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Who was “The Grantham Strangler”?

“The motive was not one of burglary or theft. The only motive was to go to the house and sexually assault and kill Julie,” –  Det Chief Insp Graham White (Lincolnshire Police, leading the hunt in 1994)

Grantham is a large market town to the west of the A1 in the English county of Lincolnshire. Intensely populated, it is a town of note. It is famed as the birthplace of many historical figures that will be familiar to the reader, for example the first female UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sir Isaac Newton, serial killer Beverley Allitt, and former Worlds Strongest man Geoff Capes. It is also famed for being the first place outside of the city of London to recruit and train women police officers, and the site where the Mallard broke the world speed record for steam locomotives on 03rd July 1938. But Grantham does have a dark cloud in its history, for in 1994 it was the site of one of the most perplexing murders in British criminal history, a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

Julie Pacey

Monday 26th September 1994 should have been an ordinary day in the lives of the Pacey family from Grantham. The Pacey family consisted of 39 year old self employed plumber Andrew, his 38 year old wife Julie, and their two children Helen, 14; and Matthew, 11. The family lived in a respectable four bedroom house on Grantham’s Longcliffe Road, a built up, well populated affluent area, with well kept houses and gardens. The Pacey’s were by all accounts a happy family, popular and outgoing, and well liked with lots of friends. Both Andrew and Julie were from the Grantham area born and bred, and still had the majority of their families living close by. They had been childhood sweethearts and had been married for 18 years. The summer holidays had not long ended, and even by 26th September 1994 it was still warm and sunny. Andrew had left home early that morning to undertake a plumbing job at a housing development on the other side of Grantham, and the Pacey children had both left to go to the local secondary school where they were pupils. Julie did not have a full time job, as she had been a homemaker whilst her children were young. However, now they were growing she had elected to work part time in a job that could fit around the children being in school. She worked part time as a helper at the day nursery located in the St Peter and Paul nursery on Trent Road, meaning that she could always be home in time for her children getting back from school. Most days, Julie minded the daughter of a neighbour after school also because the girls’ mother had to work. Every day in fact, except a Monday.

At 4:15pm that Monday, Helen Pacey arrived home and after walking through the door, called out to her mother as was her usual custom. No answer. Helen called again to no answer, and after ascertaining that her mother’s car was in the driveway and that she was not downstairs or in the back garden, went upstairs to look. Trying to push open the bathroom door, Helen was met with resistance. It took considerable force, but the young girl finally managed to prise the door open and discovered her mother laid out behind the door. Thinking her mother had taken ill and collapsed, Helen tried frantically to wake her and revive her, and when this failed dialled 999. Paramedics arrived and fought in vain to revive Julie, but to no use. It was only when the polo neck of the black sweater that Julie was wearing moved down did paramedics see an ugly looking ligature mark around her neck, and they realised that she had been strangled.

This had now become a murder enquiry.

Police guard Julie Pacey’s home as investigators move in

“There were no signs of a break-in so we have to assume that the killer either walked in or Julie let him in. Probably Julie was surprised in the bathroom, yet nothing in the bathroom or the bedroom was disturbed. There were no bruises on her body and no other marks except where the ligature had been. This man probably opened the front door, walked up the stairs, strangled his victim and left.” – DCI Graham White

The scene was preserved as best as possible, and police were contacted immediately. Upon their arrival, the context of the scene could be taken in fully – a scene that may have been misinterpreted by Helen. Julie was lying face down on her bathroom floor, with her tights and underwear around her knees. She had been viciously sexually assaulted. However, there were no signs of a struggle and barring the ligature mark around her throat, Julie showed no signs of being beaten or having been involved in a struggle. Her upper clothing was undisturbed and her long, well manicured fingernails were undamaged.  Scene of crime officers could find no evidence of any break in to the property – the windows were all closed and the back door was locked from the inside. The front door was open, but Helen could not remember for sure if she had opened the door with her own key, or it was already unlocked. There was no signs of any ransacking to the house, indeed, it was as spotlessly tidy as it usually was. Julie’s handbag and purse lay untouched on her bed, and the only things seemingly out of place were a half drunk cup of coffee on the bedside table, and an empty chocolate bar wrapper which was found on the floor beside the bed. What was missing, however, was a very distinct watch that Julie wore that had been bought from a Paris holiday just two months before. It was an expensive Luc Desroches watch, of which there was not another one like it in the UK.

An identical watch to the one taken from Julie

The murder hunt, led by Detective Chief Inspector Graham White, began with house to house enquiries in Longcliffe Road and the surrounding estates, and a fingertip search of the house, gardens and surrounding areas was undertaken for a possible disposed murder weapon. Whilst this was ongoing, other officers began looking into Julies life and background. In the majority of murder hunts, investigating officers tend to begin with by examining the victims background and life working outwards, attempting to find anything that can point to a possible motive for murder. Usually something will be found that will provide a tangible lead to the killer. But an examination of Julie’s background revealed nothing – she was a devoted wife and mother, loved by her family and massively liked by her friends and neighbours. Enquiries revealed nothing to suggest that Julie was involved in an extra marital affair, or had anyone wishing her harm. Andrew Pacey was ruled out as a suspect in his wife’s murder almost immediately – it is common for a close family member to be considered a suspect in a murder investigation, but Andrew had a solid, corroborated alibi for the time Julie was murdered. Neighbours reported seeing or hearing nothing out of the ordinary. The Pacey home was situated next to a patch of undeveloped scrubland popular with dog walkers at the time, but no one was found who had seen or heard any disturbance, screams or sounds of a struggle.

“You would have thought someone would have seen him arrive or leave or just hanging about – but no one saw anything” – DCI Graham White

Retracing Julie’s steps on that fateful Monday, detectives found that she had gone to the nursery to assist as usual that day at 10:00am, and had left there at around 2:00pm. Julie’s parents, Keith and Joy Wilkinson lived just a scant two miles away and Julie had decided to drive and visit them briefly, which they confirmed. She did not however stay long, because witnesses were found who knew Julie and saw her window shopping in Grantham town centre at about 2:30pm that day. She was also seen by neighbours parking her Audi in the driveway of the Pacey home at about 2:45pm. But there was suggestion that Julie may have made another short trip out after this –  a witness who knew Julie came forward to say they were adamant that they had seen her driving back towards her home at 3:10pm that Monday. Had Julie made a further trip out that day? Where she went on this final journey has never been ascertained. She then returned home, and this must have been shortly before she was murdered – there is a window of just over an hour from Julie last being seen alive to her body being discovered. There was evidence to suggest that Julie had come in from work as usual – her turquoise nursery overall was found hanging in its usual place on the back of the bedroom door. She had made a cup of coffee and eaten a chocolate bar – the evidence of this was found in the bedroom and the wrapper matched other bars found in the kitchen cupboard. Julie then either began retouching her make up or removing it – make up items including nail polish remover were found on the bed alongside her handbag. It must have been just then that Julie either let in her killer, or he let himself in and attacked her, most likely in the bathroom. She was then savagely raped and strangled with a ligature – believed to be something like an electrical cable or a flex that the killer took away from the scene with him. The murder weapon has never been found.

Who was “Overalls Man”?

Enquiries did lead detectives to a man they wished to eliminate, a man who has never been traced and who remains the chief suspect in Julie’s murder. A woman named Mrs Mair Thomas was getting into a taxi just a short distance from Julie’s house up Longcliffe Road at 3:10pm that Monday afternoon. A man stepped out into the road directly behind the taxi, causing a passing car to brake sharply. The driver of this passing car was Julie, and Mrs Thomas saw her wave in apology to the man and then continue driving, before indicating into her driveway just a hundred yards further down. The man had been walking away from the direction of Julie’s house, but following the near miss then turned and retraced his steps. He was described as being stockily built, mid forties and wearing blue overalls and a checked shirt, with very prominent, extremely red cheeks in what would be described as “ruddy faced, with an outdoor complexion”. Who was this man?

Police sat up and listened when Julie’s children recounted a tale of an encounter that their mother had told them that she had had on the Friday before she was murdered which tallied with this sighting. Around 3:30pm that Friday afternoon, Julie had been alone in her house and was vacuuming upstairs when the doorbell rang. Expecting that it was the neighbours daughter that she minded after school, Julie shouted down for her to enter. Instead, she found a scruffy man standing in the hallway. He asked her for directions to another road on the estate and then left, passing the neighbours daughter as he was leaving. This man matched the description of “Overalls Man” exactly, even down to the vivid red cheeks – which was corroborated by the neighbours daughter also.

The estate bordering Longcliffe Road was having lots of building and renovation work done at the time, and detectives believed at first that this man was one of the many builders and workmen on the estate. Enquiries were made, but soon drew a blank. He had not called at any other houses in the area, nor was he part of any of the workmen working on the estate. But he was seen around Grantham, however. What was likely the same man was also seen in a park in Grantham town over the weekend before Julie’s murder, and he was also seen in a shop in the town centre the day after Julie’s murder. In the shop, he stood out by having an aggressive attitude and standing too close to the shop assistant.

This man has never been traced.

The crime was reconstructed and appealed on Crimewatch UK, compromising what was known about Julie’s movements on the day she was murdered, and including the encounter with “Overalls Man” on the previous Friday. Although several calls were received with people offering different information, it never led to the identity of “Overalls Man” being discovered, or any information that could point detectives closer to identifying Julie’s killer. Although never closed, the investigation remained at a standstill for many years, albeit with regular reviews. But by mid 2015, DNA Technology had advanced to such a point that detectives were now able to obtain a full DNA profile of the killer from samples removed from the bathroom in 1994. Unfortunately, this profile did not match any samples held on record on the National DNA database. But undeterred, armed with this police decided to issue a fresh appeal, again using Crimewatch. The original reconstruction was shown as part of a re-appeal on the programme in July 2015, and several people rang in giving the name of a 53 year old man called Steve Watson as matching the description of “Overalls Man”. Police visited Steve Watson and questioned him, and took a DNA sample from him.

Steve Watson was the actor who had played “Overalls Man” in the original 1994 Crimewatch UK reconstruction. His DNA sample did not match, and he was released without any charge.

Steve Watson – Left in 1994 as he appeared in the Crimewatch UK reconstruction; and right, as he was in 2015

What then, can be said about Julie’s killer? It seems very likely that Julie was a deliberate target – she was a very attractive slim blonde woman, and would have turned heads. It is also likely that this was a focused sexually motivated killing rather than an opportunistic rape on top of a robbery. Sex for the sake of sex could have been obtained with any victim – for example a dog walker or a schoolgirl walking home. This was a sex killing in a suburban home in the middle of the afternoon – it is a high risk locale and time of offence – and to go to such risk suggests that there is a very specific target. TTCE believes it was Julie. It was a very premeditated crime and showed signs of organisation – the killer managed to commit murder in a suburban home in the middle of the day without being seen or heard. He brought and removed the ligature used to strangle Julie, he managed to assault and restrain her unheard, and was able to access and egress the scene without any witnesses. Yet he left a DNA sample at the scene – it is not reported as to the source of the DNA (blood, saliva, semen), and took massive risks to attack and murder Julie in her own home. TTCE believes that this man has somehow been missed in the initial investigation, there is a link here somewhere, however small.

TTCE believes it possible that the person who murdered Julie had possibly stalked her, or in the very least watched the house over a period of days to learn her movements. It is unlikely to be weeks because this would likely have been noted in such a closely knit neighbourhood. This theory is strengthened by the fact that at any other day except a Monday, Julie’s neighbours daughter would have been at the house at any time after 3:15pm. Coincidence? Or forward planning? TTCE also thinks that the Friday visitor is the killer and this was either a trial run to see if he could gain access under a ruse, or he was planning to rape and kill Julie there and then and his nerve went. If this scenario is likely then this person would have spent the weekend mentally preparing for his next opportunity, which would have been Monday. It is also possible that the overalls were a form of disguise to blend in and camouflage himself amongst the other workmen and builders working nearby.

It is very likely that “Overalls Man” is the killer of Julie Pacey. He is certainly the prime suspect, and it stretches credulity that anyone who innocently went to ask for directions would not have come forward to eliminate themselves. Nor is it likely that the person could not have seen any publicity about the crime and failed to come forward because of this. And would someone really stop and ask for directions at a house, rather than stop someone on the street? Or why not call at a shop to ask? No, it is likely that Julie was the definite target. It is also likely that Julie’s watch was taken as a trophy by the killer. It was expensive and unique, yet has never shown up anywhere since her murder. No other jewellery was taken, nor any signs of ransacking or anything of value stolen, supporting the theory of the watch being a memento. It is unlikely that this is the only crime ever committed by this man – it showed a certain level of organisation and was executed well enough to suggest that this person has offended before. Indeed, this man likely has a history of sexual offending, possibly voyeurism, rape or indecent assault.

Because of the passage of time, any physical description of this man will now be largely rendered moot. He will have aged, his appearance may have changed drastically – he may even be dead. Yet, as shown with police being led to the door of Steve Watson – that description still triggers people’s memories even after so many years. It is unlikely that this man has never offended again after Julie’s murder – perhaps he has become more polished and refined, he just has never yet been caught. He certainly hasn’t been arrested for any offences from 1995 onwards. And unless he commits another crime and is caught, or a match with the DNA sample police have of Julie’s killer is made through a familial DNA match, he will likely remain free. Police are not giving up though, nor are Julie’s family – a husband who has had to grieve for more than two decades, and a son and daughter who have grown into adulthood themselves now without having their mum there.

Anyone having any information concerning the murder of Julie Pacey should contact Lincolnshire Police using the 101 number, or alternatively Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who is the “M25 Animal Killer”?

Volunteers display a reward poster for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender

As expressed last week on Twitter, this week finds a bit of a different blog post from TTCE. Different, but no less shocking or important. It differs because to begin with, it is arguably the most widely publicised case TTCE has featured to date. It is also very current, indeed, it’s consideration as a serial case only having its genesis in October 2015. And the victimology differs from anything featured on TTCE to date, because the victims in this case are household pets – mainly cats, although wild animals have been targeted as well.

SNARL (South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty) are a South Norwood, London,  based animal charity that came to fruition in 2014 after the founders, Boudicca Rising and Anthony Jenkins had spent many years unofficially rescuing and finding homes for animals in need. For such a localised charity, SNARL has, however, found itself propelled into national attention in the past couple of years. It is SNARL themselves who, partly to their locale and partly to the passion and commitment of the founders, that are leading the hunt for a deeply disturbed individual who has been brutally slaughtering animals in the most horrific of ways. The press have christened the offender “The Croydon Cat Ripper”, but as the offender has escalated in his offending, perhaps a more fitting moniker and one that is preferred as more factually accurate by SNARL is the “M25 Animal killer”. The majority of the attacks, more than 200 in number, have taken place within a catchment area of here. But attacks attributed to this offender have been reported as far north as Manchester and as far south as Brighton and Portsmouth. The offender shows no signs of abating, and chillingly, seems to be becoming bolder and more prolific in his slaughter. This individual needs to be caught and prosecuted as soon as possible, before animals are not enough for him to kill and the offender progresses to a human target.

Tony Jenkins and Boudicca Rising, founders of SNARL and the leaders of the hunt for the offender

Boudicca was happy to be contacted by TTCE earlier this week, and was very informative when asked to explain the modus operandi of the offender, how SNARL deals with cases reported to them, and the actions that should be taken in the event that someone should find a carcass, or witness someone acting in a suspicious manner with an animal. She also provided a very useful and comprehensive chronology of the offences so far.

SNARL began investigating in October 2015, but it is possible that the offender began slaughtering animals long before, perhaps as far back as 2008. Unfortunately, many of the carcasses before SNARL began investigating may have been disposed of, with the mutilations being mistaken for the work of other animals. There are far too many cases to list individually here, but a general modus operandi of the offender is as follows.

Typically, the offender will target cats – this has been the bulk of the victims, but rabbits, foxes and birds have also been targeted. All of the animals are striking looking and are in a good condition, in that they clearly are a loved and cared for pet. Not many stray Toms are targeted here. The cats are then enticed – often using raw chicken (which has been found in the stomachs of many of the feline victims by autopsying vets) – and are then killed by blunt force trauma. This was thought to be as a result of being run over at first, but is also possible that the animals are either thrown against a wall, clubbed or “knee dropped”, which kills or paralyses them. The animals are then horrifically mutilated, often beheaded and de-tailed. Sometimes a combination of both, sometimes one or the other, sometimes the animals are cut in half, sometimes the limbs or paws are removed. The bodies are then left on display where they will provide maximum shock effect – this has been in close proximity to schools, in the owners gardens or on their driveways, even underneath their bedroom windows. In many of the cases, the heads and tails are never found. Often, the offender will return to the dump site days or even weeks later, to deposit body parts to further shock. The bodies are always significantly posed as well. The offender is believed to use a sharp bladed weapon for the mutilations, which are very precise. Typically, the offender is specific in the mutilation, which according to Boudicca makes it able for SNARL to be able to recognise the offenders handiwork. Sadly, they have become quite polished at this by now. They have been able to link at least 180 slaughtered cats, and 40 foxes and fox cubs as the work of this killer.

A newspaper article shows just some of the locations as far afield as to where the offender has struck

The majority of attacks have been focused around the south east of the UK, typically the Greater London area – but there have also been confirmed attacks as far afield as Manchester, Birmingham  and Brighton with animals being found with identical wounds to the ones the offender likes to leave. SNARL have also reported an escalation in the offending, both in the mutilation which is becoming more extreme, the number of reported cases, and an increase in the risk taking by the offender. In the words of one of the vets that SNARL has in its employ to autopsy the poor creatures, “the offender is getting better at mutilating”. There have also been cases where the offender has killed the animal in the back of the owner’s garden – and has spent considerable amounts of time at the scene. Whereas it has been difficult to pinpoint a time of death, or a time that the offender favours killing, there have been cases where this has occurred early in the morning, and the bodies have been left in ever increasing public places. This is an offender escalating, becoming bolder and more ferocious.

Many theories have been examined as to why the offender does what he does. Gang initiation rituals and black magic ritual have all been suggested and discounted. No links between any of the pet owners have been discovered, for example delivery drivers from a company that they may have had, or workers doing repair work at their houses that they may have had in common. None have been found to have anybody who disliked them enough to cause such sickening harm and upset. No, it seems that the offender chooses animals at random out of pure sadism. This random choosing seems more likely because often, the animals are placed back not quite at their home – but perhaps on a nearby driveway or across the road from where they lived. This suggests that the offender doesn’t know the owners and chooses animals at random, working on a basis that a cat will never stray far from its home. If they were deliberately targeted, then the remains  would be left at the correct address to cause maximum shock and upset. He chooses cats and wild animals because they are the most readily available. Sadly – what is more natural to do that let a cat have freedom to roam around outside? He has never attacked dogs or horses – at least not to the knowledge of investigators – these are larger, more dangerous animals and ones that are not as readily available to entice and kill as cats are.

There is now a substantial reward offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender

It has sadly taken great time, cost and effort for SNARL, but they are finally managing to work in conjunction with both the RSPCA and the Metropolitan Police now, and the hunt for this individual has a name now: Operation Takahe. But the hunt is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There is no physical description of the offender, no discernible pattern to the attacks in date or time, no connection between the owners, and often the animals are not discovered until they have been dead for considerable time – ensuring the already near impossible trail is already cold. Several of the animals have also been checked for DNA traces in the possibility that they may have scratched the offender – but this has so far drawn a blank.

So what then, is known about the offender? It should be noted that the following should not be taken as definitive, this is a working hypothesis based upon what can be estimated about the offender, through the offences. Nor are any of the following observations intended to sensationalise the offences. For the same reasons, although there are graphic images available of the offenders work through searching, TTCE does not wish to cause offence and upset for any readers or any of the pet owners involved. Therefore, no images of the kind will be reproduced here.

It is very likely that the offender is male. SNARL believes that this is the case due to the mutilation in some cases requiring considerable strength. TTCE is inclined to agree with this, so for purpose here will refer to “him” using the masculine tense. He is likely to be no older than early to mid 30. Again, this is not definitive but is an educated guess based on the following reasoning. He is likely to be older than teenage because the geography of the attacks suggests that he is very mobile, able to travel and can fund travelling. TTCE has estimated that he is no older than early to mid 30’s, an age range that the investigators tend to favour and estimate the offender to fall into. The level of forensic awareness and organisation of the offences also support the offender being at the older end of the estimated age bracket. He will likely be employed in a manual job and have access to a car, perhaps in the capacity of a courier or delivery driver working alone.

Due to the concentration of the attacks being in the Greater London area, it is likely that the offender lives or has strong connections within this geographical catchment area, particularly Croydon. Offenders operate within an area that they feel comfortable with, at least early on in their offending. The geography of the attacks is widespread enough to suggest that the offender drives a vehicle, and this is supported thus: As the animals are rarely killed where they are found – this offender has to transport the animals somewhere, somehow. It is unlikely that he uses a cat carrier and travels by tube or bus – this would be remembered and would draw attention to him. It is more likely that he entices the animals into a car, where they are then transported somewhere to be killed. This could be a house or dwelling, or could be a lock up garage, shed or pigeon kit.

It is impossible to ascertain any physical description of the offender, as he has never been seen committing the attacks or had a near miss with being discovered. He is forensically aware and very organised in what he does – he has managed to avoid being seen in each case, and shows awareness of any CCTV in the area. It is quite possible that this is an experienced burglar, and one who will have certainly have offended in youth, perhaps by committing arson or criminal damage. He is likely to live alone, be single and a loner and secretive in nature – TTCE believes that these offences are his pride and joy and he would not want to share this with another. A person in a happy relationship with a partner or spouse, with many friends, does not spend the majority of his nights butchering animals. Also, the attacks are so horrific and abhorrent in nature that it is very likely that anyone else knowing the identity of the offender would have an attack of conscience and talked to someone, and this would have come to the attention of authorities. He is likely to have been bullied as a youngster and to have been a bully himself – and feels the need to now assert himself using defenceless creatures that he can completely dominate.

TTCE believes that this offender is a fully fledged sadist, one that is possibly mentally ill. It is easy to dismiss such horror as the workings of an obvious madman, but there is also a large degree of commitment, control and organisation in these offences to suggest that this is a functioning psychopath. He has no problem dealing with death or decomposition, indeed, at some point in his psychological growth one or both of these has had a remarkable and lasting effect on this man. This man enjoys killing and enjoys causing suffering, and it is very possible, indeed likely, that he waits and watches the dump sites from a safe distance because he wants to relish the shock and horror that he has caused upon discovery of the carcass. He may film this, and is likely to have filmed or taken photographs of the mutilations he has carried out – this is a person possibly, indeed likely, sexually dysfunctional who clearly gets his only kicks doing these acts, and wishes to relive the acts over and over. He will also likely keep any press clippings and will follow any reports concerning the case online. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that the heads and tails of the animals are often not found at all – suggesting that the offender keeps them as trophies, most likely in his “kill spot”.

This is a very dangerous offender, and one who needs to be caught and stopped sooner rather than later. The escalation of the offences both in number and ferocity suggest that this is beginning to plateau for him. He has become bolder in his attacks, attacking and killing in owners gardens that he has been prowling in, spending more time there with more risk of discovery, even returning to the scenes that he has dumped bodies at previously to deposit more body parts, often in macabre and sickening poses. All of which is increasing in alarming frequency – when TTCE spoke to Boudicca just five days ago she informed that SNARL had 12 cats that were awaiting autopsy! It is almost as though he needs to keep upping the ante, and if not stopped will eventually move on to bigger prey when cats and foxes just don’t satisfy his bloodlust anymore. Dogs perhaps will be attacked at first, but eventually this won’t be enough and this man will begin to attack human prey.

Boudicca has the following advice/requests for anyone who sees a person acting suspiciously whilst trying to entice an animal, or is seen hurting or maiming an animal in any way:

  • If you see anyone behaving oddly around cats,foxes or birds in the area from Manchester down to the South Coast, please call police via 101 with a full description of the person and what they are doing, and quote Operation Takahe in the call.
  • Where possible get vehicle registration details of the persons vehicle.
  • If possible, take photos or video with a smartphone

If an animal is found in the same geographical area with any of the injuries/mutilations described here, Boudicca requests the following:

  • Stay with the body if possible and contact SNARL immediately
  • Although upsetting, make a record to evidence as much of the scene as possible to establish if the animal has been killed there or just dumped there.
  • Prevent any council or waste services from touching or removing it and anyone from photographing it.
  • SNARL phones are by nature busy so please persevere trying to get through.
  • Advise anyone living in the Greater London area to keep their cats indoors as much as they can and let them out only during the day when they can be supervised.
  • “Please keep your cats in at night. We appreciate this isn’t easy, particularly as the weather gets warmer but you will cut the risk to your cat dramatically if you keep them indoors during the hours of darkness.”

As shown, there is a substantial reward available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of this individual. SNARL is doing a fantastic job in the face of adversity here, and should be commended and fully supported for their continuing good work and commitment to bringing this individual to justice. Full links to their Facebook page and website, along with contact details, can be found here: SNARL Facebook or at SNARL Website

If the offender should read this post, and there is every chance that the narcissist in this individual may come across this blog post whilst searching for any discussion of his exploits, TTCE has the following to say.

“You are a sick, pathetic individual and a coward hiding in anonymity. This does not or will not ever impress, it is evil and bloodlust and has caused nothing but misery and heartache. You need to be stopped, and eventually you will be caught and stopped, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Give this up, give yourself up”

If anyone has any information concerning this case, or should discover an animal that bears any of the hallmarks described here, please do not hesitate to contact SNARL on the numbers provided, or contact police on 101, quoting Operation Takahe.


The True Crime Enthusiast


In Memoriam

To all of those who have lost their lives in or have been affected by today’s attack in Westminster – the sympathies of TTCE are there with you.


Terrorism will NEVER triumph – we must all stand strong.


The True Crime Enthusiast

The Murder of “Artistic Joan”

The first 72 hours of any murder investigation are always the most critical, as is within this time period that the minds and accounts of any witnesses are the freshest. A killer has more chance of being captured the closer it is to the time the crime occurred, the chances of obtaining decent quality forensic evidence may degrade or may even be destroyed if left any longer than this, and there is generally a better chance of successful detection of a crime if every angle that can possibly be covered by an investigating team is covered and this time period utilised to its full. Of course, not every crime is discovered mere minutes or hours after it has been committed. When a crime isn’t even discovered until past the “golden 72” hours – it’s cold before an investigation can even begin, and can lead to a puzzling case that can confound detectives and remain unsolved for many years to come. One such case is a murder that has puzzled detectives in Nottingham for more than forty years.

The Nottingham district of Wollaton Park during the later years of the Second World War was much like many parts of the United Kingdom at that time – there was a surplus of American soldiers there ready to romance the local girls. Joan Smith was one such girl, a 16 year old local girl who was swept off her feet in the summer of 1944 by a handsome G.I from 508 Airborne called Clarence Maschek. Romance blossomed before Clarence set off for the Normandy landings, and Joan played the faithful sweetheart waiting back at home for her G.I to return. Clarence was injured during the invasion, and returned to Nottingham as the proud recipient of a Purple Heart medal, ready to claim Joan as his bride. In the summer of 1945, the couple were married at Shakespeare Street Registry Office in Nottingham and decided to return to Clarence’s home country for their new life, settling in South Dakota where they lived happily for a number of years.

However, after some years the marriage broke down, and Joan returned to Britain alone and settled back in Nottingham. By the summer of 1976, she was 48 years old and living alone in a bedsit in Douglas Road in the Lenton district of Nottingham. The area at the time had a high number of bedsits, with a high turnover of tenants, and Joan became well known throughout the local area. She was described as being “an artistic type” and dressing flamboyantly, wearing cloaks and large floppy hats to visit the pubs and clubs of the area. This made “Artistic Joan” a familiar sight, but when Joan hadn’t been seen for several days over the hot summer of 1976, friends were concerned. She hadn’t been seen since the afternoon of 10th July, a Saturday, and by Tuesday 13th July 1976, the same friends went around to Joan’s flat to check on her wellbeing. Perhaps Joan was ill or had had an accident? What they found horrified them, and led to the start of a baffling mystery that has remained unsolved for more than 40 years.

At 8:45pm on Tuesday 13th July 1976, Joan’s body was found in her blood-soaked flat. She had been brutally battered to death and had clearly been dead for some time before she had been discovered. Police were called, and a murder investigation was launched, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Readwin of Nottinghamshire CID. From the start, it was apparent that Joan had been battered to death with a heavy blunt instrument, which was possibly her own guitar as traces of her blood and damage to it were found. She was thought to have been killed between sometime late in the evening of the Saturday, and early on the Sunday morning before she was found. The subsequent post mortem revealed that Joan had indeed died as the result of head wounds caused by a severe beating with a blunt edged object. There was no reported evidence of Joan having been the victim of a sexual assault.

Although subsequent house to house enquiries brought about the general consensus that Joan was a lady who generally kept to herself and wasn’t a troublemaker, there were tales of several “mystery callers” to her ground floor flat. There were tales of Joan often wandering around, coming and going in the dark, and according to neighbours, Joan enjoyed a busy social life.

“A lot of people would come and go at all hours of the day and night. There always seemed to be parties or goings-on in the flat.” – neighbours of Joan

Was the killer one of these mystery callers? Detectives struggled to find a definite motive for her murder. Joan was not found to have any obvious enemies and was not known to be in any sort of romantic relationship. Nor was she known to be involved in anything illicit and untoward. With the reports of a sizeable volume of frequent callers to Joan’s flat, detectives had a massive pool of potential suspects to trawl through. Though the majority of them were traced and eliminated from enquiries, a few weeks after Joan’s murder detectives eventually found themselves left with two persons of interest that they have never been able to trace.

The first was a man who had been seen by several people in the company of Joan, and police had a detailed enough description of him to issue an artist’s impression to the press. He was described as being in his 20’s, tall and slim, long haired and with a wispy moustache and reddened cheeks. He was described as being “scruffy” but good mannered and polite, and knowledgeable about classical music and ballet – which he would often chat to Joan about. The artists impression is depicted below:



Who was this man? Despite the widespread publicity and appeal, he never came forward and was never identified.

The second person that police wished to trace was another man who had been seen walking with Joan early one morning, a few days before she was murdered. A young officer who bore a striking resemblance to the man took part in a reconstruction of Joan’s last known movements, but this man never came forward and was never found either.

Reconstruction of the second man seen with Joan.

Six weeks into the murder hunt, Chief Supt Readwin and his team thought that they had the breakthrough they were looking for when a man walked into Canning Circus police station and confessed to the murder. He walked in and calmly announced:

“Lock me up – I’ve killed Joan”

However, any elation that the conscience of Joan’s killer had got the better of them soon evaporated. After a number of hours of intensive questioning by Readwin and his team, the man – who has never publicly been named – was found to be one of the number of attention seeking people who confess to crimes they haven’t committed. He was found to be nothing but a hoaxer, trying to deliberately get himself jailed and instead found himself charged with wasting police time. The investigating team were back to square one, but Readwin found time to shatter the misconception of a quick arrest always being the primary aim of a murder investigation when subsequently interviewed by the press.

“Our over-riding duty is to protect life and establish the truth… not just get a confession. Murders aren’t usually solved by stunning strokes of detection. It’s organisation, a professional system, that counts, especially in difficult jobs like this one.” – Detective Chief Superintendent Roy Readwin (speaking in 1976)

Following this, the murder investigation stalled, and began to wind down. The file on Joan’s murder eventually contained thousands of witness statements and the results of enquiries – all of which were fruitless. More than 100 detectives had exhausted every potential lead that they had, even making enquiries abroad stretching from New York to New Zealand. Nothing to progress the enquiry further was found. As many of the callers to Joan’s flat as could possibly be traced were traced – and eliminated. The reconstruction and artists impressions had produced nothing, and although it was reported that police had evidence from the scene, it has never been revealed publicly what this evidence exactly is, except that it is only known to the police and the killer. The three day head start that Joan’s killer had on detectives weighed heavily on the enquiry, as more than one officer believed that in these three days, the killer may have started a new life thousands of miles away from Nottingham. Police may have been looking for a killer that was already thousands of miles away. Although the murder file has never been officially closed, the case has been cold for many years now.

This is a case that relatively little information about is readily available for research, with very little available to learn about Joan – for example it is not known the extent of her remaining family, whether she was employed or not – I was unable even to obtain a picture of Joan. What is available is scant, and leaves frustrating gaps that if were filled may help paint a picture of the psychology of Joan’s killer. Because what is known raises more questions and possibilities than it provides definitive answers, as it stands much of any profile can only be surmised or speculated.

What would the likely motive be in this case? Revenge seems unlikely – an intensive police investigation revealed no known enemies of Joan, or anyone with a reason to wish her dead. Was it then a robbery gone wrong, or a sex crime? Unfortunately, there is scant detail here to be able to rule either out, but both are possibilities. It is not known if anything had been taken from Joan’s bedsit, or there were any signs of ransacking at the scene, but there is no mention of any sexual assault either. Again, this is hypothesis only, but a robber comes to rob and a rapist comes to rape. I believe that there would have been mention of signs of either given to the press as important appeal points, so both of these would seem unlikely.

It seems more likely that Joan was killed as a result of an argument and that this was not a pre meditated killing – perhaps she had refused sex or money to someone, and a subsequent argument led to murder? If the murder weapon was Joan’s guitar – as police thought likely – then this supports the spur of the moment killing theory even more, because using as an unlikely murder weapon as a guitar would mean that Joan was battered to death with the first thing to hand. It is more likely that with a pre-meditated murder, the killer would have brought a weapon to the scene with them, possibly a method of restraint also. There is no report of Joan having been restrained at all.

As there was no reported signs of forced entry to her flat, the theory police worked on was that Joan knew and had invited her killer in. This is likely, but not definite. The summer of 1976 was a record breaking heatwave, so it is possible that someone gained access through a window that Joan may have left open to let air into her flat. It was a ground floor flat so would have been easily accessible. This would more support the burglar/sex killer theory, but as already stated the lack of information available makes this impossible to ascertain. No sounds of a struggle or screams were reported heard so pinpointing an exact time of death is difficult, and so many people were reported as coming and going from Joan’s flat over time that anyone seen in the vicinity around the time she was estimated to have died may have been forgotten and overlooked by any witnesses.

It is impossible to paint a physical description of Joan’s killer, and any physical description would now be rendered useless anyway, as nearly 41 years have passed and features would have changed, people would have aged. There is also the possibility that her killer may now himself be dead. It should not be taken as definite that either the man in the reconstruction or the man in the artists impression was Joan’s killer – these were simply important persons of interest that were never traced. One or both of the persons appealed for may by now also even be dead.

Even the character of Joan’s killer can only be surmised at. This could be a violent psychopath, or it could be someone normally mild mannered who killed in a moment of madness? It is possible that this is a person who has a history of violent offending – battering someone to death would suggest a person with a history of violence, perhaps even someone who has killed before. If this was the case, a possibly linked case in my opinion that should be considered is one covered by The True Crime Enthusiast some weeks ago, the murder of nurse Susan Donaghue in Bristol in August 1976. The post concerning Susan’s murder can be found here, and it is up to the reader to speculate on any link.

But of course, the possibility remains that her murder could have been the result of a moment of madness by someone normally mild mannered and law abiding. How many times has this been seen in the court system, people seeing red and killing someone in the heat of the moment? If this was the case, I believe that remorse would have got the better of the person and he would have come forward – or possibly even committed suicide shortly after because of the enormity of what he had done.

It is stated that police have evidence known only to themselves and Joan’s killer – but it is not known exactly what form this evidence takes. Fingerprints? Blood or semen? If it is hair or fluid of some kind, then it may be possible to extract some form of DNA fingerprint with the technology available today. It is unreported if this has been done or not – but even if it has, the status of Joan’s murder as unsolved would mean that any potential DNA match is not on the National DNA database. Perhaps this dead end sums up the entire enquiry into Joan Maschek’s murder – a case that seems to lead to dead ends at every turn. However, Nottinghamshire Police periodically review the case, and remain optimistic that Joan’s killer may one day face justice.

“Nottinghamshire Police never gives up on unsolved murders and will regularly revisit and review these cases to see how new evidence and information could help to bring the perpetrators to justice. We believe Joan’s killer may still be out there and would encourage anyone with information about her murder to come forward.” – Detective Inspector Hayley Williams, Nottinghamshire  Police

Anyone with information on Joan’s murder should call Nottinghamshire Police on 101.


The True Crime Enthusiast



Death of the Millionaire Farmer

Chapel Amble is a tiny village in the Cornwall civil parish of St Kew that has its earliest mention in the Domesday book, with the name of the village being a derivation from the Cornish word Amaleglos, meaning “Church on the River Amble”. Picturesque and affluent, it is sparsely populated and contains very little except for houses, a tiny shop, a post office and a local pub. It is the kind of village where nothing ever seems to happen, that is, until April 2002 when Chapel Amble found itself at the centre of a brutal and as yet unsolved murder mystery. It was depicted at the time of the murder as “like an Agatha Christie setting”, and  the murder “worthy of the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot himself”. Yet there is nothing romantic about the crime, nor is it from the pages of a mystery thriller.

Les Bate

The victim was an elderly farmer, 71 year old widower Les Bate. He was a well known figure in the area, described by those who knew him as a “true Cornish character”, and was a self made millionaire, owning four farms and several hundred acres of land. Les had amassed his fortune through sheer hard work, with local legend claiming that he had obtained the finance for his first farm by shooting rabbits. It was claimed he had averaged shooting between 80,000 to 100,000 rabbits a year, which were then sold and shipped off to all parts of the country. With a hard work ethic such as this, and being an astute businessman taking advantages of various subsidies that were available to him, this had made his fortune. He was considered by many as ostentatious, “flashy” even, often making a show of having a wallet full of money and wearing excess amounts of chunky gold jewellery.

The Maltsters Arms – the last place Les was seen alive

Les liked to enjoy a drink at night, and was a regular at the Maltsters Arms pub in Chapel Amble. He was there almost nightly, where he would enjoy a few pints of lager and tell a few stories, have a laugh and a joke and take advantage of a pub bet such as arm wrestling or even high japes such as swallowing live fish! He would invariably leave the pub at closing time, and drive his red Land Rover Discovery the two miles home from the pub to his home, Tregilders Farm.

Tregilders Farm

Although Les was well known, this does not mean to suggest that he was liked by all who knew him. There is evidence to suggest that many people did not like him strongly due to the type of man he was. Local rumours were rife that he had in the past evicted farm tenants unfairly, purely because he took a dislike to them. He was known to be forthright in his political opinions and would often hold court in the local pub, entertaining locals with his opinions and colourful tales of a lifetime spent in farming. He was considered by many as cantankerous, and thought nothing of airing his exact views to people, regardless of the risk of offending anyone. Indeed, before he was murdered Les had only recently become a regular at the Maltsters Arms as he had been barred from his previous local, the St Kew Inn, for being abusive to the staff and customers there.

On the night he died, Friday 12th April 2002, Les had as usual been at the Maltsters Arms. That evening, there were about 30 people in the establishment, mostly locals but a couple of faces that were unknown to the regulars. Les had been his usual self, holding court with stories and joking about, and had several times that evening made a show of flashing his wallet about. That evening, he had shown off the fact that he was carrying about £1,000 in cash, as well as a cheque for £11,000 and had ignored the advice of several people to stop flashing his cash about. Les had left the pub after closing time that evening, and driven his usual route home. All through the next day, Les’ daughter who lived in Australia had tried to contact him by telephone but to no avail. Concerned that Les was perhaps ill or injured, she eventually contacted her brother Martin, Les’s son, who lived nearby to Chapel Amble, to go and check on their father to ensure everything was alright. Martin went around to his father’s farm at 11:30am on Sunday 14th April, and found Les lying face down in a pool of blood inside the house near to the back door. He was clearly dead. Shaken, Martin raised the alarm and police attended.

Because there was no weapon present at the scene, or any evidence of a forced entry to the farm, it was at first thought that Les had died as the result of a drunken fall. A post mortem carried out proved inconclusive as to the cause of death, but some days later (nearly two weeks) a second more exhaustive one was carried out because of this. This second post mortem found evidence that Les had suffered a brutal beating, as internal injuries were found, several broken bones, and severe head injuries. How these were missed at the initial post mortem has never been satisfactorily explained. Here, police now had evidence that they were dealing with a murder, one that the killer had a near fortnights head start to escape detection from. With news that a murderer was potentially living in their midst, many locals had their own suspicions about who was responsible, local gossip and theories were rife, and a shadow of fear fell over the small community.

“This has been a terrible shock. If the police are right, this was carried out by someone we all know – perhaps someone who comes into this Post Office every day.” Barry Cuff, Chapel Amble postmaster

The murder hunt began, with 50 officers working around the clock to try to solve the first recorded violent crime in the village since 1373. A forensic examination of Tregilders Farm was undertaken, lanes and hedgerows surrounding the house were searched for a discarded murder weapon, and police began interviewing locals. Those who knew Les and customers who frequented the Maltsters Arms and the St Kew Inn were interviewed, and every customer that could be traced who had used these premises was questioned, fingerprinted and DNA tested. Establishing Les’ last known movements, police heard customers at the Maltsters Arms tell of Les flashing around his cash and the cheque on the night he was murdered, and of course, these were missing along with his wallet. The wallet or cheque have never been found. Police strongly believed from the outset of the hunt that the motive was robbery, and that there was a local angle to the crime:

“This has all the hallmarks of somebody who knew that Les would be returning and was probably waiting for him to come home and then attack him. People knew he often used to carry significant amounts of cash with him. My view is that there is definitely a local angle to this. We are keeping an open mind, but all the indications are that this was carried out by a person or persons who knew him.” – Detective Superintendent Chris Boarland (SIO)

Crimes in such a small locale as Chapel Amble would be expected to be solved sooner rather than later, but by the time Les funeral was held in September 2002, police were still no nearer to catching his killer. Over 900 statements had been taken, and a sizeable number of enquiries followed up, but to no avail. Police did however, have one clue. Traces of DNA belonging to someone other than Les were found on items of the outer clothing he was wearing when he died. But a match wasn’t forthcoming – locals were tested against it, and detectives even visited the shop in the nearby town of Wadebridge where the clothing had been bought in order to compare and eliminate the DNA of the staff who worked there against the sample. All were ruled out, and to this day a match has never been found on the National DNA database. The suspect list drew a blank also. Although it was known that not everybody liked Les, police could never find evidence to pinpoint anyone who disliked him enough to want him dead.

It seems that robbery was indeed a very likely motive for Les’ murder. In October 2001, Tregilders Farm had suffered a burglary whilst Les was out. Some valuable paintings, and a safe containing over £47,000 in cash had been taken from the farm. Had those responsible returned? It is very likely that those responsible are local to, or at least familiar with, the Chapel Amble area. It is almost definite that they knew Les, and his movements and habits. These are local killers, for I believe that more than one person is responsible. Although Les was not a fit youngster, he was still stocky and powerful for a 71 year old and was the type of person who would definitely “have a go” against any intruder. In fact, since his burglary in October 2001, Les had taken to sleeping with a loaded shotgun next to him, and had been heard telling several patrons of the Maltsters Arms that he had no qualms about using it against an intruder. Had someone overheard this and thought that there was more safety to rob Les in numbers? It is perhaps for this reason that Les was killed, as the result of a struggle.

Who then, are likely suspects in this crime? I believe that those responsible are the perpetrators of, or are at least well known to,  those responsible for the October 2001 burglary at Les’ farm. The chances of two separate, unconnected incidents of robbery in such a short space of time in such a localised area are highly improbable. Theorising that everyone in the locality has been subject to a mass DNA screening, and if the theory that Les was either followed home or someone was laid in wait for him, then the main suspects have to be the people in the Maltsters Arms that Friday evening who were unknown to the locals. They could have been watching Les, saw him leave, and then relayed a message to someone laying in wait at Tregilders Farm for him. There are plenty of places around the farm for a person, or even a vehicle, to remain out of sight. Plus it is in quite an isolated location, so any risk of being sighted is minimal. Les would have been taken by surprise as he entered through his side door – by someone who knew him and his movements.

This is a perplexing crime, and one that should have been successfully detected swiftly. Perhaps the two week delay in discovering that it actually WAS a crime was an omen of a flawed and foundering investigation that was to come. It stands to reason that in such a rural, small community, locals will have their own suspicions about those responsible – and said suspicions must have come to the attention of police. Indeed, several people were arrested over the course of the enquiry, some with criminal records and one who was known to have been an enemy of Les. Yet no one was or has ever been charged – and a DNA match for traces left by the killer has so far not been found. Les family still live in hope that one day, either through someone’s conscience getting the better of them, or a DNA match being found, that his killer will be brought to justice. His daughter Kathy echoed as such in an interview with the Devon Western Morning News in 2012:

“I am fairly confident that one day I will get a call. I am less optimistic that I was previously and we are now ten years on, but we do live with that expectation. I have said all along that the person that has done this is being protected by a wife or girlfriend or someone close to them. I know after ten years it is not really likely that they will come forward but I would still like to appeal to that person’s decency.” – Kathy Arnold (Les’ daughter)

The True Crime Enthusiast

UK True Crime Podcast – The Bogus Gasman

Here’s a link to the guest piece that I’ve written this week for a good friend of The True Crime Enthusiast. Please take time out to check his excellent Podcast and Blog out, UK True Crime. The link can be found below:

UK True Crime

It’s filled with interesting cases, articles and talking points, and is very informative and enjoyable. The collaboration between UK True Crime and The True Crime Enthusiast can be found below:

UK True Crime Episode 16 – The Bogus Gasman

The True Crime Enthusiast

The murder of “Brandy Dan”

“The attack on Daniel can only be described as despicable. At the time that his flat was set  on fire he was still alive – he must have suffered a painful and extremely frightening death. Someone out there knows what happened and I don’t know how they can live with this well-liked man’s death on their conscience.” – Detective Superintendent Ian Foster (Senior Investigating Officer speaking in 2008)

If where you live has a local pub and you are a regular visitor there, the chances are that you will know a certain character in that pub. They are a staple of such establishments, and most have them- larger than life people, unique and perhaps known by a nickname. The former “Funny’s Bar”, on Chorley Old Road, Bolton was one of these such places to have one – Daniel Mcfadden, or “Brandy Dan” as he was known to his friends. “Funny’s Bar” has long gone today, knocked down and replaced with a small supermarket and different establishments. And “Brandy Dan” has gone too – gone because he was horrifically murdered one evening in June 1998.

Danny Mcfadden

Daniel Mcfadden was Irish born, hailing from a rural town in County Donegal where he was born in 1933. He had left Ireland at a young age and moved across the Irish Sea, settling in Glasgow for many years before moving down to Bolton in the mid 1980’s to be near his younger brother Charles and his family. Danny had never married and had very little family, only Charles and an elderly sister who still lived in Ireland. He had spent his entire working life as a labourer working in the construction industry, driving cranes up and down the country. But by 1998 Danny had long since retired and was living in a second floor council flat in the Mere Gardens district of Halliwell, Bolton.

Danny was a well known regular in many of Bolton’s pubs, and his usual practice was to visit a variety of them throughout the day, where he would find company and quiet reflection. He would spend part of the afternoon drinking, before returning home late in the afternoon and then going out again in the evening. By all accounts, he was a popular and well- liked man who didn’t seem to have any known enemies. On the day he died, June 17th 1998, Danny had left home at about 10:30am, and was seen about thirty minutes later sat on a bench in Newport Street in Bolton Town centre. He is believed to have visited several pubs around Bolton town centre that day, and police were able to confirm that that afternoon he was definitely seen in The Victory Arms and Funny’s Bar on Chorley Old Road. He is believed to have left Funny’s Bar alone, and returned to his flat at about 4:30pm that afternoon.

Danny is known to have returned to Funny’s Bar later on that evening, and was confirmed as being sat alone in there, enjoying his favourite tipple – a double brandy and half pint of bitter – at 10:20pm. He left after last orders that evening, and was seen near the Mornington Road/Chorley Old Road junction at about 11:30pm walking towards his home. Did he go straight home though? There was a possible but unconfirmed sighting of Danny outside the Morrisons supermarket at the bottom end of Chorley Old Road at 1:00am. If this was him, what was he doing?

If this was Danny, he must have returned home soon after this sighting and been murdered.

A neighbour who lived across from Danny’s council flat in Mere Gardens contacted the emergency services at about 3:30am after being woken by the sound of an explosion. Looking out of the window, he could see a blaze coming from Danny’s flat, and fire crews attended the scene, arriving at 3:37am. They doused the scene with water and when safe to do so, went in to investigate. The flat had been completely gutted,and when firefighters went into the bedroom, they discovered the body of Danny Mcfadden under a pile of furniture and clothing amongst the smouldering debris. The fire had built up until the windows exploded, and the subsequent rush of oxygen mixed with toxic fumes from the smouldering furnishings had caused an explosion. Danny hadn’t stood a chance.

The subsequent post mortem examination revealed that Danny had ultimately died as a result of inhaling smoke and toxic fumes caused by the fire – but a murder hunt began when the post mortem revealed that he also had a severely fractured skull, a fractured right cheek, and a broken jaw. He had been brutally battered, and three “D” shaped lacerations on his head led detectives to believe that the most likely weapon was a hammer. Following the assault, his killers had then placed a mattress, clothing and furnishings on top of the 5″8, 8 stone pensioner, who was still alive despite his injuries, and callously started the fire, leaving Danny to die a horrible, frightening death.

Detectives hunting the killer from the murder incident room at Castle Street police station in Bolton theorised that Danny had been followed home from the pub by his killer or killers. They had watched him go into his second floor flat, then waited to make their move. As no evidence of a forced entry was found, they suspected that Danny had either let his killer in or left the door ajar accidentally. Because the combination of the fire and its extinguishment  had gutted the property, it was impossible to determine if it had been ransacked or if anything had been taken. House to house enquiries revealed very little – nobody had been seen entering or leaving the property, and the first anybody knew anything had happened was when the fire brigade were contacted following the explosion.

The crime struck fear and sadness into the close knit community where Danny had lived. Many of the people living in that area were pensioners themselves, and the thought that a brutal killer was walking the streets so familiar to them made them feel scared in their own homes. Danny’s next door neighbour, 59 year old Anne Haslam, summed up local feeling when interviewed by the Bolton Evening News shortly after the murder.

“I can’t take all this in. I just keep thinking over and over again about what happened on the other side of my wall. It’s a nightmare. I’ve got to get out because I can’t sleep and I won’t answer the door at night” – Anne Haslem (Danny’s next door neighbour).

Mrs Haslam had not seen or heard anything the night Danny was murdered, and was left so afraid that his killers may return that she was granted a move from the home she had lived in for eight years by a sympathetic Bolton Council.

Mere Gardens, Halliwell in 2014

Throughout the investigation, dozens of detectives worked thousands of man hours in an attempt to find Danny’s killer. More than 3,000 people were interviewed over the course of the investigation, and numerous lines of enquiry were followed, but ultimately detectives had very little to go on. The combination of the fire itself and the extinguishing of it had not only gutted the crime scene, but had also destroyed any potential forensic evidence that could have been obtained from Danny’s killers. A number of items were removed from the crime scene for forensic examination, but DNA testing at that time was not technologically advanced enough to produce any conclusive results. Nor has it to date been able to shed any new information as to the identity of Danny’s killers. No murder weapon has ever been found, and although eleven people were arrested in connection with Danny’s murder over the course of the investigation, no one has ever been charged with his murder.

What was the motive behind such a horrific crime? Detectives have never been able to confirm what the motive was, but local rumours abounded that Danny was believed to be a wealthy man, although his surviving family strongly denied this. There were tales of Danny having spoken about coming into a lot of money just before he died, relating to shares in a farm in Ireland that Danny and his sister had joint ownership of. But this was a falsehood – although Danny had had shares of a farm, the truth was that in the mid 1980’s Danny had had his share of the farm transferred into solely his sister’s name as he was unable to afford any payments relating to the upkeep of the farm. He had not made any money from the transfer, and actually had very little money. Did someone mistakenly believe that Danny had a substantial amount of money stashed at his home? It seems likely that this was the case. The crime was appealed on Crimewatch UK, and an anonymous caller spoke to one of the detectives in the studio, telling him:

“You do know he had hundreds of thousands of pounds stashed in his flat, don’t you?”

Detectives believe that Danny was deliberately targeted for this reason, and his killers had every intention of murdering him. But why the need to set a fire? At the inquest into Danny’s murder in 1999, Home Office pathologist Dr William Lawlor suggested that the fire was set deliberately to remove any traces of the killers from the scene. This seems likely, but the chilling possibility also exists that setting the fire was a sadistic act of inflicting pain and terror upon Danny, and was done with the intention of destroying and defiling him further.

It is very likely that someone today will know, or at least suspect, the identity of Danny’s killers. This is not a first time crime, as has been stated on various other cases covered on TTCE, this is a level of offending that is risen to, not started at. This is someone with a history of offending and likely an experienced burglar, with a history of violent offending or bullying and perhaps drug use. It is also likely that Danny was known to his killer(s), and vice versa. The killer(s), for it is likely that this was the work of more than one people, will therefore be local to the area. Mere Gardens is a haphazard housing estate built on a network of footpaths and an offender would likely strike in an area familiar to them to allow maximum potential for egress.

It is unlikely to have been a spur of the moment crime – for example a drunken argument between Danny and another person that someone has taken offence to and escalated. This would be a lot more heat of the moment, and I believe that a crime fuelled by any such motive would have taken place as Danny was making his way home on the street and would have been witnessed. There is no suggestion that Danny was involved in anything untoward or illicit, indeed, people who knew him testified as to his gentle and kind nature, and how he was “a perfect gentleman”, always ready to buy someone a drink. So this likely rules out a revenge or grudge attack, and this possibility would have been ruled out early on in the investigation.

It is more likely that robbery was the motive here, and that there is some truth to the notion that Danny’s killers believed him to have a substantial sum of money in the house. The killers came armed and is likely that they always intended to murder Danny – an eight stone pensioner would not put up much resistance to one or more intruders. A possible reason for the decision to kill him is that the killers were known well to him – perhaps regulars from one of the pubs that he frequented – and by leaving him alive, he would have been able to identify them. I believe strongly that the fire was set to remove any forensic evidence from the scene – perhaps the killer or killers left fingerprints during the assault, or perhaps one of them was injured during it and left bloodstains. Remove the scene, remove the evidence.

It is likely that police spoke to Danny’s killer or killers during the course of the investigation.  It seems that a person capable of such violence and brutality as was used here would stand out, and as mentioned, police made eleven arrests over the course of investigating Danny’s murder but no one was ever charged. I believe that a prime suspect, very likely the killer, would have been amongst this eleven, but escaped justice due to a lack of conclusive evidence to bring a murder charge. The case has never been closed and has been re-appealed numerous times over the years, but to no avail. However, over passage of time loyalties people once had may change, or people may overcome a fear of retribution that they had that prevented them from coming forward at the time, and may provide police with evidence that helps bring Danny’s killer to justice. Until that time, his remaining family are left questioning the senselessness of such a cowardly, despicable crime, and await “Brandy Dan” getting the justice that he deserves.

“You can understand the fire – they were probably trying to burn the evidence. You can understand that, but why do it in the first place? Danny never said an angry word in his life. He probably expected to live to old age but that didn’t happen. Somebody saw to that.” – Charles Mcfadden

Anyone with information concerning Danny’s murder is asked to call the Major Incident Team on 0161 856 5860 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast

The “Knotty Ash” Murder

More than fifty-five years have now passed since one of the most horrific and strangest unsolved crimes in the history of Liverpool, the savage killing of mother of two Maureen Dutton in 1961 in her own home. At the time, and still to this day it has baffled police, and nothing definitive has ever been established as to the motive for her murder. Bogus medical professionals, strangely acting youths, and even a ritual sacrificial angle all became part of the investigation at the time.

Maureen Dutton with sons David and Andrew

Brian and Maureen Dutton were a young couple who lived in the quiet Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash, which is famous for being the birthplace and home of celebrated British comedian and entertainer Sir Ken Dodd. There is nothing to suggest that the Dutton’s were anything but a happy couple, Maureen being a housewife as was the popular tradition of the time, and husband Brian a research chemist working at the ICI establishment in nearby Widnes. The couple already had a two year old son, David, and in November 1961, the Dutton family had become four when Maureen gave birth to the couple’s second child, a boy, Andrew.

On the 20th December 1961 Liverpool, as was the rest of the country, was getting ready for Christmas. The Dutton family, who lived at number 14 Thingwall Road, were excited about little Andrew’s first  Christmas, and Brian had gone off to work that morning at 8:00am after taking Maureen a cup of tea up to her as she was still in bed. Maureen had made plans that day to take David to visit the Christmas nativity scene at nearby Childwall Parish church. As the area was blanketed in freezing fog as it had been for a few days, Maureen had decided not to take 22 day old Andrew out with her and David, and had arranged for her mother-in-law Elsie Dutton to come and babysit that afternoon.  Elsie came to visit Maureen and the children that morning and agreed that she would return to look after Andrew in the afternoon, but by 1:30pm the fog had worsened so much that Elsie was unable to get back there, and phoned Maureen to say so.

This telephone call was the last time Maureen was confirmed to be alive.

Brian returned home at 6:10pm that evening, and straight away was struck by the fact that the house was in darkness. Entering the house, he noticed that the remains of the families lunch were still half-eaten on the dining table in the front room. He couldn’t hear any sounds, and moving to the family living room at the rear of the house discovered a horrific sight. His wife lay dead on the floor, having been brutally stabbed at least 14 times. His son David sat nearby in a daze, and baby Andrew lay in a crib. Although neither child had been harmed, it is believed that David had witnessed his mother being murdered. Shaken, Brian immediately raised the alarm.

The subsequent murder hunt operated from the city’s Old Swan police station, and was led by Chief Superintendent James Morris of Liverpool CID. But right away the enquiry team were struck with a lack of solid leads. There were no apparent signs of forced entry to the house, indeed, it appeared as though Maureen had willingly opened the door to her killer. Nothing appeared to have been stolen from the house, there were no signs of a struggle, no obvious forensic evidence from the killer left at the scene, and Maureen had not been sexually assaulted or interfered with. No one had been seen visiting or leaving the Dutton house that afternoon, and no sounds of a struggle or screams were heard by anyone in the area. Teams of police search specialists scoured the bushes, streams and drains of Knotty Ash and Dovecot with metal in an attempt to find a discarded murder weapon, which is thought to have been a long bladed knife. But no murder weapon was or  has ever been found. The massive enquiry looked at every angle possible, with thousands of people spoken to and some 20,000 statements having been taken within a month of the crime. Local sex offenders and housebreakers were looked at and ruled out one by one, vehicles in the area were checked and ruled out, and toddler David was constantly monitored by a policewoman in case any of his babble could reveal any clues as to what he had witnessed. The child was however, incoherent, and was never able to give police any leads.  But these lines of enquiry all petered out, nor has any motive for Maureen’s murder ever been firmly established.

Police investigating Maureen’s murder hunt for a murder weapon in the Knotty Ash area

The city press jumped on the story, and the “Knotty Ash Murder” became front page news. The subsequent publicity and house to house enquiries led to several theories being presented, and reports of people that police wished to speak to to eliminate from their enquiries. Three in particular seemed promising. Reports came through of a man who was operating in the area on the pretence of being a doctor, visiting women who had recently given birth and requesting them to undress so he could examine them. The man had examined one Halewood woman at home, but when her concerned husband contacted the local health service to ascertain the man’s identity, it was revealed that the man was a fraudster. As Maureen was a new mother, this was a promising line of enquiry and the hunt was on for the bogus doctor, but for the time being this was a line of enquiry that seemed to lead nowhere.

Another lead that ultimately led to a dead end was the sighting of a young blonde woman who had drawn attention to herself on the afternoon of the murder when she had boarded a number 10d bus from nearby East Prescot road, very close to the murder scene. She had an Irish accent, and was babbling incoherently about how she needed to get out of the city immediately, how she had done something terrible, and how she was going to London to catch a plane. When the woman was last seen when she exited the bus at Liverpool’s Lime Street, she kept repeating “Oh my god” over and over. Who was the woman and what had disturbed her so greatly? She was never traced, and never came forward.

Press coverage of the “Knotty Ash” murder

But by far the strongest lead police had to go on were the reports of a “good looking” youth wearing a black leather jacket who was seen several times in the vicinity of Thingwall Road on the day of the murder. He was spotted running very fast down Thingwall Road that afternoon, and not long after was spotted being violently sick near the steps of Court Hey Methodist Church, which is in quite close proximity to Thingwall Road. Whilst vomiting, the man kept his hands firmly wedged within his pockets as he was doing so, and this was unusual enough for the witness to remember vividly. A woman who lived only a few doors up from the Dutton family reported that on the afternoon Maureen was murdered, she had answered a knock at her door and been confronted by who was likely the same man. He had a menacing look upon his face and didn’t say a word, but just stood there clapping his hands together. Frightened, the woman had quickly slammed and locked the door. The witnesses helped police produce an identikit picture of the youth, and this was published in the local press to a good initial response. Within 24 hours of the identikit being published police had received over 60 suggestions as to the identity of the man, but each name suggested was eventually eliminated, and this man has never been found.

Press Identikit picture of the “Running Man” in the black leather jacket. Who was he?

One of the strangest aspects of the crime is the consideration that detectives gave to the possibility that Maureen Dutton was a sacrificial victim in some sort of offering to a Polynesian god known as Tiki. This was an angle that was seriously looked at, as it was believed that the cult had some followers in the Liverpool area. Detectives acting under the orders of the Deputy Chief Constable of Liverpool, Herbert Balmer, examined the activities and customs of the cult and found that its members believed in making sacrifices to Tiki during the winter solstice – the time period in which Maureen was murdered. The cult members were also known to have a reverse swastika symbol tattooed on their upper left arms.  Although ultimately the sacrificial victim angle was ruled out as a motive for Maureen’s murder, the angle did lead to a strange twist of fate. In 1962, a male nurse living on Upper Parliament Street in Liverpool was arrested for theft of drugs and equipment from numerous Liverpool hospitals. The man was identified as being the bogus doctor reported as a line of enquiry the previous year, and was found to have the Tiki cult symbol tattooed on his upper left arm.  But he was ultimately ruled out as a suspect in Maureen’s murder, and police were back to square one. The investigation wound down as time went on and leads dried up, and Maureen’s killer has never been found to this day.

The Dutton family, pictured following Maureen’s murder.

Due to the amount of time that has passed, there is a real possibility that the killer may be now dead themselves. If they are still alive, he or she would be likely in their seventies or eighties now. It is likely that they will have committed other crimes, and also more than likely have been already known to local health professionals and police – this person will surely have been in the system somewhere. But he or she slipped through the cracks and was missed at the time, perhaps never to be caught again.

Maureen’s husband and family were left to grieve, and her children David and Andrew were both forced to grow up without knowing much about their mother bar the horrific fate she suffered. Yet Maureen’s murder has never been forgotten, as the crime has been re-appealed over the years and police have regularly reviewed the very cold ashes of the crime awaiting new information that may lead them to the killer. As recently as 2016, the crime was again appealed in the Liverpool Echo newspaper and an amateur crime writer is planning and researching a book about the case. Until that day comes that the killer comes to light however, the tight knit community of Knotty Ash will still remember with a chill the day that death came out of the fog and took one of their own.


The True Crime Enthusiast


Who killed the Bristol Night Nurse?

Susan Donoghue

The Bristol suburb of Sneyd Park originates from the Victorian age, and still contains many Edwardian and Victorian villas lining its edges. For many years it has been considered a very affluent area, it is home to many wealthy people who enjoy the quiet, upmarket community. But forty years ago, the community was rocked by a horrific murder that remains one of the UK’s most infamous crimes, and one that is unsolved to this day. However, due to advances in forensic science, today Avon and Somerset police are a crucial step closer in bringing the killer to justice.

The summer of 1976 was the hottest summer since records began, and is so embedded in the national psyche that it is still regularly used as a benchmark for comparison whenever the United Kingdom has any subsequent heatwaves. But for the family of Susan Donghue, 1976 is remembered for a different reason altogether. That year, a mother, sister and fiancée was taken from them, when Susan was brutally murdered in her own home, in her own bed.

Susan was one of 13 children, and had been born in 1932 in the Fintona area of County Tyrone, Ireland. She had grown up with her family in the town of Lisnacrieve and had attended the Loreto Grammar School in Omagh, where her ambition throughout her schooldays had been to work in nursing. She had trained as a nurse in Belfast, and had worked there for a period before moving to UK mainland and working in a hospital in the Kent area. She eventually married a man named Cornelius Donoghue in the 1950’s and the couple moved to the Channel Islands, settling in Jersey. The marriage produced a son, John, in 1958, but ultimately was not a happy marriage and it broke down in the mid 1960’s. Susan then relocated to Bristol, where three of her brothers lived. She found employment as a night sister at the psychiatric hospital Brentry, in North Bristol, and met a new man. Slightly older that her, Dennis Foote was a carpenter who worked at the same hospital as Susan, teaching carpentry to some of the patients. He was immediately attracted to the 5″2, well built dark haired nurse with the soft Irish twang, and with their combined interest in hospital work, they became friends and soon after became a couple. By all accounts the couple were very happy, as at the time of her death they were engaged and hoping to marry around Christmas time 1976. They did not yet live together, with Dennis sharing a home with his younger brother and Susan having a ground floor bedsit flat in the Sneyd Park area of Downleaze. At the time Downleaze was a street heavily populated with bedsits, and the occupants tended to be transient and ever changing.  Dennis was renovating his house ready for them to live in as a couple, and his younger brother had recently moved out to pave way for the couple living together. Happy times.

The ground floor flat (with open window) where Susan Donoghue lived

So by all accounts, the night of 04/05 August 1976 should have been a normal night for Susan. She should have been on a night shift at Brentry hospital that evening, but wasn’t feeling too well. So she had telephoned the hospital to tell them that she wouldn’t be going in that evening, and a friend had come around to visit her. Suffering with a heavy cold, Susan had seen her friend off at about 12:15am and then settled down, trying to sleep her cold off in the hot August evening. When Dennis arrived at Brentry Hospital for work early on the morning of 05 August, he was told that Susan had not made it into work the night before as she was ill. Remember, this is long before the days of everyone having a mobile phone, being able to text messaging etc. Not even everybody had a telephone in their house at this time, so as Dennis hadn’t heard from Susan he decided to go around to her flat to make sure she was ok.

What Dennis discovered when he arrived there at 07:15am that morning led to him having to be heavily sedated the next day. It left his life in ruins. Dennis let himself into Susan’s ground floor flat and discovered Susan’s body lying in her bed in the bedroom/sitting room. She was clearly dead, and had been brutally battered to death, with the killer inflicting severe head injuries upon her. The room was heavily bloodstained. Shaken and distraught, Dennis immediately summoned police.

A team of detectives, led by Detective Superintendent John Robinson of Avon and Somerset Police, arrived to set up an incident room and launched immediate house to house enquiries in the locality of Susan’s flat. Surmising that Susan’s killer must have been heavily bloodstained due to the frenzied attack, a team of police searched the area surrounding the house and nearby streets and gardens for any bloodstained clothing that the killer may have dumped whilst fleeing from the scene. Nothing was found. Meanwhile, Home Office pathologist Dr Bill Kennard was summoned from Salisbury to examine the body in situ. Scenes of crime officers worked around him, photographing the scene and examining surfaces for forensic evidence. From the initial appearance of the scene of the crime, it appeared that Susan had been attacked as she slept and that the killer had battered her to death with a heavy blunt instrument. There was evidence of the room having been ransacked, although it was unclear exactly what, if anything, had been taken. A bloodstained Bristol Docks police truncheon was found at the scene and this was later confirmed to have been the murder weapon. Also found at the scene were a heavily bloodstained pair of man’s driving gloves, a tobacco box, and a footprint on the inside window sill of the adjacent room to where Susan was found. The window was found half open. Forensic examination of the items found at the scene later confirmed that the blood covering them had come from Susan, and a later post mortem also concluded that Susan had been sexually assaulted either before or after the attack, as the presence of human semen was found. The post mortem also determined that Susan’s killer had struck her over the head at least seven times.

Footprint discovered on the windowsill in Susan Donoghue’s flat.

Whilst house to house enquiries got underway, Susan’s colleagues and friends and family were spoken to at the same time in an attempt to build up a picture of Susan’s life. Everyone who knew her, her neighbours who lived in the houses and bedsits that made up Downleaze, even the patients in the hospital where she worked were spoken to to try to paint a picture of Susan. Had she any enemies, or was she involved in anything untoward or illicit? Ultimately, nothing was found to suggest any of these possibilities – it transpired that Susan was a quiet woman who seemed to keep her personal life quite private and to not socialise too much with her work colleagues. But the overall impression from talking to people who knew her was that she was well liked and very popular with her colleagues. A colleague of hers paid tribute to her in an interview with the Bristol Evening Post the day after Susan was murdered:

“She was a jolly sort of person who always had a big smile on her face. Susan worked on the opposite shift to me. She never pushed herself to the front of things but was “one of the girls” definitely. We are all very  sad at her death, it was the only talking point in the hospital last night, especially among those who worked with her on her last shift on Tuesday” – Mr John Camilleri (colleague of Susan’s)

Detectives examine the point of entry of the killer

House to house enquiries revealed very little, no one in the area had heard any screams or sounds of a struggle that evening, and no one had been seen leaving the vicinity of Susan’s flat. In fact, only one witness was found who seemed to have heard anything out of the ordinary – and that witness happened to be a three year old black spaniel dog called Jet. Jet’s owner, Gareth Jones, lived in a flat opposite the house where Susan was murdered, and in the early hours of 05 August, jet had woken his owners with his yapping and crying. Because this was so out of the norm for the dog, Mr Jones got up and took Jet out on its lead, thinking it needed to go out. Instead, Jet headed straight for the vicinity of Susan’s flat. The dog was extremely agitated and would not settle for some time afterwards – had the dog heard something?

The items recovered from the scene that had been left by the killer also yielded no results. No forensic evidence from the killer was able to be gleaned from any of them. The gloves were old and grubby, and were of the old driving type that were string backed with pigskin palms and cuffs. The gloves recovered at the scene are pictured here:

Bloodstained gloves recovered from the scene
The gloves as they were found at the crime scene

The Police truncheon, inscribed “Bristol Docks”is also pictured here. It is a brutal weapon to use, and all the more chilling when it is known that the killer brought it with him specifically for no other reason but to use for violence. Detectives made many enquiries as to its origins, but what would seem a promising lead ultimately led nowhere

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For more than 12 months, a team of 80 detectives investigated many possible leads and undertook countless enquiries. Several men were arrested over the course of the enquiry, but all were released without charge and later eliminated completely from the investigation. A total of 4,000 statements were taken and 7,000 people were interviewed, but these ultimately led to nothing. Several people who had been seen in the area were unable to be traced and have never came forward, including a slim built man who was seen pushing a bike along nearby Julian Road at about 12:30am; a motorcyclist wearing a white helmet who passed by at around the same time, and a mysterious “man in dark glasses” who was seen near the local church at the time of Susan’s funeral. Two months later, another man – possibly the same person – was seen examining wreath and flower inscriptions at Susan’s grave. Who was he? Detectives exhausted every line of enquiry they had available to them; all petty housebreakers and sex offenders that were known to Avon and Somerset police were tracked down, questioned and ultimately cleared. The police truncheon proved a fruitless lead, as did the commonplace driving gloves left behind at the crime scene. The tobacco tin also led to a dead end, as did the footprint left on the windowsill. When all these  lines of enquiry had been exhausted, and as time progressed, the manpower investigating Susan’s murder was scaled down as other crimes that required investigating caught up. Sadly, crime does not stand still. It must have been frustrating for police on the enquiry – to have a murder weapon, the killer’s semen, the gloves that he wore – and yet to not have a single suspect or witness. With no new information forthcoming, the enquiry remained inactive for many years.

Tobacco tin recovered at the scene of the crime

In the years following Susan’s murder, forensic science had advanced greatly, culminating in the discovery in 1984 of DNA profiling, and in 1995 the investigation into Susan’s murder was reviewed as a cold case. The DNA from the semen sample discovered at the scene of the crime was placed on the National DNA database – but there was no hit. It was again reviewed for matches in both 1997 and 1998, but again with no results. In both of the the latter reviews, a mass screening of suspects from the original investigation was undertaken along with renewed Crimestoppers appeals, but these again drew a blank. By 2005, the DNA profile was able to be upgraded due to advances in technology, and some familial DNA screening was undertaken both in 2005 and again in 2009 – but the offence still frustratingly remained undetected. By the 40th anniversary of Susan’s murder in 2016 – a new cold case team was examining the crime, led by Detective Chief Inspector Julie Mckay of Avon and Somerset Police.

“The passage of time since a murder is no longer an obstacle in securing justice for these victims. The technology used in DNA forensics has come a long way since Susan was murdered and we now have a full DNA profile of the man who sexually abused and murdered her. I am convinced that someone out there has information on what happened that August night in 1976. I would appeal directly to them, or the killer himself, to come forward now and bring an end to the 40 years of heartache Susan’s family and friends have had to endure” – Detective Chief Inspector Julie Mckay (Avon and Somerset Cold Case Unit)

What then, is known about the killer? It is known that it was a male, working alone. It is unlikely to have been his first or last crime, so many points about the crime suggest someone who has offended before. This is a level of crime that is built up to – an offender does not set out to commit a brutal sex murder – and manage to escape detection for 40 years –  as his first offence. He is likely to have a background as a housebreaker – he affected entry without being seen or heard. He came prepared to commit a crime and showed some level of forensic awareness –  he wore gloves and did not leave any prints, even after leaving the gloves at the scene. He was prepared to and did use extreme violence, so I would expect the offender to have come to the attention of police before for violent offences.  It is likely that this offender had a certain level of organisation about him – he was in control of the situation, was able to rape and murder without disturbing any neighbours, and managed both access and egress quietly and without leaving any traces. Even the gloves, although left at the scene, were placed carefully onto a chair. Yet there are traces of this being a disorganized killer – he left gloves, the murder weapon, tobacco, a footprint and semen at the scene.

No one was witnessed fleeing the scene, so a physical description of the killer is unavailable and indeed, would be unreliable now after 40 years.  It is possible that the offender had killed before, as there is a very similar murder that occurred in Nottingham just three weeks before Susan’s, and this case will be covered on TTCE at a later date. And it is possible that the offender killed again after Susan’s murder, though police have never officially linked any other crimes to Susan’s murder. It very unlikely that the offender will have ceased offending after this, or indeed that this is his only killing. There was nothing found to suggest that Susan was deliberately targeted as a victim, indeed, police have long favoured the theory that this was a petty housebreaker who took advantage of an open window that was visible from the pavement, and attacked Susan in an opportunistic crime.  The way that the house was set back somewhat from the road tends to support this theory, it does appear a favourable location for a burglar. A burglar who came to rob, but took the opportunity to rape instead? Det Supt John Robinson said at the time:

“My favourite theory is perhaps we’ve got a petty housebreaker. There is evidence that entry was effected through that window, and there is evidence of ransacking in her bedroom. Anyone going through the bedroom door would think that he was in the lounge because from the doorway he would have seen a three-piece suite. He could not have been blamed for, thinking that the room was unoccupied. When if Mrs Donoghue woke up probably her first reaction was that it was her boyfriend. ‘The intruder was a pretty cool customer because after he had hit her he sexually assaulted her” – Det Supt John Robinson (speaking in 1976)

Due to the passage of time since Susan’s murder, there exists the very real possibility that the offender himself is now dead. Sadly, this seems likely – he certainly hasn’t been arrested for any crimes since the inception of the National DNA database, and offenders of this magnitude will more than likely have offended again. But of course, this may not be the case – he may be infirm and in hospital, or may now live abroad if still alive. But detectives do today have the crucial evidence of his full DNA profile, and although familial DNA searches have to date been unsuccessful, the Cold Case team led by DCI Mckay are fully committed and will not give up on finding the identity of Susan’s killer. There exists the very real possibility that a match may be entered upon the National DNA database tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, and he will be found when the DNA profile is next reviewed. It may ultimately prove too late to bring Susan’s killer to punishment for his crime, but if his identity is known then perhaps Susan’s family can get some level of closure after so many years. It still, unsurprisingly, weighs very heavily upon them:

“Susan was brutally murdered. “They thought maybe it was someone in the hospital where she worked, but they never got anybody. Like thousands of other people, even in our own country here, I’ve never given up hope. But years and years have passed and they didn’t get anyone, and you wonder if the person they were looking for has passed away themselves. They have made great strides in technology, so maybe they will get somebody. That is about all I can hope for. It would help bring some closure for me.” – Seamus McGeary (Susan’s brother)

Anyone with information concerning Susan’s murder should call 101 and ask for Operation Radar.

Information can also be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast



Death in Highgate Woods

Michael Williams

Michael Williams would likely be a grandfather if he was alive today. He would have happily long since retired, and would have spent his remaining years in the company of his family, enjoying life and watching his grandchildren play and grow up. But Michael never got the chance to do this, because one hot summer’s evening in August 1988, Michael was murdered. His killer has never been caught, so to this day Michael’s murder remains on the sadly ever growing list of unsolved murders in the United Kingdom. It is a murder that raises many questions and presents differing possibilities as to the motive.

Michael was London born and bred, and had spent his life living in the London district of Highgate. He had married at age 25, and he and his wife welcomed a daughter into the world in 1986, when Michael was 41. The family were churchgoing and by all accounts were happy, with Michael being especially devoted to his daughter. He always loved and enjoyed spending time with her, and at the time of his death Michael had been flexi working to assist his wife in taking care of her.

Michael, his wife and baby daughter

Michael was employed as a civil servant working for the Home Office at Horseferry House, Pimlico, where he had worked for many years assisting in programming computer systems, one of them being the Police National Computer. At the time of his death, which occurred over the August Bank Holiday weekend in 1988, Michael had spent that whole week up to the Friday staying late in work trying to clear a backlog before the office closed for the bank Holiday weekend. At 6pm that evening, Michael’s wife called him at his office to see what time he would be home that evening, to which Michael replied about 8:15pm. However, after his wife had rung off, one of Michael’s colleagues said that everyone from the office was going to a local pub for a few drinks and asked him to join them. After a moment’s hesitation, Michael agreed.

Michael and his colleagues had gone to the Pavier’s Arms pub in Pimlico, a place that he frequently went with his work colleagues. By all accounts the evening was a good one, with everybody from the office enjoying themselves and letting their hair down after a long stressful week. When one of Michael’s colleagues asked him if he wanted another drink, Michael glanced at his watch. It was 11:15pm, long after he told his wife that he would be home. Making his excuses, Michael said goodnight to his co workers and left to get his tube train home on the London Underground, along with one of his colleagues. A few minutes later, Michael and his colleague got onto the Underground tube train at Pimlico, and headed back towards home on the Victoria Line. By the time it reached 11:35pm, the train arrived at Victoria station and Michael’s friend left him to change trains.

He was the last person who knew Michael to see him alive.

What occurred next remains open to speculation. Michael’s usual route home was to continue along the Victoria Line to either Warren Street or Euston, where he would change trains and get on the Northern Line to head to Highgate. He did not live very far from Highgate station, and his walk home would have taken him past the outskirts of Highgate Wood. If the trains were running on time, he would have changed trains at about 11:45pm and would have arrived at Highgate just before midnight, and then had to walk the short distance home. However, it is not known for definite if Michael adhered to his usual route home that evening, because a ticket collector at East Finchley tube station saw and spoke to a man that was possibly Michael at about 12:30am that Saturday morning. East Finchley is one further stop on from Highgate. Was this Michael, and if so, why had he gone the extra stop? Had he slept through his stop, or had he deliberately gone a stop further?

The main gates to Highgate Wood are opened around about 7:00am each morning by a park attendant, but there are several paths and roads that skirt the park, which is frequented by runners, dog walkers and people in general at all times of the day and the night. At night, it has become notorious as a meeting place for homosexual activity. At 7:40am, a woman out walking her dog noticed a shape on the side of an access road that skirts the main gates to the woods. Getting closer, she discovered Michael’s body. He had been robbed of all of the possessions he had on him, and a later post mortem determined that he had been killed by a single, violent blow to the throat.

So after police had determined Michael’s last known movements, there was an unaccounted for period of 8 hours between the last definitive sighting of Michael alive, and his body being found. Subsequent witness appeals determined further that his body must have been left at the spot it was found at some time between 06:55am and 07:40am. The park keeper who opened the gates that morning at 06:55am did not notice Michael’s body lying on the path, nor did several other people who were using the path that time of the morning. Yet it was there at 07:40am. Had it been dumped from a car? Several people who that morning had travelled past the spot that Michael’s body was found at came forward to help police with enquiries, and one witness revealed details of a strange man he had encountered early that Saturday morning, very close to the spot where Michael’s body had been found.

The witness was out walking his dog just after 6:00 am that morning, and passed the exact spot where Michael’s body was found. He saw nothing there. Continuing his walk and just around the corner, a mere few yards further on, the witness had an unsettling encounter with a man that police have never yet been able to trace.  The witness, who had a large German Shepherd dog, rounded the corner and saw a man ahead of him standing rigidly upright against a lamppost in very close proximity to the gates to the woods. The dog bounded up to the man and jumped up at him barking – but the man did not flinch. He remained statue like, not even blinking or saying a word. When the dog walker went to get his dog onto a lead, the man said nothing but just stood rigidly staring directly ahead. The dog walker later described him as being as though he was in a trance. Feeling unnerved by the man’s strange behaviour, the dog walker made off away down the path. When he looked back after a going a bit of a distance, the man was still stood there. Nobody else reported seeing this strange man early that morning however, and he wasn’t there when the gates adjacent to the lamppost were opened nearly an hour later at 06:55am. An artist’s impression of the man was circulated and is shown below, but despite widespread appeals this man has never come forward or been traced.

An artist’s impression of the strange man seen by Highgate woods.

Frustratingly, another seemingly promising lead was to came to nothing. On the Sunday, the day after Michael’s body was found, his credit card was used to pay for a meal that evening at the New Argen Tandoori Restaurant located on Friern Barnet Road, Southgate. This is a district of London not too many miles from Highgate. However, by the time police had discovered that it was Michael’s card that had been used, the trail had long gone cold. Staff at the restaurant could not remember any details about how many people the meal was for, or a description of the person who had used the card to pay and who had forged Michael’s signature. Also, in 1988 CCTV was not as commonplace as it is nowadays. It was a lead that ultimately led nowhere.

Michael’s forged signature – who’s handwriting was this?

The police investigation struggled, and just a few weeks after his death Michael’s final movements were reconstructed on a Crimewatch UK televised appeal in November 1988. The appeal reconstructed up to where he was last seen alive by his friend, included the strange man seen by the lamppost and detailed Michael’s credit card being used at the restaurant. Out of about 140 calls that police received following the reconstruction, there were only three that seemed promising. Someone naming themselves only as “Paul” rang to say that they knew the identity of the strange man stood against the lamppost, although the caller rang off. It has never been established if this call was genuine or not. Another call was received from someone claiming that it had been they who had used Michael’s credit card to pay at the restaurant, after having found it and not realised its significance. It is not reported where they had found the card, but if the person calling was valid and genuine then they were obviously cleared of any involvement in Michael’s murder as it is still officially unsolved. However, the most promising call of the evening came from a security guard who reported having seen a man he was convinced was Michael leaving East Finchley tube station in the company of another man at 12:30am on the Saturday morning. This would tie in with the sighting by the ticket collector at the same time of the man who was possibly Michael  that police were already aware of.

So what was the motive for Michael’s murder? He was not found to have had any known enemies, seemed happy at home and in work, and was a devoted family man. So this leaves a couple of possibilities. Was it a simple random mugging that got out of hand? When his body was found, all of the property Michael had had on his person was missing. This consisted of his wallet and credit cards, a computer manual, his Home Office pass card, a signet ring with his initials on, and a distinctive Rolex watch that had been made specifically for Michael some years before. Apart from the credit card transaction, none of this property has ever been found discarded or traced. But this doesn’t explain why there was a need to kill him? Plenty of people are mugged at night, but not all are killed. Police considered the method that Michael had been killed quite distinctive also, and at one time followed a line of enquiry that Michael’s killer was a karate expert. Karate experts who were consulted claimed that being able to strike such a precise blow with enough force to kill with that blow would have taken years of karate experience. It also suggests that Michael’s killer was physically fit and powerfully built. It is a very distinct method of killing someone and suggests a killing fuelled by anger and one a bit more personal, whereas it is my opinion that a robber would be armed, possibly with a knife.

A replica of Michael’s distinctive Rolex watch

Another possible motive was that it was a homosexual encounter that somehow went wrong, and police took this as a very serious line of enquiry. It is known that Michael was bisexual, and had had relationships with both men and women in the past. At the time, as they are now, Highgate woods were a notorious spot for people seeking random homosexual encounters. Did Michael pick someone up on his way home, or attempt to? This is a very real possibility. There are two independent witnesses that came forward to say that they had seen a man matching Michael’s description at East Finchley tube station at about 12:30am that Saturday – with one of them claiming that this man had been in the company of another man. Was this Michael? His home life and work life were scrutinised as part of the police investigation, but there is no suggestion that Michael was leading a double life, and that he was anything but faithful to his wife. But it is of course a possibility, and is a line of enquiry that police have never been able to rule out due to the location where Michael’s body was found being a notorious haunt for homosexual activity.

Michael had told his wife he would be home at about 8:00pm, but had made no real effort to get home and had indeed gone for a few drinks on a whim. There is also no record as to how intoxicated Michael was when he left to go home – had he drunkenly approached someone for sex? There is no record of any sign of Michael having been engaged in sexual activity before his death, and he was found fully clothed, so if he hadn’t there is another possibility. Perhaps Michael could have been killed in a homophobic attack? Had he mistakenly or drunkenly approached another man expecting or soliciting a homosexual encounter, only to be attacked by someone with a hatred of homosexuality who was angry and disgusted at being approached in this way? This would explain the rage and force behind the attack. Police gave serious consideration to this theory, and appealed for anyone else who had been the victim of “gay-bashing” in the area to come forward. But these enquiries proved fruitless.

As the case is nearly 30 years undetected now, the passage of time significantly decreases the possibility of anyone being arrested and charged with Michael’s murder. There is relatively little information available to research Michael’s murder, and the gaps in information concerning Michael’s movements on the night also frustrate and hinder any chance of successful detection of this crime. Because of these said gaps, all that is left is to speculate about a possible sequence of events based on what is known. It is that eight hour gap between Michael last being seen alive for definite, and his body being found, that crucially needs to be filled in because it raises so many questions. Firstly, where and when exactly was he killed has never been established. I believe it quite unlikely that Michael was killed where his body was found. There was quite a passage of people using the woods early that Saturday morning that didn’t see his body, and no attempt was made to hide his body. If he had been killed there some hours before, surely his body would have been found earlier than it was? I believe it more likely that his body was dumped from a car hurriedly that morning. Carrying a body would massively increase a risk of detection to the killer, whereas a quick escape could be made by using a car. So where had he been killed? If he was killed elsewhere, I believe the homosexual encounter gone wrong theory is more likely. A mugger would not abduct a victim, for what purpose would they? Had Michael then got into a car with someone, perhaps someone he knew, for the purpose of a sexual encounter? Was he killed in a car, or in a premises?

I also believe that too much emphasis should not be given to the man stood against the lamppost as being the killer. Although this is strange behaviour, and this man was obviously a crucial person of interest that police needed to trace and eliminate, there is nothing to suggest he was Michael’s killer. He may just have been someone with mental health issues, or under the influence of drugs who was in the area at the time. I do not think that Michael’s murder was pre-planned. I believe that he was killed following a heated argument or as part of a scuffle on the spur of the moment. The absence of a weapon supports this.

Of course, this is all hypothesis based upon the scant information available, and the questions that said information raises. It is unclear as to the definite motive for why Michael Williams was killed. Police have no suspects, and no reported forensic evidence recovered from Michael’s body to obtain a DNA sample from for comparison should a suspect arise. There is also the possibility that Michael’s killer is now dead themselves, is in prison for another crime, is in hospital or has moved to another part of the country or even abroad. Ultimately, every lead police have had and received in this case has been exhausted and has led to a dead end, and it will only be with fresh information now from somebody that Michael’s killer will ever likely face justice. This may be in the form of a confession from somebody, perhaps the killer whose guilt has got the better of them, or someone who has long held suspicion or knowledge of the identity of the killer coming forward now that loyalties have changed or long held fear has gone. Until then, Michael’s family will remain with the speculation as to who was responsible for making a wife a widow and a young girl fatherless.


The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was The HallBottom Street Hammer Killer?

Frieda Hunter and Joe Gallagher

Hallbottom Street, in the Greater Manchester town of Hyde is situated in the picturesque area of the base of the Pennines. It hasn’t changed too much since the 1970’s, when it was part rural lane part mix of council housing and stone cottages. But in 1979, this picturesque road was blighted by being the scene of a horrific double murder. A young couple were bludgeoned to death in their own home in what a senior detective investigating described as “one of the most vicious killings I have ever come across”. It is a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

The victims were 30 year old part time taxi driver Joe Gallagher, and his girlfriend of two years, 20 year old barmaid Frieda Hunter. The couple had lived together for about a year in their semi- detached council property, no 3 Hallbottom Street, Hyde. Frieda and Joe were described as being a devoted couple, very outgoing and involved in the popular and predominant biker community of the 1970’s. Joe was from the Wythenshawe area of Manchester, and was described as being academically outstanding, doing well enough in studies to have a promising career as a laboratory technician. Perhaps there was some essence of nomad in Joe, for he left his promising laboratory career and signed up for the Army, leaving home and spending three years as a serving soldier. It is not documented as to whether Joe had a remarkable Army career or not, but when he left after serving three years he adapted a totally contrasting “hippy” kind of lifestyle, a world away from the regimented routine of Army life. He lived for a time in a commune near Glastonbury, and then moved further north to Birmingham. Here, Joe was briefly married to a woman who bore him a son. But the marriage did not last, although it is unclear as to whether at the time of his death Joe was divorced or still married. The couple split up and Joe found himself embroiled in the biker culture and heavy rock scene of 1970’s Britain. He rode a Triumph Tiger motorcycle and found a job as a roadie for a band. It also about this time that Joe began to use cannabis, which was commonplace in the biker culture of the 1970’s.

The pub where Frieda worked, The Queen’s Hotel

Frieda Hunter was 10 years Joe’s junior, and had moved down to the Hyde area from her native Scotland to study a creative arts course at the local Polytechnic college. She hadn’t enjoyed the course and decided to drop out, but as she had made a lot of friends and also enjoyed the biker culture and the music scene, Frieda had decided to stay in the area. Frieda and Joe met and began a relationship in the late 1970’s, and eventually the couple moved in together to 3 Hallbottom Street. In mid- February 1979, Frieda had started working as a barmaid at the Queen’s Hotel in Hyde, and on Saturday 24th February had worked a busy shift. Joe had collected her from work after closing time that evening as was their routine, and the couple had gone home.

It was the last time both Frieda and Joe were seen alive, except by their killer.

The couple’s home, 3 Hallbottom Street, Hyde, pictured in 1979

By Wednesday 28th February 1979, a friend of Joe’s and fellow taxi-driver was concerned that he hadn’t been able to reach him for several days. He had called at the house on two occasions since the Saturday evening, with no reply, and his concern was grave enough that when there was no answer on the Wednesday, he decided to force his way into the property. His concern was heightened when he found the rear kitchen window already broken, and upon entering he discovered something horrific. Joe and Frieda were found in their upstairs bedroom. They were lying together in their blood-soaked bed, each of them having received at least 14 blows each to the head and face. The couple had been battered to death in an attack so severe that their heads had been effectively destroyed. When found, the body of Joe was laid across Frieda as if he had tried in vain to protect her from an attack. The later post mortems were to determine that the likely murder weapon had been a large and heavy hammer, and that Joe and Frieda had been killed possibly up to three days before they were found.

The broken kitchen window to the rear of the property

A murder enquiry was immediately launched, but house to house enquiries soon established that no sound of a struggle or screams coming from the house had been heard at any time between the Saturday and the Wednesday. No suspicious activity had been noticed by any of the couple’s neighbours or residents of Hallbottom Street throughout this period, and there were no obvious or immediate suspects. Investigating officers appealed for witnesses who had noticed anybody in the area that was heavily blood-stained, which the killer would surely have been due to the ferocity of the attack. But no one came forward to report seeing anyone who had been. A mass search for a murder weapon was undertaken, with specialist search teams searching ponds, drains and rubbish tips in the area. But this was to no avail; no murder weapon was or has ever been found.

A possible motive for the savage killing was also elusive. Neither Joe nor Frieda was found to have had any disagreements or arguments with anybody, and neither was found to have anybody who bore them a long standing grudge. They were described by all who knew them as being devoted to each other, and no evidence was found that suggested that either of them had been having an affair. Detectives reasoned at first that the couple had been murdered during the course of a robbery that had gone wrong. Supporting this theory was the fact that an empty wage packet of Joe’s was found on the floor of the couple’s bedroom, and Frieda’s purse was found to be empty. But nothing else was found to be missing, and a simple robbery would not explain the horrific level of violence used.

“From the ferocity of the attack, this was personal – facial and all head, that’s where the injuries were inflicted. Yes there was an empty wage packet, an empty purse, but it was clear the person had gone upstairs, killed them, come back out, and gone.” – Det Sgt Julie Adams, GMP Cold Case Unit

It was this ferocity, this complete overkill that led detectives to believe that the motive for the couple’s violent deaths was very much more of a personal motive, and answers may perhaps actually lay in the lifestyle that the couple had and the circles that they moved in. Their lifestyle was scrutinised and the murder enquiry soon focused solely upon this, with police becoming convinced that the key to solving Joe and Frieda’s murders lay within the biker community. It was established that Joe and Frieda had many friends who were members of the Dragon’s North West chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Many of these were involved in criminal activity and there were more than a few unsavoury characters within this society.

But this was to prove a mammoth task. Joe and Frieda had many friends and acquaintances that shared their passion for biking and rock music, and during the course of the enquiry detectives were to carry out nearly 2,000 interviews spanning the length and breadth of Britain. What became apparent throughout the course of these interviews was that, like many fellow members of the biker community in the 1970’s, Joe and Frieda were both regular cannabis users. It was said more than once that Joe himself was a known cannabis dealer. Joe’s family claim that they knew he used cannabis, but that it was to ease chronic pain he suffered following a series of operations upon a facial disfigurement that he had had since birth. It has never been established whether he dealt in cannabis or was just a user.

Was the murder then drug related? It was certainly a working theory, but this does not explain the level of violence used – or why Frieda was killed also? In fact, the press jumped on the drug angle and this led to Joe’s family feeling that because he was a cannabis user, the press highlighted this part of his character rather than focus overall upon the kind of man that he was. They believe that this led to a lack of public sympathy due to how drug use was viewed as unsavoury and was frowned upon, and even made potential important witnesses not come forward or want to get involved. Joe’s family described how their whole family suffered following this:

“The Press were extremely unkind to us. They needed a story and said he smoked cannabis – it was something they came back to. That was just a tiny little part of Joe. People my mother had known for years ignored her in the street, and parents at my school demanded that I was expelled because they reckoned my brother was a drug addict. It got really nasty.” – Margaret Linnane (Joe’s sister)


Press clippings from the time of the original murder investigation

But ultimately, this line of enquiry like all others in the case drew a blank. The theory that the murders were drug related remained exactly that, just a theory. Throughout the course of the enquiry, several suspects were interviewed and eliminated, and no one was ever charged in connection with the brutal double murder. It has been reviewed periodically over the years, and the Greater Manchester Police Cold Case Unit is keen to stress that the murder file remains open. They are optimistic that there is still someone out there who has information that could help solve the murder of Frieda Hunter and Joe Gallagher, and that due to the passage of time and the public having more open mindedness nowadays about cannabis use and non-conventional lifestyles, this person or persons may now come forward and give vital information.

There is relatively little information available for research about this case bar what has been presented here, and what is available poses many questions. Did the killer or killers bring the murder weapon with them, or was it something they used as a weapon that was to hand? Who was struck first, was it Joe or Frieda? Who was the intended target – was it Joe, Frieda, or was it both? I do not think that the killer was invited in – I believe it likely that the couple were battered to death in bed whilst asleep. No screams or sounds of struggle were reported at any time, so this would seem likely. There is no mention of any signs of an attack in another room, and why would a killer do so but then move the couple to the bedroom? This does then suggest someone having forced entry – but someone I believe was known to the couple. Someone who knew their movements and knew that they would be home at the time. Perhaps someone who had followed them home after Joe had picked Frieda up from the Queen’s Hotel, and waited for the opportunity to break in and attack. This suggests a planned attack, not a random burglary gone wrong. I also do not believe that it should be discounted that the motive for the murder was jealousy, perhaps committed by a jealous suitor. With the absence of any witnesses having seen anyone fleeing the scene, it is even impossible to determine whether the killer was male or female. To overpower a couple would normally suggest a strong male – unless they were attacked whilst asleep. The level of overkill suggests a crime of passion, a moment of madness.

Of course, this is all speculation. There is no physical description of any suspects, there is no report of any forensic evidence being left behind by the killer, and there is no definitive motive. There is not even any way to determine which of the couple, or if it was the both of them, was the intended target? It is very likely that the answer did lie within the circles that the couple moved in, but detectives could never find the answer in these circles. It is likely that someone still knows or suspects who is responsible for the murders, but perhaps fear of reprisal has prevented them from coming forward for all these years. Joe and Frieda do not deserve this.

 “The couple’s way of life may not have appealed altogether to those with more conventional backgrounds, but they were perfectly harmless and innocent people who worked honestly for a living and had a stable relationship.” – Coroner Peter Revington (speaking at inquest)

Anyone with information can contact GMP’s Cold Case Unit on 0161 856 0320 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast




The Murder of Veronica Anderson

For more than a quarter of a century, Widnes mum Lorraine Rigby has had to live with memories of a sight that will haunt her to her dying day, one that left her family shattered. In August 1991, when Lorraine was just 19 years old and pregnant with her first child, she had the tragic and haunting task of identifying her mother’s body. Her mother, 42 year old single mother Veronica Anderson, had been brutally murdered in a horrific and as yet, unsolved crime.

“I’m still angry about it, I used to have nightmares because I had to identify her. I was 19 and pregnant. That was quite horrifying because my mum wasn’t married so there was no-one else to do it. My brother was only seven. It was hard sitting a seven-year-old down and telling him his mum isn’t coming back. That was the hardest thing of all. It affected the whole family.” – Veronica’s daughter Lorraine Rigby

Veronica Anderson

Veronica was known to family and friends as Vera, and was a mother of two, a son and daughter. She was described as a devoted and loving mother, and was eagerly awaiting becoming a grandmother for the first time as her 19 year old daughter Lorraine was pregnant with her first child. The family lived in Hadfield Close in the town of Widnes, Cheshire, and on Saturday August 24 1991, Veronica was at home watching television. Lorraine was out that evening and her 7 year old son Neil was in bed.

What may sound like a run of the mill Saturday night was to be the final night of Veronica Anderson’s life.

What has been established is that Veronica received a telephone call sometime that evening, although the identity of the caller has never been ascertained. Whoever it was and whatever they had to say, it was cause enough for Veronica to need to contact a neighbour and ask them to babysit Neil while Veronica popped out for ten minutes. This was at 10:10pm that evening. Veronica dropped Neil off at the neighbour’s house, then drove off in her Ford Cortina car, registration number PCX 38X, saying that she would be back in ten minutes. That was the last time she was seen alive by anybody who knew her.

Veronica’s Ford Cortina

The Old Tannery Complex in nearby Penketh, Warrington, is now an urbanised area, but back in 1991 it still consisted of old derelict buildings and wasteland left over from when the area was a thriving tanning works. Because the buildings were set back off the road, the area had become the type of place used by courting couples for privacy, and also as a haven for soft drug users. As a result of this constant activity, police patrols to the area were quite frequent. That Saturday night was no exception, and a patrol car passed by there at 10:45pm and noticed no cars there.

At 03:18 in the early hours of Sunday August 25, Veronica’s Ford Cortina was found parked up at the Old Tannery Complex, and Veronica was found dead inside, heavily blood-stained and slumped over the steering wheel. She had been murdered by having had her throat cut, and the subsequent post mortem also showed signs of strangulation. Veronica was found fully clothed, and although there were signs of a struggle, there were no apparent signs of robbery or of a sexual attack – this was later confirmed by the post mortem.  No murder weapon was found at the scene, but found nearby was a single blood-stained cotton glove, and a length of sash cord – similar to the type used to tie back curtains.

News of the brutal murder shocked and scared the communities of Warrington and Widnes, and locals were especially anxious to help in the police investigation. Nobody was anxious to have such a savage murderer on the loose, and public response to the police investigation was very encouraging. Some 6,500 statements were taken from people throughout the massive enquiry, but these ultimately led nowhere. No apparent motive could be found for Veronica’s murder. No forensic evidence from the killer was reportedly found in Veronica’s car. No witnesses came forward to say they had seen or heard any screams or sounds of a struggle at the murder scene within the crucial time window. Tracing the origin of the glove found at the scene, and the sash cord, proved fruitless. But the enquiry did produce one possible sighting that was of interest to detectives.

Witnesses came forward to say that on the evening Veronica was murdered, at about 10:30pm, a woman strongly matching her description was seen in the company of a man at the Crown and Cushion pub on Warrington Road, Penketh. This pub was located very near to Veronica’s house, no more than a 10 minute drive away. It is also very close to where her body was discovered at the complex on Tannery Lane. Was this Veronica and her killer?

The Crown and Cushion Pub in Penketh, Warrington, as it appears today

The man she was with was described as being Caucasian, aged mid 30’s to early 40’s, having short cut mousy coloured hair, and having a neatly trimmed mousy coloured moustache. He was described as being of slim build with a thin face, appearing almost sunken at the temples. When seen with the woman who was possibly Veronica, he was wearing a fawn coloured jacket. An artist’s impression of the man was released to the public and is reproduced below:

Who was the man seen at the Crown and Cushion pub?

Detectives also appealed to the public as to the origins of the blood-stained glove found at the murder scene. The glove was a natural coloured industrial type cotton glove labelled with the manufacturer’s name, “Minette”, on the bottom corner. Forensic examination of the glove confirmed that it had been worn by the killer, and that it had come into contact with Veronica. Police believe that her killer dropped this glove by mistake when leaving the scene. Tracing its origins was ultimately unsuccessful however, as was the appeal to trace the origin of the sash cord.  Both were commonplace items widely available, and these lines of enquiry soon drew a blank when they could not be connected to anyone. It is not reported if Veronica was strangled manually or with a ligature – therefore it is worth bearing in mind that the sash cord found at the scene may have been a piece of rubbish left there innocently, and was unconnected with Veronica’s murder.

A glove similar to the one found at the murder scene

The years following the investigation saw detectives follow up many different lines of enquiry, even travelling to Europe on occasions to follow potential lines of enquiry. But each of these enquiries led to nothing. The case was appealed on Crimewatch UK and extensively in the local press, but to no avail. A £30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Veronica’s killer was raised by Crimestoppers and offered. It has never been claimed, despite numerous renewed appeals over the years. The latest appeal was just last year (2016).

More than 25 years have now passed, but Lorraine still remains hopeful that her mother’s killer (or killers, for Lorraine believes it possible more than one person was involved) will be brought to justice. It is shown clearly even now, more than a quarter of a century later, just how painful the fact that her mother’s murder is still unsolved is:

“I would like for them [the murderers] to come forward. It would be good if they did. As time goes on I think there’s more than one person that knows about it. Just through the injuries my mum had, it’s hard to imagine it was just one person. It’s hard because I’ve got young kids now, I’ve got a three and a six-year-old, and even they ask about my mum. Obviously we have got pictures and they ask things about nana Vera. We say she’s up in the sky and they ask if they can go to see her. They don’t really understand but it’s nice that they ask about her” – Lorraine Rigby (speaking in 2016)

This is a very sad crime, and a frustrating one as there are so many dead ends from what would appear to be such promising lines of enquiry. As with any murder enquiry, the victim’s life is always scrutinised in an attempt to establish any possible motive or suspects. Detectives scrutinised Veronica’s, but have never found any motive as to why anyone would want to kill Veronica. The consensus from her family and friends was of her being “a caring, loving person who was not into drugs and had no money”. No obvious enemies were found, or suspects in her murder identified. She was not found to be involved in any illegal activity, an illicit affair, or indeed any romantic relationships. I do not believe that the possibility that she may have been in a relationship should be discounted, however. Perhaps they were just well hidden, or a secret?

The telephone call Veronica received on the night she was murdered was important enough for her to have to go out, having to get her son out of bed and arranging care for him with a neighbour. One press report has her saying she needed to go and meet her brother, and this may be what she told the neighbour looking after Neil. This was obviously untrue, her family would have been interviewed at great length and this would be a fact that would have been firmly established early in the investigation had it been true. This may just be a mistake in the press reporting then, or it may have been an excuse made by Veronica hiding her true motive for heading out that night. Did she have something to hide, perhaps a secret (perhaps illicit) relationship? It seems more likely that it was an impromptu meeting that she was going on and not a “date” – she left the television on, left her purse at home, and even went out in flip flops. If Veronica had pre-arranged to meet someone – surely she would have pre-arranged a babysitter for Neil, and gone out dressed and made up for a night out? All this seems to suggest Veronica planned to return home after only being away a short time. But frustratingly, the caller has never been identified.

Was then, Veronica the woman seen in the Crown and Cushion pub just 20 minutes later? The distance between her house and the pub, especially if she was driving, certainly makes it possible. Again, this would seem a promising line of enquiry – but press reports are scant in the detail. It is not reported if the couple appeared intimate (i.e touching hands), were they arguing or laughing and joking, what they were drinking, who exactly it was that saw them, when the couple left etc. It should also taken into account that the witness reporting the sighting may have been intoxicated at the time of the sighting, and the bombardment of publicity in the aftermath of Veronica’s murder has somehow distorted who the witness has seen.

It should also not be taken as fact that this was definitely Veronica and her killer, because it may of course not have been. However, repeated appeals over the years for both the woman and the man depicted in the artist’s impression to come forward have been unsuccessful, no one has ever yet come forward to identify themselves as the couple and so rule themselves out of the enquiry.  It is highly possible that this was Veronica and her killer having a drink, but it is difficult to see where this line of enquiry can now lead after so many years. The artists impression of the man has also become less of a line of enquiry due to the passage of time, due to the person ageing, features changing, and of course the very realistic possibility that the person depicted is now dead or living elsewhere. But it of course may still be able to jog someone’s memory even now.

Because of the frustrating lack of information available following research about this crime, and the scant details that are available, it is mostly an educated guess that the reader can make about what motivated Veronica’s killer. It seems to have been a very personal murder, committed by someone I believe that was well known to Veronica and who was familiar with the local area. I also believe it very possible that her murder was actually unplanned and committed in the heat of the moment. Firstly, I believe Veronica’s killer was someone well known to her, a strong possibility that it was someone Veronica was in a sexual relationship with, or possibly having an affair with. A secret lover could explain why no one knew about Veronica being in a relationship, because it was illicit and would have caused trouble or shame? This could explain why she would feel the need to rush out of her house at a moment’s notice, possibly to have an impromptu encounter with a lover. This could also explain her possible reason for fabricating the purpose she was going out that Saturday night to her neighbour, and could also explain why Veronica’s car and body were found in a secluded area – perhaps where secret lovers may meet for sex? Here is a hypothetical theory as to the sequence of events, however I must stress that this is no way should  be taken as definitive. It does raise several questions:

Veronica receives an impromptu telephone call from her lover asking to see her – a spur of the moment request and one that supports the theory that it may have been someone that it may not have always been able to see so easily – someone perhaps already married or in a relationship? Seizing the chance, Veronica then hastily arranges care for her son and rushes out in a hurry, fabricating a reason for going out at short notice because this was a secret relationship, perhaps with somebody well known in the local area, again someone who it was not always easy to see? Perhaps she had been asked to meet the lover at a pub nearby – for example the Crown and Cushion? Widnes is a large area, and this pub is far enough away from Veronica’s house that she and a lover may have been away from prying eyes? Perhaps Veronica and whoever she met then went off somewhere private – perhaps for sex or perhaps to talk without being disturbed? I also believe that the location Veronica was found at was one well known to the killer, one that he was familiar with. This suggests somebody from the local area. I also believe the possibility exists that both Veronica and her killer drove to this location in separate cars, and that she was killed where she was found. She was found in the driver’s seat of her car, and I believe that the attack took place within her car. I do not think that her body was placed in this position after death – what would be the possible reason for this?

I do not believe the reason Veronica was killed has its basis in a sexual motive – she was fully clothed, was not raped, and no mention is made of any signs of her having had intercourse that Saturday. I believe a possible, indeed more likely reason is that Veronica was killed in the heat of the moment following an argument, perhaps after a refusal to have sex with someone? Or after her having threatened to spill the beans about an affair like a woman scorned, after pushing to be more than someone’s secret lover? Perhaps in a fit of rage her killer slashed her throat and then strangled her because the slash did not kill her outright, and fear of discovery overtook remorse for their actions? Perhaps she was strangled first and then had her throat slashed? Panicking, the killer then left the scene in their own car, dropping some items in their haste? The fact that it was only a single glove discovered suggests haste and that it was dropped by accident – surely both gloves would have been taken by the killer? No one was reported as being seen hastily running away from the scene during the unaccounted four and a half hour time window, so it would seem likely that the killer arrived and left in their own car. Haste also supports the theory that this was a spur of the moment crime, plus the fact that no attempt was made to hide Veronica’s body, and that she was found very near to where she lived. An argument that spilled into murder?

Of course, this is a hypothesis only, and I am only surmising here based on the available evidence. The exact sequence of events from when she was last seen alive to her body being discovered have never been ascertained, and quite possibly may never be. Instead, there remain many unanswered questions about Veronica’s murder, the majority of which have been highlighted here. The telephone caller that Saturday was never identified – who was it, and what time did they call? The couple in the pub have never been identified – was this Veronica and her killer? There is a five hour window between Veronica last being seen alive and being found dead, with no record of her car being seen anywhere in this window – where was she in this time, and exactly what time was she killed? It may be possible that there were potential witnesses at the time who saw something or someone, but were reluctant to come forward at the time out of fear of reprisal, or misplaced loyalty. It is the absence of these witnesses coming forward and the answers to these questions that help to deny Veronica and her family justice.

However, the enquiry is still open and is reviewed regularly, and with forensic science and the ability to extract DNA samples from items ever advancing, plus identifications through familial DNA matches now available, it is possible that vital clues may yet be gleaned from the items that were seized by police. These items are still retained, for example Veronica’s clothes, the blood stained glove and the sash cord. Until that time however, or a guilty conscience leading to an important new witness or a confession, the investigation will remain at a standstill. Veronica’s family and friends will remain living with the pain that the person who killed a mother, grandmother, sister and friend may still live in the area, walking free, having never yet faced justice for her murder.

Anyone with any information about Veronica’s murder can contact Cheshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast

Who was “The Beast Of Stanmer Park”?

Stanmer Park, in Brighton, is a large open park directly west of the University of Sussex campus in Brighton. A beautiful park, it is filled all year around with dog walkers, families taking advantage of the many outdoor pursuits, cyclists, walkers and runners. It is a very appealing and memorable place, where countless people have spent many happy times. But Stanmer Park does have a blot on its horizon, because in 1978  it was the scene of a horrific, brutal and as of yet unsolved murder.

Margaret Frame and her husband Peter

In 1978, Margaret Frame was 36 years old and was married. Described as being quiet by nature, Margaret was nevertheless regarded by all who knew her as being devoted to her husband Peter, and nine year old son Andrew. The family lived in a modest house on Saunders Hill, Coldean, and Margaret worked as a cleaner in the evenings at nearby Falmer High School, which was on Lewes Road, about a mile and a half from her home. Directly the other side of Stanmer Park.

Margaret had worked as usual on the evening of Thursday October 12 1978, and when she had finished set off to walk the short distance home as she had done many times before. Margaret’s journey took her through Stanmer Park, but she had no reason to be fearful. She was very familiar with the route and it was only a short walk back home.

But that night, someone was watching her. Someone followed her through Stanmer Park.

When Margaret did not arrive home that evening, her husband Peter was frantic with worry. Finally, he reported her as missing to police the next day, after having spent most of the day looking for her himself.  A massive hunt for Margaret got underway, and police and volunteers scoured the area in vain. Appeals were made for her to come home, and enquiries were made to see if Margaret had perhaps gone off with someone – perhaps a lover – to start a new life. Police were eventually forced to discount this theory and had to concur with all of Margaret’s friends and colleagues that she was a devoted wife and mother, and wasn’t the type to run off with someone. It seemed likely that Margaret had come to some harm.

This was sadly realised as fact ten days after she had disappeared, on October 22 1978. Margaret’s body was found buried in a shallow grave by a specialist police search team. She had been savagely attacked, raped and her body severely mutilated. Reconstructing the crime, police were led to believe that Margaret had been attacked from behind by her killer, who had stabbed her in the back. He had then savagely raped her and left her to die. But, and for reasons police have never been able to explain, the killer then returned to Margaret’s body. He removed all of her clothes, then dragged her body for over 500 yards into a thick wooded area of the park. Before burying her, the killer removed all of Margaret’s jewellery and took it with him. But the final and perhaps most chilling aspect is that the monster had slit her throat from ear to ear. Police believed that a serious attempt had been made to remove Margaret’s head.

The discovery of Margaret’s body brought fear to Brighton, similar to the fear that gripped the north of England that same year with the Yorkshire Ripper still at large. Scared locals and the local press dubbed Margaret’s killer, “The Beast of Stanmer Park”. An intense investigation into Margaret’s murder was undertaken, with some 5,000 house to house enquiries carried out in the local area, and 2,500 statements taken from members of the public. A fingertip search of Stanmer Park was carried out for a possible murder weapon, which police believed was an extremely sharp, serrated, long knife. It has never been found. Replicas of Margaret’s missing jewellery were appealed to the public, who approached detectives in their hundreds offering to help. A link to the appeal is reproduced here:

Margaret Frame Jewellery Appeal

Her background and relationships with family, friends and colleagues was examined in an attempt to gain a possible insight into someone wishing her harm. Everything that could possibly be done at the time was done. But nothing was found. Margaret did not have a secret life, and was not involved in an illicit affair. She seemed to be well liked and well regarded by all who knew her.

The police enquiry drew a blank. Despite all of the extensive enquiries, no-one came forward to say that they had seen or heard anything that night. No one had been seen hurriedly leaving the park that evening, and no one had heard any screams or the sounds of a struggle. Detectives had no forensic evidence from the killer to work with, and the only motive that they could establish was that Margaret was a random victim of a maniacal sex killer. Eventually, the enquiry was wound down, with nobody ever charged, and the murder squad was disbanded as manpower was re-distributed to other crimes that needed investigating. It was suggested that detectives had strong suspicions about the identity of the person responsible, but could never get enough evidence to bring charges. “The Beast Of Stanmer Park” had escaped justice.

But the crime has never been forgotten or the murder file closed, and Margaret’s murder was re-appealed by police in 2000, albeit with no success. This was met with sadness by local residents, who still remember the effect Margaret’s murder had on the community back in 1978:

“It was very upsetting to all the staff and everybody concerned, the governors and her colleagues. There was an element of fear because women were confronted with their vulnerability in their own community.” Ray Blackwood – local resident and chairman of governers at Falmer High School, 1978

Frustratingly, there is very little information concerning this case available for research, apart from what has been presented here. Very little is known about the killer – there is no physical description available of any suspects, no reports of any forensic evidence recovered from the offender, and no details of any exact items of appeal that police made, except for reproducing Margaret’s missing jewellery.  It seems reasonable to surmount that this is not the first offence of this killer – the savagery and mutilation of the body suggests that this is a person who is familiar with violence, almost certainly a sex attacker. The lack of detail presented in the scant information available makes it difficult to profile Margaret’s killer, and leaves more questions than provides answers. Margaret was found naked – where were her clothes? Had they been taken as some sort of trophy, or concealed? Were they found with her? It is details like these that help paint a psychological picture of the man responsible. No weapon has ever been found, so it is a reasonable assumption that Margaret’s killer brought it with him and took it away again. A person prowling around a large, dimly lit park at night armed with a large knife would only do so for one reason.

It has become a bit of an urban legend that Peter Sutcliffe has been looked at as a suspect in Margaret’s murder due to his employment as a lorry driver travelling all over the country. 1978 was the midst of Sutcliffe’s killing spree, however, nothing to suggest his culpability has ever surfaced. The author of the definitive book on other crimes that Sutcliffe allegedly committed (Yorkshire Ripper – The Secret Murders – reviewed on TTCE in a previous post) told me that he examined Margaret’s murder out of possible interest but found no evidence to suggest that Sutcliffe may have been responsible for the crime. It seems that Sutcliffe’s involvement in the crime does not extend further than that of urban legend.

Peter Tobin

However, developments that have occurred in the years after this horrendous crime suggest that the name of Margaret Frame has surfaced as a possible victim of infamous British serial killer Peter Tobin. The crimes of Tobin are very well documented and it would serve no purpose to recount them here, apart from a brief summary of the murders that Tobin has been convicted of and is serving a whole life tariff for. Tobin is known to have killed at least two young girls in the 1990’s, Vicky Hamilton and Dinah Mcnichol (whose bodies were both found buried in the garden of a former home of Tobin’s in 2008), and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the horrific rape and murder of another young woman, Angelika Kluk, in Glasgow in 2007. Due to Tobin’s nomadic lifestyle and the amount of places he has lived in the United Kingdom throughout his life, he is suspected of being responsible for many more murders and disappearances throughout the United Kingdom. These include the infamous “Bible John” killings in Glasgow in the 1960’s, although no charges have ever been brought against him for these murders. According to prison sources, Tobin himself claims to have a grim tally of up to 48 victims.

Is Margaret one of these victims? Where the murder of Margaret Frame becomes a possible connection to Tobin is the many similarities with the modus operandi that he is known to have utilised with his known victims, and the details of her murder. Tobin was known to take jewellery from his victims, and Operation Anagram, the police investigation into Tobin’s life and movements, appealed on television and in the press several items of jewellery that were found in his house in an attempt for members of the public to identify, so police could possibly tie Tobin to other disappearances or murders. Some of the jewellery police found was years old, and very unique. Of course, every item of Margaret’s jewellery – her watch, earrings, and all of her rings – had been taken.

Tobin was also a convicted serial rapist and sexual sadist. He is known to have stabbed Angelika Kluk to death after raping her, and concealed her body.  He is suspected of doing the same to both Vicky Hamilton and Dinah Mcnichol, although their bodies were skeletonised when found some 17 years after they had disappeared, so an exact cause of death could not be ascertained. And both girls were buried. Raped, stabbed and buried –  the same as Margaret.

But what is perhaps the most telling factor that possibly ties Margaret’s murder to Peter Tobin is that in the years preceding and succeeding 1978, Peter Tobin lived in a succession of houses less than three miles from Stanmer Park. Displayed here is a Google Map link showing addresses where Tobin lived over the years, note the proximity to Stanmer Park.

Peter Tobin Brighton Addresses

I am in no way suggesting that Tobin is definitely responsible for Margaret’s murder, it is up to the reader to draw conclusions for themselves based on this albeit circumstantial evidence. But this man will highly likely have offended before Margaret’s murder, and again afterwards. I believe that Tobin is a definite person of interest in this case and if not already, should seriously be looked at as a definite suspect by Sussex Constabulary. He is a sexual sadist and a convicted serial killer who has the same psycopathy as the man who raped, stabbed and buried Margaret Frame. He can be placed just a few short miles away from Stanmer Park at either side of 1978. Surely the chances of two men with the same psycopathy and same intent to rape and kill women, living in the same area at the same time, stretches credulity? It is of course possible, it is just my opinion that it is highly unlikely. Of course, unless Tobin himself confesses, it may never be known for certain if he is responsible or not. There is no forensic evidence to link him definitively to the crime, no DNA evidence, and Tobin himself is notorious for not talking to police about his crimes. He just tells them to “prove it”.

It may just be possible that “The Beast of Stanmer Park” is already serving a life sentence. Perhaps time will tell.


The True Crime Enthusiast.


Who killed Karen Hales?

Karen and Emily Hales

The end of November is usually a time that families are excited and happy, beginning to prepare for Christmas. For the Hales family from Ipswich, in Suffolk, the end of November brings with it a tragic anniversary for them. 23 years ago, in 1993, 21 year old Karen Hales, was brutally murdered in the most horrific set of circumstances. Whoever responsible has never been found, leaving the Hales family still grieving the loss of a beloved daughter, partner and doting mother at the hands of a cold hearted, callous killer.

Karen Hales had so much to look forward to in life. She came from a doting family that she was very close to, and was engaged to a man that she loved and who cherished her back, her fiancée Peter Ruffles. Peter worked as a mechanic at a local bus depot, and Karen was employed part time at Boots in Ipswich. The couple had been together for six years, since their schooldays, and lived together along with their 18 month old daughter, Emily, in a two bedroom house on Lavenham Road, Ipswich. They were looking forward to getting married, and were a popular and well liked couple.

Sunday 21 November 1993 was a normal Sunday for the family. They had spent the early part of the day visiting Peter’s family, and come the late afternoon Peter started getting ready for his evening shift at the bus depot. This was only a short distance from where the couple lived. Usually, Karen would see her parents on a weekend, but when Peter offered to drop her and Emily around at their house, Karen declined. It had snowed heavily that weekend, and not wanting to go out in the cold, Karen had planned to spend the day catching up on cleaning the house. As they had done many times before, Karen and Emily waved Peter off to work as he left their house at about 3:50pm, before he started his shift at 4:00pm. Just a regular Sunday.

What happened in the next 50 minutes is the stuff of nightmares. The exact sequence of events have never been ascertained, but what is known is that the lives of Emily, Peter and the Hales family were changed forever.

Graham and Geraldine Hales

Peter had only been at work for a short time, when he received a visit from Karen’s parents, Graham and Geraldine Hales. They had called in whilst passing to see Peter to ask if he could have a look at a fault they had with their car, to which he agreed to do so. They enquired after Karen and Emily, to which Peter said they were having the afternoon at home, catching up with the housework. Telling Peter that they would call in to visit the girls at home, Graham and Geraldine bid him farewell and left.

They arrived at Karen’s house at 4:40pm, just 50 minutes after Peter had waved to Karen and Emily as he left for work. There was no answer when they knocked, and upon trying the door handle they found that unusually, the door was unlocked. Karen was very security conscious, and as at 4:40pm it was dark, this was especially out of the norm. More alarming was the overpowering smell of smoke that greeted Graham and Geraldine as they entered, and as they moved into the house they discovered a sight that will remain with them until their last day on earth.

They discovered the burning body of their daughter in the kitchen. A post mortem later was to determine that Karen had been stabbed multiple times, and then her body had been set on fire. Most disturbingly, the killer had shown no regard for 18 month old Emily – who had almost certainly witnessed her mother being brutally murdered, and who had been left in the same room as Karen’s burning body. Fortunately, she was unharmed, but if Graham and Geraldine had not called when they did, this would have been a double murder.

“This was an absolutely horrendous crime, not least because Karen was callously killed in the presence of her 18 month old daughter and because her parents were left to discover her body in truly horrific circumstances.” – Detective Superintendent Andy Smith (leading the hunt for Karen’s killer)

The house on Lavenham Road where Karen was murdered
Police begin to conduct a forensic examination at the house

Immediately, police launched one of the largest investigations in the history of Suffolk Constabulary. A team consisting of nearly 50 officers conducted house to house enquiries in the surrounding neighbourhood, and carried out a detailed fingertip search and forensic examination of the house and gardens. A major publicity campaign was launched, passing motorists were questioned in the event that they might have seen something, and witness statements were taken from people living in the immediate vicinity. Karen’s background and relationships with family, friends and work colleagues were looked at to establish if anyone had any possible motive for meaning her harm.

They found nothing. There was no forensic evidence left by her killer, and no clear motive for Karen to have been murdered – she was well liked and highly regarded by all that knew her. She was not involved in anything illegal or illicit. She had not been sexually assaulted, and hardly anything had been taken from the house, although Karen’s purse containing a small amount of money was missing. Also missing from a block in the kitchen were two Laser 7 kitchen knives. Were these the murder weapons? Neither the purse nor the knives have ever been found. Peter was cleared as a suspect very early in the investigation, as were the couple’s family and friends. Nearly 1500 lines of enquiry were followed up by police, but Karen’s killer eluded them. Police still believe that Karen possibly knew her killer, as there were no signs of forced entry to the house, and no footprints in the snow at the rear of the house.

When four months had passed with no results, the case was featured on Crimewatch UK. The reconstruction is reproduced here:

Crimewatch UK Reconstruction March 1994 – Karen Hales murder

The reconstruction into Karen’s murder raises a couple of points. The night before she was murdered, Karen and Emily were alone at home as Peter had gone to a local pub with workmates. Karen heard a sound outside, and when she approached the front door (which was securely locked) she was alarmed to see the door handle being tried several times. She was too frightened to call out or look through the window to see who it was. As there had been a spate of burglaries in the area in the past few weeks, was this the latest in the line and Karen and Peter’s house had been chosen at random? Or had someone targeted Karen specifically and, failing to get her that Saturday night, came back the following day?

Police also had collated several sightings of a man that they wished to eliminate from the enquiry, who has never to this day been traced or has come forward. Described as being aged between 20 to 30 years old, of slim build and about 5″10 tall, this man was seen by several witnesses on the day of the murder – crucially within the time window that Karen is known to have been murdered. It is likely the same man each time because each of the witnesses described the distinct blue/grey parka with a fur lined hood that the man was wearing. He was first spotted by two men who walked past him at the bottom of Lavenham Road at about 4:30pm. The man then walked out into the nearby main London Road and drew attention to himself by running across the road, causing a couple who were driving past to narrowly miss him. They provided the below photo fit:

Who was the man in the parka?

The man was also seen at about the same time that Karen’s parents discovered her body. Crucially, this was in Chantry Park, which is about 400 yards from Karen’s house. Again he drew attention to himself. A woman walking her dog there at this time remembers a man, again wearing a fur lined parka coat, running strangely as though doubled over. He stopped to stare at her, before running off again and disappearing into the park. Who was this man?

Following the massive appeal, the enquiry has wound down. Two men were arrested in connection with Karen’s murder early in 1994, but both were released without charge. Suffolk Constabulary are keen to stress that the enquiry has never been closed, indeed, is periodically reviewed. Karen’s murder has been re-appealed several times over the years by them, and by Karen’s family. The Evening Star newspaper offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Karen’s killer in 2005 – but this has never been claimed. Throughout these appeals, the pain of Karen’s killer still never having been found is apparent on all, perhaps put best by her daughter, Emily.

“Please come forward. I beg you. It would be closure for me and my family. It will not bring mum back, but at least someone would be going to pay for what they have done and it would certainly make us feel a lot better. If we were to know who did it, it would bring closure. I think about her every day. It’s hard. I don’t feel like I have had a normal family life. Although I was young, you have this picture in your mind of someone hurting your mum. When it gets to the time when it would have happened you think ‘this is when it happened’” – Karen’s daughter Emily.

This is a truly horrific crime, which does indeed raise more questions than provides answers. What then, can be said about the killer? Firstly, it is near impossible to ascertain any kind of physical description of the killer, although I believe it to be a male. It is a sad statistic that women are predominantly killed by men. It is probable that the man in the parka had some level of involvement – this was a massively publically appealed crime and anyone having nothing to hide would surely have come forward and eliminated themselves from the enquiry. Why then did this man not? In the absence of any suspects, the photo-fit of this man is all that is available to form any picture of a possible suspect. However, this is a double edged sword because it cannot be determined definitely if this man was involved, so to place too much emphasis on this being the face of the killer may lead away from the real killer. Also, the photo-fit is now 23 years old. People age and faces change with aging.

I believe that the killer was either from or was very familiar with the local area. It has been shown that offenders operate within an area that they are geographically familiar with. Karen and Peter’s house is part of a large sprawling housing estate, an unlikely place to have chosen for a random burglary. But a different story for someone familiar with access and egress from the estate. Was he then known to Karen? Police considered seriously the possibility that she knew her killer, due to the fact that there was no sign of forced entry to the house. Karen was security conscious and would always have looked through the window to see who was at the door before answering – surely even more so after having been frightened by someone attempting entry to the house the night before? It is unlikely that she would have willingly answered the door to a stranger – leaving a couple of possibilities. Perhaps whoever was at the door was known to her, or posed as an authority figure to gain access? Once the killer was inside however, Karen was murdered horrifically and cowardly in a short space of time. And these actions display a lot about the killer’s psyche.

I believe the killer is, or was, a high functioning psychopath. Someone who could appear normal, but with little or no regard for human life except self preservation. What other type of person could murder someone, then start a fire and leave an 18 month old child in a house to die? This man was organized – he managed to gain access to Karen’s house and committed the murder in what must have been a short period of time without being seen or heard. He was not seen leaving and left no forensic evidence at the scene. The missing knives are likely the ones to have been used to murder Karen – the type of knives were commonplace and practically worthless. They have never been found, so the possibility exists that they were kept as some form of trophy. But equally, they could have been disposed of anywhere, and were likely taken because they contained forensic traces of the killer. Removal of forensic traces is possibly also the reason why Karen’s body was set on fire after death. Perhaps the killer was himself injured in the act? Setting fire to Karen would destroy any bloodstaining, or DNA that the killer may have possibly left – this seems the only reason to possibly do this. If the aim was to leave nobody alive, then an 18 month old toddler would not have been able to fight off a killer. It is not known if an accelerant was used or not to start the fire – did the killer bring it with him and then take this away after the act?

There is the possibility that the killer is now himself dead of course, or in prison or hospital for some reason. If this man is still alive, I believe that he would now be middle aged. I do not believe that Karen’s murder was his first offence, and I believe that this man will have come to the attention of police or local medical authorities before or after the crime. I also believe that someone has lived with knowledge or suspicion of who this killer was for many years, perhaps remembering someone coming home heavily bloodstained for example – which Karen’s killer would have been? Or a friend or relative of the killer noticing a change in someone’s behaviour after the murder and having the seeds of suspicion sown? This is a strong possibility – the crime was very widely publicised and remains notorious, and someone must know or at least suspect someone of being the killer. But with the absence of any suspects or forensic evidence, it sadly appears that the killer of Karen Hales will evade justice, barring a deathbed confession, or the burden of guilt becoming too much for someone to bear. Neither the Hales family, Peter, Emily or Karen deserve that.

Karen’s headstone, still lovingly tended by her grieving family.

Anyone with any information in relation to Karen Hales’ murder can contact the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk major Investigation Team on 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast


Who killed Alice and Edna Rowley?

“These were atrocious and vicious killings. Someone must have an overwhelming load of guilt on their conscience.” – Dr Richard Whittington (Coroner – speaking at inquest in August 1988)

It is exactly 29 years ago that a vicious and cowardly murderer shocked the city of Birmingham by carrying out a horrific double murder. The victims were two elderly sisters, Alice and Edna Rowley, whose lives were senselessly taken in a brutal murder that netted the killer a haul consisting of nothing more than a few petty items. The crime is still unsolved, and police hope that someone out there still has vital information that can bring this monstrously evil killer to justice.

Edna and Alice Rowley

Alice and Edna Rowley had run their shop on the corner of Greswolde Road, Sparkhill, for more than 50 years, and were familiar figures in the neighbourhood, driving their old Morris Minor back and to from the local cash and carry. They were known for their charitable and kindly nature, often giving out free sweets to local children and regularly giving donations to local causes. Alice and Edna were creatures of habit, opening very early in the morning and remaining open throughout the day, so, when on December 23rd, 1987, the shop that stood at 94 Greswolde Road remained closed by the mid-morning, neighbours were concerned. The sisters were both elderly; perhaps one of them had taken ill or had had an accident? Concerned neighbours who failed to get any response from knocking eventually contacted police.

When police arrived, officers forced their way into the sister’s home, and found a site so tragic and shocking that it shook hardened officers. In the small downstairs living room, Alice was found lying on the floor. Edna was found lying in her bedroom. Both were clearly dead, Alice having ligature marks visible around her throat, and Edna having severe bruising around her eyes. Post-mortems later determined that 87 year old Alice had been strangled with a scarf or a towel, although it was never found, and 77 year old Edna had been beaten and smothered to death. All that had been taken were two boxes of chocolates, a bottle of Tia Maria, a battered brown leather suitcase, and a radio cassette player. The chocolates and alcohol were the sister’s Christmas presents to one another.

Initial inquiries revealed that the sisters had last been seen alive the previous evening at 6:45pm, and had probably been killed not long after closing the shop for the evening. The initial thought of police was that they had interrupted a burglary in progress. But this theory was dispelled with a closer examination of the scene. An untouched meal lay on the dining table, and there were no signs of forced entry to the shop or upstairs premises. It appeared as though the sisters had been about to sit down to an evening meal when the killer had struck. Had he conned his way in on pretence, or had the kindly sisters invited someone knocking on their door in, as they had a habit of?

Floral tributes adorn the doorstep of the Rowley’s shop

Over 100 police were drafted in from across Birmingham as the subsequent murder investigation began in earnest, with house to house enquiries carried out in the surrounding area. A search of the shop and living area was carried out to determine if anything else had been taken, or any forensic evidence had been left behind by the killer. The sister’s backgrounds and lives were looked at to determine if there was anyone with a possible motive for harming them. Police left no stone unturned in one of Birmingham’s biggest ever manhunts, making more than 5,000 individual inquiries and taking more than 1,600 statements. Every male living in the surrounding area was fingerprinted. The crime sickened police so much that a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer was offered. This was a first of its kind for the force.

“We certainly have not personally offered a reward before and I cannot recall any other police force taking this step. However, this outrageous offence demands that we consider all avenues of investigation and assistance.I earnestly ask the public, including members and associates of the criminal fraternity to examine their consciences, consider the nature of the killings and report their suspicions.” Asst Chief Constable Tom Meffen (speaking in 1987)

But police didn’t have much to go on. The search of the premises revealed no forensic evidence, blood traces, footprints or unidentified fingerprints, and a murder weapon was never found. An item that was found, however, was an empty packet of Walkers Bitza Pizza crisps. This was found lying at the bottom of the stairs – and it was established that these type of crisps were not sold in the shop. Had the killer brought them with him? The origin of the packet has never been explained. House to house enquiries also revealed very little – no sounds of struggle or screams were heard, and no one was seen leaving the scene. The sisters were found to have been well liked, were well known, and were very well respected in the local area. They had no immediate family and neither had ever married, all they had was the shop, and each other. They were described as independent and from a generation that was hard working, proud and brave. Evidence to this effect is that on a previous occasion, Alice had been confronted by an armed robber in the shop, but had struck him with a broom and caused him to flee. The sisters were the type to have a go, not cower.

House to house enquiries early in the new year did, however, give police one possible lead. A neighbour living near the shop who had been abroad over Christmas came forward to police upon hearing about the murder when he returned to the area early in the new year. The neighbour reported that on December 22nd, he had seen a “scruffy looking” man, “like a vagrant”, knocking on the door of the shop at about 7:30pm. This would have been just after the shop had closed. Crucially, the man was knocking on the internal glass door of the shop and not the outer one. This same man was seen at the same time by a woman walking towards the shop. The witnesses described the man as being middle aged, with grey streaked greasy hair, and was wearing a grey or brown jacket with dark trousers. An artist’s impression was created and was widely publicised locally and nationally. Enquiries were made at hostels, night shelters and places frequented by down and outs, but this “vagrant” never came forward, and was never traced. Who was he? The artist’s impression is shown below:

The artist’s impression of the “vagrant” seen knocking on the door to the shop – who was this man?

When all avenues of enquiry had been followed up and exhausted, the incident room was scaled down – although the case has never and will never be closed. It has been re-appealed on numerous occasions over the years, including several times on Central television and the subject of a Crimewatch UK reconstruction. But nobody has as yet been brought to justice for this cowardly murder.

What then can be said about the killer? Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to determine anything for certain. There is scarce information available about the crime, so to build up a picture of the killer depends largely on hypothesis. I am led to believe that this is not the first crime committed by this man – it is a level of offending reached rather than started at. It does not appear to have been a planned murder either – perhaps more spur of the moment? For example – the offender may have conned his way in on pretence, or pretended to have been ill even, planning to then steal in a distraction burglary? He may have been caught in this act by one of the sisters, then panicked – and took the most drastic action possible and killed both? Neither of the sisters had been sexually assaulted, so sex can be discounted as a motive, and there is no suggestion that either sister had any enemies, or were involved in anything illegal or immoral – this leaves robbery as a motive. But why only take such paltry items? There is no record of any money having been taken – in a shop where there would more than likely be a cash float. Just some Christmas presents were taken. This suggests that robbery became an afterthought – and that the murder of the two sisters was unplanned. This is furthered by the method of murder – strangulation. It is a very spur of the moment method, and all points to a robbery going horribly wrong, and the killer just grabbing items to hand before fleeing, panicking after having killed two elderly women.  This theory gains credence by the fact that police discovered that this had actually happened a few weeks before. A bogus water board official had called at the shop a few weeks previously, and had got as far as the kitchen before being exposed as an imposter – although how this was ascertained is not revealed. Was this connected – were the sisters targeted again by the same person? The bogus water official was never traced either.

It is also important not to base the sole picture on the artist’s impression, although difficult because it is the only lead police have to go on, and the fact that any man matching the description was never traced nor came forward to clear themselves makes this man the prime person of interest. But it should not be stated with certainty that this is the face of the killer – the man could have been innocently asking for directions somewhere, and had chosen a shop because of its focal point of knowledge of the local area.  He could have been someone known to the sisters. He may even not have recognised himself from the artist’s impression, or he may not have even been a local man – perhaps a traveller passing through, or a long distance delivery or lorry driver. He is either an important potential witness, or he may of course, be the killer. But either way he has never been traced, and if this man appeared middle aged in 1987, then he would be elderly himself now. If he is even still alive of course. So the artist’s impression is largely rendered useless today.

With no suspects, no forensic evidence and no leads, the investigation has remained inactive for many years now. It has frustrated detectives who have examined every piece of evidence and theory available, and have examined any possible links with other unsolved crimes throughout the UK. None have been definitively linked however. The shop itself no longer exists now, instead an Islamic Cultural and Education Centre stands on the site where it was.

94 Greswolde Road – as it appears today

The murder of Alice and Edna Rowley is still unforgotten in the community where they once lived though, and the unsolved crimes are periodically reviewed by specialist teams of cold case detectives, who urge anybody with information to get in touch to help. Sadly, it is likely that barring a deathbed confession or someone’s conscience getting the better of them, that that information will not be forthcoming, and that the killer will escape justice for this despicable crime.

Anyone with information can call police on 101, or the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.



The True Crime Enthusiast


Who Was The Killer On The 14:16?

There is a £20,000 reward that so far remains unclaimed, for information leading to the arrest of the brutal killer of a young woman nearly 30 years ago on a London train. The murder seems to have been an opportunistic and reckless killing, and the killer himself was injured whilst conducting the savage attack. As a result, police have a sample of the killer’s DNA, powerful evidence that will help convict him should he be found.

Debbie Linsley

Debbie Linsley had many things to look forward to in 1988. Her life was going well and her career was going places. Originally from Orpington in Kent, 26 year old Debbie had found employment as a trainee hotel manager in a hotel in Edinburgh, and although she missed her family and friends back home, she had adapted to life in Scotland well. She had spent several months settling into her new life, and by the near end of March 1988 she had returned to visit her parents for a few days. This visit had a dual purpose; Debbie had been on a hotel management course in Hertfordshire, and her bosses had allowed her to spend a few days visiting her family at the family home in Bromley, south east London. A fortnight later, Debbie would be back down again: her brother Gordon was getting married, and Debbie was due to be a bridesmaid at the nuptials. She had managed to have a bridesmaid dress fitting during the visit, which she had been especially excited about.

“She was here three nights and was due to leave in the late afternoon to go
back to work in Edinburgh. But on the course she met the manager of the
Sherlock Holmes Hotel in London and she left earlier than planned to drop in
and see this guy in Baker Street about a job there.” Arthur Linsley (Debbie’s father)

In order to see about this job, Debbie would have to travel into London. A journey she was very used to, Debbie boarded a train with the intention of heading to London Victoria station. It was 23 March 1988, and Debbie got onto the 14:16 train from Orpington to London Victoria at the London suburb station of Petts Wood. Here, Debbie had bought cigarettes and a ticket, and was seen boarding the train at 2.18pm. She was fashionably dressed for the era, wearing a blue skirt, white blouse and black leather jacket, and got into the second compartment of a carriage near the front of the train. Back in the day carriages such as these allowed passengers to smoke. Trains back in the late 1980’s were still of the old fashioned carriage type, with room to seat up to just six people and with doors at each side, and it was into one of these that Debbie boarded the train that bright March afternoon. It is unknown to this day if there was anyone else in the particular compartment that Debbie boarded.

The Orpington to London Victoria train journey is a pretty straightforward one, with a direct train arriving in London Victoria on average 35 minutes after departing from Orpington. Sadly, Debbie was never to make that fateful journey alive.

The train arrived on time at London Victoria that day, and as was custom British Rail staff began a systematic check of each carriage before the train departed on its return journey. At 14:50 that afternoon, porter Ron Lacey was horrified to find the lifeless body of Debbie Linsley lying in a pool of blood in one of the carriages. She had been brutally stabbed to death. All trains on that particular line that day were cancelled, and a systematic search for a murder weapon began. Commuters were stopped and questioned as to whether they had seen anything, and a police manhunt began with Debbie’s last movements being pieced together.

Detectives examine the scene of Debbie Linsley’s murder

It was quickly ascertained that Debbie had gotten onto the train just 32 minutes before she was found slaughtered, which gave detectives hunting the killer a relatively short window of time. This would help to pinpoint the exact location of the attack, and it gave them a good chance of narrowing down a list of any possible suspects who could have been on the train at the time. Because it was such a short period of time, the likelihood that someone had possibly seen the killer was quite high. What narrowed down the timeframe even further was that it was discovered that Debbie had had time to smoke two cigarettes, and eat part of a sandwich before being killed. In a relatively short train journey, this would put the time of the murder closer to a stop nearer the end of the journey. It was established from enquiries from stations along the route that that particular train had up to 70 passengers, of which to the present day almost 60 of them have been eliminated. Of the passengers questioned that day, it was an 18 year old French au pair, Helene Jousseline, who had information that may have been crucial.

Helene was sat on the train in the next compartment to where Debbie was sat, and just after the train left Brixton, which was the final and longest part of the journey between stops. Helene heard piercing screams coming from Debbie’s compartment. The terrified girl heard screaming for two full minutes, but was too scared to raise the alarm. At the inquest into Debbie’s murder, Helene described what she had heard in a chilling recollection:

“I had never heard such screams. They stopped for about five seconds and started again. She called out as if for help. They were screams of fear and very, very loud. I wanted to use the alarm but I remained glued to my seat.”- Helene Jousseline

These screams occurred as the train passed in full view of houses adjoining the track, but police enquiries revealed nobody who had seen or heard anything. When the train pulled into Victoria just 6 minutes after leaving Brixton, Helene saw a man who appeared to be limping away from the compartment where Debbie was found murdered. She described him as being of large build, aged about 40 to 50 years old, with collar length ginger hair and a moustache. However, she lost sight of this man amongst the crowds. At that time, Victoria station had upwards of 250,000 people passing through it per day, with nearly 1500 trains passing through. A large enough crowd for a killer to slip away into almost unnoticed?

A  possible sighting of what may have been the same man was made earlier on the journey. At Penge East station, a witness noticed what was described as a “stocky man, aged about 30, with dirty blond hair and a pale jacket”, getting out of a single compartment on the train and going into an open compartment near the front. Was this Debbie’s compartment?

The post mortem showed that Debbie had been stabbed up to eleven times, in the face, neck, chest and abdomen. The fatal wound had penetrated her heart and caused massive bleeding. She had struggled against her killer, as she had defensive wounds to her hands. The murder weapon, determined to have been a very sharp knife with a blade of between 5 and 7.5 inches in length, was not found at the scene and has never to this day been discovered. Robbery was ruled out as a motive, as Debbie was still in possession of her purse, her jewellery and £5 in cash that she had borrowed from her brother. Police were forced to conclude that Debbie had died fighting off a sexual assault, which the killer had failed to do as Debbie was found fully clothed. It was also concluded that she was targeted at random, making the chances of finding the killer that much more difficult.

The investigation was very thorough, with Debbie’s family and friends all ruled out as suspects. Her boyfriend in Scotland was eliminated from the enquiry, and no one could be found who bore Debbie any grudge. Debbie’s last movements were reconstructed by police, and a policewoman dressed identically to Debbie retraced her final journey in the hope that it may jog a viewers memory. But nothing came of it. After an intensive enquiry police were no closer to identifying Debbie’s killer, and the investigation was scaled down. Murder investigations are never closed unless the killer is detected, but often remain at a stage of limbo where they are only periodically reviewed when funding becomes available, or new evidence comes to light. But in Debbie’s case, police do have a crucial piece of evidence. As Debbie had put up a struggle, it was found that the killer had injured himself during the attack. His blood was found at the scene, and samples were taken. The advances in forensic science have now allowed scientists to create a full DNA profile from these blood samples, so today police do have a DNA sample of the killer. However, no match has yet been made on any samples held on the DNA National Database. There is also the frustrating possibility that because the DNA National Database was only started in 1997, if Debbie’s killer had been convicted of any offence before that date then his profile would not be on it. There is also the real possibility that the killer may now be dead himself, and may never face justice.

A policewoman re-enacts Debbie’s final journey

What can be said about the killer? Analysis of the crime raises more questions than answers. It is a premeditated crime, yet an opportunistic one. Premeditated for the fact that the killer was stalking the streets with a large knife, but opportunistic because why attack a woman in broad daylight, on a train where a passenger could get on or disturb the killer? Where thousands of people would be at any given time, making the risk of detection and apprehension very high? It seems to have been an overwhelming compulsion to kill by this man, regardless of the risk of detection and apprehension. I believe that this man will have come to the attention of police before Debbie’s murder, perhaps even to mental health authorities. A crime of such magnitude is not a first time offence. It is likely that the killer was unemployed and unable to hold down a steady job – after all, he was able to travel the rail network on a midweek afternoon – and will have likely been a loner.

Physically, there is not much that can be ascertained. It is important not to give too much emphasis that the killer is the person matching the description of the man seen by Helene, he may have just been the first person she noticed in a state of high fear and unease. He may have been just another person in the crowd – Victoria station would have been busy that Wednesday afternoon, perhaps busier than usual because on that day, England were playing the Netherlands in a football friendly at Wembley Stadium. A description of this man was widely circulated, but he was never identified not came forward. No one else came forward to say that they had seen a stocky man limping away from the direction of the incoming train. And as time passes, people age, change their features and hair colour etc – so this person (if still alive) would look remarkably different from that description now. The overkill and lack of caution suggests an offender younger in age than 40 years old – there is a level of immaturity and a lack of refinement in killing and a lack of forensic awareness, so I would believe the killer to have been in his late teens to mid 20’s at the time of Debbie’s murder. There are two men currently serving life imprisonment who I believe should be considered persons of interest to the investigation.

Colin Ash-Smith is a convicted killer serving life imprisonment for knife attacks on two women in 1988 and 1995, and for the savage knife murder of 16 year old schoolgirl Claire Tiltman in 1993. The crimes of Ash-Smith will be chronicled in a future post on TTCE. The other person I believe could be looked at as a good potential suspect is Robert Napper. Napper is serving life imprisonment for the infamous 1993 Wimbledon Common murder of Rachel Nickell, and the horrendous slaughter of mother and daughter Samantha and Jasmine Bissett in Plumstead in 1994. I believe that the locale of these attacks, the timeframe, method and even in the case of Ash-Smith a possible match to the description given by Helene and the unnamed witness make them very strong potential persons of interest in this case.

Arthur Linsley, Debbie’s father

The legacy of Debbie’s murder is still felt by many. Porter Ron Lacey was so traumatised by finding Debbie’s body that he never worked at the station again.  Helene still to this day lives, perhaps unfairly, with the guilt of having not raised the alarm upon hearing the chilling screams that day on the train. But understandably, it is Debbie’s parents and brother who feel her tragic loss the most. Sadly, Debbie’s mother Marguerite died of a stroke in 2011 having never seen Debbie’s killer brought to justice. Her father Arthur still holds out hope that one day her killer will be identified and face punishment for her murder.

“We learnt to live with Debbie’s death and the fact that nobody has been made
accountable for it. But you do not give up hope entirely. We know that Debbie injured her killer and somebody somewhere must have noticed that. All it needs is a phone call” – Arthur Linsley.

He reflects sadly on the families loss:

“Everybody loved Debbie. She was full of life and always had a stream of kids
following her around. I never got to walk Debbie down the aisle or watch her have her own children. All she did was get on a train in the afternoon in broad daylight. She
paid for it with her life.”

Det Chief Inspector Chris Burgess, the detective  leading the cold case review of Debbie’s murder, again reemphasises that the police still believe that someone somewhere holds the key to Debbie’s murder, and that they are determined that the killer will be identified.

“There is a possibility that the person who did this could now
be dead. But that does not mean we are ever going to stop looking for them. If someone still has a suspicion but is not sure, then there is no need for them to worry. We have a DNA sample of the person responsible which will prove whether it was them or not. But we need their name. I am certain somebody out there knows it and I would ask them now, after all this time, to please come forward.” – Detective Chief Inspector Chris Burgess (Met Police)

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives on 0207 230 3893 and 0207 230 0992, or alternatively Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


The True Crime Enthusiast