suspect in her death during the investigation. However, he was eventually ruled out of the enquiry and released without any charges. Also during the investigation, a strange parallel with Danuta’s death was revealed. Nearly four years before her horrific death, in 1982, there was another bizarre death at Dr Kaczmarska’s house. Again involving fire. A long-term close friend of Dr Kaczmarska’s, 40-year-old London solicitor Thomas Gleeson, was found burned beyond recognition in a bedroom, his body being so badly charred that it was near destroyed. Identification was only tentatively made from some shirt buttons and part of a shoe that survived the blaze. A March 1982 inquest ruled that the cause of death was smoke inhalation and a verdict of death by misadventure was recorded. However, as with Dr Kaczmarska’s murder – information available on both cases is so frustratingly minimal that the accuracy of this cannot be ascertained.  It is easy to jump to the conclusion that there must be a connection – the odds of such a bizarre, violent death occurring twice, years apart, IN THE SAME HOUSE and not being connected surely stretch credulity – but police investigated any connection and found no evidence for this, despite the almost incalculable odds. It was another example of the many dead ends that just six months after the murder forced the police incident room to close. Senior investigating officer, Det Supt David Speake said at the time:

“It’s a case which has all the ingredients of an Agatha Christie thriller. We are extremely frustrated. The killer is a cool, calculated, person who covered up all traces and probably believes it is the perfect murder. It has been rather like looking for a ghost who went to the house and then disappeared afterwards. Apparently, nobody saw him or her enter or leave. But we shall never close the file on this case.”

The crime has been re-appealed on numerous occasions over the years, and detectives do remain ever hopeful of a successful resolution due to forensic advancements, or new information forthcoming. Perhaps a conscience will finally get the better of someone and they will come forward with a name or even a confession, or another piece of crucial information will come to light that will help bring Dr Kaczmarska’s killer to justice. But this has not yet happened. What then, is known about the killer? As stated above, information available on this crime is extremely scarce, although it is one that TTCE has been aware of for a considerable period. Due to the scarcity of information available, it is extremely difficult to ascertain anything about Dr Kaczmarska’s killer, instead only being able to make an educated guess.

Dr Kaczmarska’s life was examined in detail by investigating officers, and any immediate suspects were ruled out. But it remains likely that she knew her killer, perhaps from one of the bars she frequented or through one of the contact magazines she had used. Someone who never willingly came forward. As nobody was seen entering or leaving the house, it is impossible to say definitively if the killer was male or female, and no physical description would be available. It is more than likely to have been a male due to the level of violence used, however. A male capable of extreme violence and cruelty almost to the point that one would believe bordered on the maniacal – yet who could think coolly, behave calmly, and who showed levels of forensic awareness. Police found no fingerprints, bloodstains or DNA evidence left by the killer at the scene. The murder weapon and possibly a champagne bottle with fingerprints upon it were removed, and TTCE believes that Dr Kaczmarska’s body was set on fire to remove any forensic evidence possibly left by the killer. The killer was also to restrain and silence Dr Kaczmarska efficiently and without drawing attention, and to then exit without being noticed after the murder. This would also have been within a very short timeframe from leaving the scene due to discovery of the crime – a fire does not have a delay on it! These are aspects to the crime and levels that suggest this was an organised and experienced offender, and this was certainly not a first offence.

What is the motive here? There was nothing reported as being taken, no cash or valuables stolen – yet Dr Kaczmarska was financially well off (her estate after her death was valued at more than £200,000 – a substantial amount in 1986). It does not seem to be for monetary gain or for a simple purpose of robbery. Dr Kaczmarska was not reported as having been raped or sexually assaulted, so a sex crime is unlikely to be a motive also. Indeed, the level of violence involved in the killing suggests that the murder was more of a personal motive and pre-meditated – Dr Kaczmarska’s killer came armed with an axe and possibly an accelerant. The use of fire would also support this motive – surplus to removing any forensic traces, it could have been used to disfigure or defile Dr Kaczmarska further, which would suggest someone with a grudge. It is not reported if Dr Kaczmarska had had sex or not on the day she died – but champagne would suggest a romantic meeting. Was it an argument with a lover she had, or was she perhaps involved in an affair? Was it a casual sexual encounter that she had arranged, or was it possibly someone who had met her through the clandestine circles she socialized in who hoped to take advantage of her status as a medical practitioner as a source of access to drugs? Again, these were all theories that were pursued as lines of enquiry, but that ultimately led nowhere. More questions and theories than answers.

Piecing together what little is known about the case, it appears that Dr Kaczmarska’s killer was a male known to her, possibly a lover or casual sexual partner and certainly someone who she felt comfortable enough with that he knew her home address and she was comfortable enough to be alone in her home with. It is likely that this was a person with a history of offending and violence, but who could appear outwardly “normal”. It is chilling to consider that this person came armed with an axe to commit murder, and was possibly a drug user or someone with a mental illness – although this would not be so debilitating that the person required full-time care. The possibility remains that the killer himself is now dead, or if still alive would be at least middle-aged today. He may now be in prison for another offence, perhaps is hospitalised, or may live abroad or in another part of the country. It is possible that this man had killed before and possibly went on to kill again, with possibly connected cases being the 1985 murders of Violet Milsom in Bristol, and Constance Aris in Cheltenham (both of which have been covered on blog posts on TTCE in the past). Of course, this is mere speculation on the part of TTCE and it is down to the reader to decide the validity of this speculation based on a review of each individual case. Links to each can be found below:

Who Was The Cheltenham Axe Murderer?

Death Of A Kindly Pensioner

It is likely that after such a lengthy passage of time, any advancement in the detection of Dr Kaczmarska’s killer will be because of a forensic breakthrough, which may in turn lead to a DNA database or a familial DNA match. This of course depends on the quality and indeed existence of any items retained from the crime scene that may provide said samples – with the champagne flutes springing to mind as the likely source. Barring that or a confession forthcoming, it is unlikely that the offender will ever face justice. This is a tragic case, and one with as tragic a postscript. Her father, who at the turn of 1986 was already gravely ill with cancer, died just six days after Danuta was murdered. Perhaps the murder of Dr Kaczmarska had caused her father to lose the will to live also? Danuta’s remaining family continue even today to live in torment with the knowledge that her killer has never been brought to justice. Her sister Irena, interviewed by the Birmingham Mail some years after the murder, said:

“I dread the day someone is found because I feel I will probably have to go to court. At the same time, I want the killer to be found. I was knocked for six when it happened. On the night before she died, she phoned me. There was a cooking programme on the television which I wanted to watch and she phoned me in the middle of it. I said I’d call her back and she said don’t call in the afternoon because she had someone coming. I was to call her the day after. Because I was in a hurry to watch the programme I cut the conversation short. That was her killer she was meeting.” 

I’d always had a premonition my sister would die tragically.”

 

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who was “The Beast of Whitworth Park”?

“This man doesn’t deserve to be living. He is a demon” – Stephen Hannaway (Elsa’s son)

Whitworth Park, in South Manchester, is a Green Flag awarded park that was opened in 1890 as an established part of the Whitworth Institute, a memorial to one of Manchester’s most famous sons, famed inventor Sir Joseph Whitworth. Famed for devising the British Standard Whitworth system, the accepted standard for screw threads, Whitworth made a fortune from his life as a celebrated engineer and entrepreneur and upon his death in 1887, he left much of his fortune to the people of Manchester which in turn was used to establish the Whitworth Institute in the grounds of where the park now is. This was taken over by the University of Manchester in 1958 and established as the Whitworth Art Gallery. Aside from its cultural content, the park is a sprawling, picturesque park that is popular all year around with families, dog walkers and joggers. It’s 18 acres skirt the Manchester Royal Infirmary and the University of Manchester student accommodation, known colloquially as “Toblerones” due to their structural shape.

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Whitworth Park as it appears today

But for a period of time following the winter months of 1987, students living in the area became afraid to visit the park, even to go out at night. Because Whitworth Park was the scene in October 1987 of a horrific and savage sex killing that has to this day remained unsolved.

Like many people before her, Elsa Hannaway had dreams of starting a new life far away from her place of birth, the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies. As a teenager in the late 1960’s, she had decided to do just that and made the move to the UK, settling in the Longsight district of Manchester. Elsa was happy here, and over the next 20 years became a mother of five children, and although she had gotten married, had separated from her husband. They had remained on good terms however. Elsa was outgoing and popular, and apart from a minor conviction for theft in the 1970’s, kept out of trouble and instead focused upon her family. By 1984, aged 34, Elsa had became a grandmother too when her 14 year old eldest daughter Joann gave birth to a grandson, Raphael. Elsa doted on her grandson and he in turn doted upon her, and although life was hard with the strains of raising six children, Elsa’s family and the home that all seven lived in in Lydford Walk, Longsight, was her life.

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Elsa Hannaway

Elsa also enjoyed a night out on the town on occasion, a chance to let her hair down and gain a bit of respite from the demands of caring for six children, and the night of Thursday October 29th 1987 had been the first chance that Elsa had had to get out for a while. Elsa enjoyed a drink, but was known to be rambunctious, boisterous and sometimes thought of as a nuisance when she had been drinking. Elsa’s first stop of the evening was the West Indian Sports and Social Club in Raby Street, Manchester’s Moss Side, where she was seen drinking quite heavily and dancing alone, before she moved onto the now defunct Big Western pub, also in Moss Side on Moss Side East Road. Elsa stayed here until closing time, when she then left the pub with a man named Ewart Simon. Simon was later to testify that Elsa had been very intoxicated when they had left, and they had parted ways not long after leaving the pub.

Elsa was then next seen in nearby Quinney Crescent, where she was seen in an inebriated state knocking on several doors and attempting to gain access to a number of early Halloween parties that were occurring that evening. Having no luck due to being too drunk, she then made her way back along Moss Side East Road and returned to the West Indian Sports and Social Club, attempting a late drink. Again, because she had clearly had too much to drink, she was refused, and instead attempted to gain a lift home from a departing customer. However, he told her he was not going in her direction and instead Elsa left to make her own way back, setting off from here at about 01:15am. She was spotted again about an hour later, at 02:15am slowly making her way in the direction of her home along Moss Lane East Road at the junction of Lloyd Street. By this time, Elsa was either in company with a man, or was being closely followed. This sighting is quite near to Whitworth Park, only about 150 yards.

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The now defunct Big western pub in Moss Side

At 07:00am on the morning of Friday 30th October, a jogger making his usual early morning training run around Whitworth Park made a shocking discovery. He discovered Elsa’s battered and naked body lying in undergrowth about 100 yards from the entrance of the park. She was alive, but very barely. Shaken, the jogger summoned police and an ambulance, which arrived swiftly and rushed her to hospital. Surgeons battled for six hours to save her, but it was too late to save Elsa, who died later that day without regaining consciousness.

The terrible news was broken to Elsa’s children, and her eldest children were left to try to hold the family together, whilst Elsa’s family and friends rallied around. Meanwhile, a huge police investigation was launched, with a team of 125 detectives led by Detective Superintendent Arnold Beales hunting for “The Beast of Whitworth Park”. Immediate and obvious suspects, such as Elsa’s estranged husband and Ewart Simon were immediately questioned and ruled out. Intense enquiries in the local community helped police to pinpoint Elsa’s last known movements, which are recounted above. But there was a missing hour between sightings of Elsa – from 01:15am to 02:15am. Where was she in this hour, and had she met her killer in this timeframe?

“The attack was sickeningly severe. I will not rest until we have our man. It was an appalling attack by a very violent man who must be caught” – Det Supt Arnold Beales (speaking in 1987)

Investigators were shocked and appalled at the ferocity of the crime – Elsa was found to have been savagely attacked, in the best guess of police by being brutally beaten unconscious by the killer’s bare hands and feet. It was so ferocious an attack that Elsa had been left with devastating internal injuries, severe brain damage, and had even had a tooth kicked out. She was then dragged 100 yards off the street into the darkness of Whitworth Park, where she was stripped naked and savagely raped and beaten further. Her killer then left her to die in the cold and the darkness. It appeared to be primarily a sex crime, as Elsa’s handbag was found amongst her pile of discarded clothes nearby to her body. However, a six inch gold chain that she was wearing around her wrist that evening was found to be missing. An appeal for this chain was widely made, but it was never found. What was also discovered, amongst the pile of clothing, was a man’s Sekonda watch with a broken strap. Had Elsa pulled it off her attacker whilst trying to defend herself?

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Press release following the murder

The crime created a blanket of fear amongst Manchester’s student population, many of whom were left too frightened to be alone outside at night, and many self imposed curfews were invoked by the sizeable female student population, who went out in groups if they did at all at night. Although the crime was headline news and was very widely publicised, after the initial flurry of information had been received investigating officers soon found themselves hitting a wall of silence. The area was one that still retained, like many other similar areas of the time, a dim view of a police force that they considered racist and hostile towards the largely ethnic community. Many of the community that investigators enquiries were focused upon were in turn openly hostile and distrusting of the police, and bore a cynical view of police intention and commitment towards catching Elsa’s killer. The following statement reflects this:

“One teenager asked me did we really try that hard when the victim was black. It is a sad view but one that makes us more determined than ever to succeed on this enquiry” – Murder squad detective

As a result, it is possible that not everyone who could have provided crucial information at the time did come forward. Several people who had been in the vicinity of the park did however come forward, and it was one eyewitness whose information provided police with the strongest lead that they were to use.

Patricia O’Laughlin had also been out that night, but unlike Elsa, had managed to get a taxi back home. Patricia lived very near to Whitworth Park, and sometime after 02:45am she had just got out of the taxi when she saw what she was to describe later at the inquest into Elsa’s death. Patricia saw a West Indian couple arguing a short distance away on a footpath leading into the park, a couple that police were convinced was Elsa and her killer. Patricia told the inquest that she saw the man grab the woman from behind in a bear hug type grip, and then pinion her arms to her sides. Not wanting to get involved in what she believed was a domestic argument, Patricia walked off, but looked back to see the man stood over the woman, with the woman on her hands and knees loudly moaning, “Oh my god”. The man was described as being in his early 20’s, West Indian with a Rastafarian appearance, 5″8 to 5″10 tall, stubbly bearded with dreadlocked hair, and wearing a knitted hat with multi-coloured red, green and gold circles. An artist’s impression of this man was created and widespreadly appealed, and is reproduced here

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Is this the face of Elsa’s killer?

What was very likely the same man was seen fleeing from the park at about 03:10am. He had a panicked look upon his face, and ran off at high speed out of the Oxford Road side of the park, before disappearing in the vicinity of Hathersage Road. This is the side of the park to the right from where Elsa’s body was later found.

This man was never traced, and never came forward.

Despite all efforts by detectives, Elsa’s case soon came to a standstill, and took its place as part of the sad number of murders that remain undetected in the UK. Police were left with the feeling that someone in the community knew who Elsa’s killer was, but because there was such a high disregard for the police in that area, and because the community perceived the police as being racist, the feeling that that high feeling of disregard had caused the community to close ranks and effectively shield the killer remained.  This undoubtedly hampered the investigation, as police tried expressly hard to catch Elsa’s killer and were unfairly blamed as doing nothing. They utilised the local and national press and television to keep Elsa’s name at the forefront of people’s minds, even going so far as to air an appeal on an illegal Moss Side radio station named IRS Radio. It was hoped that the appeals may prick the guilty conscience of the killer or of someone shielding him, but it was in vain. What didn’t help get the community on side was the fact that government officials raided the station just a few weeks later and closed it down.

Today, Elsa’s murder remains one of the unsolved cold cases that Greater Manchester Police have on their books. Her children have all grown up and have families of their own now, with even her beloved grandson Raphael having a son of his own now. But the entire family still live through each day remembering the terrible day that Elsa was taken from them. In an interview with the Manchester Evening News in 2016, Elsa’s eldest daughter Joann, now a mother of three herself, described the day that she and her siblings learned their mother was dead, and how she feels that Elsa’s murder has now largely been “forgotten”.

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Joann Hannaway

“Raphael even called her “mummy”. When news of the murder was broadcast on Granada TV that night, little Raphael pointed at the screen and said ‘there’s mummy’. That broke everybody’s heart. I’ll never forget that. Obviously there is someone out there who would know who’s done it or who knows something. I think it’s really sad after so many years that it’s just been left. She’s been forgotten. I don’t think she should be forgotten. I don’t think anybody should die on their own like that. To me it was a pointless waste of a life” – Elsa’s daughter, Joann (speaking in 2016).

But cold case detectives in 2016 decided to undertake a full forensic review of the case, in the hope that some breakthrough could be made even after the passage of so many years.

TTCE believes that by today’s standards, the best chance to be able to find Elsa’s killer would be by the discovery of any workable DNA samples from the items retained from the crime scene. It wasn’t concentrated on at the time, as DNA profiling was still relatively in its infancy. Instead, the focus of the investigation was a more old fashioned knocking on doors approach. There are no reports of detectives recovering any samples such as blood or semen from Elsa or the crime scene at the time, possibly because the offender may have used a condom and then taken it away from the scene with him. With technological advancement in DNA profiling, it is today possible that any item of Elsa’s clothing, or the Sekonda watch found at the crime scene, may produce enough DNA samples to make a workable profile – albeit depending if these items have been retained for 30 years, and if so, in condition that makes testing for such samples possible. This remains a better and more realistic hope for evidence rather than an eyewitness coming forward 30 years later. As 30 years have passed, the artist’s impression of the Rastafarian man (who it should be pointed out, is the most likely but not definite killer) is now largely moot. It was a generic enough impression, considering the largely ethnic area that Rusholme and Moss Side was at the time, to not allow the killer much fear of being recognised from it. And of course today, the person – if he is of course still alive – will have aged and would be middle aged now. He may have even moved out of the area.

The initial investigation in 1987 looked at and ruled out any persons of interest in Elsa’s day to day life as possible suspects, but this is not to say that she was unknown to her killer. It is possible, indeed likely, that Elsa’s killer had met her earlier on that evening. This could have been in either of the pubs, or at one of the properties holding parties that she had been turned away from. Both Ewart Simon and the customer that Elsa had tried to get a lift home from were eliminated as suspects, and neither reported her as seeing her with any other men that evening. But perhaps someone who police never found noticed her, and seeing her walking home afterwards, joined her? She was seen at about 02:15 nearby to Whitworth Park in the company of a man – was this Elsa’s killer? It is likely. It does not appear to have been a premeditated crime – the amount of violence used instead suggests a heated argument that got out of hand. Possibly someone attempted to persuade Elsa to have sex and was refused, which then led to an argument and ultimately, to her death? It is most likely that this was a drink fuelled crime. No weapon or restraint was used in the attack, no attempt was made to hide the body, and Elsa’s killer did not shy away from attention, being involved in a heated discussion with her that was heard and witnessed. It was also only a short distance into a public park in a very urban area of Manchester. This does not sit as the work of a calculating and organised sexual predator. Instead, Elsa was beaten to death in an orgy of violence. A spur of the moment crime.

This is not to suggest though that this was the killer’s first sexual offence. It is likely that this man had a history of previous offending, possibly previous sexual offences but most certainly for violence or offences committed under the influence of alcohol. A person does not rape and batter a woman to death as their first offence. Police at the time became convinced that Elsa’s killer was the same man responsible for two previous rapes in the park, and if this was the case it would certainly support this theory. TTCE believes that the offender was certainly local to the area at the time, and was very familiar with the Whitworth Park area, therefore should certainly be considered as the prime suspect for the previous rapes. The age of the suspect in the artist’s impression, and the locale of the attack, suggests that he could quite possibly have been a student. He may have also left Manchester upon cessation of his studies, and so avoided the police dragnet. Or he may have been spoken to at the time and mistakenly ruled out of the enquiry.

It seems quite tragic that mistrust and a sour opinion of police may have contributed to this man evading capture for so many years and helped flaw and taint the investigation. This was a despicable crime, one that broke up a family and still to this day shows the effects on Elsa’s family and friends, who desperately want the crime solved so that they can gain some form of closure.

“She was 37. She was still young and able-bodied. She missed out on numerous grandchildren. It’s sad. It would be nice if somebody turned around and said ‘I remember and I need to say something’. Then she can be rested. There’s no way no-one knows nothing. It’s impossible. But some communities stick together and don’t want to say anything. It would be a big weight off my shoulders and my brothers if something came out of this. It’s been nearly 30 years. The person who did this needs to come forward and give the family some closure. It’s been a long time.” – Elsa’s daughter, Joann.

Links to some of the press articles at the time of Elsa’s murder can be found Here

Anyone with any information concerning Elsa’s murder should contact Greater Manchester Police using the 101 service, or alternatively by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

 

The True Crime Enthusiast