I was delighted to be sent a copy of the debut book from author Robert Giles, who has collaborated with former Norfolk Police Intelligence officer (Ret’d) and true crime/cold case author Chris Clark, on the subject of a groundbreaking book concerning the life and crimes of the reviled, late British serial killer Robert Black. Black is often overlooked in the annals of British crime, despite the revulsion of his crimes, and makes for a fascinating study, so any text concerning the case will always be found on the reading list of TTCE. The Face Of Evil is just so.
Through conversations with both the authors, I know exactly the hard work and research that has gone into creating the book. I also know that, through events of years past, the Robert Black case has a personal connection to Chris. So I eagerly anticipated its publication and Chris was good enough to send me a copy for review (and of course, my library). And I wasn’t disappointed.
At 314 pages, it is the perfect reading size really. The pagination shows the depth of coverage of the subject, and this size does not daunt the reader. Also contained within are 8 pages of colour/black and white photographs that will impress the reader for the variation and uniqueness of them. As I have said before, I am always impressed with detail and will search out a book concerning a subject that I already have blanket coverage of on my shelves if it contains even one or two previously unknown details to myself.
Structured into two parts (the authors have written a part each) the first part chronicles Robert Black’s life and crimes, up to his arrest, trial and imprisonment. This recounting of Black’s life and crimes is quite simply phenomenal. As I have stated in several of my other book reviews on TTCE, I am greatly impressed with detail. The detail contained here is staggering, and the reader will be left in no doubt of the dedication, time and effort that Robert has put into researching and writing this book. It is the latest in only a handful of books concerning Black, and I am in no doubt that it deservedly should become the canonical one. Covered expertly.
It would not be for me to recount in full here the horrific crimes that Robert Black was imprisoned for. Not only do the authors of The Face Of Evil do this comprehensively and engagingly, but another area where the book stands out for me is the work that has gone in to examining Black’s possible culpability in many other unsolved murders of children, not just in the United Kingdom but throughout Europe also. Reader’s of Chris’s other works will recognise here the approach taken to researching these cold cases, and will find within strong, well-founded arguments suggesting Black’s culpability in the cases that he is widely suspected of. Some of these unsolved cases will be familiar names to the true crime reader, whilst others will be widely unknown (several I was unaware of before reading).
The only critical points with The Face Of Evil I found, and I must say these are slight and should in no way should reflect upon the authors at all, is that due to the amount of information contained within, I believe that the book may have benefited with an index. This would have benefited the reader (like myself) who is interested in researching further names and cases mentioned. There are also slight typeface errors and changes in font scattered at a few points throughout the book and a discrepancy between the actual and advertised book covers – but I should stress these lie at the foot of the publishers, not the authors.
This is a book I found fascinating, well written and very informative. For Chris, it is yet another literary success and for Robert, deservedly his first. A very worthwhile addition to any true crime shelf, and highly recommended.
“We have a beast at large who has killed once, and will possibly try to kill again” – Detective Chief Superintendent Clifford Lodge (speaking in 1964)
Maltby, Wakefield, May 1964. 13-year-old Anne Dunwell had been visiting her aunt in Bramley, just a few miles outside Rotherham, South Yorkshire, with whom she had been planning to stay for a few days. Anne lived with her grandparents in the nearby village of Whiston, and on the evening of Wednesday 6th May 1964 she had decided to return to their home in Sandringham Avenue to keep her grandmother company, as her grandfather was working a night shift. At 9:15pm, she left the friends that she had been with that evening, and made her way to the bus stop opposite the Ball Inn, Bramley, to catch the 9:29pm bus that would take her back home to Whiston.
Anne never caught that bus, and she never made it back to Whiston.
At 7:30am the following morning, a lorry driver travelling to work, Thomas Wilson, made a gruesome discovery whilst driving down Slade Hooton Lane, a winding and remote country lane between the villages of Carr and Slade Hooton. He was later to describe the scene:
“I was driving down the lane when I saw what I thought was a tailor’s dummy with its feet in the hedge and back on the manure heap. I thought it was a practical joke and drove on. When I got to work, I told my brother-in-law what I had seen and to make sure we drove back. We went within two yards of the body, which had a stocking round it’s neck, and noticed that the legs were badly bruised. There were also bruises on the face. The arms seemed as if they had been placed behind the back”
The body was that of a young female, and was naked – except for a pair of stockings wrapped tightly around the neck. It was some hours later revealed to be the body of Anne Dunwell, and a post-mortem was to reveal that she had suffered a savage sexual attack, before ultimately being strangled with her own stockings. No other clothing was found near the body.
A massive police hunt was immediately launched, with a mass widespread search of the surrounding areas being undertaken and enquiries made in the area to establish Anne’s final movements. Within a week hundreds of actions had been completed and thousands of statements taken. Anne’s last known movements were traced, and it was established that she never caught the 9:29pm bus, no one could recall a girl matching her description being on the bus. Someone matching her description was seen near the bus stop at around the crucial time, however. Had she been abducted off the street – or had she got into a car after accepting a lift from her killer? Anne’s family firmly believed that she would never have accepted a lift from a stranger – so police worked on the theory that Anne had either been forcibly snatched from the bus stop, or had begun to walk towards home and had accepted a lift from her killer – who must have been someone she knew.
Five days into the investigation, the search area moved to Ulley Reservoir, some six miles from where Anne’s body was found. Walkers had found some items of clothing, including a pale blue coat with a Peter Pan type collar, at the water’s edge – and this was soon identified as belonging to Anne. A specialist team of police frogmen from Nottingham searched the reservoir, and were soon to find other items that were identified as having belonged to Anne. This included the distinct wicker basket that she was carrying when last seen alive. It was many years later, thanks to advancements in forensic science, that the clothing was to provide useful evidence and insight into Anne’s killer.
Detectives were also left to sift with a multitude of potential suspects, suspect vehicles, and potentially crucial sightings. After an appeal had been made to “courting couples” who had possibly been in the area of the murder scene at the time, and therefore may have seen something of relevance to come forward, one such couple did. They reported seeing a dark-haired man, sharp featured and about 18-25 years old, and a girl parked in blue saloon car at about 11:00pm in a clearing in Slacks Lane, a lane in close proximity to the bus stop where Anne was last seen. The courting couple remembered the sighting vividly because the couple in the saloon car had been “struggling” – and their car headlights had picked this out as they had passed. The “struggling” couple were never identified or came forward for elimination – was this Anne and her killer?
By the end of May, detectives were no further in their investigation despite having spoken to more than 10,000 people during the enquiry. They did, however, have a suspect that they wished to trace, and an identikit picture was placed in the local press. This man, known as “Pete” was described as being:
“aged between 21 and 27 years of age, of medium build and between 5″5 and 5″6 tall, with a thin, pockmarked face and nose. He had short dark brown hair worn in a wavy, brushed back style, and was clean-shaven”.
The man also drove a dark grey Mini van and was known to offer lifts to young girls – including pupils of Wickersley Secondary Modern. Anne’s school. Several names were given to the incident room as a potential identity for “Pete”, and although these were investigated, no arrests were made and the identity of “Pete” could not be ascertained.
Despite the massive investigation, no arrests were forthcoming, and the enquiry into Anne’s murder was gradually scaled down, until it remained a cold case for many years. However, with the advances in investigative work and forensic science, in 2002 South Yorkshire Police re-opened the enquiry with the full support of Anne’s surviving family. The original statements and actions were looked at, and an appeal about and reconstruction of Anne’s last known movements was shown on Crimewatch U.K. Even after all this time, new witnesses came forward offering information. This included a woman who was 15 at the time of Anne’s murder who went to school with her, and who had seen her on the night she died walking along Bawtry Road in Wickersley, heading towards Whiston at about 9:45pm. This seemed to confirm police suspicions that Anne had never boarded the bus that evening, and had instead begun to walk towards home. She was halfway home when she met her killer.
Also highlighted was a different person of interest, alongside “Pete”, that was also never traced, and who rapidly became the prime suspect in Anne’s murder. A witness who had been spoken to at the time of the original 1964 investigation was re-interviewed about her statement and was now able to provide additional information. The witness had described seeing a girl, likely Anne, walking towards a van parked near The Ball Inn on the evening of Anne’s murder. In addition, this witness now recalled that the driver of the man was wearing “shiny cufflinks”. This became significant because it tallied with other descriptions of a person of interest who was reported in 1964, but one who was never traced.
This man was seen, crucially, in the Ball Inn just a week before Anne was killed, where a barmaid recalled serving him brandy. The witness who gave the description recalled talking at length to the man, who he recalled mentioning that he had worked in Rotherham and Doncaster at times. The Ball Inn held live entertainment on Wednesday evenings at the time, and was consequently full of people who had travelled from the Sheffield and Doncaster areas – yet despite so many people this man stood out and was remembered. The man talked about psychology at length, and gave off the impression that he was well-educated. He was also chain-smoking “Craven A” cigarettes, which he kept in a silver case, and he wore distinctive jewellery. This was a distinctive ring with a blue coloured stone worn on the middle finger of his left hand, a gold wristwatch with round black face and gold roman numerals and hands on a gold expanding bracelet, and cufflinks that were described as having a gold surround, with a red design of a female carrying an open umbrella.
A detailed physical description was given of the man, and he was described as:
“a male, in his mid 20s and 5ft 7in tall with a slim build and dark eyes.He had short auburn hair and spoke with a soft Scottish accent which police believe could be from the Inverness area. He was wearing a dark green suit, checked shirt, tan shoes, and cufflinks”
And the man was also driving a small van that may have been grey, green or blue. This matched with several other descriptions of vehicles that police wished to trace and eliminate from their enquiries – including a small grey or light green van that was seen parked on a small track near a disused mill on Green Lane at about 10:15pm on the night of Anne’s murder. A Google Images snapshot of this location is shown below:
This is just two hundred yards from where Anne’s body was found early the next morning. The driver of the van was never traced.
Surprisingly for such a detailed description, this man was never traced. It seems remarkable that police were aware of “the Scotsman” back in 1964, but could never find him. Perhaps it is worth remembering here, without attempting to sound so critical, that policing was very different back then and it was down to old-fashioned “door knocking”, rather than the tools that today’s investigators have at their disposal. Perhaps it was the poor information management and filing system, with sheer vastness of information, details of sightings of vehicles and persons received that it meant that many such a crucial person was lost in the mix. It would be more than 10 years later when these problems were more tragically highlighted, and again concerning Yorkshire police, with the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.
Perhaps the most important breakthrough in the re-opened enquiry in 2002 was the obtaining of a workable DNA profile from the clothing that had been used to strangle Anne. Forensic scientists were able not only to obtain a DNA sample of the killer from traces of semen found in the knots, but were also able to show that the killer suffered from gonorrhoea. But a match for an existing profile on the NDNAD for the killer has so far proved negative. Medical confidentiality has frustratingly provided a stumbling block and closed off a possible avenue of investigation for police – as Anne’s killer would have required medical treatment for such a condition.
What can be said about Anne’s killer? Whilst both the “Scotsman” and “Pete” remain important persons of interest that require elimination from the investigation, one must bear in mind that the physical descriptions of each of these persons were made more than fifty years ago. This effectively renders each description as useless now – unless someone can provide solid, reliable evidence that names a person that matched all or many of the aspects of the descriptions, whom they reliably and with reason, have grounds to suspect. Then of course, depending upon if the person is still living (which is only a possibility now due to the passage of time), a simple DNA test would be able to incriminate or exonerate such a person.
It is likely that Anne’s killer was from the Yorkshire area, and was expressly familiar with the areas of Bramley and Whiston. The key locations to the case are all within a relatively small geographic area, and the area where Anne’s body was dumped is remote and suggests a local knowledge, someone either having lived around the area or worked there. The reservoir where her clothes were dumped also suggests this. Of course, as the killer had a vehicle this is not an offender necessarily confined just to these areas, he could have come from further afield. But offenders tend to operate in areas of comfort and familiarity to them. It is likely that the killer of Anne Dunwell had offended before, although he may never have been arrested before. If he had, it would have been most likely for sexual offences, or offences of violence. He is/was certainly a violent man, and likely one that would have experience at approaching young girls, or be practised at enticing young girls into a vehicle. If Anne was last definitively seen halfway home at 9:45pm that evening, then she was taken very close to home from a relatively busy main road. No screams were reported as being heard, meaning that he was either very good at quickly restraining Anne, or was good at being charming and appearing genuine and non-threatening and gave her no cause to be wary. It is of course a sad fact that fifty years ago, young girls were especially less wary about accepting lifts from strangers, but perhaps he wasn’t a stranger – perhaps Anne knew him well enough to accept a lift.
The killer had access to a vehicle, perhaps a car but more than likely a van of some type. A van would offer ample room within the back to commit a rape or a physical assault. Police re-investigating the crime in 2002 released details that would seem to support this. When Anne’s clothing was recovered from Ulley Reservoir, it was of course dirty and covered in silt. But it also contained traced that led detectives to believe that Anne had come into contact with foundry slag or coal dust residue at the time of her death. This was a very house-proud girl who was wearing her brand new, favourite coat that night – she certainly willingly would not have got it dirty. It is possible that she met her death in the back of a vehicle, or perhaps a building, where such materials were kept. Mini vans of similar description and colour were reported frequently around the general area on the night of the murder – including the important sighting of one just 200 yards from where her body was found at around the time she was last seen alive. Plus, the killer required a vehicle to transport Anne’s clothes to where they were found, six miles away.
It is likely that the vehicle sighted at 10:15pm parked just 200 yards away from where Anne’s body was found was the killer’s vehicle. It is a scant few miles from where she was picked up by her killer, and if she had accepted a lift just a short distance from home, only to be taken elsewhere, she would have surely panicked. This would mean that the killer would have had to restrain her immediately or at least after a short time. It was likely that she was raped and strangled shortly after she was taken, and was left at the body site just a short time later. The timings of this would fit perfectly within the 30-minute window of Anne last being seen, if of course it was her sighted walking towards Whiston at 9:45pm, to the vehicle being sighted parked on Green Lane.
Did the killer of Anne also strike again, again in Yorkshire and not too far away, about a year later? In the next post on TTCE, another crime, the unsolved case of a victim of similar age, and a relatively short geographical distance from Anne’s killing, will be examined and possible comparisons made.
More than 50 years have now passed since Anne Dunwell met her killer whilst walking home that Wednesday evening in May 1964, and her killer has never yet been brought to justice. It remains the oldest unsolved murder on the files of South Yorkshire Police. I believe that it was likely a stranger abduction, and that Anne was taken by chance. Someone known to her would have more than likely been highlighted as a suspect, barring sheer fluke or very poor police work. The information was seemingly there at the time of the initial investigation, although in 1964 the benefit of computing and the modern-day HOLMES investigative system were not available. With today’s tools of detection, it would be very likely that Anne’s killer would be identified and would face trial for his crime. Indeed, there exists a DNA profile of Anne’s killer, and several reports exist of varying stages in the investigation. Some reports say that following the re-investigation, the pool of suspects in Anne’s murder had been narrowed down to just two suspects – both of whom were now dead. Other, more recent, reports will claim that an elderly sex killer, who has been securely detained for more than 45 years now, is being looked at as a significant person of interest in Anne’s murder. The crimes of this perpetrator in question will be looked at and recounted in a post on TTCE in the very near future.
For further information concerning Anne’s murder, I thoroughly recommend author Scott C Lomax’s “Unsolved Murders in South Yorkshire” (a review of which has featured on TTCE previously and can be found here:). Within, the author covers Anne’s murder and details both the original investigation, and the re-investigation in great depth, and makes for an informative and well researched read.
This is a horrendous crime, and Anne’s family have suffered greatly over the years because of her callous murder. Her grandmother was to have a nervous breakdown because of it, and Anne’s father’s health gravely declined in the years following his daughter’s murder. Each went to their graves not knowing who was responsible, and it is finally left to Anne’s only surviving relative, her sister Irene Hall, to fight for justice for her sister and to ensure that Anne is not forgotten. Speaking on the 50-year anniversary of Anne’s murder, her sister Irene told how the crime still affects the family:
“We are truly grateful to all of those who have already helped the police, but I appeal to those who, for their own reasons, have kept information to themselves for so long,” says Irene. “Anyone who knows anything about the death of Anne, however small or trivial they think it may be, please contact the police. “It is possible that the person responsible may now be dead but did they admit what they had done? Please if anyone can help us finally get justice for Anne, have the courage to make that call to the police. We can only hope that one day Anne’s murderer will be identified, giving us closure on a 50-year nightmare and allowing Anne to finally be at peace.”
Anyone having any information concerning Anne’s murder should contact police on 101, or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
“We found the body in the garage – it was quite a horrendous sight.” Sergeant Bob Allard, Avon and Somerset Police
Nearly 40 years ago, a brutal and seemingly motiveless murder occurred in the quiet suburb of the Widcombe Hill district of Bath, England. The crime is largely unknown, which is surprising considering its savagery, and remains in limbo as a cold case on the files of Avon and Somerset police.
Fifty-two year old Beryl Culverwell lived with her husband Anthony, 57, in their comfortable detached house, “Woodholme”, in Widcombe Hill, Bath. Anthony was a successful stockbroker, working from offices in St Nicholas Street, Bristol – whilst Beryl busied herself as a charity worker and trustee, working for a long-established voluntary organisation named the Bath Maternity Society. This organisation was established in 1886, and its goal is giving assistance to young married and unmarried mothers, who find themselves in financial difficulty. Beryl’s role involved her visiting young mothers in hospital or at their homes, attempting to help in any way that she could – be that recommending financial help from the society in deserving cases, or simply just as much as offering emotional support and a shoulder to cry on. Beryl also volunteered elsewhere in her busy life, working at the local community centre in Widcombe Hill where she helped out with events, and ferrying senior citizens to and from the community centre. She was highly regarded in her work and volunteering, and was much-loved. Her entire family circle was a happy and close one, Beryl and Anthony had celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1978, and their quarter century together had produced two sons and a daughter, who were young adults themselves.
Friday 13th January 1978 was a bitterly cold evening, and Anthony arrived home from work just after six pm that evening to find Woodholme in darkness, although Beryl’s Renault car was parked in its usual spot on the drive. Although unusual for the house to be in darkness at this time, it was not uncommon. Sometimes, throughout the course of her work with the Society, Beryl would visit a young mother living within walking distance of the Culverwell house. Being a caring person, Beryl would often stay and comfort an upset young mother – which was a common occurrence in that line of supporting. Perhaps Beryl was still out at such an appointment.
But whilst Anthony was initially unconcerned when entering the house and calling out for Beryl, but getting no reply, it was when he took stock of the kitchen that he began to become uneasy. There was food shopping strewn across the kitchen table, perishables that should have been put away immediately in the fridge such as bacon and chicken. Beryl’s purse lay on the table next to a half full glass of ginger wine, and something had been left burning in the oven. Anthony turned it off and found it to be a blackened, burned pastry. By now worried, Anthony searched for any messages Beryl may have left for him, and checked room by room throughout the house – perhaps Beryl had taken ill and collapsed, or had had an accident?
A search of the house proved fruitless, and the only possible place left to look in was the large garage, which was reached by a door through the downstairs utility room. This door was, however locked from the house side – so Anthony thought it unlikely that Beryl was in there. But he decided to check anyway – and in doing so was to make a discovery that would shatter the lives of himself and his children.
Turning on the light, Anthony immediately saw Beryl lying on the garage floor in a large pool of blood. He rushed over to try to gain a response, but Beryl was sadly dead, having bled heavily from massive and severe head and body wounds. Nearby to the body, Anthony noticed one of the family kitchen bread knives lay discarded – heavily bloodstained. Beryl’s sheepskin coat also lay nearby. A shocked and distraught Anthony immediately summoned the emergency services, and when they arrived, it was quickly confirmed that Beryl had been savagely clubbed a number of times across the head, and then stabbed in a maniacal attack with a knife taken from her own kitchen.
Examining the scene and trying to piece together the likely events of the day, it appeared that upon getting home after a shopping excursion that day, Beryl poured herself a glass of ginger wine and was about to make some lunch. It was known that she had a 2pm appointment with a young local mother that afternoon – and investigation revealed that she failed to keep this appointment. Was Beryl dead by then? Also at the scene were a pair of secateurs that had been taken from the garage and used to cut the telephone wires in the house, then left in the hall. But aside from this out of place object, there was no sign of any violent struggle in the house itself. There was no bloodstaining apparent, and nothing had been kicked or knocked over in a struggle. It was apparent that Beryl had been killed where she was found – had she disturbed an intruder and fled to the garage, or had an intruder broken in and forced her there, then killed her. And why?
Beryl’s body was taken away from the scene for a post-mortem examination, whilst the murder investigation team, headed by Detective Superintendent John Robinson, began the enquiry. From the onset, police were plagued with questions at every turn. It didn’t seem to be a sex crime – there was no sign or reports of Beryl having been sexually assaulted, nor of her clothing having been interfered with. Nor did the motive appear to be robbery – not only did nothing appear to be missing from the house, but there was also no signs of any ransacking – and Beryl had money both found on her person and in her purse, which was found on the kitchen table. No unexplained fingerprints or forensic evidence left by the killer(s) were found in the house, and apart from the secateurs left in the hallway and the kitchen knife in the garage, nothing else seemed out of place in the main house. Nor had anybody in the vicinity heard any screams or sounds of a struggle.
House to house enquiries in Bath, concentrated within the Widcombe Hill area got under way, road blocks were also set up and passing motorists questioned as to whether they had seen anything or anyone suspicious on the day of the murder, and an appeal was made to local guest house proprietors asking for information about any sudden arrival or departure, in case this person may have been the killer. Known local criminals were looked at and questioned, a mass search of the surrounding areas was undertaken, and hundreds of statements taken from people in the local area. A detailed look at Beryl and her families lives, their friends and work acquaintances was undertaken in an attempt to establish a possible motive – or a suspect.
By Monday 16th January 1978, the inquest into Beryl’s death had been opened and adjourned for further investigation, and full details of the post-mortem were revealed. The pathologist had discovered at least 5 separate blows to Beryl’s skull that had been caused by a heavy, blunt instrument; and 21 separate stab wounds to Beryl’s body inflicted by her own kitchen knife. Cause of death was concluded as being shock, and loss of blood, as a direct result of these wounds. The estimated time of death had been between four and five hours before the body was discovered. This tended to support the police theory that Beryl had been attacked whilst preparing lunch. But police were still unable to pinpoint a clear motive – a thorough examination of Beryl’s life revealed no secret lovers, no one who was known to dislike her, or nobody that had fallen out with her in any way. She was loved or liked by all who knew her, and wasn’t involved in anything illicit or unlawful.
Police had managed to establish a few lines of enquiry at the time of the massive 1978 investigation, but none were to provide any advancement in the search for Beryl’s killer. There were several crucial sightings of a vehicle that police wished to eliminate from the enquiry, a yellow Ford Cortina Mark III that had been sighted parked outside Woodholme at about 2:00pm on the afternoon of the murder. More crucially, the same car containing two men had also been seen turning out of the driveway of Woodholme at about 2:45pm – the witness was certain about this because the car had shot out of the driveway at considerable speed, driving erratically and almost hitting another car as it sped off. Police staged a reconstruction using a similar car in an attempt for further potential witnesses to come forward, but despite this, the vehicle was never traced. Nor was a description of the driver or passenger ever established.
That weekend following the murder, police believed that they had found a crucial clue with the discovery, half a mile from the Culverwell home, of a bloodstained man’s handkerchief. The location where it was found led police to consider the possibility that it had been dropped by Beryl’s killer when fleeing fled from the rear of the house and across fields, before heading into Bath itself. An appeal was made to dry cleaners within the area, as it was believed that Beryl’s killer would have been heavily bloodstained and police asked for any reports of bloodstained clothes being brought in for cleaning. But before a week had passed this lead had been eliminated from the enquiry. A reliable witness was found that had seen a man with a nosebleed throw the handkerchief away – some days before Beryl’s murder.
Although this was a forensic clue that led nowhere, it is reported that detectives did have another clue, one giving the origin of the weapon used to club Beryl – it was slivers of the butt of a shotgun. Parts of the butt were found in the pools of blood in which Beryl’s body lay, and enough could be gleaned from piecing fragments together to ascertain that the weapon was an old-style model with a Rogers side lock action. A line of enquiry with local gun dealers as to anybody who had approached them asking for repairs to be made to such a gun, however, proved fruitless. Several anonymous telephone calls to police by a person claiming to have found such a weapon in some remote hills in the Bath area were also unable to be traced.
The enquiry eventually was wound down as one line of enquiry petered out after another, and although not closed, it remained officially “active with regular reviews” for many years. In January 2003, on the 25th anniversary of Beryl’s murder, a re-appeal was made however, and the case featured as an appeal on Crimewatch UK. However, it did not generate much new information, perhaps no more than rekindling local interest. By this time, Beryl’s children had families of their own, and her husband Anthony had passed away never knowing who was responsible for the murder of his beloved wife.
This is a savage crime, and one that there is relatively little information readily available to research. I did manage to source a book entitled “Bristol and Bath Whodunnit?” by author David Kidd-Hewitt that covers Beryl’s murder in a chapter, and in using this text for reference for this post I have remained faithful to the author’s findings. However, other sources contain a piece of important information that is not featured within this chapter, and I believe it worth mentioning here because it may affect any profile of Beryl’s killer. A Freedom Of Information request available online concerning undetected homicides in the Avon and Somerset area from 1946 onwards details Beryl’s murder. It contains the following:
13 January 1978 BERYL CULVERWELL 52 YEARS White – North European “WOODHOLME” WIDCOMBE HILL BATH. MRS CULVERWELL WAS FOUND MURDERED IN THE GARAGE OF HER HOME. SHE DIED FROM STAB WOUNDS AND SEVERE HEAD INJURIES. HER BODY HAD BEEN TIED WITH TWINE. UNDETECTED ACTIVE WITH REGULAR REVIEWS
This is the only reference available to Beryl having been found bound with twine.
What then, is the likely profile of Beryl’s killer? Firstly, it must be remembered that so much concerning this case remains unknown, and what scant information there is only serves to raise more questions than provide answers. There is no discernible suspect, and the exact motive remains unclear. It should also be emphasised, as regular readers will be familiar with, that I in no way offer the following as definitive, it is pure hypothesis based upon the available information.
No physical description exists of a suspect in the murder, and due to the large passage of time since the murder any physical description would be useless anyway. I believe that the house was deliberately targeted, and that there was more than one killer. The houses on Widcombe Hill appear large and tend to be detached, and would offer attractive targets for burglary as they suggest affluence and rich pickings. Burglars also tend to operate in pairs, and this is not your classic striped jumper glass cutter masked burglar as depicted so often in film and TV. A likely scenario is that Beryl arrived home after shopping that morning, and began to prepare a lunch for herself. This explains the food in the oven, and the timing can be near definitively confirmed because the ever punctual and reliable Beryl failed to keep an appointment at 2:00pm.
It is possible then that her killer – or killers, because evidence suggests that this was the work of more than one offender – knocked on either the front or back door and burst in when it was answered, or crept in and surprised Beryl in the kitchen at gunpoint. She may or may not have been tied up – if she was, then this would suggest more than one offender – and taken to the garage. Or perhaps she was threatened at gunpoint by one offender, and marched to the garage to secure something to restrain her – perhaps strong twine, that would need a knife to cut? Two offenders would also account for the telephone lines being cut – one does this whilst the other one guards the victim. It must have been done before Beryl was killed – what would be the point of doing so after such a brutal murder? Why were the telephone lines cut anyway? To allow ample time for the offender to escape, or to stop Beryl from contacting help? This seems the only likely reasons to do so. But this also serves then to suggest that Beryl’s murder was unplanned – because if the intention is to not leave someone alive in the house, there serves no purpose in doing this.
It is possible that Beryl tried to flee to the sanctuary of the garage – where she could have locked herself in – but why not scream or try to leave the house, or to alert neighbours? Was she then caught and clubbed into unconsciousness? But why then the need to commit such a ferocious attack –, or did she try to escape from the garage, was clubbed into unconsciousness, and then the offender(s) panicked, stabbed and battered her repeatedly, then fled before anything could be taken? Or did bloodlust take over – or did she even recognise her killer and said so, causing her death? The witness statements detailing the yellow Ford Cortina that contained two men leaving the scene, driving very fast and very erratically, all support the scenario of it being a bungled robbery that led to an unplanned murder. This is also supported by the use of a knife from Beryl’s own kitchen to stab her, and the fact that it was left at the scene. This seems unplanned and disorganised. If the killing was planned, the killer would have likely taken away a murder weapon with them, not left it at the scene. They would have also left the house quietly, without drawing attention to themselves.
But what if the killer(s) HAD gone to the house with the deliberate intention of killing Beryl? I believe this also could be a possible scenario, and it could also be possible that Beryl was killed by someone that she knew. There are reasons to believe that she, or the Culverwells, were known to her killer(s) at least. Consider that Beryl’s car was on the driveway. Would an offender really choose at random a house, however affluent and remote it appeared, if a car was visible in the driveway and it appeared that someone was at home? In the middle of the day? Unlikely – unless you were familiar with the family and recognised which was Beryl’s car and which was Anthony’s. This suggests either someone who had watched the house for a period of time and had learned the family routines – or someone who knew Beryl. If it was someone she knew, this would also the support the reason for the lack of signs of forced entry and the lack of any screams – Beryl may have admitted the killer(s) willingly to the house, not suspecting that she had any reason to fear them?
If this was the case, and her killer was someone she knew, then who was it? Beryl’s life, and the lives of her family, were scrutinised in an attempt to identify a suspect or a motive. Nothing, no-one stood out. Everyone who knew the Culverwell family was spoken to and looked at as potential suspects – friends, neighbours, family and colleagues. All were eliminated from the investigation. There was no obvious motive to be found; no affairs, no dodgy dealings, no long running feud or even crossed words with anyone were found. Was it someone that she had met in the course of her volunteering, perhaps the estranged partner of one of the young mothers that she had counselled – who had taken a grudge against someone they believed had helped their partner to get free from their control? Had this person followed Beryl and gone to her home to confront her that fateful day?
What are the possible motives for the murder then? Sex, robbery, or personal. It is unlikely to be a sex crime – there was no reported rape or indecent assault, and Beryl was found fully clothed. A sex attacker would have left the victim in a state of at least some undress, and would also have committed the sex attack in a more comfortable location rather than a garage. Whilst there is ample precedent of a sex attacker killing the victim, the level of violence is unusual, strangulation would be more likely a method.
I believe that a personal motive would have been identified and that if someone did have a grudge against Beryl, then this would have come to attention during the initial police investigation. It is highly unlikely that if a person feels strongly enough about an individual to not only desire to, but to actually set out to murder them so brutally, that it remains kept entirely to themselves and no one else has an inkling of this. I believe the initial motive here was robbery. Beryl was a trustee of the Maternity Society – did someone believe that there may be large amounts of cash readily available to her – but this graduated to an unplanned murder when Beryl attempted to escape or fought back, and perhaps the killer(s) left in a panic, all thoughts of robbery abandoned. It does not explain the savagery of the crime, however. Bloodlust, or hatred?
I believe it likely that the killer, or killers, of Beryl Culverwell had offended before the murder, but were at the younger end of the offender scale, no older than early to mid 20’s. If it was a shotgun that was used to brutally club Beryl, it suggests to me a younger, less mature offender. An experienced burglar does not take a shotgun to burgle a house – but a younger, less experienced offender may do so, perhaps out of bravado or to fulfill some macho fantasy. I also believe it very likely that the killer(s) have committed other crimes following this killing. It is too savage a crime and too much forensic awareness was shown at the scene for this to be a first-time offender, although this may have been the offender’s first murder. There is likely to be a history of violence in the offender’s past, and possibly housebreaking or theft. This killer was in the files somewhere. I believe it most likely that there was more than one killer – as stated above, this is supported by the sighting of a vehicle containing two men driving away. Two people would also possibly explain the different methods of attack – it suggests two persons attacking at once, perhaps in a rage, or perhaps one forcing the other to do so to attain dual culpability. The killer(s) would certainly have been familiar with the area of Widcombe Hill, perhaps living in the local area, or perhaps working there or having been schooled there.
Of course, after so many years that have now passed since Beryl’s murder, the possibility exists now that the offender or offenders are themselves dead now. If they are still alive, they will be middle-aged to elderly themselves. They may have moved away from the area, or be in prison or a hospital. Or they may still live close by, hoping that fortune smiles upon them and that they never face justice for their crime. They have gotten away with murder for nearly 40 years now. The family of Beryl Culverwell deserve that good fortune and justice more than her killer(s).
Anybody with any information concerning Beryl’s murder should contact police using 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
I am delighted to bring the Robert Mone trilogy featured this past week on TTCE to a close today. As listeners to the UK True Crime podcast will be aware, the case was the latest collaboration between TTCE and UK True Crime for the debut two-part episode, “A Life Of Violence” (episodes 39-40). If you haven’t already heard this gripping story, please take the time and head over to check them out. And also the other episodes, there are some really great featured cases. Links to the UK True Crime Podcast can be found at the footer of this post. Parts 1 and 2 can also be found in the TTCE archives.
The aftermath of the November 1976 escape from Carstairs was to yet have even more dramatic consequences, for if what hadn’t transpired already wasn’t horror enough – there was yet more horror to come. The name Mone wasn’t quite ready to be forgotten by the general public just yet.
Skip forward now to the very start of 1979, the 4th January. Detective Chief Inspector David Fotheringham of Dundee CID was making a routine paper sift through all the daily crime reports and missing persons reports that are of a routine passed on from the uniformed section that consider them for further action. One caught his eye especially – a report that detailed the disappearance of an elderly Dundee woman, 78-year-old Agnes Waugh, from her home in Kinghorne Road.
The report detailed how Miss Waugh had not been seen for six days, since she was seen at her home in Gray Memorial House on Kinghorne Road in Dundee’s Hilltown district on the afternoon of the 29th December. Gray Memorial House was at the time a block of flats on one side of an area of Hilltown known as the Law, or was more commonly known locally by the unenviable title of “no man’s land”. The letting regulations there stipulated that the flats in that block could only be rented to females, but the block was pretty open for the time and many people, both savoury and unsavoury, came and went and frequented it. Miss Waugh was well-known throughout the area, and was looked in on by other residents, who were alarmed to find her flat door open and the gas fire in the living room on full, but with no sign of Agnes anywhere. It was bitterly cold and there was snow on the ground. Due to her age, she was quite infirm, and it was thought at first that she may have wandered off and had an accident. But a check of local hospitals proved negative-and she was unlikely to have wandered far anyway.
DCI Fotheringham ordered a major hunt, sensing that something ominous had happened here. Both uniformed and plainclothes officers swamped the area, and every flat in the block was to be entered and searched, even if that meant forcing entry. One by one the flats were searched, and people were at home in most of the flats. They co-operated with officers, and were only too anxious to help. No sign of Agnes Waugh was found. The only flat that no one appeared to be at home in was one on the ground floor of the block at the rear, with curtains drawn on all windows. Late that afternoon, a detective went and forced the living room window to open the curtains and to gain access, and as soon as he had done so, the familiar nauseating smell emanating from the property told him that there was a body inside there. In the fading light, the policeman could just make out the outline of an arm hanging from a bed recess.
It was only when police entered the scene could they appreciate the full horror of what was before them. Laid out on the bed was the body of a young woman who showed signs of being severely beaten about the face and neck, and who had a stocking and an electric flex knotted tightly around her neck. Across from the bed, at either side of the fireplace in armchairs, were the bodies of two other women. Both were elderly, both again had been beaten about the face and neck, and both had stockings knotted tightly around their necks. Each of these women had also been bound to the chairs by polythene bags tied at their wrists and ankles, and all three women had clearly been dead for several days.
The women were quickly identified as the missing Agnes Waugh, 70-year-old Jane Simpson-who was the occupant of the flat, and the younger woman was identified as 29-year-old Catherine Millar, a newlywed of less than two weeks who was known to frequent the Hilltown area on drinking binges. Catherine was positively identified by her distraught husband, who had reported her missing when she failed to come home on 29th December, just a week after they had married.
Forensic experts confirmed that Catherine, Agnes and Jane had all been dead for several days, likely since 29th December when both Agnes and Catherine had been seen last. Cause of death was ruled to be strangulation, and a close examination of the bruising to the faces of each woman was to provide a vital piece of evidence, that would also prove later to be quite ironic. Each woman displayed wounds that were consistent with her killer having worn a prominent ring. Forensic scientists managed to make a cast and resin model of the wound imprint that could be used as a comparison if an arrest was made.
One of the largest murder hunts in Dundee police history got underway in the following days, and the press had a field day reporting on the hunt for the “Gray Memorial Strangler”. Everyone who had even the most tenuous connections with each woman was questioned, and every betting shop and public house in the area was visited by detectives. One of the first people to be interviewed was the nephew of Agnes Waugh – Robert Christopher “Sonny” Mone – the father of the (already) infamous Robert Mone Jr, who was by then serving a whole life sentence at Perth Prison.
“Sonny” Mone was a detested figure in his neighbourhood. It has already been stated how he was no stranger to abusing his family, particularly Robert Mone Jr, but his bullying and violent ways were not just kept within the confines of his family. He had a long criminal record that had begun as a small-time housebreaker and petty thug and had moved up to serious assaults. He was quick to violence, especially after drinking, so this was a regular occurrence as “Sonny” was a heavy drinker.
He was a small and slight man, but was a notorious nasty piece of work and didn’t care if he struck men or women. Part of his “tough guy” routine was to swagger about town with his thumbs stuck into the pockets of his trousers, picking fights with anybody – usually as is the style of bullies, with somebody smaller than him. He was also very fond of showing off the tattoos that he was covered in, with the initials IHS tattooed across his chest, which represented In His Service, a reference to the Devil. His pride and joy, however, were the letters TNT emblazoned on his penis. It was all part of his big act to try to pass himself off as a big shot amongst the Dundee criminal element and someone to be feared. Mone Sr also revelled in the notoriety of the unspeakable crimes that his son Robert had committed, and would regularly bend the ear of anybody he came across each night whilst out drinking in the city pubs. He spoke longingly of his pride and affection for his son, whom he referred to as “The Carstairs Killer”, and how much he wanted to be with him in prison. In fact, he had said words to the effect on the afternoon of the 29th December, the day Agnes was last seen. Sonny had been in the Vennel public house just around the corner from the scene of the triple murder, and had been a troublesome customer, drunk as usual and spoiling for a fight, threatening anybody who complained about his behaviour with violence. Throughout all his drunken ramblings, one message was clear: Mone was boasting that he would become more famous than his son.
Questioned by police concerning his movements that day, Mone admitted readily that he had been in the flat that afternoon with Jane Simpson, and another man, 22-year-old Stewart Hutton, who was known in the local community as “Billy Rebel” and who was a drinking acquaintance of Mone, Jane and Catherine. Mone claimed that the two men had taken a carry out of alcohol to the flat and had a drinking session until mid afternoon, when Mone had then left the flat to get fresh supplies. Hutton, when questioned, told the same story – except that he claimed it was he who had departed the flat to get more supplies of alcohol. In fact, Hutton had never returned to the flat, instead spending the money he had been given to get more alcohol in a betting shop. He claimed that he had a “strange feeling” about the atmosphere in the flat that day, and was not anxious to return, knowing Mone’s character when drinking. Police were able to corroborate Hutton’s story through checks at the betting shop, and he was also satisfactorily alibied for the remainder of the afternoon. Mone Sr was now the prime and obvious suspect – he was admittedly there at the crucial time, was known to be violent to women, and perhaps most importantly – he had boasted that he would be more famous than his son. Had he killed three women in some sick game of “anything you can do, I can do better”?
Mone Sr was questioned at length over several days, and although he never admitted the murders, he never denied them either. Instead, with his typical swagger he hinted that he knew more than he was saying and all he seemed to be concerned with was to talk about his infamous son. But even this came across as less of concern and fatherly love, and more of to bolster his own status as a hard man. He told one police officer:
“I don’t care for the fucking jungle outside no more. All I live for is to be in there with him. If I was there, I would see he gets everything that’s going – pills, booze, anything, the lot.”
Whilst he was being interviewed, detectives looked to see if he wore a ring with a prominent face, but he never did. But they still believed that they had their killer in front of them. And then they had a breakthrough. Enquiries revealed that Mone did indeed have a prominent ring, a silver band with a large jade stone. It had, ironically, belonged to his son – who had gifted it to his father when he was sent to Perth prison after the Carstairs breakout, as he was prohibited from wearing it after being transferred there. If detectives could find the ring, they could try to match it with the indentations on the victim’s faces. A search warrant detailing the description of the ring and its importance as evidence in the case was issued, and Mone’s house, his sister’s house, and even his estranged wife’s house in Glasgow were searched looking for it. However, it wasn’t found. During all this activity, Mone Sr went about his routine apparently unconcerned – he even took a trip to Perth Prison to visit his son who he was so obsessed with.
Although the evidence against Mone Sr was thin at best, an agreement between the police, the Dundee Procurator Fiscal and the Crown Counsel in Edinburgh was made that there was a borderline case. It was two weeks after the discovery of the murders, on 18th January 1979, that Crown prosecutors agreed an arrest warrant for Robert Christopher Mone Sr. It was decided that the public interest was so great, that an attempt had to be made to convict the prime suspect. The warrant was issued – and Mone Sr was arrested later that afternoon in the street near his home in Glen Prosen Terrace. When arrested, Mone was wearing the very ring that police had searched so long for.
In June 1979, Robert Christopher Mone Sr stood trial at the High Court in Dundee, charged with the murders of Agnes Waugh, Jane Simpson, and Catherine Millar, to which he pleaded not guilty. The lynchpin of the prosecution evidence was the ring that had been passed from killer son to father. The cast of the wound imprints that had been made at the time forensic scientists examined the bodies had been compared with the ring Mone had been wearing when arrested, and were found to match near perfectly. Crucially, traces of blood group A – the same as belonging to Agnes and Catherine were found on it also. And if this wasn’t persuasive enough, one of the trial witnesses was to produce a sensational moment that proved to be damning. Mone’s daughter, 15-year-old Rose-Ann, told the court that her father had loaned her the ring the previous year after she had expressed admiration for it, but had asked for it back after a short time. When asked why, she replied through tears:
“My dad said it was useful in a fight”.
It took just seventy-five minutes for a jury to decide Mone Sr’s guilt in the crimes he was accused of, and Mone was typically aggressive and cocky to the end. Passing the mandatory life sentence to him, Lord Robertson told the unflinching, unemotional Mone:
“You have been convicted of what I can only describe as a terrible crime. In view of the enormity of the crime, I shall make a recommendation that you serve a minimum of fifteen years”.
Mone replied; “Would you mind back dating it?”.
Cocky and aggressive to the last, he then struggled with the police constable taking him down to the cells, assaulting him and shouting “Get your hands off me”.
Sent to Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, Mone was never to be with the son that he claimed alternately to love and miss, and then to want to gain one upmanship on. His prison life mirrored pretty much his outside life, as he was as detested inside prison as much as he had been outside. He intimidated the younger and smaller inmates with his physical fitness and bullying, regularly showing off by hanging by his feet from a beam ten feet above a concrete floor with his arms folded, and preying on those weaker than himself to satisfy his perverted sexual appetite. In 1983, just three and a half years into his life sentence, Robert Christopher Mone Sr was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate – who butchered him with two knives in an echo of the bloodshed his son had been a part of several years before. No one was particularly shocked that such a nasty piece of work met such a violent end, and even fewer people really cared. The inmate who killed him even described him as:
“Probably the most obnoxious person in the country”
With Robert Mone Sr dead, having arguably paid the ultimate price for his crimes, what happened to the other two main players in this entire drama, Thomas Mcculloch, and the person at the epicentre of it all, Robert Francis Mone Jr?
In 2002, new laws under the European Convention on Human Rights meant that the whole life sentences that were issued to Mone and Mcculloch in 1977 could be reviewed. Mone had the punishment element of his sentence set at twenty-five years, and Mcculloch’s was set at thirty years, and so both would have become eligible for possible parole by that time. By 2005, Mcculloch was still incarcerated, but was studying for a law degree and had become a trained counsellor helping other inmates with their personal issues. His prisoner category status was downgraded, and moves to begin preparing him for release were put into place. He was moved to HMP Castle Huntly, an open prison, and was allowed regular trips out, more than 100 unsupervised visits in total. He even managed to begin a relationship with a 48-year-old divorcee, Susan Perrie. But public feeling about the horrific crimes he had committed still runs high, and an attempt for a release into the community in 2010 stalled when attempts to rehouse him in Dumbarton were abandoned when locals threatened to lynch him after finding out the identity of their potential new resident. He was however, eventually released on life licence in 2011, going on to marry Susan Perrie and settling down to a new life in Dundee – much to the disgust of the families of his victims, opposition from senior government figures, and several scenes of angry public protest. The son of Nursing Officer Neil McClellan, who Mone and Mcculloch had butchered during their breakout from Carstairs echoed public opinion and the thoughts of the victim’s families: He said:
“Life should be life. He was sentenced to die in jail and I don’t see why that should have changed. He gets another chance, but there’s three people in the cemetery who won’t get that chance because of what they did”
Robert Mone Jr – the person who is at the centre of all the horror that has been described here, is still incarcerated to this day. He has become Scotland’s longest-serving prisoner, despite at one time looking like a release was on the cards for him. In fact, preparations for his release were being made from HMP Glenochil in 2011, even to the extent that he was allowed out on several day releases. But authorities held off on plans for his release after concerns were raised about his behaviour, and the possibility that he was using such releases to make outside preparations for yet another prison escape. It is fair to say that Mone has been involved in several incidents over the many years that he has been incarcerated now that would suggest that the distinction of being Scotland’s longest serving prisoner is a deserved moniker, with him still periodically appearing in the news even to this day. In 1981, his name was amongst those involved in a destructive rooftop protest at Perth Prison, and in 1995 Mone had six months added onto his life sentence for attacking a fellow prisoner with boiling water. He still maintains hope that he will be paroled and released on life licence, more so now that his partner in crime Mcculloch has now been freed. Mone has even changed his name to James Smith now as he believes that release is imminent for him, and reports of the inroads he is making from prison to convince a parole board that he is rehabilitated and ready to rejoin society are widespread.
But there are many who believe that Mone is still as evil to this day, and that life should mean life in his case. Extracts from letters to a penfriend were made public, in which he discusses his plans upon release – but never once mentions any regret or sorrow for the victims of his crimes, in fact even boasting of how up to 540 people were left traumatized b his crimes, and sickeningly awarding his victims points for their anguish. In 2015 Mone even went so far as to describe in his own words the events of the escape from Carstairs in 1976, in a series of letters to journalist David Leslie, which give a detailed recollection of the events of the Carstairs escape from Mone’s own perspective. These letters made it into a book entitled “Carstairs: Hospital For Horrors”, which is a highly recommended read and quite a unique insight not only into the workings of a high security hospital, but for a unique pov of events from the perpetrator’s perspective, as opposed to just a researched comprehensive account. But even in these letters, Mone is quick to pin the blame almost entirely upon Mcculloch, and paints a picture of himself being an accomplice only under duress. The name Robert Mone still to this day, nearly 50 years after he committed the horrific murder that introduced his name to the annals of infamy, creates widespread public fury and anger. Many believe that he will never be safe to be released, and even more believe that he deserves to languish in prison until the day he dies, paying for his horrific crimes. In 2007, one of the schoolgirls that Mone held at gunpoint the day that he murdered Nanette, Anne D’Arcy, spoke out about that afternoon, and her opinion of Mone. In an interview with a Scottish newspaper, she said:
“His face has always haunted me. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of him. The memory of him pressing the gun to my head flashes through my mind. He fired the gun, I heard him pull the trigger. I found out later the pin missed, and it didn’t fire a bullet. He didn’t think how he was destroying the lives of 14-year-old girls, he didn’t care. He should never, ever be released – it’s in him to kill again”.
Former nursing officer at Carstairs, the officer who found the mutilated bodies of Neil McLennan and Ian Simpson, John Hughes, said of Mone and Mcculloch:
“Mone is still feeding off the past. He remembers every tiny detail of that day. He gets pleasure from it. I haven’t forgotten that day because I was left traumatized. But Mone and McCulloch are like a couple of vultures feeding off the carcass of 1976. They will never change, ever. You cannot rehabilitate these people to go back among human beings. People like them cannot be cured’
The son of nursing officer Neil McClellan, murdered by Mone and Mcculloch in the Carstairs escape in 1976, gave his opinion of Mone. He said:
“I have lived with the consequences of what happened since 1976. It has completely altered the life my mother and I would have had. Mone is telling the story that he has been led along and that he was not the main player in this and is still inside. He has got to convince the parole board that he is safe to be released and that he is remorseful. But he is only sorry that he got caught”
Should Mone ever be released? Or does he still present as much of a danger to the public as he has for nearly 50 years?
As part of the second TTCE Trilogy, I am thrilled to deliver the second part of the latest guest piece TTCE has written for the fantastic UK True Crime Podcast. Please take the time to check out the episodes 39 and 40, entitled “A Life Of Violence” (parts 1 and 2 respectively), as well as all of the other great featured episodes. Links to the UKTC Podcast can be found at the footer of this blog post.
It’s now November 1976, Carstairs Hospital. Robert Mone has been here almost nine years now. He now looks a far cry from the clean-shaven baby-faced ex soldier who was sent there many years before. He is by now 28 years old, has long fair hair and is stockily built, and where he once shunned and rejected any form of learning, he has by now settled down to studying – gaining three A levels and developing a vested interest in the law. He had even started a long-distance law degree with the University of London and would, by his own accounts, spend hours poring over law books in his room on Carstairs’ Tweed Ward – which at the time was considered the “trustee” ward. He still by his own account tended to feel a loner and not a mixer, but was involved in a capacity for writing features for the Carstairs’ hospital magazine The State Observer. He was later to use this as a means for a more nefarious purpose. Mone is also involved with the hospital’s drama group, a project that had been implemented by a new doctor to the ward, John Gotea-Loweg. Under his new doctor’s direction, Mone had also written a one-act play as a contribution that was celebrated by a BBC Scotland Arts Festival, and had become a “peer tutor”, helping educationally challenged patients prepare for the O levels that they could undertake as part of the Carstairs education programme. By all accounts, Mone was responding well to treatment and would be preparing to move towards being in a different, lower security facility. Reading this list, it certainly seems this is the resume of a model patient, and that a move would be on the cards.
But Mone’s one negative trait was an obsession with a fellow patient two years younger than himself, called Thomas McCulloch. McCulloch was a violent and weapon obsessed drink and drug user who had been sent to Carstairs in 1970 following a bizarre episode where he attempted to murder two staff at a hotel he had just eaten at – in an argument over a bread roll! One of his victims had to have major reconstructive facial surgery after being shot in the face, and another never worked again after receiving a gun blast to the shoulder. Following a 30-minute siege, similar to the one Mone himself had been responsible for, McCulloch was overpowered and arrested. Found unfit to plead due to his mental state, he was sent to Carstairs without limit of time. Soon after meeting, McCulloch and Mone had become inseparable, and a deep friendship soon graduated to a homosexual relationship. McCulloch, although the younger man, was clearly the dominant one in the relationship, and was considered as being sly and manipulative by fellow patients and nursing staff alike.
By 1976, the two had a plan to escape from Carstairs underway, and McCulloch and Mone spent six months preparing for it. The drama group was a bit of a godsend – because it provided them with a good cover that they needed. McCulloch, who had been a painter and decorator before he had been incarcerated at Carstairs, involved himself with the drama group alongside with Mone. Expressing no official interest in performing, McCulloch instead offered to use his creative skills to help with the set and props. This afforded him a cover and time to fashion a deadly arsenal of weaponry and to collect items that would be useful for their escape. The cunning pair managed to ingeniously conceal all the items they had collected and fashioned behind a false wall they had created in a cupboard in the west wing. By the end of November 1976, the pair had managed to create two wire garrottes, a hand axe, several sharp knives, and a short sword. McCulloch had also managed to create a lengthy rope ladder out of sashes of cord and wooden struts, and they had stolen false beards, moustaches and bits of uniform from the drama group. The pair had spent months creating forged identity cards, McCulloch’s being a faked Building Industry of Scotland Apprentice Scheme Inspector’s card, with his picture but in the name of Shaun Collins; and Mone’s a photographic identity card showing the name “Thomas Hunt”. They had also amassed a torch, two homemade nurses’ hats, and £25 in cash that they had managed to amass through visitors and theft from other inmates. At 6:00pm on 30th November 1976, the pair were ready to make their break.
The drama group had just finished reading extracts from what was to be their next production, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, and as the rest of the group filtered back to the ward, Mone and McCulloch hung back. McCulloch pulled on a homemade belt that carried three knives, and the home-made hand axe. Mone had knives concealed in his shirt and trousers, and by all accounts believed that the weapons the pair had would be enough of a visual deterrent without being needing to be used.
Events were to prove otherwise.
Shortly after 6:00pm, Mone and McCulloch entered a large store cum safe-cupboard in the Carstairs social club, where their supervising nursing officer, Neil Maclellan, was talking to another patient, Ian Simpson. The four men were the last ones in the social club. Mone then threw paint stripper into the eyes of Simpson, whilst McCulloch did the same to Maclellan. The plan was, by Mone’s own account, to use the paint stripper to incapacitate any resistance, and the victims would then be bound, gagged and locked in the store cupboard, thus allowing the remainder of the escape to proceed unhindered. But both Simpson and Maclellan fought back powerfully, causing McCulloch to attack Simpson from behind with the axe. He struck him so hard that parts of Simpson’s skull were later found entwined in Mone’s heavily bloodstained clothing. McCulloch then turned his attentions to officer Maclellan, slashing at him with one of the home-made knives and shouting to Mone:
“Get the fucking keys”
Mone managed to find the keys, which had been dropped in the struggle, but whilst doing so, noticed Simpson stirring and reaching for one of the home-made knives that had been dropped in the struggle. Noticing a pitchfork that had clattered to the floor in the struggle, Mone picked it up and stabbed Simpson in the chest with it, leaving the implement sticking out. The next part of the escape did go as planned, as Mone used the keys to gain access to the nursing office, and managed to cut the internal and external telephone lines. But as the pair were about to don the disguises and uniforms that were integral to the escape, McCulloch claimed he was going back to get the drama room door keys. This, by his own account, surprised Mone as the doors were already open. It transpired that McCulloch was going back to satisfy his blood lust – because he went back and using a larger axe that he had found and was by now in possession of, and smashed in the heads of both the already nearly dead Simpson and Officer Maclellan. He only stopped when the devastation was so complete that it was apparent at a cursory glance to anybody that both men were clearly dead. The deranged McCulloch even sliced off both of Simpson’s ears and scalped him, before returning to the waiting Mone. The badly mutilated corpses would not be discovered for nearly another hour, and the nursing officer who found the bodies, John Hughes, was to describe the scene years later in graphic detail. He said:
“I found Neil and knew in my heart he was dead as soon as I walked in that room. I bent over Neil and I didn’t recognise him. I felt a drip on the back of my neck and put my hand to my head. It was Neil’s blood dripping off the ceiling. They had hit him so hard with the axe, his blood had sprayed everywhere. His face was blown up with the pressure of the axe and was smothered in blood and fluid. All I could see was bone. The back of his scalp was open wide where they had used a fireman’s axe to slice open his head. I didn’t recognise him. He didn’t have his glasses on. They were broken and on the ground. Then I saw the little tin he used to keep his cigarettes he rolled himself. They had cut the back of his belt to take his keys and dropped his tin. That was when it hit me.”
By that time, the pair had managed to get outside and used their well constructed rope ladder to scale the outer barbed wire fence, and in the darkness, had found themselves on one of the main roads within the greater hospital precincts. It was time for the execution of the next integral part of the escape plan. Whilst Mone lay down in the middle of the road, posed like an accident victim, McCulloch stood waving his torch to signal a car to stop. Soon enough, and still without their escape being discovered, a dark Volvo car stopped. The driver was a man named Robert McCallum, who stopped his vehicle and got out to give assistance to what he believed had been a serious accident. It is very likely, bearing in mind what had just transpired minutes before, that those steps that McCallum took towards the prone figure lying in the middle of the road would have been his last ever taken, if it wasn’t for yet another twist in the events of that evening. Mone and McCulloch would have undoubtedly overpowered him, probably killed him, and took off in his car. But before they could, by chance at that very moment a police patrol car was passing the scene, and stopped to give assistance. It stopped, and the two constables in the vehicle, PC John Gilles and PC George Taylor, got out and approached the three men.
Mone jumped up, and he and McCulloch launched a ferocious attack on the two policemen, Mone armed with the smaller axe and a knife, and McCulloch the large axe. Whilst the escapees grappled with the policemen, McCallum fled in his car, stopping and alerting a gatekeeper to the horrific attack that was occurring just a short distance away. PC Gilles sustained serious injuries, but was ultimately to survive the onslaught. PC Taylor was not so lucky. He managed to stagger a short distance away from the scene despite having horrific head and chest injuries, but was to die of his wounds. In the space of less than 40 minutes, Mone and McCulloch had hacked to death three people, and tried to kill four. This time, McCulloch did not wait to inflict more mutilation upon his victims and instead, the crazed pair sped off in the stolen police car, trying to make as much distance as possible between themselves and the hospital.
The car sped south, with McCulloch driving erratically as it had been many years since he had last driven a motor vehicle. Meanwhile, Mone tried in vain to operate the police radio in the vehicle to try to find out how much (if any) the authorities knew of their whereabouts now that the alarm had been raised. Mone himself was later to claim, perhaps through bravado, that he was trying to give false information over the radio to try to confuse police hunting for them. It may have been due to this distraction, the icy road conditions, the erratic driving, or perhaps a combination of all – but ten miles down the road from Carstairs hospital, the vehicle skidded off the road, plowed into an embankment, and was totalled. Mone actually went through the windscreen, and lay unconscious for a short time.
He came to to hear McCulloch shouting “Help me with the prisoner” to two men in a van who had stopped to give assistance, William Lennon and Jack Mcalroy. When they approached, Mone and McCulloch then brutally stabbed both men several times, causing severe injuries, and bundled both into the back of their own van and sped off. But in what was a recurring theme, once more McCulloch’s poor driving skills thwarted the escapees getting clear. Once clear of the area, McCulloch had driven into a field near Roberton after seeing what he wrongly believed were the lights of a police roadblock ahead. The van became stuck in mud and Mone and McCulloch were forced to continue on foot, Mone stopping to be violently sick and collapsing several times from a concussion he had received in the earlier crash. Leaving their two captives badly injured, but alive, in the back of the van, Mone and McCulloch made their way on foot in the direction of some lights that they saw coming from a nearby farmhouse. On their way, they had to wade across a river, and Mone collapsed whilst crossing. McCulloch had managed to cross without difficulty, and hesitated from the bank, looking back at Mone as if deciding to help him, or leave him to drown, before stretching out the shaft of the axe for Mone to grab where he then pulled him to the safety of the riverbank. It later came to light that McCulloch would have equally have killed Mone there and then as opposed to helping him out.
The terrifying scenario that next took place was as follows: Mone and McCulloch, heavily bloodstained, soaked to the skin, and still in possession of several dangerous weapons, reached the door of the isolated Town Foot Farm farmhouse and battered on it. When the door was opened, the two escapees burst in, McCulloch struggling with the homeowner in the hallway whilst Mone made his way to the living room, where the Craig family (including four children) had been watching a St Andrew’s Day Scottish music programme. Mone wrenched the telephone from the wall and then demanded the keys to the family vehicle. Fortunately for the Craig’s’, Mone and McCulloch showed no inclination to offer further violence or threats towards them, because once they had the keys the pair fled in the car, an Austin – the third vehicle they had used that night despite still being less than twenty-five miles from the hospital that they had escaped from.
By this time, police from all over Lanarkshire and the Borders were hunting the pair, as the alarm had been raised by the gatekeeper at Carstairs. The bodies of Ian Simpson and Neil Maclennan had by this time been discovered, PC’s Gilles and Taylor had been rushed to hospital, where PC Taylor sadly died, and the van containing the badly wounded Jack Lennon and Jack Mcalroy had been discovered after the farmer whose car the pair had taken had raised the alarm. A description of the vehicle that the pair were now travelling in had been circulated, and officers on the A74 sighted the stolen vehicle being driven south at high-speed. A high-speed pursuit followed, with police vehicles pursuing the car all the way to the Scotland/England border – and then beyond.
It was just north of Carlisle where a police vehicle that was packed with armed officers from Cumbrian police rammed the getaway vehicle in an attempt to stop it, rendering the police vehicle immobile, but causing McCulloch to lose control of a vehicle for the second time that evening. The Austin crashed into a roundabout a few hundred yards away, just missing another vehicle and causing it to stop. McCulloch and Mone were out of the wrecked vehicle and ordered the shaken driver of the car that they had narrowly missed to get out. He did so, but had the presence of mind to grab the ignition keys as he did. Before the pair could take off in their fourth vehicle of the evening, several armed police arrived and surrounded the vehicle. Mone was dragged out struggling, still wielding a knife that a police officer received injuries to his hand from when he grabbed the blade in his hand, holding it firmly whilst he restrained Mone. McCulloch was taken down by two armed officers – still in possession of his fireman’s axe.
Mcculloch at the time of recapture
Mone at the time of recapture
The pair were taken into custody at Carlisle before being returned to Lanark, and one of the bloodiest nights in Scottish criminal history had come to an end. The three Cumbrian officers who captured the pair were to later receive the Queens Gallantry Medal for bravery whilst doing so.
In February 1977, three months following the night of carnage in which three people had died so horribly, and another three were nearly killed; Mone and McCulloch appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh. McCulloch admitted killing patient Ian Simpson, Nursing Officer Neil McClellan, and PC George Taylor. Mone admitted the murder of PC Taylor. The presiding judge, Lord Dunpark, claimed that the murders that the pair had committed and admitted to were the “most deliberately brutal murders he had ever dealt with” and made legal history by ordering them to remain incarcerated until the day the both were to die, saying:
“I will recommend that you are not to be released from prison unless and until the authorities are satisfied, if ever, that you have ceased to be a danger to the public at large”
This was the first time that natural life sentences had ever been handed down in Scotland. The preceding three months since their recapture had seen both men undergo psychiatric evaluations, and according to reports given to Lord Dunpark at the time of the hearing – controversially, both men were found to be sane at the time of the attacks. It raised many questions about Carstairs. Why should either of these men have ever been there at all, if they were sane?
Questions were asked about security failings at Carstairs, like how had two patients managed to obtain so many supplies to facilitate and assist in an escape, and how they could fashion and conceal so many dangerous weapons. Neither man was ever to return to the State Hospital at Carstairs, McCulloch instead being sent to Peterhead Prison, unpopular with prisoners due to its remoteness; and Mone being sent to Perth Prison. Both men were classed as category A prisoners, the highest risk that there is.
And the aftermath of the escape was to yet have even more dramatic consequences, and if what has already been told wasn’t horror enough – there was more horror to come. The name Mone wasn’t quite ready to be forgotten by the general public just yet….
This week on TTCE, I am delighted to release part by part the latest collaboration between TTCE and the UK True Crime Podcast, for the latest 2 part episode of this great podcast, Episode 39 – A Life Of Violence. Full links to part 1 of this podcast case can be found at the footnote of this post – please take the time to check out this, and all of the other episodes featured so far.
Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton are all familiar names, not just to a student of true crime, but for anyone who picks up a newspaper. Some of the most infamous criminals who have committed some of the UK’s most infamous crimes either reside or have resided within their walls, for example The Yorkshire Ripper, The Hull Arsonist Bruce Lee and the killer nurse Beverly Allitt are names familiar with the “Big 3” secure hospitals that cover England and Wales. For Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, the main psychiatric care facility is the State Hospital located near the village of Carstairs in South Lanarkshire, more commonly known as Carstairs Hospital. It provides care and treatment for patients requiring high security hospital detention, with around 700 staff accommodating around 140 patients. A new security wing is being built at the site now at a cost of £60m, and as with other secure hospitals, Carstairs has a deafening alarm system that is based on a World War 2 air raid siren. Should a patient escape, a deafening two-tone alarm that reaches as far as neighbouring villages and towns will sound. On the third Thursday of each month, the alarm and all clear siren is tested, and locals living near have become accustomed to the three 30 second blasts that signal the all clear. The need for a warning alarm is bolstered from the memory of actions, more than forty years ago now, from the most infamous patient that has resided to date at Carstairs hospital, Robert Francis Mone. The name Mone is infamous throughout Scottish criminal history – it will forever relate to eight brutal and bloody deaths in total, a bloody and infamous escape from a high secure unit, and a macabre case of “one upmanship” between a father and son.
Robert Francis Mone Jr was born in Dundee in June 1948. A child of above average intelligence, Mone was a lonely introvert who didn’t find it easy to make friends, and thus found relationships awkward. He had a few girlfriends through adolescence, but none of these relationships lasted more than a few weeks. His family life did nothing to aid in this, as his mother deserted the family when Robert was very young. He was regularly beaten by his drunken and bullying father Robert “Sonny” Mone Sr, and from the age of twelve was sexually abused by a middle-aged neighbour. Mone’s schooling record was appalling, where despite his intelligence he massively underachieved. At St John’s RC Secondary School, where Mone attended for three years from 1959, he was assessed as “virtually unteachable”, with one teacher going so far as to say “it was like having a live hand grenade in the classroom”. Mone hated the school, and was eventually expelled in 1962. A period in an approved school in London followed, after which an increasingly disturbed Mone decided to have one last attempt to do something worthwhile with his life, and enlisted in the Army at age 18.
Mone enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders, and was soon posted to Germany with his unit. Whilst in Germany, Mone began to drink heavily as was the culture within the armed services at the time. By his own account, he was also ostracised by the rest of his unit when he was asked to sign statements that would have resulted in the court-martial and discharge of two soldiers of superior rank, and agreed to do so believing that he was doing the right thing. As a result, he was shunned by the rest of his unit in distrust, and was on more than one occasion physically threatened with harm. It is known that Mone at this time filled in an application to be able to carry a personal firearm, as was a serviceman’s right at the time – but discontinued when he found out that any weapon would have to be kept in an armoury under lock and key. Mone claimed that this was for his own protection, but subsequent events would cast doubt on this. When the unit was being sent to Libya in late October 1967, Mone was told that instead of travelling with them, he was being sent back to the UK to undergo further training before attachment to a different unit. Angry at the way he perceived he had been treated and let down by the Army, by the time he arrived back in London Mone had no intentions of returning to the Army. Upon arrival, he made a beeline for a gunsmiths just off Praed Street, where he bought a single barreled 12 gauge Spanish made shotgun, and then went AWOL.
Mone turned up back in Dundee in the last week of October, where he descended into a cycle of heavy drinking, often having a bottle of vodka at breakfast time. His days would be spent between visiting cinemas and cafes, where he would while away the time between the pubs being open. He spent some of the time staying at his grandmother’s house, after a furious drunken row with his abusive father – in which Mone JR threatened him at gunpoint – caused him to leave his parent’s house. The rest of the week was spent sleeping rough. Mone had also visited several doctors’ surgeries throughout Dundee that week, claiming to feel severe depression. As a result, he managed to attain a substantial quantity of prescription medication, albeit mostly painkillers.
On Halloween 1967, Mone checked into the former Mather’s Hotel in Dundee’s Whitehall Crescent, and after spending a while drinking alone in his meagre room, decided to attempt suicide by overdosing on the medication he had managed to amass. It was perhaps unsurprising that Mone, who had a history of being an underachiever and was in his own view a complete failure, even managed to do this wrong – instead just making himself violently ill. The attempt bungled, Mone carried on on his spiral of heavy drinking, brooding, and getting angrier. By the next morning, 01 November, Mone had sufficiently recovered enough to find himself in Dundee’s White Horse Inn, on Harefield Road opposite St Johns RC Secondary School – the place that Mone had been expelled from only a few years before, the place that he hated because of the disciplinarians he perceived were there. According to Mone, he came to the decision that afternoon to get a taxi back to the hotel, gather his things, and return to the Army to face whatever punishment may be coming his way. He stepped out of the pub on that cold, miserable afternoon, and then got soaked to the skin looking around for a taxi. It was then that he stopped and stared at the lights of St Johns school opposite. His rage built when he thought of how much he had hated the place and been unhappy there, and coupled with his bitterness at how he perceived that the Army had treated him, the alcohol he had consumed, and his ever-present anger and depression, all meant that Mone was a short fuse. When no taxi was to be found, this was the trigger to him exploding.
Mone dejectedly walked back to the Mathers Hotel, and returned to St John’s School a short time later dressed in his Gordon Highlander’s Private uniform. He also carried with him his shotgun. Mone suddenly ran across the road and burst into the school, not knowing where he was going but making his way to the top floor of an annexe. The first classroom he entered was empty, but the second was the needlework room – and this had a class in it. Thirteen girls were listening intently to teacher Nanette Hanson, when their afternoon needlework lesson was interrupted by a stranger with a gun. Nanette was Yorkshire born and was relatively new to the school, having only moved up to Scotland just six months before in the spring of 1967 following her marriage to her husband Guy, a carpet designer in a local factory. In that short time, she had become well liked by staff and pupils alike at the school, perhaps due to being the relatively young age of twenty-six and to her dedication to her job.
But that afternoon, Nanette was confronted with something unexpected, unbelievable and completely out of the norm. A stranger dressed as a soldier had walked into her classroom carrying a shotgun under his arm. The room was silent, then after a few seconds one of the pupils laughed, thinking that someone was playing some sort of bizarre joke. It wasn’t. Mone responded to this laughter by firing into a glass door, injuring another teacher who tried to intervene and, admitting years later, feeling powerful for the first time in his life. He then began to shout and swear at the frightened and screaming girls, ordering themselves to use their sewing tables to barricade the door to the room. He then sat on the teacher’s desk issuing instructions. Mone took ammunition from his pockets and lined it up on the desk, telling the frightened pupils that he would blow their heads off. He then asked each person their age, and when Nanette replied that she was 26, Mone replied:
“You’re just a pensioner”
He then wrenched her glasses off her face and crushed them underneath his boot. When the scared pupils cried too loudly, the shotgun was placed to their heads to silence them through fear. Ordering everyone into a small changing room annexe of the classroom, a wild-eyed Mone strode about, gloating that he had come to the school to gain revenge that day for his expulsion some years before – and especially against one of the Marist Brothers that Mone believed had been the worst disciplinarian during his time there. Throughout all of this, Nanette remained calm, speaking softly to the young man with the gun and trying to reason with him to let the pupils go, and just to keep her as a hostage before anyone else was hurt.
Within minutes of the shot, police had converged on the school as a state of emergency had been declared at St John’s School after the teacher who had been injured when the glass door had been blasted out had sounded the alarm. Whilst the other thousand plus pupils were evacuated from the school, three police officers approached the upper floor corridor – but were shot at by a deranged Mone, who shouted that he would turn the gun on the hostages. Leading a 14-year-old girl to the door with the gun to her head, an increasingly aggressive Mone showed the police that he was serious in his threats. Back in the classroom, Mone called three of the girls out into the classroom, where he sexually molested two of them. The other, he sexually assaulted, threatening to blow her head off if she didn’t comply.
“I will count to three, and shoot you if you’ve not taken them down” – Robert Mone to victim
One of the other girls was then inexplicably released. Mone then claimed that the only person he would talk to was an old girlfriend, Marion Young, who he had met four years previously at a youth club. Police quickly found Marion, who was training to be a student nurse, and she agreed to negotiate with Mone without hesitation. Just seventy-five minutes after Mone had entered the school, Marion was face to face talking to the young man she now hardly recognised. Mone had eagerly awaited her arrival, washing his face and hair in one of the classroom sinks and then sat singing to himself whilst police conveyed her to the school. When she arrived, Mone’s first words to her were:
“You thought you were being a brave little girl? How did you know I wouldn’t blow your head off?”
Bravely, both Marion and Nanette then spent the next few minutes talking gently to Mone, trying to defuse the situation and to convince him that the hostages needed to be released. He seemed almost disinterested, and Nanette went and led the girl pupils to the door, where they were let into the corridor and once clear, all ran faster than they ever had before to safety. Nanette was not allowed to leave with them however, with Mone saying:
“Not you – you’re not going. I want you here”
Mone then placed the shotgun down onto the desk, and asked for a cigarette from Nanette. When Marion attempted to pick up the shotgun, thinking Mone was distracted, he knocked her to the floor. He then began ranting and aiming the weapon at different parts of the room and each of his captives in turn, all the while asking:
“Do you think I can do it? Do you want to be a saint?”
Mone then instructed Nanette to ensure all the curtains in the room were tightly closed, fearful that a police sniper may have him in his sights. As Nanette shut the last curtain that remained open in the room, Mone took aim and shot her in the back from a distance of just seven feet, watching fascinated as she slowly dropped to the floor. Although not killed outright, Nanette’s injuries were massive. Her spinal cord had been near destroyed, and had she lived, would have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Despite the efforts of Marion using her nursing skills to try to save her life, Nanette looked close to death. She pleaded with Mone to allow Nanette to be taken to hospital, and Mone told her dismissively that she could do what she wanted. Police outside in the corridor made the decision to allow ambulance men in after hearing Marion call for help, and they were allowed in without any conditions. Indeed, Mone seemed to have lost interest in the entire situation by this time. He sat quietly on the desk with the shotgun on the floor at his feet, alternately singing and laughing in a world of his own as an unconscious Nanette was stretchered out of the classroom and to the Dundee Royal Infirmary. Mone didn’t even seem to notice when she was taken and offered no resistance when police burst in and handcuffed him. He didn’t even seem to care.
The pupils who had been held hostage were all taken to Dundee Royal Infirmary for an examination, and fortunately, aside from shock and a few minor cuts and scrapes, all were otherwise physically unharmed. Sadly, they were to learn that their teacher, who had bravely tried to protect them all and who had remained calm and collected throughout the siege, had died at the same hospital whilst they were still there. Nanette had never regained consciousness, and had died with her grieving husband Guy at her bedside. Tragically, it was also revealed later that Nanette had been in the early stages of pregnancy with her first child when Mone had shot her dead. Mone was taken from the school to a secure facility, where he spent the next couple of months being examined by psychiatrists. It was abundantly clear that Mone did not care what happened to him from that point onwards. Psychiatrists diagnosed schizophrenia that had developed insidiously over a couple of years, and reported that Mone was thus insane and unfit to plead. On 23rd January 1968, in a hearing that lasted just 18 minutes in total, Robert Francis Mone Jr appeared at the High Court in Dundee and was ordered to be detained without limit of time at Carstairs Hospital by Mr Justice Lord Thomson. Mone simply smiled as he looked up and responded:
“Good for you”.
The two young women who had ensured the safe release of the pupils of St John’s School were commended with a Queen’s honour, with Marion Young being awarded the George Medal, and Nanette Hanson posthumously receiving the Albert Medal for extraordinary bravery. At a packed funeral attended by more than 300 mourners, tribute was paid to Nanette as “a heroine, a martyr who died for those children”. It is touching and perhaps fitting that from the day Nanette died she was ensured to never be forgotten, as still to this day, 1st November is marked at St John’s High School with a special mass in memoriam to Nanette. Meanwhile, the young man who had caused such devastation and trauma, that was a different story. Those involved in the classroom that day, after a while learnt to live with the memories and trauma of what had happened, and pushed the name Mone to the back of their minds as much as possible.
And for a few years, in the back of people’s minds is where Robert Mone stayed. In fact, it was more than eight years before the name Robert Mone exploded into the forefront of people’s minds again.
It’s been some time since I reviewed a podcast for TTCE, and in the time since I last did, I’ve worked with a couple (you know who you are), chopped and changed a few that I listen to, got fed up of some, and become a fan of a few new that I have discovered. I’ll get around to them all in time, but the one I’m concentrating on at this moment is a UK-based true crime/paranormal one called RedHanded.
RedHanded is a relatively fledgling podcast, having only dropped episode 6 in its first series/season this week (01 Aug), and is run by two pleasant-sounding ladies named Hannah and Suruthi who deliver each episode naturally and confidently. It covers true crime – not just your grisly murders, but bizarre crimes also, as well as notable cases of the paranormal. And a bizarre case of the two of them trapped in a small cupboard (the mind boggles)………
I’ve come to RedHanded for several reasons really: Firstly, it’s a UK-based one covering (to date) solely UK cases. Regular readers of TTCE know that this is my forte also, so that’s a plus point to me. The UK has more than enough fascinating, recountable cases that stick in the mind if they are searched for, and I find that people are most interested with places they know can picture or identify with more so than somewhere the other side of the world from you. I certainly do. Secondly, and again this is impressive to me – is that the cases that are covered are not lazily chosen. A bit of work has gone into each episode here – this isn’t the West case told yet again, or Jack The Ripper version six million, where minimal effort has to go in. That’s boring and would be re-inventing the wheel – what new would they bring to the table? No, RedHanded’s cases mostly won’t be too familiar with the listener. Whilst I am no expert, I am very well read as a crime researcher and at least two of the cases, I was pleasantly surprised to be unfamiliar with. I found myself looking them up after listening – interest piqued, job done.
And the cases that are better known – for example, Bible John or the infamous 1985 White House Farm Massacre – are equally well researched and presented and are not just a rehashed recount of well documented facts, but with valid points of view and personal opinions thrown in also, ones that make the listener know that the hosts are interested. Nobody wants a robot reading off a sheet – a bit of feeling and an understanding and opinion goes a long way. I was also refreshed to see a paranormal angle in there as well – for it’s always been as equal a fascination and interest for me that (come on, who wouldn’t want to be Mulder or Scully?) – and it’s the very interesting case of the Enfield Poltergeist as well – hopefully, the first of many more.
It will also be apparent to the listener that the girls grow more confident with each episode – I know this is true of many podcast hosts (everybody starts somewhere and practice makes perfect). The episodes get longer, the content is delivered more clearly and relaxed, and it is also clear how much they enjoy what they do – which benefits everybody. Hannah and Suruthi are both very approachable and helpful, and are establishing themselves well in the true crime online community. I’m even pleased to say that RedHanded and TTCE have had discussions, and are searching for a suitable project to collaborate on together. Watch this space….
So, it may seem to the reader that I never seem to listen to a bad podcast, and I’m a bit of a sycophant. Well, I’ve listened to some shocking podcasts that I have consigned to the delete button, believe me. I won’t review any bad podcasts, that seems an unnecessary knock and even if i do think content is dull, I still respect the time it takes people to do these things. Instead, I focus on championing ones that are good. And I would have no qualms in raising any negative points I found – I am very fair as my other reviews will reflect, a good review has to have plus and minus points. But the simple fact is, I find no minus points with RedHanded. It’s become one of my must listens each week – and I invite the reader to see if they agree with me. Excellent work ladies, you should be very proud.
In the 1980’s, the West London district of Notting Hill was just beginning its transformation from a rundown area to the fashionable, affluent area it is now known as, immortalised in the very successful 1999 film of the same name. It has been forever associated with art and “alternative” cultures since it was first established in the 1820’s, but beginning in 1982, Notting Hill found itself having the unsavoury distinction of being the hunting ground of a vicious and prolific sex attacker, a man who became known as the Notting Hill Rapist.
Late at night on 12 August 1982, a female solicitor who had been out with friends for the evening arrived home to the house she lived alone in, in Clarendon Road. She let herself in through her front door, and turned on the light. It didn’t work. Before she could do anything, she was grabbed by the throat from behind and was warned by a man’s rough sounding voice not to scream. The woman was dragged further down the hallway, and her attacker began to indecently assault her. Terrified but with a survival instinct kicking in, she kicked the man as hard as she could between the legs. In pain, the would be attacker swore at her then fled from the premises.
Detectives investigating the incident believed that the most likely scenario was that the woman had arrived home and had interrupted a burglar, a theory given credence due to the fact that Clarendon Road is one of the wealthier streets in the district. But nothing had been stolen, and would a burglar really commit an opportunistic sexual assault instead? It had been too dark for the victim to be able to give any sort of description, and routine enquiries were made but the trail went nowhere.
Then in November, a second incident made police consider the fact that the incident in August wasn’t just a burglary gone wrong. On Wednesday 10 November, a 45-year-old woman was getting ready for bed in her home on Elgin Crescent – which was just 100 yards away from the scene of the August attack and another up-market area. As she was locking up, a masked intruder jumped at her from the darkness of her kitchen. Restraining the terrified woman at knifepoint, the intruder marched her through her house and pushed her onto her bed. He then gagged her and attempted to rape her, but inexplicably stopped after a brief struggle and fled. Again, the frightened woman wasn’t able to give any sort of description; apart from it was a stocky male, strong, and who wore a black mask that she thought was a balaclava.
A month later, on 13 December, yet another incident forced police to conclude that they had a serial sex attacker at large. A television researcher who lived just a few doors away from the second victim, in Elgin Crescent, was asleep in bed after having had an early night due to illness. It was around midnight when she was awoken by a masked man who was attempting to rape her, and after committing a serious assault upon her, the masked attacker fled. Again, no description was available, but in this instance, the intruder had taken money and bizarrely, two knives had been taken also. One of them was a very unique letter opener in the form of a mini Samurai sword. Two days later, the knives were to be found in a bizarre incident.
The intruder had returned to the scene of the first attack, to the first victim. She had returned home to find that her attacker had been back to her flat, had ransacked it, and performed a bizarre ritual with an oversized teddy bear that the woman had in her bedroom. The stuffed animal had been bound and gagged with strips of a bed sheet and left in a prominent position on her bed. Two knives had been left placed upon her pillow – one of these was the letter opener that had been taken in the attack two days before. That was enough for the frightened woman, and she moved house.
An undercover team was formed to try to catch the attacker – but police did not have much to go on. They believed he was local to the area and knew it well, and that he was at the very least an experienced burglar, due to the expertise that the man had shown in managing to enter his victim’s homes silently and efficiently. What they did not know, was why this burglar had now become a serial sex offender also. Whilst a check on known burglars local to the Notting Hill area began, undercover teams staked out the area at night-time, and an increased police presence hit the streets.
Despite these efforts, the attacker struck again just two weeks later. In the most vicious attack so far, a Middle Eastern woman was attacked in her flat in nearby Ladbroke Grove. Like the first victim, she was ambushed as she came home by the attacker, who lay in wait for her. She was viciously beaten and had a sharp knife forced into her mouth when she struggled, with her attacker threatening to mutilate and kill her constantly throughout the assault. The victim was stripped, gagged and bound with bath towels, and then had an obscene sex act performed upon her. Then the attacker fled. This was the last attack for three months.
The attacks had been prominent and regular, and with a gap of so long, detectives hunting the attacker considered that he may have gone to ground. Perhaps he had been imprisoned for another crime, perhaps he had moved, and perhaps he had even died. Their fears that the attacker had not gone away were realised when on 22 April 1983, the attacker returned with a vengeance. In chilling echoes of the first and fourth attacks, a 22-year-old woman was ambushed in her flat on Lansdowne Road when she returned from a night out. This time, the attacker committed a full rape for the first time. Press who had been following the attacks christened the attacker “The Notting Hill Rapist”. Women in the area now lived in mortal fear, and security firms did a thriving trade in secure door locks and burglar alarms. But after the fifth attack, the attacks again stopped.
But the search for the rapist continued, and detectives looked at what they knew about the man they were hunting. He was stocky and strong, and sounded a native Londoner. He usually wore a dark track suit and training shoes, and was masked in a balaclava. He wasn’t afraid to use violence, and was sexually perverted. Although the man they were hunting was almost certainly an experienced local burglar, he was not forensically aware. Semen samples had been taken from the rapist victims, and although DNA testing was on the near horizon, it wasn’t available at that time. But a broad comparison of matching blood groups could be made, and as suspects and local burglars were questioned and interviewed, some who fitted the general description of what detectives had to go on were asked to give blood samples. This allowed those who didn’t match the rapist’s blood group, identified as group “zero (0)” to be eliminated from the enquiry. More and more months passed with no attacks, and by January 1984, the enquiry was wound down. It was possible that the rapist was dead or had moved away, but detectives believed that the most likely reason for the cessation in attacks was that the rapist had been imprisoned for another crime.
There were no further attacks for more than three years – then in May 1987, the Notting Hill Rapist returned.
If the attacks in 1982 and 83 were distant in the memories of Notting Hill residents, they were reminded in the most horrific fashion on 04 May 1987. Like the MO in the attacks from years before, a solicitor was attacked as she returned home to her Lansdowne Road flat – where the last attack had taken place years before. The woman tried to halt the attack by saying that she had the AIDS virus, but chillingly, her attacker said:
“I have too, I’ll take the chance”.
Holding her at knifepoint, the rapist stripped his victim, tied and gagged her, then brutally raped her. As with the other attacks, there wasn’t much of a description – stocky, strong, violent, London accent. Nothing appeared to have been taken from the flat – and police did find one vital clue that they could add to the profile of the rapist. They managed to glean an imprint of a size 9 training shoe from a work surface in the flat, underneath a window where the rapist had entered through.
The rapist struck next on 28 July 1987, in his favoured hunting ground of Elgin Crescent. A 34-year-old woman had just ended her relationship with her boyfriend, and after a heated row had asked him to leave. Minutes after he had left, the rapist burst into her home and savagely attacked her. He threatened her with a knife in his now trademark pattern, and then tied her up with scarves and a leather belt. As he was raping her, and between threats of violence, the rapist asked her if the reason she had finished with her boyfriend is because he wasn’t very good at sex. He had been listening at a rear window the whole time.
By this time, Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hutchison was in charge of the hunt for the Notting Hill Rapist, and decided to adopt a strategy of posting plain clothes officers at strategic positions in gardens and parks around the Elgin Crescent/Lansdowne Road areas. It was believed that the rapist was a burglar and prowler local to the area who would spend his nights when not attacking, prowling about and spying on women. It was hoped that a plain clothes unit would be in the right place at the right time – and be able to catch their man. This strategy almost worked twice.
Perhaps the increased police presence had scared the rapist off, as there had been another lull in attacks, but In December 1987, a resident of flats near Lansdowne Road saw a man crouching in the shrubbery at the rear of the block. The alarm was raised, and a nearby plain clothes policeman rushed into the communal gardens and caught the prowler making a run for it. As the man scaled a wall, the pursuing officer managed to grab hold of his leg – but the man broke free and managed to escape, running through gardens and across a children’s play area. Two months later, on 16 February 1988, the same man was again disturbed at midnight in gardens at the rear of Ladbroke Crescent, but again managed to avoid the police blanket and escape.
Many high-profile manhunts have been resolved not through brilliant detective work, but through the shrewd hunches or opportunism of beat constables. A notable example is the capture of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper; or the arrest of John Reginald Halliday Christie when he was being sought over the discovery of bodies at 10 Rillington Place. The Notting Hill Rapist was to be brought to justice due to a hunch of a beat constable, PC Graham Hamilton.
PC Hamilton’s beat area had for many years been the Notting Hill area, and he knew most of the local criminal fraternity through previous dealings. He had a hunch that the rapist detectives were searching for was a 37-year-old local petty housebreaker and violent thug named Tony Maclean, who lived a flat on the Clarendon estate. The Clarendon estate was just a few hundred yards from the scenes of the sex attacks, and Maclean matched the general description given by the victims. He was a strong fitness fanatic, keen on bodybuilding and weight training, and was prone to violence – having several convictions. Also, Maclean’s timeline seemed to fit around the sex attacks. When the attacks had ceased in 1983, it corresponded exactly with a prison sentence of four years that Maclean had started for a brutal attack on a youth with a baseball bat. He had been freed in 1987 – around the time that the attacks began again. Further checks revealed that Maclean had been interviewed as a matter of routine by detectives in 1983, and had voluntarily provided a blood sample. PC Hamilton decided to voice his suspicions to DCS Hutchison.
It was known that the rapist’s blood was in the “zero (0)” secretor category – and it was here that the theory of Maclean as a suspect fell down. When his blood group was checked, the computer screen showed that he was an “O” secretor, an entirely different blood from the Notting Hill Rapist. Furthermore, Home Office files showed Maclean as being released from prison in June 1987 – making it impossible for him to have attacked a woman in May 1987. Maclean was seemingly in the clear. This did not sit quite right with PC Hamilton, who felt sure of his suspicions and would not let the matter drop. Deciding to take Maclean in for further questioning, PC Hamilton called at his flat but Maclean was not home, so the officer left him a note asking him to attend Notting Hill police station. Although under no obligation, Maclean did attend the police station a few days later, in February 1988.
During the interview, Maclean answered everything put to him in a cocky manner and denied everything, even going so far as to show PC Hamilton his penis to prove that he couldn’t be a rapist. Maclean’s penis was badly scarred from a childhood accident after he fell onto broken glass, and as he showed it to PC Hamilton, he exclaimed:
“This is why I ain’t no rapist”.
Despite this, and despite what the computers said, PC Hamilton was more convinced than ever that the man sat across from him was the Notting Hill Rapist. At the cessation of the interview and before leaving, Maclean provided yet another blood sample.
It was a few days later that PC Hamilton got confirmation that his suspicions weren’t unfounded. Forensic examiners contacted him and informed him that the sample Maclean had provided showed he was a “zero (0)” secretor – which matched the rapist. PC Hamilton telephoned and asked them to double-check to confirm, which they did – Maclean was a “zero (0)” secretor. What had happened was as follows: The computer operator when entering details of Maclean’s blood onto the computer had mistakenly typed the letter “O” instead of a “zero (0)”. A simple typing error had had massive consequences. A check with the Home Office to confirm Maclean’s prison release dates revealed yet another clerical error – Maclean had actually been released in January 1987, but a typist had typed JUN instead of JAN. Bolstered by this, a warrant was issued, and Tony Maclean was arrested at his home on 01 March 1988.
Maclean appeared at the Old Bailey in April 1989 charged with a string of offences, totalling three rapes, two attempted rapes, burglary with intent to rape, and robbery. He pleaded not guilty to all counts, meaning that the victims would be forced to undergo cross-examination. The jury heard emotional and sickening accounts from several of the women who had been attacked, and their powerful testimonies left a marked impression on the jury. But it was the miracles of forensic science that provided the most powerful evidence. By 1989, DNA testing was accepted as conclusive evidence by British courts, and Professor Alec Jeffries himself, known as the man who had pioneered and perfected the art of DNA Profiling, testified at Maclean’s trial. He testified that Maclean’s blood sample showed an identical match with semen taken from his victims – and that the chances of the semen belonging to anyone but Maclean were in the region of three million to one.
Maclean was found guilty on all counts, and remained impassive and emotionless when he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, plus a further 12 years for attempted rape, indecent assaults, and burglary. City of London Recorder Sir James Miskin, QC, told him:
“You are a total menace to women, and these three rapes were absolutely foul”.
Following Maclean’s conviction, the two of his victim’s who had testified in court hugged each other, weeping. DCS Hutchison, who led the hunt for him, said:
“I’m absolutely delighted this sex maniac has been taken off the streets. While casing places, he saw the girls and realised how easy it would be for him to rape them. When we kept watch, we found girls undressing in front of their windows. Maclean would have seen the same and he was tempted”
The full M.O of Maclean’s crimes was established at his trial. A fitness fanatic, he would go out jogging and run the half mile from his flat to his hunting grounds, at first casing basement and ground floor properties to burgle, but then turning to rape. The below map shows the proximity of Maclean’s home and the site of the attacks:
He would sometimes watch a property for days at a time and see women undressing. When he had learned his intended victim’s routine, he would return days later and break in just before the victim was due home. He would then unscrew the hall light, and wait in the darkness for his victim to come home. Gloved, masked and always armed with a knife and strips of cloth to gag and restrain the victim, Maclean would then rape or indecently assault them, and then flee into the local area he knew intimately.
Psychologists claim that Maclean’s desire to rape stemmed from feelings of sexual inadequacy – even though he was a married father of two children. It transpired that Maclean had found sexual relationships with women difficult throughout his life due to the damage to his penis caused in his childhood accident. In an attempt to prove his masculinity, more to himself than anyone, Maclean took up bodybuilding and weight training – a common trait amongst sex killers and rapists. Maclean had targeted professional, wealthy women because in his view, they were out of his league and represented a lifestyle that he could never hope to be a part of. Hatred and jealousy drove him to attack and rape. His attacks were brutal and escalated in this, and whilst the physical harm varied, the psychological cruelty and terror that he inflicted upon his victims was always paramount. Police were in no doubt that Maclean would have gravitated to murder if he hadn’t been stopped when he was.
“Maclean was a twisted pervert who enjoyed terrorising and humiliating young women. He picked on well to do professional types because they made him feel inferior. He is a very dangerous man. I am sure that if we had not caught him when we did, he would have moved on to murder in a very short space of time” – Detective Chief Superintendent James Hutchison
Much praise was heaped upon PC Hamilton for his pursuit of Maclean, and the hunch that he wouldn’t give up on. If not for his hunch, and even more so for following this said hunch in the face of what may have seemed conflicting evidence, a dangerous rapist may still have been stalking the streets to this day – he might even have become a dangerous killer.
“Everybody that I came across, I started thinking that they were the person who had sent me the letter. I used to look at their handwriting to see if it matched the letter. I was accusing everybody…Everybody” – X
This week’s TTCE contains explicit descriptions of sadism and language that the reader may find disturbing or offensive. I make apologies for that, but it is necessary to reproduce here for the context of the post.
Airport security nowadays has undergone such a change since the end of the Second World War that most UK airports now have their own police forces and stations. Aside from todays pre-dominate operational requirement and necessity of an armed police response to deal with any threats to security and well-being, police at airports may also deal with more minor and mundane tasks, such as investigating instances of baggage theft, cases of air rage or the usual day to day trivialities police officers face. But at the end of November 1997, the CID at Britain’s second largest international airport, Gatwick, in south-east England, were faced with something out of the ordinary.
An attractive blonde stewardess in her mid-thirties arrived at Gatwick Airport police station in a state of clear distress, and placed on a desk the following letter that she had received whilst at work. The name of the recipient has been left out here, but the letter is reproduced:
YOU DON’T KNOW ME BUT I KNOW YOU QUITE WELL. I’M UNEMPLOYED, BUT MAKE A LITTLE DELIVERING THINGS IN MY VAN. I’VE NOT HAD A GIRLFRIEND FOR FIVE YEARS. I HAVE DECIDED I’M HAVING YOU. YOU MUST DO THE FOLLOWING. GO TO A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIO, DRESSED IN YOUR FULL UNIFORM, INCLUDING GLOVES, HANDBAG, STOCKINGS, SUSPENDERS AND HIGH HEELS – BROWN. I WANT 40 PICTURES IN GLOSS COLOUR, 10 BY 8, SO I CAN SEE YOUR TITS, WITH YOUR SKIRT ON BUT PULLED UP – NO KNICKERS, CLEAR VIEWS BETWEEN YOUR LEGS. SEE DIAGRAMS.
IF YOU DON’T COMPLY, NEXT YEAR AT SOME STAGE WHEN IT IS SAFE FOR ME, I WILL THROW CONCENTRATED SULPHURIC ACID IN YOUR FACE. I WILL NOT STAY AROUND TO WATCH YOUR FLESH MELT OFF. I WILL GET YOU, NO QUESTION. NO MORE CHANCES NO MORE WARNINGS. YOU CAN’T HIDE, AND IF THE PICTURES ARENT THERE BY DECEMBER 12, THAT’S IT. IF I CAN’T SEE YOU, NO ONE ELSE WOULD EVER WANT TO ONCE I’VE DONE MY JOB NEXT YEAR. DO YOURS AND YOU WONT NEED TO LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER ALL YEAR. BY THE WAY, YOU WILL PROBABLY BE BLINDED TOO, UNLESS YOU ARE LUCKY.
This horrifying message also contained with it disgusting and explicit hand drawn sketches of the poses that the author wanted the woman to adopt in the photographs, as well as detailed instruction about how to specifically package the pictures and where to leave them – the location being a ditch by a sign on a minor road near Gatwick Airport.
As one can imagine, this letter frightened the woman beyond belief – if anyone has ever received an anonymous threatening letter, then they will know just how much they can unsettle and frighten. Detectives started an investigation, and although the letter was postmarked 20 miles away in Kingston Upon Thames, they theorised that the author was someone who was employed at the airport in some way. They discreetly began looking at the woman’s male colleagues for a possible suspect, and subjected the letter and envelope to forensic examination for fingerprints or traces of DNA. All fingerprints found on the letter and envelope were ran through fingerprint databases, but no match was found on file. There was no obvious suspect found either. Needless to say, the frightened woman did not comply with the writer’s demands, and the deadline of December 12th passed without incident. The same woman then received another letter on 12 February 1998, written in the same handwriting and in the format of capital letters, simply saying:
YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR NOW, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN
Speculating that the author had gotten wind of the police investigation and had backed off, there was little more that detectives could do – except wait to see if the author wrote again. For nearly a year, there were no further developments.
Then, just after Christmas 1998, a second frightened woman came into Gatwick Airport police station with another disturbing and disgusting letter. It had again been posted in Kingston Upon Thames, and the recipient was again a blonde woman in her early 30’s, who worked on the ticket reservation staff at the airport. This time, the author of the letter had switched to referring to himself in the plural. Again, the name of the recipient has been removed here:
WE NEED YOUR UNIFORM FOR A FILM. IF YOU DON’T SUPPLY IT WE WILL TAKE IT. WE WILL FIND OUT A BIT ABOUT YOU, AND THEN WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT AND YOU ARE OFF GUARD, WE WILL TAKE IT. EVEN IF YOU ARE WEARING IT. WE WILL ALSO TAKE ONE OF YOUR FINGERS FOR MAKING THINGS DIFFICULT FOR US. DON’T BE A CUNT, X, MAKE LIFE EASY FOR ALL OF US. YOU KNOW EVERYTHING CAN BE FORGOT
The letter also contained the same detailed drop off instructions and location as the previous letter. The recipient of the second letter also did not comply with these demands, and although the first inquiry was again looked at, there was no arrest and it did not advance the investigation further. There was no follow up letter this time, and things again went quiet.
Then in April 1999, the letter writer was back. The third recipient was a colleague of the first recipient, and was the now familiar pattern again of a blonde woman in her early 30’s. This time, the letter had been posted at Gatwick itself, and the writer had drawn up a list of “forfeits” for the recipient. He again wanted her uniform, and it was again to be left in the same spot as before. As with the previous letters, the demands were ignored, and a follow up letter a month later contained the threat that the writer would place an obscene picture of the recipient online. The recipient, like the first victim, had been photographed for the airline’s promotional literature, and the writer threatened to graft her picture onto an image of a woman masturbating with a wine bottle. It would then be placed on a website with a message for people to telephone her airline asking for the “cabin crew performance manager”, and to detail which obscene and degrading acts they wished for her to perform.
The fourth and what turned out to be the final recipient of “The Gatwick Blackmailer” also worked for the same airline that victims 1 and 3 worked for – but this time was brown haired and only 22 years of age. The letter had also been sent just a day after the follow up letter to the third victim, which alarmed police. This man was becoming bolder and was stepping up his attacks. He was also becoming more perverted. The letter to the 4th victim again talked of a forfeit system, but as what was becoming a common pattern with the author, used a slightly different approach from the previous letters:
I WAS ON YOUR FLIGHT ONCE AND I MANAGED TO FIND OUT WHO YOU WERE. I WAITED FOR DAYS OUTSIDE THE CAR PARKS TO GET A FEW PICTURES OF YOU. I THOUGHT YOU SAW ME – DID YOU? I THINK ABOUT YOU ALL THE TIME, AS I DON’T HAVE TOO LONG TO LIVE. I’VE SOLD MY HOUSE, GIVEN UP MY JOB AND DECIDED TO GO OUT, FULFILLING EVERY FANTASY I’VE HAD AND DOING WHATEVER I WANT. ALL IN ALL I’M YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE. BEFORE I DIE I WILL THROW ACID OVER YOU. IT’S SO STRONG NOBODY WILL EVER RECOGNIZE YOU AGAIN. HERE IS TASK ONE. WRITE ME A LETTER. DESCRIBE YOUR BREASTS AND HOW YOU MASTURBATE.
The letter also contained a threat that non-compliance would result in a picture of her being posted online with her face grafted onto that of a woman with a frog in her vagina. This would be accompanied by an invitation to call a number and to ask for private shows of the victim with a manner of objects inserted into her vagina and anus.
The 4th victim was so traumatised by this letter, that after reporting it, she quit her job and moved away from the area. Gatwick Police now had 4 victims of what was undoubtedly the same man, but the investigation was at a standstill. When using an offender profiler was suggested, the officer heading the enquiry, Detective Inspector Steve Johns, opted to try it. On 23rd June 1999, DI Johns, DC John Ashbey, and crime analyst Samantha Thompson travelled up to Leicester University to meet their National Crime Faculty recommended criminal profiler, Dr Julian Boon. Dr Boon was a psychology lecturer who was a veteran of more than 400 criminal profiles the length and breadth of the country.
It was fortuitous that they were seeing Dr Boon. As he read out the content of the first letter received, Dr Boon exclaimed that he recognised the content as being an exact replica of that of an offender he had seen before. Dr Boon then described a case he had worked on in Sutton, South London, in mid-1998, where a 17-year-old shop worker had received a threatening letter telling her to dress as an air stewardess and have pornographic pictures of herself taken. This victim had received much more vicious and intimidating content in the letters to her, describing how he would damage her over a prolonged period of time, and going into explicit detail about crushing her nipples and removing teeth one by one. What convinced Boon that this writer was the same offender as the Gatwick Blackmailer were the similarities between each case – a high sadistic content, drawings contained with each letter detailing how the victim should pose for example, a specific instruction of how to package the content and where to drop the package off, as well as a requirement for 40 copies of each picture.
Boon then considered the profile of the offender. The offender was likely male, in the older age bracket, and was unlikely to be married with children – or even in a conventional relationship. He was likely a loner, computer literate and technologically minded, with an interest in machinery. There was a possibility that the offender may have some form of disfigurement – as acid and disfiguring featured strongly in his letters. He agreed with the police that the writer would work at the airport, as the lure of being around his particular fetish would be too difficult to resist. It may be a low-level job, but that did not mean the offender was unintelligent. He considered the offender to be heavily into “anal sadism”, who would gain thrills from the humiliation and degradation of the victim. He estimated that the offender would be heavily into pornography – particularly relating to air hostesses as this was his bent, likely having clothing or paraphernalia related to that of air hostesses at his home. There was also the likelihood that the offender had written many more such letters to other victims, which may have been dismissed and to not have been reported. The fact that he had contacted three of the four victims twice gave the opinion that the author was a writer rather than a doer; none of the threats contained in the letters had ever been carried out, the offender gained his kicks from purely writing the letters, with every word giving him deep satisfaction. He would also find it irresistible to visit the drop off location described in the letters.
“He will be getting off on constructing that letter. Every line is just causing him to drip mentally with sexual elation” – Dr Julian Boon
Detectives from Gatwick then liaised with the investigating officers who had worked on the Sutton case, and what they learned made them convinced that Dr Boon was correct in his theory that the offender would visit the drop off location. The drop off location detailed in the Sutton letters had been surveilled by officers on the enquiry for two days covering one of the dates detailed by the author in one of the letters. No package had been left of course, but no one had turned up either. When the operation had been stood down, officers had left an empty bag and envelope at the scene to see the results. Shortly afterwards, the Sutton victim had received a letter asking her if she was trying to trick him with empty bags. It was clear that the offender had visited the scene at some point, even though the surveillance had failed to spot him.
Encouraged by this, DI Johns opted to put into action a round the clock surveillance operation upon the drop off location in the country lane near the airport that had been specified in many of the letters. A bag of clothing was deposited at the scene, a concealed video camera was installed that could observe the location, and two teams of officers hid a short distance either side of the location. On a Monday morning in mid July 1999, the operation began. Would the offender take the bait?
For nearly three full days, police sat in wait but with nothing happening. But then, at nearly 11:00pm on 14th July 1999, the bag was collected. A car was observed stopping, and when the camera footage was later examined, the vehicles headlights were seen to illuminate the scene. A person’s silhouette could then be seen exiting the vehicle, going right to the bag and then returning to the vehicle before driving off the way the way that had approached from. The driver was stopped a short distance from the scene – and the bag was found on the front seat of the car. He was arrested and brought into custody at Gatwick, where he was interviewed in the presence of a solicitor. The explanation the driver gave for being at the scene was described by DC Ashbey:
“His explanation was that he had been working on his house all day long and decided to go for a walk some time after ten o clock that evening. He parked his car nearby in a country lane, walked across a couple of fields and then stumbled across this bag which he believed was rubbish or possibly a dead animal, because he’d found a dead badger stuffed in a black bag like that once before. So, because he liked the countryside and didn’t want to see rubbish lying about, he returned to his car, drove back to the scene, and put the supposed bag on the front seat so he could dispose of it at his home address” – Detective Constable John Ashbey
The man arrested at the scene was Keith Downer, a 40-year-old British Airways engineer who lived near Redhill in Surrey, and who worked on the B Shift short haul line maintenance at Gatwick Airport. Downer was bailed following his interview, but allowed officers to take his fingerprints before he left the station. Within a few days, Downer’s fingerprints were found to be a match to outstanding fingerprints on two of the blackmail letters. He was re-arrested and exercised his right not to comment when this evidence was put to him. Coupled with being in possession of the bag of clothing left as bait, and the unlikely explanation Downer had given for being in the lane at the time, it was enough to charge him. Five months later, when the case came before Chichester Crown Court in December 1999, Downer pleaded guilty to eight counts of blackmail – including the Sutton offence. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, which however was halved to four years at a Court Of Appeal hearing in autumn 2000. Downer’s victims were understandably extremely upset by this.
Downer’s family, partner, friends and work colleagues were all shocked beyond belief when they heard of his complicity in the offences. He was of average height, dark brown hair and described as “reasonably good looking”, who was divorced but had a regular girlfriend. He had a good, well paid job, had no previous convictions or police record, and was considered a pleasant, normal, hard-working person by those who knew him. This went against many of the points that Dr Boon made in his profile of the offender. Yet Downer matched several points of the profile. He did have a sexual fetish for air stewardesses, he did work at the airport and was of the older end of the offending scale. He also lived alone. And he also had visited the drop scene – as predicted. No stewardess uniform or paraphernalia was found at Downer’s house – but both Dr Boon and police remained convinced that there was a stash hidden somewhere – just at a location they didn’t know.
When interviewed for a television documentary series that featured the case not long after Downer’s conviction, Dr Julian Boon admitted that he had made a mistake in 3 areas of the profile – the offender’s appearance, work status and relationship with a woman. Boon went on to explain that the reason he had missed this was that because Downer had been what is known as “staging” – the offender had deliberately presented himself as something other than what he actually was. In the Gatwick Blackmailer case, this was not to obscure the identity of the offender as would be the common reason – but more to increase the level of terror and discomfort for the victims. Boon outlined the need to research Downer’s life, to look at his upbringing and relationships, particularly his previous sex life, to try to pinpoint exactly where and when the extreme sadism that was Downer’s sexual proclivity stemmed from. Boon remained convinced that Downer was more of “a writer than a doer”, and that this bent would never change. It just remained to be seen if Downer would be able to keep them under control upon release from prison.
Downer is long released from prison now. Has he managed to keep his fantasies under control – or has he started writing letters again….?
“He is still on the loose. But he has been a very lucky person this guy. He has destroyed my life overall, but he is still free. For people who don’t know me and have never known me, then I can understand where they are coming from. The hard thing is the ones who do know me and still have this lingering doubt that I was involved. That does hurt and does hurt quite badly. I had nothing to do with it.” – Peter Heron
Middleton St George is a small village that lies on the main commuter route to Darlington, a borough in the North-East of England. Relatively small in population, it’s a quiet area only really notable for a few minor points of interest. Just over a mile away is the former RAF station RAF Middleton St George, which is now the minor UK international airport Durham Tees Valley, and historically the village lay on the direct line of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. But in 1990, Middleton St George gained another point of interest, albeit a darker one. It was the scene of a brutal murder that, to this day, no-one has ever been convicted of.
It was a golfing holiday in 1984 that brought them together. Peter Heron, then a 49-year-old company director of a haulage firm, was on a golfing break with friends up in the Isle of Bute, in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde. He was married to his wife of 20 years, Catherine, with whom he had three daughters; Beverley, Ann-Marie and Jacqui, and the business he was company director of was doing very well for itself. Whilst on this break, Peter got talking to attractive Ann Cockburn, a resident of the Isle and herself a mother of 3 and who had been married to a policeman for 15 years, Ralph Cockburn. Peter and Ann hit it off famously after finding out they had a mutual friend back in Darlington, and they stayed in touch, with a clear mutual attraction between both.
It is unclear exactly when a relationship began between the two, but soon after they had met, Ann visited Darlington to see her friend – and looked Peter up whilst she was there. An affair between the two followed, and both left their respective spouses to set up home together. Soon afterwards, when both were divorced, Peter and Ann married at Yarm Road Methodist Chapel in Darlington, with a luxury reception following at nearby Wynyard Hall. The wealthy couple then set up home in beautiful Aeolian House, a large secluded property set off the busy A67 Darlington to Yarm road, quite near to the village of Middleton St George. After a while, relations between Peter, Ann and their respective children thawed somewhat, and life was good.
Until 3rd August 1990, that was.
That day, Peter had gone off to work at the haulage firm, GE Stiller Transport, as usual. As the couple were quite affluent, Ann did not need to work full-time but instead had a part-time job helping out as a care assistant. That day, she wasn’t working but had instead been shopping to buy a birthday present for an 18th birthday party that she was attending that evening. Peter had come home from work for lunch, as was customary, at about 1:00pm, and Ann was home by then. When he left to return to work just before 2:00pm, Ann decided to take advantage of the sunshine. It was the hottest day of the year, and Ann had decided to sunbathe in the grounds of Aeolian House. She was midway through a book about the paranormal, “The Ghosts Of Flight 401”, and with her collie dog by her side, lay down on a sun lounger to catch some rays.
At about 6pm, with it still warm, Peter arrived home. Ann’s empty sun lounger was at the front of the house, where she had moved it to avoid dust being kicked up by a farmer ploughing a neighbouring field. The radio was still on, Ann’s cigarettes and lighter lay next to it, and a half full glass lay at the side. Finding the door open and the dog outside, Peter called out to Ann to announce that he was home. No answer. Moving through the house, Ann was found in the living room of the house lying face down in a pool of blood, a gaping wound in her neck. Her bikini top was still in place, although the bottoms had been removed. Peter checked to see if Ann had any signs of life, and finding there was none, then rang the police, and a friend, Paul Stiller.
Police arrived and made a thorough examination of the scene and grounds of the house. Nothing appeared to have been stolen, and there were no signs of any ransacking or searching the property, indeed, the house was still impeccably tidy. There was no sign of forced entry to the house, and the outdoors showed no signs of disturbance – although Ann’s book and a pair of shoes were found under a tree about 15 metres away from the sun lounger. The post-mortem report concluded that an estimated time of death was about 5:00pm, and that the cause of death was due to shock and massive blood loss from the wound to Ann’s throat. Ann had had her throat slit with an implement that the pathologist estimated could have been a cut throat razor, or a work tool such as a Stanley type knife, but no murder weapon was found at the scene. There was no sign of any sexual assault to Ann, or any signs of her being beaten or involved in a struggle. It seemed as though she had just been killed, then dumped where she lay. It wasn’t a robbery, and it didn’t seem to be a sex crime – was there another motive not immediately apparent?
Within the first few months, the intense police investigation had seen more than 7,000 people spoken to, over 4,000 witness statements taken, and surplus of 100,000 man hours spent on hunting Ann’s killer. With everyone spoken to who knew Ann, they all echoed the same: she was attractive, well liked and popular with those who know her. She wasn’t found to have any enemies or people wishing her harm, had no disputes with anybody that were known, nor was any evidence found to suggest that she may have been involved in anything illegal or was having an affair. Ann and Peter were described as happy, comfortably off couple, and were popular and well liked. Peter made a tearful public appeal for anyone having information about the identity of Ann’s murderer to come forward, and offered a £5,000 reward. But public and police sympathy for the widower, whilst initially strong, was soon to turn and to be replaced with suspicion, and even accusation.
As in most cases of murder, the stranger killer is a rarity and the killer is usually someone known to the victim. As a result, those closest to the victim, for example a spouse or family members or close friends will be looked at as persons of interest first and foremost with a view to eliminating them from the enquiry. Considering a possible case of utoxicide, police looked at Peter Heron as a suspect in his wife’s murder. As both the husband of the victim and the person who found the body, police scrutinised his alibi for the afternoon of the murder. That afternoon, he had been in his office from 2:00pm until 3:00pm, when he had left to attend a meeting with a potential client in the nearby village of Cleveland Bridge until 4:30pm, when he had headed back to the office. He had left the office at 5:00pm and headed home, albeit not via the usual way he would travel, instead driving through Croft and Middleton St George village before arriving home and finding Ann’s body at about 6:00pm. The reason for this departure would be revealed later. His movements seemed to check out, for although he would have been initially arrested as a suspect and questioned, he was released without charge. However, he wasn’t particularly open about his private life when questioned by police, and it emerged that Peter had been having an affair with a barmaid at the golf club that he was a member of, although the affair was ending at the time. His lover was 23 years younger than him, and worked in nearby Croft. This was the reason he had not taken his direct route home – he was trying to see his lover on the way home. When this fact was revealed by a national newspaper, it turned suspicion onto him. He was called “murderer” to his face by passers-by, and even his daughters were nearly involved in a fight in a local nightclub due to someone making accusations against him.
This is a crime that occurred 27 years ago now, and in that time several lines of enquiry have been pursued in the “Beauty In The Bikini” murder, as it was christened by the press. A number of persons of interest that police wished to trace and eliminate as a result of the investigation were identified, however were never traced. A male jogger was spotted near the house at around the time of the murder – he has never come forward despite repeated appeals. Perhaps more crucially, the driver of a blue Ford Sierra car was seen speeding out of the driveway to Aeolian House at the estimated time of the murder. The driver was described as being “early 30’s, extremely suntanned or swarthy looking, with dark hair that was longer on the sides than on top”. The car screeched onto the road and swerved around a Volkswagen that was travelling past Aeolian House, before accelerating away towards Middleton St George. It narrowly missed a collision with the Volkswagen, and the occupants of that vehicle were supported in their sighting by a passing taxi driver, who had to slow down to avoid a collision with the oncoming Sierra. Regrettably, none of the witnesses manage to gain even a part of the vehicle registration number. This driver was never found. Was he the killer?
What could have been the same blue car was reported sighted parked in a lay-by near to Aeolian House by another witness, who also provided crucial information years later that suggested Ann may have been out somewhere else on the afternoon of the murder. The witness was driving a HGV past Aeolian House at about 4:15pm that day when he saw Ann, whom he knew, driving towards him and indicating to turn into the driveway of the house. He flashed his lights at her in acknowledgement, and she waved in return. The witness noticed two other people in the vehicle with Ann; a male in the passenger seat who had his hands on the dashboard, and another person in the back seat. The witness was adamant of what he had seen and was convinced that this was Ann, and another person in the cab at the time confirmed the story. Was this Ann, and if so, where had she been and who was in the car with her?
There were a couple of other minor developments over the years concerning the case. In 1994, an anonymous letter arrived at the offices of the Northern Echo newspaper. It simply said:
Hello editor, it’s me. Ann Heron’s killer
Copies were also received by police, and were sent to Peter Heron. The author was never identified. Was this the work of a crank, the killer, or was it sent with a purpose to make out that the killer was still out there?
Then, many years later a retired shop-worker came forward and offered information about a sales rep who had visited the card shop she worked at in Newton Aycliffe many years before, who she said claimed that he had killed Ann Heron. The woman, known only as “Sylvia” claimed that the rep had gone into the back to talk to the manageress about a possible order:
“They were gone about ten minutes and he came out first. He looked at me and smiled, although it was more a smirk than a smile. The manageress came behind and she was physically shaking. She was frightened. She said, ‘you’ll never believe what he told me.’ He had told her that he had killed Ann Heron but he was never going to be caught because he was moving to Australia. I don’t know why he said it, although the manageress looked a lot like Ann Heron. She wouldn’t go to the police saying he was probably just ‘playing silly beggars.’ It was only years later that I read about the murder and it really shook me because the description was exactly the same as that of a man seen speeding off in a car from the house. Swarthy, dark, early 30s, it was exactly the same. I know it is just hearsay but I think the police should have at least interviewed me properly.”
But perhaps the most significant development in the years since Ann was killed is that fifteen years after the murder, in 2005, Peter Heron was arrested and charged with Ann’s murder. The reason for the arrest? A simple speck of his DNA. It had been taken from Ann’s body at the time of her autopsy, and had been stored as evidence. Through advancements in forensic technology, the sample, which was related to sexual activity, was able after 15 years to produce a genetic fingerprint. It did – that of Peter Heron. He was arrested and charged with Ann’s murder two days later on the basis of this evidence, but ultimately, the CPS opted not to pursue charges against him following a review of the forensic evidence. Peter Heron never went to trial and was freed, but has never got his name cleared as he so wishes. Quite public in his indignation of his treatment at the hands of Durham Police, Mr Heron has given countless interviews to newspapers, and even wrote an open letter to the Chief Constable of Durham Police, a copy of which is attached here
What then, can be ascertained about the crime? This is not a post to point the accusatory finger at anyone, it is to present the known facts concerning the case and to make an analysis and offer hypothesis based on the concrete evidence. There are also many observations that I will make, and they are intended to be just that – hypothesis and observations. Firstly, what was the motive for the murder? It is unlikely to have been robbery – nothing was reported as having been stolen, and there was no ransacking apparent, even though a cursory look at the property would suggest to the onlooker that this was a house of wealth. Police attending the crime scene also testified to the tidiness of the house throughout. And ultimately, burglars do just that – burgle. They will flee if disturbed, and a dog is a deterrent. The removal of Ann’s bikini bottoms would suggest a sexual motive – but there were no signs of Ann being raped or having had consensual sex that afternoon. Also, why would a sex killer not remove the bikini top also? It is not reported as to where the bikini bottoms were found – these would expectedly be in the near vicinity of the body – or had the killer taken them away? There also exists the possibility that the entire scene was staged to make it look like a sex killing or an attack elsewhere – the strange positioning of the shoes and the book, the removal of only bikini bottoms, the lack of a barking dog.
Nor is it abundantly clear as to precisely where Ann was attacked. Her body was found in the living room, but it is suggested that it was placed there. Was she attacked outside? It is reported that she had moved her sun lounger to the front of the house – meaning that she could have been seen by a passer-by. Also, it is reported that her book and shoes were found underneath a tree about 15 metres from the sun lounger – which would look like at least some sort of disturbance had occurred outside? Was there any mass bloodstaining – which would have been apparent at the point of attack – outside in the garden? If not, and Ann was killed where she was found, that suggests that the killer was someone known to Ann. It is unlikely that a woman would admit a stranger to her home whilst she was alone and dressed in just a bikini – self-consciousness would kick in, like the need to put on a robe. And also, would Ann’s dog have attacked a stranger to protect its mistress? There are reports that Ann’s dog could never again trust a stranger following the murder – just how much should be read into this is a matter of opinion.
It has been suggested that perhaps Ann was having an affair, although her family have been steadfast in denying this as a possibility. I believe that it should be considered. Ann and Peter’s life together had started as the result of an affair – and he himself was involved in a secret affair at the time of her death. Both had history of unfaithfulness, and it can be argued that that is a personality trait that is never lost. Was Ann also seeing someone? A secret lover would explain someone being in the house who was familiar with the layout, whom Ann felt comfortable enough to be with dressed in such a state. It would also explain why Ann’s dog was not reported as barking – perhaps because the killer was someone the dog was familiar with? But then, why would a lover kill her? Or was the killer the partner of a lover who killed Ann in a fit of rage after finding out and confronting her about the affair? I believe it also could be a strong possibility that Ann’s murder is connected to Peter’s affair. Did a jealous partner of Peter’s lover perhaps take revenge in the most horrific way? Or was perhaps, someone hired to kill Ann?
Concerning the man seen speeding out of Aeolian House at about 5:00pm – he has never come forward or been traced, despite repeated appeals and even a televised reconstruction on Crimewatch UK in December 1990. It is correct that this is the main person of interest in the crime – he can be placed leaving the scene by several witnesses, and driving off erratically. Yet, he may not be the killer – he may have discovered Ann dead in her home and driven off in a panic, thinking he may be blamed. Was this man the possible secret lover? What is possibly the same car was reported as being seen parked in a lay-by near to Aeolian House – a secret lover may perhaps leave a car nearby to avoid being seen/discovered/out of discretion? Yet, there is no identikit picture available of the driver, despite an available description. The line of enquiry concerning the jogger sighted nearby also led nowhere – yet one would expect this person to live within the local area, jogging is a very territorial pastime. It is hard to believe that one would not have heard about such a high-profile case and not come forward to eliminate themselves. Again, no description is available, and there is no record of any serious examination of this line of enquiry.
Instead, what would be a natural instinct and understandable for people to think, the main focus of suspicion seems to have been pointed at Peter Heron for complicity in his wife’s murder. It must be said that at the time, he was automatically considered a prime suspect, as is always the case with the other party in a spousal homicide. Peter was the last person known to have seen Ann alive, and he found her body. He was involved in an affair at the time, suggesting that all was not well between him and Ann. His bloody fingerprints were found on the telephone in the lounge, on the roof of his car outside, and traces of Ann’s blood was found on his person. Yet, this was explained off by him claiming to have touched her to see if she was still alive upon finding her, and then going outside to lean on the car to compose himself. He did have an alibi of being in a meeting that afternoon, and so has witnesses to corroborate his movements. Yet his movements that afternoon were out of the norm and gave, I believe, ample time to commit the crime between journeys to places that he can definitely be placed at. He was also not forthcoming about the affair – when, if the estimated time of death is correct, he would have had to own up to to provide an alibi. Why did he not, when he must have known it would be in his best interests to? He has acknowledged publicly, but never spoken of the affair, instead choosing to keep his former lover out of any publicity. It has arguably turned much public opinion against him, and created suspicion in the minds of people, and more importantly, the police. His arrest and charge in 2005 show that he was still considered the prime suspect – yet the evidence that formed the basis of the charge, a DNA sample taken from his wife in his own home, stretches credibility of a realistic conviction and instead suggests desperation for a conviction on behalf of the police. Peter Heron and members of the family have given countless interviews to the press concerning his arrest, charge and release, a selection of which are reproduced in the following links, and make for interesting reading. Others can be found online.
Yet it is my opinion, and perhaps this is the effect of how the media reports, that it comes across as less concerned with catching the killer and gaining justice for Ann, rather more with gaining a public apology for how Peter has been treated and portrayed in the light of what must be understandable suspicions However, he has never been tried or convicted of the crime and like him or loathe him, it is up to the reader to determine for themselves his culpability, if any.
Ann Heron’s killer has never been brought to justice, and it is now nearly 27 years since she was killed in her own home that hot day in August. Aeolian House is now a kennels and cattery, Peter Heron having sold it finally ten years after the murder. The family who now own it claim that they feel a presence, albeit not an unfriendly one, in the house, and often detect a smell of cigarette smoke, which is strange because none of the occupants of the house are smokers.
“It was dark in her flat when we went in. We found her lying on the floor. There was lots of blood on her clothes. I felt for a pulse but there was none. I ran out and called an ambulance.” – Estrellita Villacamea
Summervale House, in the Werneth district of the town of Oldham, Greater Manchester, is a 16-storey block of flats situated near the busy Manchester Street roundabout just off the main A62 road. The Werneth area is a blend of low-level housing, commercial premises and industrial units, close to Oldham’s Spindles Shopping Centre, and situated less than two miles from the Royal Oldham Hospital, but the blocks of flats dominate the area. It was on the 7th floor of Summervale House that a young nurse was brutally murdered in a frenzied attack in her own home nearly 15 years ago now. Her killer has still never been brought to justice, although police do believe that they know the identity of her killer.
Debbie Remorozo came from a large family in the farming and fishing village of Kinalansan in the Philippines. In 2000, when Debbie was 24 years old, she came to live and work in the UK, finding employment as a coronary care nurse at the Royal Oldham Hospital. It was a job that she loved and worked hard at, and Debbie was well liked by her colleagues. She was attractive and had male admirers, but was claimed to have had a boyfriend in Birmingham and was not known to be casually dating anyone else at that time. Indeed, the impression she gave off was that she held what many would consider to be old-fashioned views about relationships. Debbie lived alone in a flat on the seventh floor of the Summervale House block of flats, about a mile and a half from the hospital where she worked, and although had friends, Debbie did not socialize much. Her life seemed to revolve around her job, although she was also a regular churchgoer. She was described as being “austere” in how she lived, often opting to work overtime and saving as much money as possible to send back home to her family in the Philippines.
“What is startling is the simplicity of Debbie’s life. She would get up, go to work and do 12 to 14 hours, come home, make a meal and go to sleep. Her sole purpose was to generate cash for her family back in the Philippines.” – Detective Superintendent Steve Heywood (speaking in 2002)
On Saturday 7th December 2002, Debbie had worked a day shift at the hospital as was part of her 8hr shift rotation pattern. She had turned up for work at 7:00am and had been due to finish at 3pm, but stayed longer to write-up her notes from the shift. Colleagues described this as being normal practice for Debbie, on what was a normal, uneventful shift. Uneventful, apart from one slight event. Not long before she finished for the day, Debbie took a telephone call at work which colleagues were later to tell police had left Debbie seemingly “distressed”, although she didn’t share any details with her colleagues. It has never been revealed as to the identity of this caller, or even if it was possibly connected with her murder. She then completed her shift paperwork and left the Royal Oldham Hospital. It was customary for Debbie to walk the relatively short distance from work to home, and colleagues did not report her as saying she had any plans to go anywhere other than home after finishing work that day. She was caught on the hospital CCTV at 3:27pm leaving the grounds, wearing her nurses uniform, dark blue NHS issue jacket and distinctive orange bobble hat, and heading in the direction of Summervale House.
She was spotted on the CCTV at Summervale House arriving home between 3:45pm and 3:55pm. It was clearly identified as Debbie, where she is seen using a key to gain access to the building. The Summervale House complex was at the time protected by a steel fence surrounding the grounds, and was manned 24/7 by a security guard/concierge. Inside, electric mag locks and fob access controlled access and egress on not just the external doors, but also the internal doors that led off to the corridors on each floor. It must have appealed to the security conscious Debbie to live in such an environment.
The CCTV showing Debbie entering the building was the last time she was seen alive by anyone except her killer.
The following day, Sunday 8th December, Debbie was due to again work a day shift at the hospital from 7:00am to 3:00pm, but never turned up. It was not like the conscientious Debbie to have slept late, so concerned colleagues called her several times but to no avail. Finally, after several attempts throughout the shift, and concerned that Debbie was ill or had had an accident, one of Debbie’s worried colleagues, nurse Estrellita Villacamea, went around to Summervale House to investigate. What she was to find there shocked and scared her to the point where herself, and many of the other Filipino nurses who worked at the Royal Oldham Hospital, considered leaving in fear that a brutal killer was amongst the midst of the closely knit Filipino community they belonged to, and that any one of them could be targeted next.
At 5:40pm, Estrellita arrived at Debbie’s block but found the door to Debbie’s flat locked and no response coming from repeated knocking. By now alarmed, a spare key was obtained, and Estrellita entered the flat. Debbie was found in the living room. She was fully clothed and was laid out on the floor of her lounge in what was later described as “a crucifix shape”. Blood covered her clothes, and a table cloth covered her face and upper shoulders. She had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck, chest and back in what was described as a “frenzied” attack, with wounds penetrating her heart and lung. Two bloodstained kitchen knives were found in the flat. Estrellita immediately checked for a pulse to see if her friend was still alive, but when she found there was none, contacted police.
Police arrived on the scene rapidly, and quickly established that there were no signs of forced entry to the flat. There were no signs of anything being taken or any ransacking, and Debbie had not been raped or sexually interfered with. The subsequent autopsy established that it was likely that Debbie had died between 4:00pm and 7:00pm the previous night, very soon after she had arrived home from work, and that death had been due to shock and massive blood loss from her wounds. Enquiries with other residents of the flats revealed nothing – no one had heard any sounds of a disturbance or screams that Saturday, and no bloodstained killer was witnessed fleeing the building or caught on CCTV – although traces of Debbie’s blood were found in the stairwell of Summervale House. The lack of any signs of forced entry to the flat suggested that Debbie had willingly let her killer into the flat – suggesting someone that she knew. Her family and friends confirmed that Debbie was a security conscious person and would never have willingly let a stranger into her home. This was echoed by police.
“We think Debbie knew her attacker. Debbie was a careful person who would not let anyone other than someone she knew into her flat – someone who could have been in the block” – Cold case investigator Andy Tattersall
Without a clear motive, a team of 30 detectives were forced to look more closely at Debbie’s life – perhaps something would jump out and provide a clue as to why she was killed? Nothing did. No one was discovered with a motive for wanting her harmed in any way – police were just left with a picture of a quiet, well-liked and hardworking devout Catholic whose life revolved around her work. There were no secret boyfriends or love affairs discovered, and Debbie was not involved in anything illegal or immoral. Aside from speaking to Debbie’s friends and colleagues, the congregation at the church Debbie attended, and members of the Oldham community in general, detectives even travelled to Debbie’s home village in the Philippines to speak to her family and people who knew her there, to see if anyone there had information that could help – or even a motive could be found originating from there. Nothing was found, and the investigation soon ground to a halt. A few weeks after her murder, Debbie’s body was flown home to be buried by her devastated family.
She was remembered by friends and ex colleagues at a special mass at St Patrick’s church at Oldham on the first anniversary of her death, and by that time there had been little progress made in the investigation into her murder, despite a £10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Debbie’s killer. Convinced that the key to Debbie’s murder lay within the closely knit Filipino community, appeals had been made throughout several Filipino communities nationwide in both English and the Filipino language Tagalog. A man of 26 and a woman of 31 had been arrested in connection with Debbie’s murder, although both had been interviewed and later released without charge. The following year, scientists had managed to obtain a DNA profile from evidence taken from the crime scene that detectives believed could identify or eliminate Debbie’s killer, although it has never been revealed the item that this sample was obtained from, nor the form that it took (blood, saliva etc). Detectives working on the case had after a while become convinced that they had identified Debbie’s killer – and had gone so far as to prepare a file of evidence. But senior lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service decided that obtaining a successful conviction in the case was an unrealistic prospect – and subsequently refused to authorise a charge being made. With this decision, plus the lack of any further progress being made, Debbie’s murder was classed as a cold case. It has been re-appealed several times over the years, but remains officially unsolved to this day.
There is relatively little information available to research about the case apart from what is recounted here, but what is a common thread is that Debbie’s murder is only officially unsolved. To prepare a file of evidence for prosecution means that police were suitably convinced that they knew the identity of Debbie’s killer, and had evidence that could at least place them at the scene of the crime. A former detective who worked on the case said:
“I’m hundred per cent sure I know who’s done it. And people out there will know who’s done it.”
But with no charge being authorised, Debbie’s murder is still officially classed as a cold case. For legality, there are no details available about any suspects or the specific kind of evidence that is held with regards to the identity of Debbie’s killer. Those examining are left to surmise the events, which is hindered by the lack of detail available concerning the murder. What is available tends to raise more questions and possibilities than provides definite answers. It should be noted that the following is in no way suggested as being definitive, it is a working hypothesis.
Examining what is known, it is likely that Debbie knew her killer, or killers. This is not the work of an intruder breaking in and the murder being the work of a robbery gone wrong. Nor is this likely a sex crime – sex as a motive would at least show some evidence of attempted rape or clothing being disturbed. None was reported. Police from the outset have always believed that someone went to Debbie’s flat with the intention of arguing with her or for a confrontation – and this seems likely. Debbie would not have allowed a stranger into her home – and a burglar/opportunist attacker would seriously not choose a 7th floor flat of a relatively secure block to target for a random break in. No one suspicious was reported entering or leaving the building that Saturday, and no screams or sounds of a struggle were reported. TTCE believes that her killer was either a neighbour of Debbie’s or at the very least someone she was acquainted with who lived or worked in the same block or complex, or a visitor that she authorised entry to. A killer living in Summervale House would support the fact that traces of Debbie’s blood was found in the stairwell of the block, but no bloodstained killer was seen leaving at any time that day. Did the killer(s) go home and clean up – perhaps only needing to go as far as a couple of floors up or down? Of course, it is entirely possible that Debbie’s killer was a visitor, and cleaned themselves up as best as they could in her flat, before composing themselves enough to leave.
TTCE believes that Debbie’s murder may not have been necessarily pre-meditated. It was reported as a “frenzied” attack, and more than one knife was used to brutally stab her to death. Yet the knives had not been brought to the scene – they were Debbie’s own knives, taken from the kitchen and left at the scene. Was this an escalation of an argument and a knife was grabbed in the midst of a struggle, or was Debbie attacked when she was unawares and incapacitated with a stab wound, before being repeatedly stabbed again? There is also the possibility that there was more than one killer responsible. The use of more than one knife to stab Debbie suggests two people working in tandem, perhaps one restrained her initially whilst the other stabbed her? It is reported that the attack happened in her lounge, but this is where the lack of details available about the scene make a hypothesis difficult. For example, were there any signs of Debbie having made tea or coffee for any visitors? Was there any heavy bloodstaining to the sofa or chairs? Where exactly were the knives found, and why were two used – did one break? Did the attack happen solely in the lounge, or was their evidence of a scuffle in another room? Did Debbie’s body show any signs of being beaten? It is details like the answers to these questions that help paint a picture of the events of the murder, which in turn helps narrow down the field of suspects.
Also, much is reported of Debbie’s body being laid out in a “crucifix” shape and having her face covered. The shape she was lay in could be the result of how she naturally fell, or her killer may have stabbed her repeatedly whilst she was lay on the floor and inadvertently moved her into that position. Or she may have been deliberately posed like that. Her face was also covered with a tablecloth – and whilst it is believed that this was an act of remorse by the killer, this should not be accepted as fact too quickly. It may have been done to stifle any screams, or even have been an attempt to smother Debbie. It may have even been done out of guilt, or just been used by the killer(s) to clean themselves up and just happened to fall across her face when discarded. But without access to crime scene photographs to ascertain the exactness of the position of this, and Debbie’s body, these are points that could be misleading and possibly points that have been over-sensationalised.
What then, was the likely motive for Debbie’s murder? TTCE believes the likely motive was a personal one, the result of someone having a serious grudge against her. Police have always been convinced that her killer(s) went there that day to confront Debbie – but why? It is unlikely to have been over money – Debbie was frugal and did not live beyond her means, and was not reported as having been in the habit of borrowing money to or from people. Debbie’s life was looked at in enough depth to know that she was not involved in anything illegal or immoral either, so this too is an unlikely reason for the source of any argument. TTCE believes that the most likely reason for anybody to confront Debbie would have been jealousy, or perhaps as a scorned lover. Debbie was a very attractive woman and it is known that she had male admirers – yet kept them at arm’s length. Perhaps one of these admirers came to confront her about being rejected? The possibility also exists – and this is a very real one – that Debbie’s killer was a woman, or perhaps the multiple killer theory is correct – after all, why would a single killer use two knives? Perhaps someone viewed Debbie as a love rival or the reason a relationship failed or was unrequited, and she was stabbed to death in the heat of the moment in a crime of passion – perhaps in mid argument? There are many documented cases of love rivals committing the most horrendous of crimes in the heat of passion – a red mist just descends. Was Debbie’s murder in the same vein?
Police do have a DNA sample that they believe was from the killer, and DNA evidence is very conclusive. Yet for the CPS lawyers to refuse a charge based on an unlikely conviction being able to be obtained, this supports the theory that the profile will match someone who could readily explain away a reason for their DNA profile being in Debbie’s flat, meaning that Debbie’s killer was indeed known to her. TTCE believes it likely that her killer has been spoken to – and identified, possibly even arrested – but has so far managed to escape justice. The murder of Debbie Remorozo is at a standstill now, and investigators are left awaiting either new information coming forward, a confession from someone who has her death on their conscience, or more conclusive scientific evidence being obtained – which is an unlikely prospect after so long, and as a DNA profile already obtained wasn’t classed as enough evidence, one wonders what other forensic evidence could possibly be obtained now? A tree planted in memory of her in Oldham’s Maltby Street grows now, and Debbie’s family still live in hope that before that tree grows much further, her killer will be brought to justice. Debbie does not deserve to be forgotten.
“We are still hoping though that with the help of scientific approach and new technologies now, justice for my sister will be served soon. Fourteen years have passed (and) we never heard again from the Manchester police and investigators. We’ve been hopeless and frustrated since then not knowing where and how we can get results of the investigation and the reason why someone killed my sister” – Dennis Remorozo (Debbie’s brother)
Anyone with information concerning Debbie’s murder can contact GMP’s Cold Case Unit on 0161 856 0320, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
“Keith was very studious and wanted to buy a compass set so he could finish his geometry homework. There was only one shop in Ovingdean so he decided to walk to town. That was the last time I saw him.” – Peter Lyon (Keith’s brother)
Travelling by car, just 1.6 miles separate the Brighton and Hove village of Ovingdean and the eastern city suburb of Woodingdean, both of which are situated in a tranquil and picturesque area of the Sussex Downs. The former is a small village with a population of just over 1,200, whilst the latter is larger in population, although this is staggered over a greater area. This distance will be even less on foot, if a person were to take one of the many paths connecting the two areas that sprawl the area, and that are popular with walkers and pet owners. One such path is a bridle path that leads through an area known locally as “Happy Valley”. It is an idyllic spot that offers a view of the English Channel in the distance. However, “Happy Valley” should be considered a misnomer – because for 50 years now, this spot on this path through “Happy Valley” is still remembered locally as the scene of a brutal, as yet unsolved murder.
Many people remember the first week of May 1967 for different reasons – for example, Elvis and Priscilla Presley had married that week, and Zakir Hussain became the first Muslim president of India on Saturday May 6th 1967. Closer to home though, and more on the mind of 12-year-old Brighton and Hove schoolboy Keith Lyon than world events or celebrity marriages, was a simple mathematical compass.
Keith lived with his family, parents Valda and Ken Lyon, and younger brother Peter, in a grand home in the village of Ovingdean. Ken Lyon was a well-known and popular band leader in Brighton, and it seemed that Keith had inherited some of his father’s musical genes, as he was a promising young musician. The family was quite respectable and happy, and Keith did well enough in school to attend Brighton and Hove Grammar School, which he enjoyed and where he continued to flourish at as a hard-working and apt pupil.
That Saturday, the 6th May 1967, was a lovely sunny day, and for Keith and his brother it was pocket-money day. Keith had 4 shillings (just over £3 today), and wanted to spend it on a geometry set and compass that he needed for his homework. As Ovingdean had only a single shop, and there was a bit more variety of shops in nearby Woodingdean, Keith decided that Saturday afternoon to make the short journey to the next village and back. Setting off at around 3pm, Keith headed off to Woodingdean on foot, walking along the bridle path that connected the two villages and that ran through Happy Valley.
Just over an hour later, at about 4:15pm, a 16-year-old girl was out dog walking in the area. She was a pupil of the nearby Roedean Girls School, which is overlooked from the bridle path, and was walking along the path when she got the shock of her life. Lying on a grass bank at the side of the path, heavily bloodstained and clearly dead, was the body of a young boy clothed in a grammar school uniform. It was Keith; he had been stabbed to death and left at the side of the path. The girl immediately fled in fear and contacted police, who arrived at the scene quickly and cordoned the area off.
Looking at the body in situ, Keith’s clothing had not been disturbed, but his trouser pockets had been turned out, and his money and a set of keys was missing. He was heavily bloodstained (a pathologist noted 11 separate stab wounds to his stomach, back and chest area) and there was no sign of a murder weapon at the scene. It was imperative that the police enquiry got off to the best and most proactive start.
Arguably, it did. As a massive house to house enquiry got underway, a makeshift incident room was set up immediately at a nearby primary school, and a massive search of the area was undertaken by police, who had extra officers drafted in from all over Sussex. Police search teams and dog handlers were used to search fields, woods, farm buildings and empty premises, looking for Keith’s abandoned keys or more importantly, a murder weapon. This was believed to be a sharp, serrated knife. Assisting police in their search was the use of a powerful magnetic mine detector from nearby Aldemaston Camp, which was capable of drawing out metal from inches underneath the ground. However, this failed to find anything in the immediate areas of the murder scene that police searched.
But a bloodstained, serrated knife with a broken tip was found a day or so later near the rear of nearby Fitzherbert School, and handed in to police by schoolboys. The blood on the knife was found to be of the same blood type as Keith’s.
In the days following the murder, a wax dummy from a tailor’s was borrowed, and dressed in clothes identical to those that Keith had been wearing was used in a reconstruction in an attempt to jog any potential witnesses memories. This reconstruction did bear fruit – two women who lived nearby came forward to say that on the same day and around the time Keith was murdered, they saw four youths involved in a scuffle near the path – in fact the witnesses used the word “sparring”. They did not intervene however, and later saw three youths fleeing across nearby fields. A local bus driver also came forward to say that on the afternoon in question, two youths had been passengers on the No 3 bus he was driving to the nearby Whitehawk estate, and both were in an “agitated” state. They had got on at Vines Cross Road and stayed on until the Whitehawk Garage stop, before getting off in a “blind panic”. Were these connected to Keith’s murder? No physical or clothing descriptions were available of any of these boys. If this wasn’t Keith and his killers – and TTCE believes that it was – then these were crucial witnesses that never came forward.
After the two women and the bus driver had come forward as witnesses, police adopted the view that Keith’s killers were a gang of local youths and his murder was a result of a robbery having gone wrong. There was evidence to support this – Keith’s killer(s) would have been significantly bloodstained, and evidence was found to suggest that the murderer had used a nearby public lavatory in Lawn Memorial Park to clean up. A public lavatory that would have only been apparent to someone living in the locality. A mass questioning and fingerprinting of local youths got underway – but even though thousands were spoken to and fingerprinted over the course of the enquiry, this did not lead to any arrests.
In fact, by the time of the coroner’s court inquest into Keith’s death in December 1967, the investigation was at a standstill. Police had taken 6,000 palm and finger prints, had undertaken more than 75,000 house to house enquiries, had taken 2,000 written statements taken, and interviewed nearly 2,000 children from more than 15 schools in the locality. There was local rumour and suspicion about the identity of those responsible, but there were no firmly established suspects. Although people had been arrested in connection with the murder, they had been cleared, and no-one had been charged with Keith’s murder. A coroner’s jury returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown, but the enquiry into Keith’s murder remained inactive.
On the one year anniversary of the murder, Keith’s still grieving family offered the reward of £1,000 – a substantial amount at the time – for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Keith’s killer. It was never claimed. With a lack of incoming information, the investigation remained back at a standstill for a number of years following this, but in 1974 it came to life again. Det Supt Jim Marshall of Sussex Police announced that new evidence had “come to light” that opened a new line of enquiry concerning Keith’s murder, though it is unclear and unreported as to what this evidence was. It did lead to scores of people being re-interviewed at the time, but again, ultimately lead to nothing. Controversially following this re-investigation, crucial evidence from the enquiry was misplaced for many years, and was only found in a locked storeroom at a Brighton police station following the turn of the century. This included the clothes Keith had been wearing at the time of his death, and the suspected murder weapon – the knife with the broken tip.
Although Keith’s murder has today fallen into the category of a cold case subject to periodic reviews over the years, it still creates headlines from time to time. An appeal had been made a number of times on Crimewatch UK, and in the mid 2000’s, three men in their 50’s were arrested on suspicion of murder, but were ultimately released and eliminated from the enquiry. None of these men were ever named, and there is no record of what led to their arrests. But it is reported that police now have partial DNA evidence that could link the murderer to the scene. As forensic examination has evolved in the years following Keith’s murder, technology now exists that has enabled scientists to obtain a workable DNA sample from the evidence that was presumed lost for so many years, namely Keith’s clothing. But of course, a match for this DNA profile has so far remained elusive from the DNA database. So Keith’s killers have not offended since, at least not since the inception of the National DNA database in April 1995.
Looking at the case, TTCE is of the impression that Keith was attacked on his way to Woodingdean with the killer or killers coming from that direction. No geometry set was found throughout a massive search of the area, and a geometry set is not something that a young boy is murdered for. It is not reported if there were any witnesses who remembered seeing Keith leaving Woodingdean that afternoon – so it is likely he was attacked on his way there. It’s possible that he was followed, or met his killers on the way, and they were youths of similar age, possibly slightly older, than himself. The plural is used because there is more than likely to be one killer – this is supported by the evidence of the two women who witnessed four boys “sparring”. It would also suggest why a 12-year-old fit and healthy boy did not run away when confronted by someone attempting to rob him – perhaps he had been restrained by one or two others? Three boys were then seen running away over nearby fields, and as said previously, if they weren’t the killers, they were at least crucial witnesses – yet never came forward despite a MASSIVE enquiry that was after all focused upon local youths? Why would they not do so, unless they had something to hide?
Police considered the possibility that Keith had been deliberately targeted for the murder, but he wasn’t found to have anyone bearing a grudge against him and was popular and well liked at Brighton and Hove Grammar school. Keith’s murder seems likely to have started out as a robbery and gravitated to murder in an opportunistic crime. There was no reported evidence of any sexual assault or Keith’s clothing being removed or interfered with. He was killed where he was found and his body was not hidden from view, despite the availability of bushes on the path in which to hide it. A sex killer would likely abduct and would use a vehicle – which is impractical on a bridle path. His pockets were turned out and emptied of money and property, but this also raises the question – what was the need to kill Keith?
A 12-year-old boy could easily have been overpowered and successfully robbed without the need to be stabbed so repeatedly. TTCE believes that there are several possible reasons for the stabbing. It is possible that Keith knew his attackers and could have identified them, or is possible that Keith retaliated when attacked and his assailant then drew a knife, saw red, and stabbed him in the heat of the moment? There also exists the possibility that Keith’s killer was a violent psychopathic youth who enjoyed killing immensely – and Keith was always going to die that day.
The angle that Keith was targeted because he attended a different school and was middle class was also looked at. This appears a promising theory – the posh boy robbed by youngsters from a “common” school. Several reports claim that Keith was wearing his grammar school uniform that day – or at least part of it – so this would have been identifiable and possibly would have singled him out as the target of bullies. It was fashionable of the time (as is more and more so commonplace today also) for youths to arm themselves with knives. Was this what happened? Or did one of the youths commit murder in some macabre attempt to gain notoriety and status within a group?
TTCE believes that the killers were from the local area at the time. Perhaps not Ovingdean, but looking at the geography of the events more than likely Woodingdean, or possibly the nearby large Whitehawk estate. Knowing the bridle path itself would suggest local knowledge – an offender does not commit a crime in a place unfamiliar to them, this would bring with it the risk of interruption and detection. Also, the location that the knife was found was in the grounds of Fitzherbert School. Although Fitzherbert school no longer exists today (a private hospital stands on the site where it was), it was on the edge of Woodingdean, and the Lawn Memorial Park toilets that were found bloodstained were just yards away from it. If the offender(s) were fleeing, wouldn’t they flee unconsciously via a place familiar to them for easy egress – for example, towards the school that they went to, dumping an incriminating murder weapon on the way before cleaning up as soon as possible? As well as pointing to local offenders, it also points to an unplanned murder and the offenders panicking and fleeing upon realising the enormity of what they had done. Keith’s keys were never found – but a set of keys on a person can be explained off more satisfactorily than a knife. They were likely dumped elsewhere, perhaps in a pond or even in the sea.
It is almost certain that the killers of Keith Lyon were spoken to, likely also fingerprinted, during the initial investigation into his murder, but police failed to recognise their guilt, or the killer or killers managed to lie or bluff successfully. It is likely that each corroborated the other’s alibi, either out of fear of discovery, peer pressure, or a misguided sense of loyalty. They may have gone on to offend again, or that may have been a shocking one-time event that shocked and horrified them, yet cowardice and guilt has prevented them from confessing, knowing the punishment that would come. they have lived with for 50 years now, eating away at them. As is the case with the parochial thinking in any unsolved crime, local rumours have abounded to the identity of Keith’s killer for many years now. Suspicion has been pointed at several youths who attended the Fitzherbert School at the time. Rumours also abound that a family immigrated to Canada very soon after Keith’s murder – and a member of this family was a highly likely murder suspect. Of course – there is no evidence to substantiate any of these claims, rumours do not constitute evidence.
It must be remembered that the 50 years that have passed since Keith’s murder have brought with them drastic advancements in technology and tools used in the detection of crime. In 1967, there was no DNA fingerprinting, no CCTV, no social media available to mass and rapidly appeal, no HOLMES. Policing was very much of the “knocking on doors” type at the time and one must have sympathy with the investigating team. They had relatively little evidence from the crime scene, and any fingerprints on the knife found (if indeed, it was the murder weapon) must have been either of poor quality or very partial for a match not to have been found, If any of today’s investigative tools had been available to police at the time, it is highly likely that Keith’s murder would have been solved. TTCE believes that the identities of Keith’s killers were recorded at the time, and that somewhere in the murder file will be their names. They may have moved away from the area today, they may be abroad, in prison or hospital, perhaps even dead by now after so many years. But police do have a useable DNA profile now available to them, and it is possible that with each day that passes, an entry will be added to the DNA database that will provide a familial link to this sample. And police can finally close in on the killer of Keith Lyon. It seems that bar a conscience getting the better of someone and a confession forthcoming as a result, this is the only possible source of a solution.
Sadly, it will have come too late for Keith’s parents, who never got over his death. It broke the health of his father Ken, who died in 1991. Keith’s mother Valda died in 2005, never knowing who was responsible for her son’s death. Today, both are buried near him. Keith’s brother is still alive though. A father himself, he longs for Keith’s murderer to be brought to justice. A number of years ago when interviewed by a local newspaper at the scene of his brother’s death, Peter Lyon said:
“It destroyed our family. It turned me into an introverted, introspective person. I have lived for nearly 40 years with this nightmare and I do not know what I would do if I knew Keith’s killers would get away with it forever. For God’s sake, now is the time to come forward. There is nothing worse than shielding a cowardly child-killer.”
Anyone having information concerning Keith’s murder should contact Sussex Police via 101.
TTCE was well aware of the existence of a book in the works written by former Wiltshire Police Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher following his work bringing to justice what must be one of the most evil, and more than likely, prolific serial killers that Britain has ever known, Christopher Halliwell. As the case is quite high profile and well-known (and sadly it should be added, arguably not for the correct reasons it should be), it was a book that was always on the list to read and review for TTCE, as it is a case that would pique the interest of any true crime reader. TTCE was well familiar with the case and the subsequent events of it, so was all too eager to read the book. Released last week, and read immediately upon its release, the review is as follows.
“Catching A Serial Killer” details the disappearance of and subsequent police investigation into the whereabouts of a missing 22 year old girl, Sian O’Callaghan, which made headline news within the UK in March 2011. Through determined efforts and a tireless, professional and dedicated enquiry, Sian’s killer, taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, was brought to justice. Halliwell is now serving a whole-life tariff for the murders of both Sian, and a second victim, Becky Godden-Edwards, whose murder Halliwell was convicted for in 2016.
There is much available online to read about Christopher Halliwell, the murder of Sian, and the discovery of Becky’s body. Yet equally, there is much available also to read about Steve Fulcher. It does not serve this review any to recount any of these details here, the book and the author does that well enough and covering the plot points here would ruin it for the reader.
TTCE found “Catching A Serial Killer” to be very chronologically written, very honest and personal, and to cover the enquiry start to finish. It was set at the pace of the enquiry, so the reader can place themselves there by the side of investigating officers – it helps appreciate the timeframe and the complexity of a fast paced missing person/suspected murder enquiry. Police jargon and acronyms are explained, and the author delves deep enough into the personal effects such an enquiry has upon those investigating that it really brings home what lies on the shoulders of investigating officers. Not many similar books off the top of the head have done this as well. It’s a fast read, and written so the reader feels the highs and lows of the investigation with Det Supt Fulcher and his team.
So, with successfully taking a multiple murderer off the streets, one would expect Steve Fulcher to be commended? Absolutely not – he was forced out of an unblemished police career by an IPCC as a result of his actions during the case. The most high-profile case of a career – and unfortunately, also the most costly. The events leading to this are all explained in a chronological order, and a very honest one for that matter – Steve is honest throughout, and explains thoroughly his actions and the reasons for doing so. Perhaps “enjoyed” is the wrong word to use for the reader to feel after reading a book such as this – after all, should any true crime text concerning the murder of young girls be enjoyed? – but TTCE thought it an overall fascinating and engaging book.
The two negative points TTCE found with “Catching A Serial Killer” are as follows: there is a complete lack of photographs contained within the book, which is always of interest to any reader in the opinion of TTCE and indeed, has often helped sales and interest. Not necessarily crime scene photos – it is understandable that due to sensitivity and of course evidential value that these are not included. But pictures of places mentioned, vehicles etc would be of interest for example. It is also a book that would have benefited from an appendix at the back bullet pointing the timeline of events, for the reader to refer to as an overview. However, these are personal observations and it has to be said do not or should not diminish what is, as already stated, an excellent book.
As mentioned earlier, there is much to be read about Christopher Halliwell online, the majority of which is the possibility that he is responsible for many other murders as yet undiscovered. TTCE is in no doubt convinced that Halliwell is responsible for many more murders – but he maintains a “no comment” stance. There are fellow true crime enthusiasts that have compiled a list of possible Halliwell victims – some of these quite high-profile cases and names that would be familiar to a reader (a number of which are mentioned in the book), and it is hopefully refreshing to Steve Fulcher to read reviews like this and reinforce that there are people who support his actions and see past any decisions made by the IPCC, and who continue to work tirelessly even if on an amateur level. This book does not cover Halliwell’s life in any great detail, that is perhaps for a future book to do once the full extent of Halliwell’s offending is known – if of course, it ever is. Researching Halliwell’s life may take time, but there is markedly much more for us to learn about the life and exploits of Christopher Halliwell, so much so that, it could potentially fill volumes. TTCE sincerely hopes that this is the first book to do so.
TTCE was going to begin this review by saying that, in a non patronising, non condescending way, he pitied Steve Fulcher for his treatment at the hands of the IPCC. Reading the book changed that. Now, there is nothing short of admiration for him. Read the book and make up your own minds.
On the 28th June 1982, a police constable from the Warrant department of West Yorkshire Police discovered that a man named Barry Peter Prudom had failed to answer court bail following a serious assault in Leeds in January 1982. What stood out was that Prudom’s date of birth was 18th October 1944 – the same as PC Haigh had written on his clipboard. Because the close proximity of an attack in Leeds and the date of birth written on the clipboard seemed a real solid lead, photographs of Prudom – together with others – were shown to the police officer who had been injured in the shooting at Dalby Forest, PC Kenneth Oliver.
PC Oliver unhesitatingly picked out Prudom as the man who had shot him, and Prudom’s fingerprints matched those taken from the abandoned green Citroen car. Police now knew beyond any doubt the identity of “The Phantom Of The Forest”. A picture of Prudom was issued to the press and public with the warning that he was wanted for questioning in connection with the shootings, and was to be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
So now police knew the identity of the man they were hunting – but they were still no closer to finding him.
On Wednesday 30 June, police were approached by a survival expert named Eddie McGee, who was a former Army PT instructor and author of several survival textbooks. He was well-trained in the art of tracking, having learned from Aboriginal tribes in Australia and Pygmy tribes in Africa, and offered his services to assist in the hunt for Prudom. This was immediately accepted, and Mcgee and a colleague began to track the fugitive, beginning at the scene of Sgt Winter’s murder.
In the Dalby Forest area, a makeshift “hide” was quickly found that the wanted man had been using, and McGee and colleague followed tracks from it in a search that took them all of the next three days and led all over the Old Malton and Malton areas. Many of the tracks were very recent – Prudom had not left the general area, but instead seemed to be playing a cat and mouse game with police hunting for him. Mcgee was also of the opinion that Prudom was near the point of exhaustion due to being kept on the move by the constant police presence.
The manhunt moved into its endgame early on the morning of 04 July 1982, when police received a telephone call from a Mr Maurice Johnson of East Mount, Malton. Mr Johnson spoke to police at 05:45am and reported that he, his wife and adult son had been held hostage at gunpoint in their own home by Prudom since 5:00pm the previous day. He had not harmed any of them, but had tied them up. During the time they had been held hostage, Prudom had confessed to them the murders of PC Haigh, Mr Luckett, and Sgt Winter, the attempted murders of Mrs Luckett and PC Oliver, and the burglary at Mrs Johnson’s bungalow. He had left their home at 05:00am. The Johnson’s had waited for a period of time from Prudom leaving the house before contacting police, even going so far as to turn on the upstairs lights to make Prudom think they were going to bed – in case he was still watching the house.
Immediately the area was surrounded and the village sealed off, and by 07:30am, McGee and an armed escort had began to search the rear of the Johnson’s house for footprints. Mcgee found one that was very fresh almost instantly, and followed tracks across the grounds of the nearby Malton Lawn Tennis and Bowling club that terminated near the remains of some fencing panels that leaned against a stone wall and that were covered with brambles and bracken. Mcgee, whilst stealthily examining the scene, noticed that whilst the majority of the brambles were thick with early morning dew, there was a black patch where the dew had been brushed off. Suspecting that he was hot on Prudom’s trail, Mcgee was to later describe the moment:
“I took out a probe and went forward, feeling the ground There was a little bit of blue plastic bag which casually moved to one side. I put my hand forward to lift up the probe and as I did – suddenly a foot few back and sent me rolling back. I jumped in the air, but didn’t shout. I retraced my steps and disappeared around the back of the wall, then motioned to the officers “there!” – we’d got him” – Eddie McGee
Armed police soon surrounded the area where Prudom had been cornered and shouted to him to surrender – but there was no answer.
Shortly afterwards, Chief Inspector David Clarkson of West Yorkshire Police, and Inspector Brian Cheton of North Yorkshire Police – both armed officers – approached the fencing panels and attempted to move them away from the wall. The response was a shot fired from inside the fencing, and both officers moved back to a safe distance. They did, however, fire four shotgun rounds in return. Further calls to surrender were again met by silence, so further shots were fired and two percussion grenades were thrown. The officers then returned and again attempted to remove the fencing panel – and this time were successful. Beneath it, Barry Prudom lay dead, with a pistol on his chest pointing upwards. He had been stopped just 100 yards from the Task Force Control Headquarters – where the hunt for him was being directed from.
The 17 day manhunt, which in total had involved 4,293 officers from 12 different police forces, and had cost £347,000, was over.
Who was Barry Peter Prudom, and why had he embarked on such a rampage? Born in 1944 as the illegitimate son of dressmaker Kathleen Edwards and soldier Peter Kurylo, Barry never got to meet his father. His mother married a man named Alex Prudom in 1949, and Barry took his stepfather’s surname. He spent his early years in a terraced house at 39 Grosvenor Place, Leeds, and was educated at the local Blenheim Primary School and Meanwood Secondary School. By no means academic, he nevertheless showed promise at sports, where he was described as being especially good at boxing and cross-country running. Prudom’s youth was punctuated with bouts of minor criminal activity and mischief, but never anything too serious or involving violence, and his youth was otherwise unremarkable from many of his fellow classmates and contemporaries. Upon leaving school, Prudom managed to gain an apprenticeship as an electrician, and reportedly this was a role that he showed real promise and aptitude in, and could have had a successful career at. He married a girl two years his junior in October 1965, aged 21, and he and his wife Gillian went on to have two children, a daughter in 1966 and a son in 1970.
The year before his son was born, Prudom had enrolled in the TA SAS Volunteer 23rd Regiment that was based in Leeds. He had always been an enthusiast of firearms and the military, and not wanting to be part of a “normal” regiment, Prudom enrolled in SAS 23. He participated in many weekend camps and manoeuvres and was described as a fitness freak, but because he had an apparent dislike of discipline, was told he was unsuitable for the SAS. Bitterly disappointed, Prudom still retained his enthusiasm for a “mercenary” lifestyle. Police who searched his home after the manhunt found several survivalist textbooks – including one called “No Need To Die” – written by a tracker named Eddie McGee! It transpired that Prudom had attended at least one lecture given by Mcgee on the subject of surviving in the wild and living off the land.
Devoted to his family, Prudom worked hard to provide a good and prosperous lifestyle for them. He worked away in the oil fields of the Middle East to provide for his family, but in 1977 his wife Gillian left him and took their children after she had had an affair with a neighbour. They divorced soon afterwards. After the divorce was finalised, Prudom met a girl called Carol Francis, who was half his age, and the couple took up a nomadic lifestyle, drifting around the country from place to place. Both would only occasionally work, with her taking sporadic employment as a waitress whilst he worked periodically on oil rigs. The couple then went to Canada to adopt the same lifestyle, followed by a period in the United States, before returning to the UK and settling down to an existence in a mid terraced house in Leeds, not too far from where Prudom had spent his early years.
It was the period spent in the USA that Prudom was able to obtain the pistol that he used in his rampage, a Beretta Model 71 Jaguar, smuggling it back to the UK when he and Carol returned in 1981.
The couple reportedly rowed lots, and after Barry attacked and severely wounded a 54-year-old motorist with an iron bar in January 1982 (the offence that he had not answered the court date for), Carol left him and returned to live with her mother. When Prudom’s name had been released to the media as being wanted for questioning, Carol made this appeal to the fugitive through the media:
“Barry, if it is you that the police are looking for at Malton, I would like to appeal to you now to give yourself up, before anyone else gets hurt. So please stop this now. If it is you they are after, I would like to see an end to it now before matters get worse. So listen to what the police are saying, and do anything they say for the good of all”
Police Chief Constable Kenneth Henshaw of North Yorkshire Police issued this statement to the public:
“Under no circumstances should anyone approach this man. He is a dangerous, ruthless, callous individual who will not hesitate to shoot at anyone. Anyone who approaches him is in extreme danger of being killed – he is obviously a trained marksman”
What triggered Prudom to initially kill has never been clearly ascertained, but Prudom’s mind had seemingly snapped after Carol had left him, and he had brooded and fantasized throughout the subsequent months until he had left his Leeds home that mid June, armed and mentally ready to kill. He was never to return.
The inquest that opened in Scarborough on Thursday 7th October 1982 called several witnesses to it, including PC’s Oliver and Woods, Mrs Sylvia Luckett, and several witnesses who had seen the shootings and had encountered Prudom throughout the manhunt. But it was perhaps the evidence given by the Johnson family that best offered an insight into Prudom’s rampage. Mrs Bessie Johnson, who had been held hostage along with her husband and son on the final night of Prudom’s rampage, told how she had been surprised in her kitchen by Prudom, who had pointed a gun at her and said, “You know who I am, don’t you?” She replied that she didn’t, and Prudom had marched her into the sitting room at gunpoint, and tied her and her husband together with string. He had then cooked fried egg and bacon, but had been disturbed by the Johnson’s 43-year-old son. The son was also tied up and Prudom told him:
“You stupid bastard..if you had run the other way I would have shot you.”
Once all three had been securely tied up, and having seen himself on a television news bulletin and learned that a tracker was searching for him, one whom he knew and expressed admiration for, Prudom told the Johnson’s of his exploits over the previous weeks.
Mr Johnson related how Prudom had described the shooting of PC Haigh:
“I was in a clearing and had been asleep all night in the car. This policeman approached me and questioned me, he mentioned something about me hitting a man with a bar in January. He was going to take me in, so I immediately shot him” – Barry Prudom
Prudom then described how he had moved to Lincolnshire and broken into the home of Mrs Jackson and tied her up, but knew that she would be released the next morning when the bread delivery driver arrived. Next, Prudom told the Johnson’s how he had travelled on foot to the village of Girton, where he had broken into the Luckett’s home to steal their car. He claimed that he had shot the Luckett’s in self-defence after George Luckett had pointed a gun at him. He had then fled in their car, the number plates of which he had substituted stolen ones for, and driven up to Bickley Forest, where he got lost. This was the night that Prudom attempted to kill PC Oliver, and it was following this that Prudom made his way to the Malton area, living rough in the forest hide for a number of days. He had emerged from his hide and entered a shop in Old Malton to buy sausage rolls and bread, but had been reported as suspicious by a member of the public.
This was the day Prudom had shot and killed Sgt Winter. He told Mr Johnson:
“I heard one copper shout “Watch it, Dave!”.The policeman climbed a wall and I caught up with him. I thought, “I will have this bugger” and shot him. I feel sorry in a way but not really. He was a policeman” – Barry Prudom
He then untied the Johnson’s hands and told them he would be leaving in a few hours, but Prudom finally left the Johnson’s house at about 5:00am the next morning. He had taken food from their larder, which he perhaps prophetically described as “My Last Supper”, and had armed himself with his pistol and a two foot machete.
Throughout the night, each member of the Johnson family had tried in vain to appeal to Prudom to give himself up, but each time he replied that he would never let the police take him alive. He vowed to take his own life and as many police officers with him as possible before that would happen. He had nearly 60 bullets on his person as a testament to this claim. His final words to the Johnson’ before leaving were:
“I am going to die but I will not be the only one. There is nowhere for me to go. Thanks for everything”
Dr Sava Savas, the pathologist who had performed the autopsy on Prudom, noted that Prudom’s feet were badly swollen and bleeding, supporting the view that he had been exhausted and had been kept on the constant move by the manhunt. He also found that although there were 21 separate injuries to his body that had been caused by pellets as a result of police fire, the two main wounds were a shotgun pellet in Prudom’s forehead, and a bullet inside his head that had been fired into the right side that was characteristic of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was Dr Savas opinion that either head wound would have caused instant unconsciousness, but that the more likely cause of death was the self inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of Prudom’s head.
A coroner’s jury supported this, taking just 18 minutes to record a verdict of suicide.
The focus of Prudom’s hatred seemed to have been directed at police, and it seems that his mind had finally snapped. Even if he had gone on the run to avoid what would seemingly be an inevitable custodial sentence for the January 1982 assault, there is no explanation for why he chose to add such an appalling catalogue of murder and violence. He was fit and an experienced outdoorsman, had proved that he was able to evade capture and was skilled at living off the land – he could clearly have gotten away with little or no bloodshed and may never have been recaptured. Yet Prudom proved himself ruthless – cold bloodedly shooting several people and never once just attempting to wound, or warning before shooting. It can be argued that he immensely enjoyed killing, and wanted to go out in some sort of blaze of glory. Yet in his final moments when confronted by the armed police he so wanted to kill, his nerve failed and Prudom took his own life. Following his death, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a Leeds cemetery.
The verdict of suicide brought a close to the case of Barry Peter Prudom, and the manhunt that had paralysed the areas where “The Phantom Of The Forest” had struck with fear. A manhunt that at the time was the largest armed police operation that the country had ever seen, involving over 12 police forces, resulting in 17 days that had gripped the nation.
Readers in the United Kingdom will undoubtedly be familiar with the July 2010 Northumbria police armed manhunt for Raoul Moat, a 37-year-old Newcastle Upon Tyne man who had shot three people just two days after being released from Durham Prison. Moat shot his ex partner Samantha Stobbart, her new boyfriend Chris Brown, and PC David Rathband, with a sawn off shotgun. Brown was killed, Stobbart was severely wounded, and PC Rathband was left permanently blinded by his injuries. Moat was then on the run for six days before being cornered in the Northumberland town of Rothbury, six days throughout which the nation was gripped with the constant reports of a crazed gunman at large, and watching the manhunt for Moat unfold on television. Moat was eventually to take his own life during a standoff with police when he was cornered near a riverbank in the town. The hunt for Moat received massive publicity and was the largest manhunt of its kind in modern times. Yet it has a precursor, albeit 28 years before, almost to the day, in 1982. This manhunt too involved an armed shooter at large, who shot 5 people over a period of 17 days before taking his own life. Three of those shot by the gunman were killed, including two serving police officers. Even a police dog was shot during the rampage and manhunt for a criminal who rapidly became the most wanted man in Britain, and earned the moniker, “The Phantom Of The Forest”.
The trail of terror began early in the morning of Thursday 17th June 1982, at the beauty spot of Norwood Edge, a country park situated near the B6541 Otley-Blubberhouses Road, near the market town of Otley in the county of West Yorkshire. PC David Ian Haigh, a 29-year-old West Yorkshire Police officer, had started a day shift at 06:00am that day, and one of his first tasks was to check the daily crime reports in order to follow-up any outstanding actions passed on by the off going night-shift. One such task was the serving of a court summons for suspected poaching to a man who was reported to be living rough in a van in the Norwood Edge area. PC Haigh made this his first port of call that day, and should have been back on patrol relatively quickly after such a simple task. But when PC Haigh had not responded to several radio messages given that morning, a separate patrol was sent to search for the officer, thinking he may be having vehicle trouble or having had an accident.
What the patrol found was to launch what was at the time one of the biggest manhunts of British criminal history, for a man who would become the most wanted man in Britain and was known as “The Phantom Of The Forest”.
At 08:00am, PC Haigh was found in the Warren picnic site at the Norwood Edge country park, by a police patrol searching for him. He lay dead beside the open door of his own police patrol car, a bullet hole from a .22 calibre bullet visible in his forehead. Just out of reach of his outstretched dead hand was his clipboard, which provided police with their first clue. On it, PC Haigh had written:
CLIVE JONES. DOB: 18:10:44 LEEDS NFA. KYF 326P
The registration number was quickly traced as belonging to a metallic green Citroen car that had been sold for a cash sale of £475 in Kingsbury, London, in January 1982. “Clive Jones” was the person who had sold the vehicle, but he was able to provide an alibi for the time of PC Haigh’s murder as he lived in London and was there at the time. He described selling the car to:
“A dark-haired, well dressed northerner who gave his name as R.D Carlisle, and that he had just come back off working on the oil rigs”
A witness was quickly found who had reported seeing a green metallic Citroen parked at the Warren picnic site at 06:35am on the morning of PC Haigh’s shooting, with a dishevelled man and unshaven man with dark hair who was fast asleep in the driver’s seat.
The poacher that PC Haigh had gone there to serve the summons to was quickly found and eliminated from the enquiry, and a search for the car was undertaken and descriptions telexed to all forces, with attempts made to trace its movements before the 17th June. As the killer had remembered the name of the man he had bought the car from and given it as a false name, it meant that he had had the car since buying it – and therefore it was likely that someone would know him or at the very least remember the car. However, two days later, on Saturday 19th June, the green Citroen was found abandoned in a cornfield near the village of Ledsham, Leeds, 27 miles from the scene of PC Haigh’s murder.
Early the following morning, the 20th June 1982 and 53 miles away in the village of Torksey, Lincolnshire, 75-year-old widow Freda Jackson heard an intruder in her home, a remote bungalow on the outskirts of the village. She got up out of bed to investigate, and was confronted by an armed gunman, who she was later to describe as:
About 35 to 40, slim with dark straggly hair, who looked and smelled unkempt, and who spoke with a “northern” accent
The intruder tied Mrs Jackson up, gagged her, and robbed her of £4.50 and an amount of food before leaving through the back door. Unable to raise the alarm, Mrs Jackson remained tied up until 08:00am, when a bread delivery man on his rounds heard her calls for help, and alerted police. Mrs Jackson was shaken, but otherwise unharmed.
On Wednesday 23 June, in the village of Girton, near Newark and less than 9 miles from Torksey, another house was broken into by the same man. The house belonged to 52-year-old electrician George Luckett and his wife Sylvia.
Again armed, the gunman had broken into the house and after subduing the couple, had tied them together by the elbows. He told the couple that he needed their car, and then went outside to check the amount of petrol in the vehicle. Returning inside the house and finding that the Luckett’s had managed to slip their bonds, the gunman then shot both George and Sylvia in the head in cold blood. George was shot first and killed instantly, but Sylvia survived and managed to make it to a neighbouring house to raise the alarm. She was, however, left with permanent brain damage from the shooting and was unable to recollect the incident clearly. Following the shooting, the gunman fled in the Luckett’s car, a brown Rover registration number VAU 875S, having robbed them of a paltry sum of money and food.
At this time, North Yorkshire police were implementing a new computerised indexing database system that could be used force wide, having learned the costly mistakes of badly indexed and non collated information from the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry just a few years previously. This system, a precursor to the modern-day HOLMES system now used as an investigative tool by police, had a powerful search facility. Because of the relatively close-knit geography of the three crimes, information indicated that they could be linked and information from each enquiry was fed into it. Because the crimes spanned three different counties, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, the three different forces liaised with each other, and the incident room covering each crime was equipped with a visual display unit that connected via telephone line to the North Yorkshire database, allowing each force to search it. The crimes were officially linked the next day, the 24th June, when ballistics testing proved that the same weapon that had been used to kill PC Haigh had also been used at the scene of the Luckett’s shootings. Police now knew that they were looking for a cold-blooded double murder, but didn’t have anything further to go on, apart from the description given by Mrs Jackson of the man who had broken into her house and robbed her. The description that matched the man who had been seen asleep in the green Citroen.
The same day that the three incidents were linked, there was a further incident, this time back in North Yorkshire and it served to highlight just how ruthless and dangerous the man who by now had hundreds of police hunting for him was. Dalby Forest is a large forest situated just 8 miles from Scarborough, compromised of more than 50 square miles of thick trees, dense undergrowth, and bracken. A North Yorkshire Police dog handler, PC Kenneth Oliver, was on a van patrol covering the area when he came across a man who was parked up in a brown Rover car, registration number CYG 344T. Remembering the circulated reports of the Luckett’s stolen vehicle, and being suspicious of the man sat in the vehicle; PC Oliver readied his dog and approached the vehicle. When he was just four feet away from the driver’s window, PC Oliver saw a handgun pointed at him and a shot was fired, hitting him in the face but not seriously injuring him. Retreating, PC Oliver was then shot twice more as the gunman got out of the car, but each bullet only grazed his head and arm respectively. He managed to release his dog and sent it to attack the gunman – who promptly shot the dog, but again only causing a minor wound. This gave PC Oliver the valuable time to get to the safety of a nearby property and to raise the alarm. The gunman disabled the police radio in the van and then drove it a short distance into the forest, before returning to the Rover car and torching it. He then disappeared into the depths of Dalby Forest.
Armed police arrived on the scene rapidly and a search started, but light was fading fast and it had to be abandoned. The forest was surrounded as best as possible throughout the night by armed police, and a massive search began in the morning. It was to continue throughout the weekend of the 25th to 27th June 1982, with hundreds of police officers involved in the search of Dalby Forest for the gunman, who by now had received the moniker “The Phantom Of The Forest” from the press who were reporting on the hunt for him. Local gamekeeper and forestry commission workers who knew the area well assisted in the search, and all campers and holidaymakers were evacuated from the area. Local residents were warned, with some even leaving their homes out of fear. All roads leading out of the forest were manned with police roadblocks, and the forest was blanketed as best as possible in a strong cordon.
A real sense of fear hung over the area – there was a crazed double murderer on the loose, who only by good fortune had not killed four people. It was imperative that he was found and captured before there was any more bloodshed, but police had an exceptional quarry. The killings had covered such a wide area, and “The Phantom” – who was by now Britain’s most wanted man – had managed to avoid capture and slip stealthily through all police cordons. He had shown such skill at evading capture, going to ground and avoiding detection in the areas that police were searching that more than one police officer only half jokingly suggested that he was somehow charmed. Darkness and appalling weather had been on the side of a quarry that could obviously move stealthily and survive living rough.
“The Phantom Of The Forest” was to kill again on the 28th June 1982, and this time his victim again was a serving policeman. Police Sergeant David Thomas Winter and PC Michael Woods were carrying out routine vehicle checks on the A64 road near the village of Old Malton, about 20 miles away from the scene of PC Oliver’s shooting and the focus of the manhunt. Well aware of the manhunt that was concentrated just a few miles away, both officers were increasingly vigilant that day. When a call was received reporting a suspicious looking man, described as being “like a tramp” near a public house on the outskirts of Old Malton, the officers decided to investigate, all the time bearing in mind that this might just be the elusive “Phantom”. Sure enough, the two officers arrived at the location and nearby saw a man matching the description that had been given. He wore a blue woollen hat, khaki jacket, was dirty and dishevelled, unshaven, and had a long walking stick in his right hand and a blue plastic shopping bag in his other. Sgt Winter got out of the car to approach the man, and as he did so, the man pulled a gun from his clothing and began shooting at the officer. Sgt Winter turned and fled up a nearby alley and over a low stone wall, but the gunman followed the officer and shot him three times at point-blank range. Two bullets entered Sgt Winter’s body, whilst one entered his neck. He was killed instantly. The gunman then fled, again into the depths of a nearby forest, whilst PC Woods raised the alarm through the police radio in the vehicle.
Knowing “The Phantom” had struck again, the area was again immediately surrounded by police, many of them armed, and a thorough search of the area was undertaken. All houses, shops and business premises were searched thoroughly, the villages of Malton and Old Malton were sealed and road blocked, and the mass focus and police presence moved the twenty or so miles down to the Old Malton police station, where the Task Force Headquarters were to operate from. But again, “The Phantom” evaded capture, as a torrential downpour hindered the police dog search as they were unable to pick up a scent. By the following day, over 600 officers were involved in hunting for “The Phantom” – with one in six of them armed and each officer involved in the hunt wearing protective body armour. Police helicopters were used; even an RAF Reconnaissance unit with thermal imaging and infra-red cameras was drafted into the hunt. 139 “sightings” of the wanted man were investigated, but each one proved unsuccessful, he was still nowhere to be found. Police established beyond doubt that “The Phantom” had struck again as ballistic testing matched the bullets taken from Sgt Winter’s body to those linked to the previous shootings. “The Phantom” was now a triple murderer, who was prepared to kill in cold blood – who had a hatred of police, and who seemed to be hunting them as much as they were hunting him.
But by this time, in fact just a few hours before the murder of Sgt Winter, police had finally discovered the identity of the gunman they were looking for, Britain’s most wanted man. “The Phantom Of The Forest” now had a name, and a face that could be issued to the public on wanted posters. Police knew his identity – but he still had to be found and stopped.
So a few weeks ago TTCE wrote a guest piece for the excellent podcast/blog site UK True Crime, which goes from strength to strength and currently sits in the top 5 across all categories in the UK Podcast Charts. As has been detailed on the review that can be found here , the host is a genial chap called Adam. I asked Adam to tell me the genesis of his podcast, and he was decent enough to share a guest piece back for TTCE, so it’s over to him…..
Hello, I’m Adam and I host the weekly UK True Crime Podcast. The True Crime Enthusiast has produced some great content for me over the last few months so I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog about producing a true crime podcast. I hope you find this article of some interest.
This time last year I had never listened to a podcast.
Then in October 2016 I started a new job which involved a lot of travel. One of my colleagues was into podcasts, showed me how they worked and straight away I loved them. I have always enjoyed reading about true crime and so naturally checked out crime podcasts which gave me a chance to listen to lots of the great true crime podcasts from around the world. The excellent ‘They Walk Among Us’ focussed on the UK but I wanted more. As I searched for a weekly podcast about lesser known UK cases I guessed other people wanted the same so the obvious step was to start my own show.
When I talked in more detail with friends about how it would sound, it became clear to me that I wanted the listener experience to be like a conversation with a good friend. Living in the UK, humour plays a big role in our daily lives and so I wanted to introduce some typical UK dry humour and sarcasm. This is what I have tried to create with my podcast.
This podcast production lark is fine in theory, but where do you start? Luckily, I stumbled upon some excellent US shows about podcasting which offer some fantastic free advice (if you are potentially interested in podcasting check out Daniel J.Lewis at www.theaudacitytopodcast.com and Dave Jackson at www.schoolofpodcasting.com). With a basic understanding of what to do I bought a cheap microphone, realised there was free editing software available, slowly built and hosted a basic website on WordPress and paid £10 a month or so for audio hosting. Then I was ready to conquer the world of podcasting, after all, just how difficult could it be?
This is where I should tell you that having released episode 31 of the podcast this week I am now a relaxed, podcasting expert with an easy manner and faultless delivery. Of course, as those of you who listen to the show know only too well nothing could be further from the truth. Every time I sit in front of the microphone it is like the first time as I feel nervous, worried that nobody will find the content interesting and wonder why I am putting myself through this. Half a bottle of absinthe, a couple of deep breaths and I press record….
Although I have a prepared script in front of me, now I am a little more confident about my audience I am happy to deviate from it a lot of the time. I add context with the music and news of the time, try to avoid sounding like a grumpy old man when I don’t know/like the music, talk about the Mighty Leeds United whenever possible and try to avoid giving my opinion, but often fail. Instead, I try to ask questions and add a bit humour wherever possible, despite the seriousness of the content. Based on some of the feedback there are plenty of people out there who would describe it as anything but humorous, well, not intentionally. But the beauty of being an independent podcaster is that I am not a paid professional so I can just be me and over time more of my personality has come through in the show. This is one of the reasons why poor reviews make me roll my eyes rather than feel peeved. Constructive advice is, of course, always welcome. But when I get the nasty, personal ones – and we all get them except for the really top shows such as ‘Casefile’ and ‘True Crime Garage’ which are beyond criticism, period – I can’t help wondering why people can’t just choose not to listen again and move on. Life is too short to be unpleasant, right? But then again, as listeners to true crime podcasts, we know there are some very strange people out there….
I almost always record cases new to me as I enjoy the discovery. My favourite cases are when they have been recommended to me by listeners, or researched expertly by The True Crime Enthusiast (check out the two great podcast episodes he has written so far: The Bogus Gasman and The Wedding Murders). The starting point for research is usually google where I tend to begin by picking a random year and searching words such as “trial”, “court case” or similar. I scroll through the results and if I see something of interest I will stick with it but usually I stumble upon another case which interests me more and I will go with that case instead. I try to avoid being just a murder show and include a wide variety of crimes because, as one listener said to me just this morning, financial crime can ruin lives too.
Researching lesser known crimes can be tough as there is less information and I have had to give up a few times as I just can’t provide the background needed to offer any real insight. However, this is rare and depending on the case there is almost always a whole selection of weird and wonderful sources of information from official court documents, newspaper reports, personal websites, sections of books, social media and a huge variety of blogs – some more speculative/gossipy with others being more factual. Researching is certainly the most fun part for me and I can lose myself for hours in the information. If I had unlimited time I would love to carry out more original research, but for an independent podcaster fitting this in around real life just isn’t practical at this time.
Two final points: Firstly, I love speaking with my listeners and always quickly reply to anyone who contacts me. After all, without such awesome, engaged listeners what is the point? Secondly, and most importantly, the nature of true crime means it is a sensitive subject and this can never be forgotten. At all times I try my best to show compassion for the victims, their friends and family and often the person committing the crimes and those close to them.