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Who was “The Beast Of Stanmer Park”?

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

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Margaret Frame and her husband Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret Frame Jewellery Appeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Tobin

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

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

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

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

Peter Tobin Brighton Addresses

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast.

 

Who killed Karen Hales?

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Karen and Emily Hales

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

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

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

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

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Graham and Geraldine Hales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crimewatch UK Reconstruction March 1994 – Karen Hales murder

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

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

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Who was the man in the parka?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

When Life Means Life – The “Four Of Hearts”Murders

“It was the most brutal act of slaughter I have ever seen. It is all the more chilling when you realise that he must have spent at least half an hour inflicting those terrible wounds” – (Ret’d) Det Insp Bob Meek – South Yorkshire Police describing the scene of the Raymond Ford murder

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Anthony Paul Arkwright

Anthony Paul Arkwright wanted nothing more than to become infamous. In the belief that he had found the most successful way to do this, over the space of 56 hours in the summer of 1988, Arkwright killed four people in what are some of the most horrific and bloodthirsty crimes in British criminal history. He has spent nearly 30 years behind bars for these crimes, and has been told that he will die in prison. Yet the name Anthony Arkwright is not largely known, and he has never gained the notoriety that he so craved and that cost four people their lives. He does remain a monstrously evil killer, and his story is worth telling.

An extremely disturbed young man, Arkwright was the product of a broken home, and had had several spells in children’s homes and care from a very early age. This dysfunctional childhood led to his eventual expulsion from school, and after drifting into criminality, by the age of 21 Arkwright was well known to police as a prolific petty criminal. He was a violent bully and a habitual burglar who had spent several spells in Borstal, young offenders institutions, and ultimately prison. Throughout his many spells in custody, he used to while away time in the various prison libraries reading as much as he could about serial killers. Arkwright idolised Peter Sutcliffe and Jack The Ripper, and used to boast to whoever would listen that one day he would emulate their crimes, and one day become as infamous as them.

When he was released from his latest incarceration, Arkwright lived in a council flat on Denman Road in the town of Wath, South Yorkshire, where he had been born and raised. Arkwright fancied himself as a bit of a survival fanatic, but this didn’t extend any further than building a series of dens around the area. Arming himself with a hunting knife, Arkwright would then spend hours sat in these hideouts fantasising about people who he wanted to hurt or kill. Arkwright did work- albeit  periodically, and 1988 found him doing menial labour at a scrapyard in nearby Mexborough. But on the 26th August 1988 he was sacked from his job for appalling attendance and bad attitude.

It was the trigger for one of the most horrific killing sprees in British criminal history, one that eventually earned Arkwright a whole life tariff.

After being sacked from his job, Arkwright took his severance pay and went on a drinking spree that afternoon in a nearby pub. By 4:15pm, he was very drunk, and his fantasies of killing were about to make the leap from fantasy to reality. One of the people Arkwright had most fantasised about killing was his maternal grandfather, 68 year old Lithuanian born Stasys Puidokis, whom Arkwright (incorrectly) believed was actually his father and that he (Arkwright)was the product of an incestuous relationship between Mr Puidokis and Arkwright’s own mother. That afternoon, Arkwright headed to his grandfather’s home in Ruskin Drive, Mexborough, but found no-one home. He then headed to his grandfathers allotment a mile away, and found the old man there tending his vegetable patch. Turning to greet his grandson, Stasys was stabbed with such ferocity in the neck that his spinal cord was severed, and was instantly paralysed. Arkwright then dragged his grandfather inside his small shed, and proceeded to embed a large axe into the old man’s chest. He then smashed his skull to pieces with repeated blows from a 14lb lump hammer. He then locked the body inside the shed and went back to his grandfather’s house to steal his life savings of £3000.

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The body of Stasys Puidokis
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Elsa Konradite

Finding his grandfather’s housekeeper at the house, 72 year old Elsa Konradite, Arkwright smashed her skull in with an axe and left her dead in the kitchen.

Arkwright spent the evening drinking in several pubs in the area, deliberately drawing attention to himself by dropping hints about his crime, and attempting to pick fights with several people. People remarked later that they remembered the “wild eyed weirdo”, demonstrating this craving for recognition and attention.

“It’s been murder on the allotment today” – Anthony Arkwright (to a barman that evening)

By 3am on the morning of Saturday 27th August, Arkwright was back at his home in Wath – and was ready to kill again.

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Raymond Ford

A favourite target of Arkwright’s to terrorise was his neighbour, 45 year old ex-teacher Raymond Ford. Ford was a severely depressed and ill heavy drinker who lived in near squalor, rarely venturing out except to buy more cheap cider and The Guardian. Often, Arkwright would smash his windows for fun and force dog faeces through his letterbox, and just a few days previously had broken into his home and stolen a valuable antique clock and a microwave oven. Mr Ford had reported this to the police, and had named Arkwright as the likely perpetrator. In Arkwright’s eyes, this signed Mr Ford’s death warrant.

When Arkwright returned home at 3am, he stripped naked and put on a “Prince Of Darkness” devil mask. He then entered Mr Ford’s home through a broken window, which Arkwright himself had broken a few days previously when he had thrown a dustbin through it. Finding Mr Ford slumped in an armchair, heavily drunk, Arkwright then unleashed his full sadistic nature on the defenceless man. In scenes that sickened hardened detectives who later saw the scene, Arkwright stabbed Mr Ford more than 250 times in every part of his body. Some accounts put the figure as nearer to 500 times. Such was the ferocity of the attack, and the extent of Arkwright’s bloodlust, that one of the knives broke off and was left in the wound. Arkwright then fetched another knife and continued stabbing him. Finally, Ford was then gutted and disembowelled, and his entrails and organs were draped and scattered around his bungalow. Police officers at the scene described it as the most horrific crime scene they had ever encountered.

After spending about an hour mutilating Ford, Arkwright went home and showered the blood off himself, then went to bed. At 8:00am that Saturday morning, police knocked on his door and arrested him on suspicion of the burglary earlier in the week at Mr Ford’s house. He was detained for a few hours before being released on bail to attend court the next week. Arkwright would make it to court, but on a much more serious and horrific charge.

When he was released, Arkwright spent the Saturday evening drinking around several pubs, again in Mexborough. In the early hours of Sunday 28th August 1988, he found himself back at home and in an almost carbon copy of what had transpired just 24 hours before, Arkwright again targeted another of his neighbours to kill.

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Marcus Law

25 year old Marcus Law lived across from Arkwright in a specially adapted bungalow that catered for his wheelchair, having become paralysed in a motorcycle accident some years previously. Arkwright broke into Marcus’ home and slaughtered and mutilated him, beginning with stabbing him over 70 times. When an attempt to disembowel Marcus failed, one of his own crutches was rammed into a large wound in his stomach. What sickened police called to the scene more than anything was that Arkwright had gouged out Marcus’ eyes, and had placed unlit cigarettes in the empty sockets, into the victim’s ears and nostrils, and into his mouth.

Obscenely, the following morning Arkwright had a chance meeting with the mother of Marcus Law, and smirked as he told her:

“Sorry about poor old Marcus – he’s killed himself” – Anthony Arkwright to Mrs Law

Mrs Law hurried around to her son’s bungalow, and made the horrific discovery.

Arkwright was arrested a few hours later on suspicion of the murder of Marcus Law, and the interview that followed is as bizarre as it is macabre. Arkwright had a pack of playing cards with him, and shuffled through them as detectives attempted to question him about Marcus’ killing. Stopping when he got to the four of hearts card, Arkwright said:

“I can read the future from these cards. This is the master card – it means you have four bodies and a madman on the loose. I can see Marcus Law, but the others are indescribable. They are just too horrible to describe” – Anthony Arkwright to detectives.

Were there four murders? Police didn’t know, because he wouldn’t say any more than give cryptic ramblings. He revelled in being the centre of attention, but wouldn’t expand on anything more, just that he denied killing Marcus. Police had little evidence against Arkwright, but with him as their prime suspect in mind, they held him in custody whilst they set about making enquiries in the Denham Road area. Upon learning that Arkwright was due to appear in court on the burglary charge, they went to speak to Raymond Ford, and PC David Winter discovered a sight that he would never forget. Seeing the broken window, PC Winter made his way into Ford’s flat. On the floor in the corridor were several items, bits and pieces – including a Prince of Darkness Devil mask. The television was on, and the central heating, and it was then that PC Winter noticed deep bloodstaining to the entirety of the flat. When the unmistakeable stench of decomposition led PC Winter to the bedroom, he discovered the remains of Raymond Ford.

“All the bits and pieces in the hallway, that were his internal organs. He’d removed practically every internal organ in his body” – PC David Winter(upon discovering the body of Raymond Ford)

Police had found the second body – and knew that Arkwright was telling the truth.

Attempts were then made to trace friends and acquaintances of Arkwright, in an attempt to try to identify anybody missing. Six days after they had both been murdered, the bodies of Stasys and Elsa were discovered. Arkwright soon confessed to the murders of his grandfather, Raymond Ford, and Marcus Law. He stopped short of actually confessing to the murder of Elsa, but went as far to say that he had stood over her body with the axe in his hand. He was charged, and was incarcerated at Hull prison whilst awaiting trial. Not being content with being out of the limelight, Arkwright “invented” a fifth victim, which led police on a wild goose chase searching a nearby lake and drainage ditch. It was simply to gain attention, and this continued whilst he was awaiting trial. Arkwright was angered at what he deemed was a lack of respect and recognition, and regularly staged “dirty protests”, smearing his cell walls with excrement. When this failed to gain him the notoriety he craved, Arkwright then changed tack and managed to convince prison doctors that he was insane. Transferred to Rampton Secure Hospital in Merseyside, detailed examinations found this to be a ruse, and that he was fit to plead.

“He is the sanest man in the building” – Psychiatrist at Rampton Secure Hospital

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A smirking Arkwright at his trial in 1989

In July 1989, Anthony Arkwright came to trial for the murders he had committed. After an adjournment requested by his legal representation, Arkwright changed his not guilty plea to that of guilty of the murders of his grandfather, Raymond Ford, and Marcus Law. He maintained a plea of not guilty to the murder of Elsa Konradite, and that charge was ordered by Mr Justice Boreham, the presiding judge, to be left on file. Anthony Arkwright was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve at least 25 years. In 1990, the then Home Secretary Jack Straw declared this term as too lenient and increased the term to that of a whole life tariff.

Why then, did Arkwright kill? It was established that he had a deprived upbringing, and at his trial his defence portrayed a picture of a young man suffering from severe personality damage and disorder. Did he brood and brood until one day, the trigger for his killing spree was being fired from his job? More likely is that Arkwright craved infamy, so many of his actions show this. The choice of victims – all that could be easily traced back to him. The bragging and making jokes and quips about his having committed murder. The macabre act with the playing cards, the dirty protests in prison, the creation of a fifth victim and the ruse to convince doctors that he was insane. All the evidence points to a deeply disturbed individual that craved attention and would have loved nothing more than to have been one of Britain’s best known and most reviled killers.

But for all his horrific crimes, the name of Anthony Arkwright has never made it into the public consciousness like either of the Ripper’s that he so desperately wanted to emulate. Instead, he serves his time in prison with no possible chance of release. He has never expressed any emotion, or remorse, or explanations for his actions. The closest he has ever come to doing so is to claim that he killed Marcus Law because he was fed up of him asking Arkwright for cigarettes! The name of Anthony Arkwright is hardly remembered, indeed, even largely unknown. But the families of Arkwright’s victims will never forget what he has done, and even years later his horrific actions still caused tragic ripples. 14 years after his son’s horrific murder, Marcus Law’s father Tony committed suicide by gassing himself in his car. He had never got over his son’s horrific death.

A retired police officer who worked on the inquiry into Arkwright’s crimes was supportive of the sentence that Arkwright received.

“From the day we brought him in for the Marcus Law murder to the day he was jailed, Arkwright seemed genuinely proud of what he had done. He expected everyone to revere him, to be fascinated by him. He was a messed up kid, desperate for attention. In his defected mind he chose murder to get the attention he craved. He’s the most dangerous person I ever met in 25 years on the job – he should never get out”. – (Ret’d) Det Insp Bob Meek – South Yorkshire Police

 

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review -Dennis Nilsen: Conversations with Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer

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The crimes of Dennis Nilsen have always been a fascination to me, and many pages and several books have been written about them in the 33 years since Nilsen’s conviction and subsequent life imprisonment for the murders of 13 young men in London, from 1978 to 1983. Indeed, information about the details of Nilsen’s crimes is so widely available, almost public knowledge, that it would serve no purpose to recount them here. I am quite versed in the Nilsen case, having read many articles concerning it over the years. I also own what I considered for several years to be the two definitive books authored about the case, namely “Killing For Company” by Brian Masters, and “House Of Horrors” by John Lisners. Both are excellent reads – if somewhat sensationalised – and are highly recommended.

But, as any readers of my previous reviews will know, I am always impressed by a book upon a certain case if either I learn new details from it; or it is written from a different viewpoint, regardless if I have read one book upon the subject, or ten. I approached Dennis Nilsen: Conversations With Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer with interest because this book is written with arguably more insight and from a more knowledgeable source than any other: Nilsen himself. What is often touched upon, but perhaps not in too great detail, is how prolific a writer Nilsen himself is. Over the course of his incarceration, Nilsen has completed countless volumes of self- reflective writing and has corresponded with numerous pen pals, academics, journalists and authors.

This book then, is written using the author’s first hand access to Nilsen’s own controversial (and subsequently Home Office banned) self penned autobiography, History Of A Drowning Boy. (Allegedly, the author, Russ Coffey, is one of only 4 people to have done so)The author, Russ Coffey, spent a decade corresponding with Nilsen, researching and writing this book and has developed what is arguably one of the best accounts a journalist has ever constructed with a subject.

Coffey has written a well-structured book, commencing with good accounts of Nilsen’s early life, and his careers serving both in the Army and Metropolitan Police. The author goes on to echo what has become the canonical Nilsen story, namely his bizarre (and morbid)sexual fantasies, his relationship with alcohol, his one night stands, and ultimately towards the end of the book, his crimes. This is followed by Nilsen’s arrest and trial. Nothing ground breakingly new here one might say, although these accounts have all been very well researched and written.  Impressive is the detail here contained in these accounts that stems from the author’s research – I read within the book several anecdotes about Nilsen’s life that were previously unknown to me, which I always find refreshing. Coffey has also painstakingly traced several people featured in the Nilsen story – these range from friends and acquaintances, to old colleagues, to members of the victim’s families – all of which their accounts and words add colour to the Nilsen story. Excellent plus points.

What impressed me most with Dennis Nilsen: Conversations With Britain’s Most Evil Serial Killer was how much of the book focuses (in good detail and as a flowing narrative) on a chronological account of Nilsen’s life in prison. Several chapters are devoted to this, and I found this refreshing, as the side of Nilsen’s incarceration over the past 33 years is often only skimmed over – with any writing on the subject instead focusing predominantly upon his murders. Where the accounts differ from other books about the Nilsen case is that these benefit from being written with the hindsight of Nilsen’s own years of self- reflection to provide a commentary upon them.  Again, this contains several anecdotes that have not been published in other writing about Nilsen.

Overall, it makes for chilling yet fascinating reading. The research and written accounts deserve much credit, the reproduction of Nilsen’s own words is fascinating and insightful, and the photographs contained inside are varied, with some that will not be familiar to students of the Nilsen case. With the benefit of having access to Nilsen’s own writing (and “autobiography”), Coffey skilfully invites the reader to attempt to understand Nilsen’s psyche. I found it a fascinating book, and one that I could highly recommend both to those familiar with the Nilsen case, and novice students of it. In my opinion, it has become THE recommended book about the crimes of Dennis Nilsen.

 

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who killed Alice and Edna Rowley?

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

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

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Edna and Alice Rowley

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

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

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

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Floral tributes adorn the doorstep of the Rowley’s shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

94 Greswolde Road – as it appears today

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

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

 

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

When Life Means Life – The Cambridge Rapist

From mid October 1974, the university city of Cambridge was held in the grip of fear. A vicious sex attacker was at large, attacking the female students of the city. For eight months, a man dubbed “The Cambridge Rapist” avoided capture, and was finally caught not by detective work, but by chance.

The rapists reign of terror began on 18th October 1974. A young student was alone in the house that she shared on Springfield Road with four other students, and had just got out of the bath. She put on some music and began to get dried, but just as she began to do so the lights went out and the music stopped. The terrified young woman then heard the sound of footsteps on the floorboards outside her room, and the sound of a key being inserted into the lock. Suddenly, a stocky man burst through the door and roughly pushed her to the floor. He tied her wrists together with a blouse from the young woman’s wardrobe and then said to her chillingly:

“I came to rob you, but I think I’ll rape you instead”

The young woman was then savagely raped. After robbing her of £12 from her purse, the rapist fled.

Less than two weeks later, in nearby Abbey Road, the rapist struck again in an almost carbon copy attack. Another young woman was laying in the bath, alone at home, when the lights suddenly went out. As she got out of the bath and went to the top of the stairs to call out, she heard someone running up the stairs and was overpowered by a short, stocky man. He forced an ether soaked pad over her face, and pushed her into the bedroom. Tying her hands behind her back with a pair of tights, she was then brutally raped. When she cried out that the man was hurting her, the rapist replied “That’s good, that’s good”. He then fled, leaving the weeping woman bruised and shaken.

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Students pass by a poster of the wanted man in Cambridge in 1974

Police investigating the first attack now realised they were looking for a serial rapist.

A bizarre incident then occurred on the 11th November 1974, in a house on Huntingdon Road. Another young woman was alone ironing in her shared house when she heard what sounded like somebody climbing over the back garden fence. There was nobody there when she looked out, so she thought nothing of it. About 30 minutes later, the front doorbell rang, and when she went to answer it, she was confronted with a strange sight. A man was stood at the door, with a scarf around the lower part of his face and wearing a long blonde wig. He was wearing a black leather jacket, but was otherwise naked. He lunged at her through the door, but this time he was fought off. After being kicked and hit with the iron the woman had been using, the man fled in pain. It was clear that the woman was the intended third victim.

Just two days later, the rapist struck again, more viciously and terrifying than before.

A young music student was in one of the soundproofed music rooms of Homerton Ladies College in Cambridge, when the now familiar signature of the power being cut occurred. In the frightening silent blackness, the young woman was grabbed and a pad soaked in ether was placed across her nose and mouth. The frightened girl struggled and screamed, and was told that she was going to be murdered. Placing a sack over her head, she was dragged out of the block of music rooms and across a field to a shed, where she was repeatedly raped. During her ordeal, she heard the following:

“I am not a murderer. I am the Cambridge Rapist”

Three and a half weeks later, the rapist struck again. On the 8th December 1974, a 21 year old student was asleep in bed in her house on Owlstone Road, when she was woken by a bright light being shined in her eyes. She was dragged roughly from her bed and taken down stairs and outside, where she was pushed onto the lawn and tied up with a pair of tights taken from the washing line. But this attack yielded two important bits of information that would prove to be ultimately accurate about the rapist. As she was being raped, the rapist used the victim’s boyfriends name. Was he researching his victims? The student also said that when the rapist had fled, there was no sound of a car being driven away, but she had heard what sounded like a bicycle being ridden away.

One week later, the rapist committed rape for the fifth time, and returned to the scene of his third attack, the house in Huntingdon Road. A 21 year old woman in an upstairs flat was awoken in the now signature method; an ether soaked pad was placed over her nose and mouth and a torch shone in her eyes. More savagely this time, after being tied up and raped, the woman had her body slashed by the attacker. The wound required twenty stitches.

By this time, the hunt for the rapist had become one of the biggest in British criminal history. Hundreds of officers were involved in looking for a man that they knew very little about, and only had a vague description of. About five feet tall, young, stocky, possibly bearded. They knew that the rapist talked to his victims during the assaults, and that his voice sounded local. They knew that they were probably looking for a local man, possibly an experienced burglar. At nights, more than a hundred plainclothes detectives roamed Cambridge streets, looking for anyone acting furtively. And the scope of potential victims was massive.  Cambridge is a massively populated university town, with thousands of female students living in halls of residence, bedsits and shared houses. Any of them could be the rapists next victim. The police had forensic evidence from the rapist – semen swabbed from his victims that revealed his blood group as an O secretor. It also revealed that the man they were looking for was sterile. Police invited all men over five feet in height from Cambridge and nearby Newmarket to come and give saliva samples to eliminate themselves, and 1,644 did – but the rapist was not found. Perhaps the hunt had gotten too close, because suddenly, the attacks stopped.

During the next couple of months graffiti began to appear on walls near to the scene of the attacks. Chillingly, it said “The rapist is back”. And there were a few reports from women who had discovered frightening messages written on their windows in pink lipstick, saying “Sleep tight – The Rapist”. But there were no more reports of attacks.

But on the 13th April 1975, the Cambridge Rapist returned with a vengeance.

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The terrifying leather hood worn by the Cambridge Rapist

That night, a young woman alone in a house in a street close to the scene of the previous attacks heard a key being tried in her door lock. Because of the attacks the previous year, the woman had had a security chain fitted to the door – and this held. But the power to her house had been cut – and there was no telephone to call for help. The petrified woman got into bed and about twenty minutes later noticed a torch beam appear at her bedroom window. Suddenly, she heard the terrifying sound of the front door crashing open as the attacker threw himself at it, breaking the chain. She heard the sound of someone running upstairs, and in the dark she was restrained as per what was now the chilling signature. But this time, there was added terror.

When the woman’s eyes adjusted to the eerie half light, she saw a terrifying sight. Before her stood a man dressed completely in black leather. He wore a hideous, terrifying leather mask a zip across the mouth and two eye slits. Across the forehead was painted the word “RAPIST”. From underneath the mask the woman could make out a straggly beard. Before she was horrifically attacked, the attacker pulled back the mouth zip and said to the woman:

“Do you know who I am? I am the Cambridge Rapist”.

The police now obviously feared that the rapist would go on to kill someone. He had changed tactics and become bolder and more violent. All the police could do was intensify the hunt – more patrols, more enquiries, more investigations. But the rapist remained at large.

The 6th of May 1975 brought another attack – this time in broad daylight. A young female student on her lunch break had returned home to collect some notes when she was attacked in her own home by the masked rapist. He threatened her with a knife and actually stabbed her in the stomach, then forced himself upon her and raped her. As he had done in previous attacks, the rapist displayed some knowledge of his victim, using her boyfriend’s name during the assault. He then left the traumatised woman bleeding on her living room floor and fled.

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The scene of the final attack

The rapist’s reign of terror came to an end in the early hours of Sunday 8th June 1975. A 28 year old Canadian exchange student asleep in bed in Owlstone Croft Hostel was awakened by footsteps in the corridor outside her room. When she opened the door to see who was there, the rapist lunged at her but her screams disturbed him and he fled. Two anglers night fishing on the nearby River Cam heard the woman’s screams and ran towards the hostel, one of them contacting the police. An urgent radio message contacted every undercover unit who were still patrolling the streets searching for the rapist, telling them to stop everything or anything that moved. This was their best chance of catching the man who had brought fear to Cambridge.

In nearby Selwyn Road, Detective Constable Terry Edwards had just received the radio message at 2:35 am when he heard the sound of a bicycle coming towards him. He looked up and saw a woman with long brown hair pedalling swiftly towards him. The bike was an ancient ladies model with a front basket, and was being ridden in an erratic manner. It had several shopping bags slung from the handlebars, and was being ridden with no lights even though it was pitch black. DC Edwards challenged the cyclist to stop, but she swerved around him and carried on pedalling. As DC Edwards made a grab for the woman’s hair, it came off in his hand. The cyclist crashed to the ground, unbalanced by the lunge. Accompanied by local residents who had come out to see what all the fuss was about, DC Edwards ran over to where the figure lay, and restrained her. The prone figure wore a red coat and a pleated skirt, and underneath these revealed a short, stocky man with close cropped hair. He was arrested, and along with the items in the carrier bags and the wig, was taken to the nearest police station and locked in a cell. It was only when police searched the carrier bags that they realised that they had just caught the Cambridge Rapist. His reign of terror was over.

In one of the bags, police found a jemmy, a torch, a knife, a home-made device for fusing lights, assorted housebreaking equipment, a bottle of Ether and a cloth pad. The other revealed a black leather jacket and trousers, women’s lipstick, and the hideous “RAPIST” mask.

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Peter Samuel Cook – The Cambridge Rapist

The rapist was revealed to be 47 year old delivery driver and part time handyman Peter Samuel Cook. Cook had a long history of being in trouble with the police, and had a large number of convictions, usually for theft or burglary. In the 1960’s, he had spent much time in prison as well as serving time in Broadmoor Secure Hospital. He was known as a serial absconder and had escaped from many approved schools, borstals and prisons. However, he had married in 1968 and since then had seemingly kept his nose clean. He and his wife lived in a caravan in the village of Hardwick, about five miles from the heart of the rapist’s hunting ground of Cambridge. Cook had actually been questioned early on in the hunt for the rapist, as he had a criminal record and was of similar height to the rapist’s description. He managed to provide convincing alibis for the times of the attacks, and although he had no history of any sexual offences, police did notice that Cook had a large quantity of hardcore pornography in his home. When he had been questioned early on in the manhunt, Cook had refused to give a saliva sample, claiming an infringement of his civil liberties. He also claimed to not match the description given by victims, and the police had no evidence to pursue him as a suspect any further.

After his arrest, Cook quickly admitted being the Cambridge Rapist in light of the wealth of evidence against him. He gave no explanation to detectives as to why he had gravitated to being a sex attacker, saying only:

“I came to rob, but decided to rape instead” – Peter Cook

Detectives learned just how cunning the Cook was, and why he was so difficult to capture. The hooded “RAPIST” mask had false hair glued to the inside of it, to give the impression that the rapist was long haired and bearded. Cook was clean shaven and had a short, crew cut hairstyle. He would travel to and from the scene of the attacks disguised as a woman, then dress into his chilling rapist attire once near the scene. Detectives surmised that he had passed them on a number of occasions, unnoticed because he was dismissed as a female cyclist in a city where bicycles outnumbered cars three to one at that time.

A search of Cook’s caravan and his father’s nearby workshop revealed a large collection of women’s clothing that Cook had stolen from his many burglaries. There was also a large collection of long haired wigs, and whilst searching a workbench police found hidden inside 87 sets of keys that he had had copied of the doors to several women’s hostels, along with notebooks detailing the movements of at least two of the victims. Cook had simply picked a female at random, and stalked them for a period of time, which explained how he was able to always choose a house where there was a lone female. His job as a delivery driver gave him ample opportunity to watch bedsits and learn the movements of female students. By learning their movements, Cook had often broken in to their bedsits or flats when they were out, and stolen underwear and items of personal mail. This was also how he came to know intimate details of their lives, such as their boyfriends names. This meticulous planning made him bolder, and police were in no doubt that he would have killed a victim sooner rather than later if he hadn’t been stopped.

Peter Samuel Cook appeared at Norwich Crown Court on 3rd October 1975, charged with seven rapes and two woundings. He pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, and received two life sentences. The judge, Mr Justice Melford Stevenson, told Cook whilst passing sentencing:

“In your case, I am recommending that life in prison means exactly that” – Mr Justice Melford Stevenson

Apart from the obvious lasting effect on his victims, the name Peter Samuel Cook and the case of the Cambridge Rapist is largely forgotten by the British public. The only time his name resurfaced was in 1995, when moves were made to have Cook released either on parole or moved to open prison conditions. Cambridge MP Anne Campbell, a Cambridgeshire woman who had lived in the city throughout Cook’s reign of terror, was quick to object to and oppose these moves in Parliament. She described firsthand the fear that Cambridge was held in by Cook’s actions, claimed that Cook was still a massive danger to the public, and he remained as a Category A prisoner until his death. The following year, he applied for permission to receive a sex change, hoping that a new gender would increase his chances of release. This was denied, and Cook seemingly accepted that he would spend the remainder of his life in prison. Cook himself died in HMP Winchester on 09 January 2004, aged 75. He had served nearly 30 years for his horrific crimes, and had never expressed any remorse for his crimes, nor offered any explanation.

A macabre postscript to the story of the Cambridge Rapist, is that for many years, a t-shirt depicting the chilling leather hood worn by Cook was a very popular design and was worn by many in the punk era. Despite the uproar and controversy of the t shirt, it remained a very popular seller for many years.

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The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was The Killer On The 14:16?

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

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Debbie Linsley

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

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

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

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

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

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Detectives examine the scene of Debbie Linsley’s murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A policewoman re-enacts Debbie’s final journey

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

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

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

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Arthur Linsley, Debbie’s father

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

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

He reflects sadly on the families loss:

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

Book Review – Night Stalker

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Not to be confused with the infamous Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez (who was known by the same moniker), John Mcshane’s book Night Stalker details the hunt for hunt for one of Britain’s most prolific sex attackers, “Minstead Man”, or “The Night Stalker”. In a period spanning 17 years, Minstead Man, in the course of being an extremely active burglar, also raped, molested and indecently assaulted a large number of elderly women, and on two occasions men, over a reign of terror that spanned 17 years. The police hunt for the offender to put an end to his terrifying crime spree came to be the largest and longest running hunt for a serial rapist ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Police, and was codenamed “Operation Minstead”. It was 2009 before a suspect was arrested and charged, and eventually Delroy Grant, a 52 year old father of 8, was found guilty in a court of law and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 27 years set.

Because it was such a long running case, I was familiar with it and kept up an interest over the years that the Minstead Rapist was active. It was appealed widely in the national press and on television over the years, and I think the sensationalism of the press helped fuel an interest. Gerontophilia is an extremely undocumented and very taboo paraphilia, and conjures up such images of disgust and horror that a morbid fascination is easy in this case. Isn’t the interest in and fascination gleaned from reading about the facts of cases and pondering just what makes people commit the worst kinds of crimes known to humankind why any reader of true crime does so?  Personally, it certainly is with myself, so when I found a book about Delroy Grant available, I was eager and interested to read it.

As with any of my previous reviews, I try to be unbiased, fair and constructively critical in a book review. I find it easier to review using the simplistic system of positives with the book, and then negatives with the book. It is 289 pages in length and has been written by respected journalist John Mcshane, Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror.

Positively, the book is well written and describes in attentive detail several of the assaults and rapes committed by Grant. It gives due respect to the victims, it does not reprint in too graphic detail the assaults but gives enough colour and paints enough of a picture so that the reader can visualise and attempt to empathise with the scene and the fear that each victim must have faced. It covers the hunt for, the eventual arrest of Delroy Grant, and then moves on to his trial. Large parts of the transcript of Grant’s trial are featured throughout this section, which will be of interest to the reader. (Verbatim script is always something that appeals to me).

What I found much more negative was the fact that the book tends to be very repetitive. It does a good job of explaining some of Grant’s offences, but considering it was first published in 2011 (some 2 years after Grant had been convicted and imprisoned), it does not echo a substantial period of research in the writing. There are just 7 scant pages dedicated to Grant’s childhood, upbringing, family history and early adulthood. As I have said in countless reviews, I applaud detail and research, and the areas in which this book has that in abundance can be gleaned from any press reports about the case. The descriptions of the offences are fine, but any psychological profile of the offender is sketched over in favour of long winded writing about the trial.And throughout the section detailing the trial, large parts of the descriptions of the offences from the start of the book are repeated here. Although this may appeal to some readers of true crime, personally I would have preferred a lot more of the book covering Grant’s early life and other crimes, in an attempt to identify a possible trigger that created the Gerontophile in him. I would also rather have read a detailed account of both the geographical and psychological profiles of the Minstead Rapist, and although of course reading about any defence against such clear cut evidence professing Grant’s guilt would be fascinating, I felt that too much was devoted to the trial. It could have easily been halved and still left the reader as much in the know. Also especially disappointing was the lack of accompanying photographs concerning the case – it just seems lazy and to have been omitted in favour of getting the book out by a deadline in my opinion. A manhunt, the biggest of its kind, brings with it lots of images, photofits, public appeals, crime scene photographs etc – all of which would have been fascinating to see.

Overall, Night Stalker is a book I can recommend a true crime reader to read, but I feel they will agree with my sentiment that it will never become a classic. This is a shame, it seems that a unique and prime opportunity to research and document one of the most unique and prolific criminals in British criminal history has been squandered here. For those interested, the psychological profiling of the Minstead Rapist is much better covered in the book accompanying the Channel 4 TV Series “The Real Cracker”.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

The “Monster Of Worcester”

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David Mcgreavy, pictured in 1973

The name of one of the most reviled killers in Britain will not be one that is at the forefront of the mind of any reader of true crime. He has served 43 years in prison for his monstrous crimes, and has applied for release on at least nine separate occasions. However, this has been refused each time due to the wave of public hatred that still to this day remains against him. His crimes rank up alongside the crimes of the Moors Murders in horror, yet until recently his name was relatively unknown and largely forgotten, bar within the locality of where they were committed. His name is David Mcgreavy, or as his is dubbed by the press and the British public, “The Monster Of Worcester”, or “The Real Friday the 13th Killer”.

David Anthony Mcgreavy was born in Southport in 1951, the second eldest of six children born to Bella and Thomas Mcgreavy. The Mcgreavy family were a forces family, and often moved around depending on where Thomas, a Sergeant  serving in the Royal Signals, was posted to. This is often hard on children, uprooting all of a sudden and having to make new friends and go to new schools. However, millions of children do the same without any lasting damage, and there is nothing in Mcgreavy’s early years to suggest that the constant moves had caused any underlying problems. After his arrest, his mother was interviewed and said that David was at his happiest when the family was stationed in Germany. She further said that the only ever instance concerning Mcgreavy that gave cause for concern was when the then teenaged Mcgreavy stole her shopping money, left the family home (which at the time was in Cardiff), and went off on a day trip to Liverpool.

Aged 15 in 1967, Mcgreavy left school and achieved his lifelong ambition by enlisting in the Royal Navy. It was in the Navy, however, that Mcgreavy’s first developed problems with alcohol. When drinking, he was known to be surly and to have a violent temper that could flare up without warning or with minor provocation. At his first Naval posting, HMS Eagle in Portsmouth, colleagues of Mcgreavy were struck by the arrogance and cockiness of the young rating, and he was frequently subject to disciplinary measures. The defining incident of his naval career occurred in the late 1960’s when he was stationed at RNAS Brawdy in Pembrokeshire, when he was sentenced to 90 days detention for negligence. One night, Mcgreavy had turned up for his duty watch drunk and agitated. Whilst on watch, he broke into an officers ward room and started a fire in a waste paper bin, then raised the alarm, claiming he was not responsible, but a sole eye witness. The Navy, however, did not believe this fallacy and court-martialed him. He escaped being charged with arson, but the negligence charge spelt the beginning of the end of his naval career. Whilst in detention, his commanding officer ordered that he undergo psychiatric evaluation. The results of this evaluation was never relayed to Mcgreavy’s parents, nor has ever been made public in the aftermath of his crimes.

In January 1971, Mcgreavy began writing to, and quickly became besotted with, a young woman named Mary, the sister of a fellow seaman. By April 1971, Mcgreavy had proposed to her just a short week after meeting her for the first time. Mary had many debilitating health issues and was not liked by Mcgreavy’s parents, but the arrogant young man would listen to nobody but himself and threw himself enthusiastically into the relationship. In August of that year, he was finally discharged from the Navy. This devastated him, and with nowhere else to go he returned to his parent’s home in Worcester. Thus began a cycle of drifting from job to job, where he was inevitably sacked for his arrogance, attitude and often, his affection for alcohol. He lost jobs as a chef and as a labourer in quick succession because of this. Despairing, he threw himself into his relationship with Mary, and his infatuation intensified – to the point where despite being unemployed and poor, he had a lavish wedding all planned out for Christmas 1971. However, this infatuation served only to make Mary become uncomfortable with the relationship, and on New Year’s Eve 1971 she broke off their engagement.

January 1972 found Mcgreavy still living at his parent’s house, devastated from losing Mary, and effectively living as a wastrel. He did not actively seek work, would not help around the house and was still abusing alcohol often. His parents finally had had enough and threw him out later that year.

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The only surviving photograph of Elsie Ralph, and from left to right, Paul, Samantha and Dawn

By mid 1972, Mcgreavy had moved in as a lodger of an old school friend called Clive Ralph. Clive lived in a two bedroom house on Gillam Street, Worcester, with his young wife Elsie, who was heavily pregnant with the couple’s third child. They already had four year old Paul and one year old Dawn, and in September 1972 Elsie gave birth to Samantha. Mcgreavy paid the couple £6 a week rent and shared a room with the four year old Paul. He regularly helped out with the children or by cooking meals and doing chores around the house when Clive was away working as a long distance lorry driver. Despite his fondness for alcohol, Mcgreavy was holding down a factory job and when in March 1973 Elsie found work as a barmaid in the PunchBowl Tavern a couple of miles from the Ralph’s home, he spent more and more time looking after the children. Locals remember him as being a man who loved children and was always playing with them, and acting in the concerned father figure role.

By all accounts the time Mcgreavy spent lodging with the Ralph’s seems a period of stability in Mcgreavy’s life. Until Friday 13th April 1973, that is.

Elsie normally worked until closing time at the PunchBowl Tavern, and the practice was for Clive to come to pick her up late, help her closing up and tidying up, and have a last orders pint. Mcgreavy would be at home looking after the Ralph children. That evening, Clive did the same as usual, leaving the sleeping children under the supervision of Mcgreavy. As usual, Mcgreavy had been drinking. He had been drinking with a friend in the Buck’s Hill pub in Worcester since early evening, and had drunk between 5 to 7 pints of beer. The evening had soured somewhat when Mcgreavy had been involved in a small altercation with his friend after he put out a cigarette in his friend’s pint. As they were having words outside, Clive arrived to collect Mcgreavy and brought him home to look after the three children, while he went to collect Elsie.

What followed that evening are some of the most horrific and unexplained crimes ever committed in Britain.

At a time never made clear, but sometime between 10:15pm and 11:15pm, a still drunk Mcgreavy lost his temper with the Ralph children. Seven month old Samantha awoke and began crying for her bottle, so Mcgreavy began shouting back at her. This of course had no effect in stopping a seven month old child from crying, so Mcgreavy placed his hand over her mouth and strangled her. When Samantha had stopped breathing, Mcgreavy went into the bathroom and returned with a razor. He then went on to use the razor to mutilate the seven month old child, and caused a fatal compound fracture of her skull by beating her severely. He then turned his attention to the other two children, both of whom were sound asleep. Two year old Dawn was strangled in her bed, and finally died when Mcgreavy slit her throat with the razor. The eldest child, Paul, was strangled with curtain wire as he slept. Already the stuff of unimaginable nightmares, worse was yet to follow.

After killing the three children, Mcgreavy mutilated each of their bodies with the razor. Not satisfied with this, Mcgreavy next went down to the basement of the house and returned upstairs with a pickaxe. He then used the tool to further and horrifically mutilate the three children. But it was his final act that caused hardened detectives to be left sick and shaken, and that has helped the name David Mcgreavy to remain reviled for the past 43 years. Before leaving the house, Mcgreavy carried the children, one by one, out into the back garden. He then impaled each child on the wrought iron pointed spikes of the next door neighbours fence.

Concerned neighbours had heard several bangs and the sound of Samantha crying, and noticed a succession of lights in the house being turned on, then off again. The bedroom, then the next bedroom. The bathroom. Finally, the basement…..It caused enough concern for the police to be contacted, and a patrol car was despatched to the scene. Finding no answer, the officers tried around the back of the house, and it was there by torchlight that they made the most unimaginable discovery ever. One experienced officer even vomited, and all officers on the scene were left sickened and shaken.

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A policeman stands guard at the doorstep of the Ralph house on Gillam Street.
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The white canopy hides the horrific scene of where the children’s bodies were discovered.
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Closer view of the railings.

The search was on for the children’s parents, and when Clive and Elsie arrived back home they were denied access to their house. They were never to return to it. They were taken to the police station and questioned, and when it became clear that they had had nothing to do with their children’s deaths, the Ralph’s were told what had happened:

“This is when they’d told us that there had been a murder, that there was an investigation going on. And that’s as far as I can really remember properly because there was a doctor there at the time because I went hysterical, which you would, and he gave me an injection, and I don’t really…I never ever went back to the house. I wasn’t allowed because I was screaming saying that I wanted to go and see my children and…they said we couldn’t do that…I wasn’t allowed to go to the mortuary” – Elsie Urry (interviewed in 2013)

The focus of a police manhunt began for the one person from the Ralph household who was unaccounted for: David Mcgreavy. Mcgreavy was located just a scant few hours later in a nearby road to the murder scene. He was arrested, exclaiming “What’s this all about?” as he was. Several hours after his arrest, the normally arrogant and cocksure young man broke down during questioning, and admitted to killing the three children.

“It was all too bloody gruesome. It was me but it wasn’t me. How could I do it?” – David Mcgreavy (during questioning after his arrest in 1973)

Mcgreavy then went on to describe the children’s deaths in lucid detail:

“On Paul I used the wire. Everything just seemed to cave in. I picked up the pickaxe and used it on all of them. Then I went outside and put them on the railings. All I can hear is kids, kids, fucking kids” – Mcgreavy during questioning

He then explained how Samantha would not stop crying:

“I cut off her breath, and then went into the bathroom and picked up the razor blade and used it on her. I did the same to Dawn and then used a piece of curtain wire on Paul” – Mcgreavy during questioning.

It was impossible to find a motive for the senseless killings. Everyone who knew Mcgreavy claimed of his love for children, and there was never any hint of Mcgreavy having committed sexual abuse of children, or a perverted lust for children in his past. Elsie Ralph could not begin to understand just why Mcgreavy had committed such a horrific act of slaughter, recalling how he loved to bounce the children up and down on his knee, would spend hours playing with them and had once even scolded her for her chastising of Paul, the eldest child. A motive for the children’s deaths has still never been explained to this day. Mcgreavy himself, when asked why he had committed the murders, said simply:

“That is what I have been trying to figure out”

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One of Mcgreavy’s remand appearances at Worcester Magistrates Court.

On Monday the 16th of April 1973, Mcgreavy made the first of ten remand appearances at Worcester Magistrates Court, where in a ten minute hearing he was charged with the murders of the three Ralph children. Local gossip had spread like wildfire, and the public gallery of the court was packed, unusually for the time with a predominantly female audience. One reporter covering the story claimed at the time there was a definite atmosphere in the court and if any of the women could have gotten at Mcgreavy, they would have lynched him. Mcgreavy cut a pathetic figure in all of his court appearances, barely looking up and around the court as he was remanded in custody.

It was just ten weeks after the brutal murders that the trial of David Mcgreavy began with him entering a guilty plea. Some of the injuries inflicted on the children were so horrific that the prosecution did not detail them in their case. As Mcgreavy had offered no plea, no motive and no claim of diminished responsibility, the trial lasted just eight scant minutes. On Monday 30 July 1973, David Mcgreavy was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of the three Ralph children. Due to the nature of the “exceptionally horrific crimes”, the judge, Mr Justice Simon, set the minimum time served at no less than twenty years before Mcgreavy could even be considered for release.

 

As a child killer, Mcgreavy has been the subject of much hatred whilst serving his sentence, and has been attacked and assaulted on several occasions. His cell has been regularly trashed and smashed up, his possessions covered with urine and excrement. He has spent a large chunk of his prison years living under the protection of Rule 43, which caters for those prisoners deemed vulnerable or those that need protection for their own safety. But on several occasions over the years, he has been placed in general population or open prison conditions. However, this has always been revoked after an attack, or when fellow prisoners have learned of the extent of Mcgreavy’s crimes. But at other times, Mcgreavy is said to have revelled in his notoriety, even reportedly once challenging Moors Murderer Ian Brady to a fight to prove which of them was the most notorious killer in Britain.

Since being incarcerated, Mcgreavy has applied for parole on at least nine separate occasions, and each time has been denied. In 2006, Mcgreavy was however being prepared for parole due to the amount of time he had served, and was staying at a bail hostel in Liverpool. It was leaked to the national press that Mcgreavy had been allowed to walk around Liverpool unsupervised in preparation for release, and his photograph appeared in the local and national newspapers.

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Newspapers report of Mcgreavy’s unsupervised freedom

As his name was once again in the news, knowing the feelings and public outrage that his crimes could still stir up, Mcgreavy was sent back to prison, under closed conditions. In 2009, Mcgreavy tried again in a bid to be moved back to open conditions, this time using human rights laws in an attempt to claim anonymity. This anonymity order was granted, and he was only ever referred to as Prisoner M. However, he was told that he would have to remain in closed conditions, but would not be named to protect him from the very real likelihood of attack. It also meant that the press were not allowed to report on his applications for parole. This order lasted four years, but was quashed in 2013. By this time, Mcgreavy had served 40 years in prison, twice his original recommended minimum sentence. When the order was lifted on 22 May 2013, and his identity became known, Mcgreavy’s bed was urinated on and human excrement was smeared on his cell walls. He was immediately transferred to closed conditions in a vulnerable prisoner’s unit in HMP Warren Hill, in Suffolk, where he remains to this day.

The horrific nature of Mcgreavy’s crimes meant that the ripples were, and still are, felt far and wide. Clive and Elsie Ralph divorced not long after the murders, the horror that Mcgreavy had inflicted upon their lives being too much for them to take. Of Clive there is no record. Interviewed 40 years later, Elsie (who since remarried and changed her name), still reflected upon her feelings towards Mcgreavy, and how much the “Monster of Worcester” still haunts her every waking moment:

“He doesn’t deserve human rights, he’s not even human…..I think about what he did every minute of every day because he took my life away. I can’t go to family parties anymore, I can’t celebrate anything..I can’t and will never move on. For what he did to my three children and me he deserves the same treatment that they got – death. He applied again for parole in 2009 and it was denied but every time he goes for it I’m terrified they’re going to let him out. I won’t find peace until he is dead and I am laid to rest with my babies.” – Elsie Urry (interviewed in 2013)

Newspaper reporters who covered the crimes in 1973 are still haunted by the horror of what they saw. One, Tony Bishop, says all he can think of is:

“We saw these railings, these horrible railings. And the blood was congealed upon the railings” – Tony Bishop (former Worcester News reporter)

It is unknown when, indeed if, David Mcgreavy will ever be released from custody. But even if he is, the life sentence for those affected by the crimes of the Monster Of Worcester remains never-ending.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Book Review – Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire

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TTCE has just finished reading the second book in his collection by author Scott C Lomax, and has decided to review it for the latest TTCE blog book review. Firstly, some bio about Scott. The blurb on the back of the book describes 34 year old Scott as being a feature writer on the subject of true crime for the past 16 years. He is already a successful published author and activist, releasing books on the subjects of high profile murder cases such as the Jill Dando murder, and the infamous White House Farm murders of 1985. Concerning the Dando murder, he was a leading campaigner for the release of wrongfully convicted Barry George. Being a lifelong Derbyshire resident, Scott has authored two previous books concerning unsolved murders around that area, both of which TTCE has read, and which will be reviewed for The True Crime Enthusiast at a future date.

So, Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire is a pretty self- explanatory title. Having previously read Scott’s books on unsolved murders, I had good expectations from this one. It did not disappoint. Scott has taken 10 cases of unsolved murder from around the county, the majority of which are unfamiliar cases, ranging from the mid nineteenth century to the latter years of the twentieth century. Although a relatively short book in pagination (146pp), the amount of detail more than makes up for this, and TTCE is sure that any reader would be left satisfied. Scott has discovered, analysed and chronicled some truly fascinating cases, and the amount of research that has gone into each individual case is remarkable. In the majority of these, the research must have been very time consuming and painstaking – but this just serves to highlight Scott’s passion for what he writes about.

The reader of Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire will learn of obscure unsolved cases such as the Victorian shooting of George Firth in 1851, and the mysterious death of draper Florence Hargreaves in 1926. There are also presented two unsolved murders from the 1960’s; those of Lily Stephenson in 1962 and Anne Dunwell in 1964, and several cases from the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s. Each case is presented in a chronicological and logical order, with the amount of detail described in each case extremely impresive. In TTCE’s view, this was a massive selling point for me on this book. It is always enjoyable learning about a new case, especially unsolved ones where the possibility still exists of an offender being brought to justice many years after the event. It helps if a text is well written, informative and captivating, and personally it is the added detail that makes for this. There isn’t a chapter here that hasn’t been meticulously researched and doesn’t satisfy any of the above criteria. The way each chapter is written leaves the reader of the impression that Scott has gathered this research, down to the finest detail, and then added it into the narrative in its entirety. This impressed TTCE greatly, as i firmly believe you can never have too much detail. Indeed, it is what i strive to express in my own articles.

Another feature i was left impressed with are the photographs provided with each chapter. Where possible, press releases, original location photographs and identikit pictures relating to the case in question have been reproduced. If any have been unable to be added, perhaps unable to be obtained, then the author has added his own photographs of crime scenes. Whilst present day pictures may differ from years gone by, this again is interesting because it at least still gives the reader an image to match the mental picture that the reader gains of locations mentioned throughout the book. This again shows the dedication and passion Scott has to his writing.

TTCE thoroughly recommends Unsolved Murders In South Yorkshire, and recommends a visit to Scott’s own website here: Scott Lomax  He is very personable and will quite happily answer any correspondence, as TTCE can testify to. As always, the reader has to make up their own mind – however, I’m sure the reader will not be disappointed.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was The Cheltenham Axe Murderer?

For more than thirty years now, a vicious killer has evaded capture in the cultural town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The crime, a horrific, maniacal and cowardly murder of a defenceless pensioner, is still vividly remembered by the people of the town, and is constantly re-appealed in the hope that time will bring in fresh information, which in turn will bring the closure that a family so badly needs.

Keith and Vanessa Aris were worried. They had not heard from Keith’s mother, 73 year old Constance Aris, for a few days, something which was well out of character for the grandmother. Constance, who had been widowed for many years, lived alone in an attractive terraced house in Cheltenham’s Roman Road area. At just over 5ft tall, Constance was a very active person, a churchgoer who was loved by family and friends alike. She doted on her two grandchildren, Siobhan and Damian, and Constance, who was nicknamed “Little Granny” by her grandchildren, would be in touch with her family most if not each day, either by visiting or telephoning.

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Constance Aris

So when they hadn’t had a visit or a telephone call from Constance by 28 February 1985, Keith and Vanessa decided to go around to her house to make sure she was alright. They were concerned that she had fallen, or taken ill. What they found when they arrived at the house at 9:15am that morning was a scene of unspeakable horror. Thirty one years later, it still shakes the Arises to the core, and is a sight that nobody should ever have to see.

Using their key to open the front door, Keith and Vanessa entered the house and walked into the hallway. After calling out to his mother, Keith pushed open the sitting room door. Doing so, he came across a site that he readily admits he will take to his grave with him.

The television was on quite loudly, and Constance was slumped in her living room armchair. Blood spattered the walls and ceiling surrounding the chair, and Keith could see that his mother was clearly dead. She had been brutally battered to death.

A shaken Vanessa and Keith called police, and a murder inquiry was launched. 70 police officers were drafted in to hunt for the killer, in the biggest manhunt Cheltenham had ever known. Constance’s body was taken to the mortuary and a post-mortem was performed, bringing chilling results. It was determined that Constance had been brutally battered to death and struck no less than five times with a heavy weapon.

The most likely weapon, the coroner decided, was an axe.

Shaken police officers were appalled at the level of violence, and led them to believe they were hunting for a maniac.

” This was a premeditated, vicious attack on a virtually defenceless old lady. It was a brutal, callous attack with a degree of violence which could not have left any doubt that death was going to be the result.” – Detective Chief Superintendent Don Holland

Piecing together Constance’s final movements, it was established that Constance had attended one of the groups she belonged to, a Friendly Society meeting, at St Mark’s Community Centre in Cheltenham on the afternoon of February 27th. She walked from the centre in Brooklyn Road as far as Libertus Road with a friend, where they arrived at about 6:15pm. Constance’s movements after leaving her friend remain a mystery. Libertus Road is in very close proximity to Constance’s home in Roman Road, so if she had headed straight home she would have arrived by about 6:30pm. No witnesses ever came forward to say they had seen Constance after her friend left her however, so it cannot be ascertained if she was accompanied or followed home by someone.

“We have never traced anyone who saw Mrs Aris making her way on home from there. She may have perhaps had a lift or been befriended by someone.” – Detective Chief Superintendent Don Holland (speaking in 1988)

It was estimated that Constance had been brutally killed then sometime between 6:30pm on the evening of February 27th, and 9:00am the following morning when her son and daughter in law made the horrific discovery. Police believed at the time that Constance may have unwittingly let her killer into the house. She was very security conscious and made a point of locking doors and ensuring all windows were shut. February is generally a cold month so no windows are likely to have been left open by Constance, but no clear sign of any forced entry was found. Did Constance let her killer in, or had he accompanied her home?

The motive for murder has never been clearly established. Constance was an extremely small old lady, and would have been easy to restrain. At the time, the police consensus was that Constance’s murder was the result of a burglary gone wrong, but Constance’s family and friends said she was unlikely to have had any significant amount of money in the house. An assortment of her possessions were taken, however, including some watches, stick pins, items of dress jewellery and her pension book. It was the amount of extreme violence directed at a defenceless old lady that police have never been able to explain or understand.

The police manhunt for her killer was massive. Constance’s family, friends and neighbours were all looked at and ruled out as suspects. Her background and life was scrutinised for any possible suspects who would wish her harm, but nobody was identified as a suspect. It seemed that she was loved and liked by all who knew her. Police road blocks were set up at either end of Roman Road, and a large electronic display screen flashing “MURDER” was placed at Lansdown train station, where hundreds of commuters were interviewed. Officers searched rubbish bins, drains and manholes throughout Cheltenham, combing the area looking for a murder weapon. One has never been found. 4,500 interviews were conducted in house to house enquiries, and 2,800 statements were taken from people living in neighbouring streets and the local area. But police did not uncover the vital clue that would lead them to the killer. They had no witnesses that had seen or heard anything suspicious, nor any suspects or suspect description.

They did however have one piece of forensic evidence, the sole forensic evidence that was left by Constance’s killer. A solitary fingerprint, one that could not be identified, was found at the murder scene, although it is not stated exactly where in the house that the print was discovered. Armed with this, in the course of the enquiry police took 1,200 sets of fingerprints from everyone who lived within a square mile of Constance’s home. These were then sent to Bristol’s Regional Fingerprint Bureau in Bristol, where they were painstakingly checked by hand against the print found at the murder scene. A result was never matched.

“You never get over something like that. Of course, you have to try to move on and live your life, but the grief is always there. It makes us angry when we hear that other cold cases are solved but not this one. We still harbour some hope that one day the killer will be brought to account. It has had such a huge impact on our lives and on the family.”  – Vanessa Aris (daughter in law)

This is a sad and brutal crime to have happened, and Constance’s family deserve to see her killer brought to justice. What then, can be learned about the killer’s identity and personality? As always, this is the opinion of TTCE and in no way is it suggested this to be fact, it is purely hypothetical based on the scant evidence available. To begin with, it is likely but not definite that the killer is a male. Violent crimes are predominantly committed by males, and this certainly is a violent crime. The concept of a random female committing such a violent murder is highly unlikely. Burglary is also predominantly committed by males too. TTCE believes that the overall motive was robbery. A large assortment of Constance’s possessions had been taken, and none of these, such as items of jewellery or watches, has ever reappeared. It is possible that these items were sold elsewhere for a quick profit, or even taken as some form of macabre trophy – but why then take so many? The amount of items taken suggests someone with an overall motive of looking for haul.

TTCE is also of the opinion that the killer is someone either from or extremely familiar with the local area. When viewed, Roman Road is filled with terraced houses and offers little access or egress apart from at either end. Looking at the houses too, each one is near enough indiscriminate (at least in present day), so it is impossible to look at one and know that the occupants are elderly. This can be determined sometimes by telltale signs such as the presence of rails fixed to the outside walls. However, there is nothing to suggest that there is any sign of things such as these at Constance’s house. Her house was on a busy road within a network of busy, pedestrianized roads, therefore a bizarre choice of property to choose at random. Offenders predominantly commit crimes in areas they feel comfortable with, that they know and that they know how to access and escape from. To blend in to. For these reasons, TTCE believes the likelihood of the killer knowing the area intimately, or living within the area for these reasons is massively high. The absence of any clear sign of forced entry raises the possibility that Constance had been watched going home, or had been followed home by her killer. Perhaps she was known to the killer. If she had been followed, this is an offender with the mindset of committing a crime, premeditated and not a spur of the moment occurrence.

It is also highly unlikely that this is the solitary crime ever committed by this offender. Crimes of this magnitude are built up to, so it is likely that this offender will have offended before Constance’s murder. It would certainly suggest an offender who had burgled before, or perhaps a confidence trickster experienced in talking his way into houses. This does not necessarily equate to the offender having killed before, but certainly suggests an experienced criminal. There is no evidence of any sexual assault against Constance, but the level of violence used against her is disturbing. This is a defenceless old lady slaughtered in the most horrific way possible – why was this necessary? It suggests a killer who is either a sadist, or who has psychopathic tendencies. Or chillingly, perhaps both. The murder weapon was or has never been found, meaning it is unclear (if it was an axe, and the general consensus is that it was) if the weapon was taken to the scene by the killer, or was found and used at the scene. This lack of clarification creates a hurdle in attempting to glean an insight into the mindset of Constance’s killer. There is a psychological difference in the offender who uses what is nearest to hand as a weapon, and the offender who comes prepared with a weapon. Either way, the killer showed some forensic awareness by taking the murder weapon with him. It is a chilling thought that a killer possibly stalked the streets of Cheltenham, carrying an axe and with murder on his mind. Equally chilling is the possibility that he used a weapon he found at the scene, then took it away with him as the ultimate trophy.

Was Constance deliberately targeted? There is no evidence to suggest that anyone had a deep seated grudge against her, and she was not known to have any enemies. Regardless, TTCE believes strongly that Constance was deliberately targeted, either by being known to her killer or followed home by him. Even if she was followed home by someone who she was a stranger to – there is no way of ascertaining that she lived alone. Also, the chances of choosing a house at random that the sole occupant happens to be a defenceless elderly lady is highly unlikely. The more likely circumstances, in the opinion of TTCE, will be accounted below.

There are multiple possible scenarios as to how the killer got into Constance’s house. One is that Constance disturbed a burglar. There are problems with this – if she disturbed a burglar, signs of forced entry to the property would surely be apparent? TTCE believes it more likely that the killer followed Constance home, and then conned his way into her house, perhaps by posing as an official from something such as the Gas or Water Board, or a salesman of some sort. This would explain the lack of forced entry. Once inside, Constance was overpowered and possibly threatened to reveal the location of any money. The threat of bludgeoning may have been used to coerce her. Because she had no large sums of money, her constant denial was not believed by the killer and threats became actions. It is possible that the sheer brutality and overkill was committed in the heat of the moment, or it may have been pure bloodlust…..

Did the killer strike again some months later? TTCE believes that a case to be a possible match for the same profile of Constance’s killer is the October 1985 murder in Bristol of pensioner Violet Milsom. TTCE covered this unsolved case recently, the link to which can be found here: Death Of A Kindly Pensioner The victimology, overkill and violence used, lack of evidence of forced entry, and even location all make for compelling reasoning to compare both crimes as being the work of the same person.

As a frustrating case with a lack of clear motive or suspects, all the reader can do is surmise here based upon the facts available, and then can only offer a hypothesis. With the passage of time, there is the very real possibility that the killer of Constance Aris is now dead and will never face justice for his crime. If he is still alive right now, would likely be middle aged in the 45-60 year old bracket. He may live in the area, or may have moved away or overseas. TTCE believes that this man will have come to the attention of police or mental health services at some point in his life, so his name will be somewhere in the system. It is impossible to believe that a person capable and so ready to use such horrific violence on a person could ever remain under the radar, nor ever offend again. Yet the fingerprint has never been matched to any held on file. Of course, as a case such as Constance’s is only periodically reviewed as and when new information is received, or funding allows, there may still be a development in this area at a future date. Police are still looking for this killer, and Constance’s case will never be closed. The murder has been regularly re-appealed over the years, and it is still believed that somebody out there has knowledge of who this killer is, that the killer told somebody what he had done. In the latest re-appeal, in 2010, this was echoed by Gloucestershire police.

“It would be very unusual that in 25 years since it took place that person has not told someone what he has done. Someone out there must know something. The perpetrator could very well still live in Cheltenham. I would appeal to anyone with new information to come forward and contact us. It could help solve the town’s most notorious murder. The people of Cheltenham are still very aware of this crime and would like to see it solved,” – Detective Chief Inspector Dave Sellwood (Gloucestershire Police, speaking in 2010)

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Any new information can be passed to police on 0845 090 1234.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

When life means life – The Dore Massacre

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Arthur Hutchinson

One of the most notorious and brutal killers in British criminal history is Arthur Hutchinson. Now approaching 76 years old, he has spent the past 32 years of his life caged for the horrific murders of three members of a wealthy Sheffield family. Solicitor Basil Laitner, his wife Avril, and their son Richard all met a bloody end at the hands of Hutchinson. He also brutally repeatedly raped their youngest daughter, 18 year old Nicola. If that wasn’t horrific enough, Hutchinson had slaughtered the family on what should have been one of the happiest days of their lives. On the day they died, the Laitner family had celebrated the wedding of their eldest daughter.

Arthur Hutchinson, or “The Fox” as he came to be known (and somewhat largely self styled) was born in Hartlepool in 1941. Raised on the outskirts of Hartlepool’s sprawling Owton Manor estate, Hutchinson came from a family of 6 children, and from a young age developed a taste from extreme violence. Aged just seven years old, he seriously stabbed one of his sisters with a pair of scissors. This was followed by several incidents of bullying and assaults on younger children, and by 11 years of age, Hutchinson was facing his first appearance before a juvenile court, on a charge of indecent assault. What followed was a pattern of petty crime and a further 19 appearances before a court – including four times for having sex with underage girls.

At age 18, Hutchinson married a neighbour, Margaret Dover, who was pregnant with his child. He proved himself to be a serial adulterer that would openly brag about his conquests with women, of which he seemed to be strangely attractive to. He was also extremely violent and suffered mood swings, so much so that the slightest provocation could turn him into a raging monster. This marriage lasted for 3 years, after which the couple separated. Hutchinson was then imprisoned throughout the early 1960’s for having sex with an underage girl, and then met his second wife, Hannelore, at a Christmas party in 1968. The courtship was swift and the couple were married just 5 months later. But this marriage proved to be the same as his previous marriage, with the violence and philandering ever present.

Hutchinson’s life and activities throughout the 1970’s are poorly documented. It is known that from 1971 onwards, Hutchinson was convicted of a number of sexual assaults. He also served more than 5 years in prison for firearms offences and for attempting to shoot dead his half brother, Dino Reardon. He had not long been released from this sentence when he again found himself in custody, this time on charges of theft, burglary, and for a brutal rape. By now, it was 1983. Hutchinson was however, never to face trial for these crimes. On 23 September 1983 he was at Selby Magistrates Court in North Yorkshire to appear in front of the magistrate in connection with the offences he was charged with. It was then that the cunning mind of Hutchinson put into action the plan that he had been formulating. Whilst there he asked to go to the toilet, and was released from handcuffs to do so. Instead of going, he sprinted upstairs and entered Court No 1, which was closed for redecoration that day. Passing a startled decorator, he climbed onto the press bench and dived headfirst through a window. Hutchinson severely cut his knee on the glass as he did so, and landed on a barbed wire fence below. Managing to work his way free, he managed to escape and lose himself in the crowds of Selby.

Skip forward now to nearly a month later. Dore is an affluent village in South Yorkshire, loved by locals and tourists alike, and nearly 50 miles from Selby. Late in the evening of October 22, 1983, respected and wealthy solicitor Basil Laitner, 59, and his doctor wife, Avril, 55, were winding down after a busy but very happy day. A huge marquee had been erected in the garden of the Laitner’s £150,000 home in Dore Road, where more than 250 guests had helped celebrate the Laitner’s eldest  daughter Suzanne’s wedding to Glaswegian optician Ivor Wolfe just a few hours earlier. Along with their son Richard and younger daughter Nicola, Basil and Avril had made a start at clearing up after the celebrations, and were preparing to settle down for the night after their busy day of jubilation.

Just before midnight, however, the Laitner’s had another, more unwelcome guest: Arthur Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, for reasons never clearly explained, had found himself in Dore. He was unshaven, filthy, and still being troubled by the severe wound he had received whilst escaping. He had entered the Laitner house through a faulty patio door, possibly with the intention to commit an armed robbery. His doing so heralded some of the most shocking crimes in British criminal history.

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Basil Laitner
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From left, Suzanne, Richard and Avril Laitner

The slaughter began with Richard Laitner. The 28 year old, who had harboured dreams of becoming a doctor, had been attacked in his upstairs bedroom. He had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and neck, and was left half on and half off his bed. Hearing the commotion, Basil Laitner had got up to investigate and had been attacked at the top of the stairs. He had been stabbed three times, and his body slumped down the stairs. The most frenzied attack was directed at Avril Laitner however, who was stabbed twenty-six times in her downstairs bedroom. She had put up a struggle for her life, and had defence wounds to the palms of her hands and fingers that were so deep that they exposed the bone. Not satisfied with such carnage, Hutchinson then returned upstairs and turned his attentions towards the younger daughter, Nicola.

Hutchinson flashed a torch in the petrified girl’s face, and told her that if she screamed she would be killed. He then savagely raped the traumatised girl at knifepoint, before walking her downstairs to where the marquee was still stood. On the way down, the girl was made to walk past the body of her father, through a pool of his blood. Once in the marquee, she was made to sit on a chair and handcuffed. Whilst here, she was raped again and forced to listen to Hutchinson boasting about how he had killed everyone in the entire house. After being blindfolded, she had to listen as Hutchinson ate and drank from leftover food from the wedding buffet. Nicola was then taken back upstairs to her bedroom and raped for a third time. As dawn broke, Hutchinson left the weeping girl bound hand and foot, after callously telling her to take care and not to suffocate herself. Her foot was caked in her father’s blood, and her nightdress was stained with her mother’s blood, from Hutchinson’s blood-stained hands. Why Hutchinson chose to leave the girl alive has never been revealed, or explained.

Two workmen who had come to the house to dismantle the wedding marquee discovered the scene of carnage the early the next morning. A murder investigation was quickly launched, with Detective Chief Inspector Mick Burdis leading the hunt for the killer. The most crucial evidence had to come from Nicola, the only eyewitness to the massacre. But after suffering the trauma of losing nearly her entire family in such horrific circumstances, and coupled with the multiple rapes, Nicola was in a state of near total psychological collapse. However, just three days later, Nicola was able to provide information and a description of the killer to a police sketch artist.

The sketch that was produced shows a thin featured man with curly hair and a slightly bent, protruding nose. So police had a likeness of the man they were searching for, and they were also to find a wealth of forensic evidence from the scene. There was a bloodstain on one of Nicola’s bed sheets that had come from the killer, left there as he raped Nicola. Nicola also informed police that whilst in the marquee, the killer had taken a bite from some cheese and had swigged from a bottle of champagne leftover from the day’s celebrations. So police were able to recover a sample of the killer’s blood, a palm print from the champagne bottle, and a dental impression from the piece of cheese. These would form important items of forensic evidence that would be used to help secure a conviction – but would only be of use if detectives had a suspect. Then a colleague from North Yorkshire police provided the breakthrough. He contacted DI Burdis and informed him that the sketch was a likeness for the escaped prisoner Arthur Hutchinson. When Hutchinson’s prints were compared to the palm print gleaned from the champagne bottle, there was an exact match. Detectives now knew the identity of the man they were looking for, and a picture of the wanted man was released to the nation. The hunt was on.

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The WANTED picture of Arthur Hutchinson issued to the nation

Where were police to start? The manhunt, at the time, was the biggest that Britain had seen since the hunt for Peter Sutcliffe. But by now, Hutchinson had crossed the county border and was on the run. Immediately after leaving the Laitner house, Hutchinson had calmly hailed a taxi to nearby Worksop. Rather than go to ground, Hutchinson apparently moved around in disguise, staying in guesthouses and pubs throughout the North. He is believed to have travelled cross country, from place to place including Barnsley, Nottinghamshire, Manchester, York, and Scarborough. When he couldn’t manage a place to stay for the night, he indulged his love and passion for the countryside and slept rough in dens and shelters. Hutchinson foraged food from people’s allotments, and even ate dandelions to survive.

 “This man is on the run and we believe he is quite clearly capable of killing if cornered.”– Sgt Tom Walton, North Yorkshire Police

Hutchinson had escalated overnight to being Britain’s most wanted man, but instead of hiding, he seemed to revel in the notoriety. Believing himself to be a cunning survival expert, he styled himself “The Fox”, and wrote a mocking letter to the press that even started, “I, the Fox…” In the letter, he goaded the police hunting him, denied the Dore crimes and warned the media to stop reporting on the nationwide hunt for him.  But Hutchinson was not satisfied with just writing letters. He then rang the offices of the Yorkshire Post newspaper, and spoke to a journalist there. In this conversation, Hutchinson boasted of his survival expertise, and attempted to portray himself as some kind of criminal mastermind. He claimed to have been in and out of the search areas on numerous occasions, and that he had avoided detection by being a master of disguise. He also claimed that he was too smart to be caught, and that he would never willingly give himself up. A sample of Hutchinson’s voice from this conversation was played on Radio Sheffield.

“I sleep by day, and I travel at night. So I’m not going to give myself up” – Arthur Hutchinson to a Yorkshire Post reporter.

By the time November had arrived, the manhunt for Hutchinson had no less intensified – but he still hadn’t been caught. Police had had to follow up over 1500 possible sightings of him, but had an idea of where he would possibly (indeed, likely) end up. Ever since police knew the identity of the man they were looking for, surveillance had been placed upon his mother’s house in Hartlepool. It had been common practice for Hutchinson to gravitate back to his mother’s house whenever he was in times of trouble, and police were counting on this being no exception. As a result, police had tapped her phone and had covert surveillance surrounding the area, waiting for “The Fox” to make his move. They were confident that Hutchinson would try to contact her, or numerous female friends and as a result had placed 24-hour watches on nine homes in the area.

The police hunch proved to be right, as at 4:00am on 04 November, Hutchinson first contacted an unnamed woman before then calling his mother, Louise Reardon, at her home in the Kelso Grove area of Owton Manor. He told his mother he was “coming home”. The call was traced to a nearby phone box, and Hutchinson was not long afterwards sighted heading towards the nearby Brierton Lane area. He remained at large overnight and at first light on 05 November 1983, the manhunt for Hutchinson entered its final stages. More than 400 police officers and dog handlers began combing an eight- mile square area of land that covered the Greatham, Dalton Piercy, Elwick, High Tunstall and Brierton areas of Hartlepool. Throughout all of this, the arrogant nature of Hutchinson could not resist further showing off and taunting police. Suspecting that they would be listening, he again contacted the unnamed woman he had rang before the phone call to his mother. He then proceeded to mock police for not catching him, even going so far as to call them “Boy Scouts”.

Eventually, Hutchinson was spotted at 3:45pm that day in a turnip field near Middle Stotfold Farm, between the A19 and Dalton Piercy back road. Hutchinson was now cornered, but made a final break for freedom before being brought down by a police dog. He was quickly overpowered, and disarmed of the large Bowie type knife he had threatened police with. Not before Hutchinson had managed to stab himself with it, albeit only superficially. Under a massive police guard, he was taken to hospital for treatment on this, and the wound he had received to the knee when he escaped over a month before.

“The Fox” was caught.

“I’m not a murderer. I should’ve stayed down my foxhole, shouldn’t i?” – Hutchinson to arresting officers

After Hutchinson’s arrest, police discovered a cassette tape in a Darlington guest house, one of several places Hutchinson had stayed while he was at large. He had even the audacity to sign himself in the guest book under the name “A.Fox”! Extracts from the tape, published in the media after Hutchinson’s trial and conviction, are as follows and show the extent of Hutchinson’s arrogance:

“Because I was able to get this tape recorder, transistor, I’ve been able to listen to everything that’s been going on. Where they have been waiting for me, where they have been looking for me, so I knew exactly which way to head out of the way from ‘em. Like playing cat and mouse, or should I say fox on the trot.

I’m making no comments on the triple killings. Let the police do what they want. I’m saying nowt. I’m not telling anybody nothing about that business. Mebbes I’m a bit daft in the head like people think I am. Let them think what they want – I am still free, that’s the main fucking thing.

However crackers I might be, I’ve walked past them several times and they haven’t even noticed me. Like I say, I’m a master of disguise(laughs).”

Describing his escape from Selby Magistrate’s Court, Hutchinson says:

“I hurled myself through an upper window, crashing into a barbed wire net, ripping my leg to pieces. I ran four miles barely stopping, then stopped in the bushes for hours then I see the helicopter hunt. So I drag myself into the gutter, crawl along the gutter and forced myself into bramble bushes and stayed there until it got dark”

He then says he spent four nights on the run before going to hospital in Doncaster for treatment to his knee wound:

“Trousers were at this stage covered in blood but I kept on going. I got my treatment, left and walked another three to four miles back into the wilderness. You just have to keep continuing sometimes. I just had to live day by day but I won’t give in. I’ll never give in – even when they shoot me, else finish me off.”

Unsurprisingly, Hutchinson denied killing 3 members of the Laitner family, and repeatedly raping their 18 year old daughter. He was charged on all counts based on the overwhelming evidence suggesting his guilt, and remanded in custody until his trial for these crimes in Durham Crown Court in September 1984. His murder trial is notable as it was the first time in a murder trial in the UK that a police video of the crime scene was shown to the jury. The 7 minute video shook the jury as it gave first hand visual recreation of the slaughter that had happened at the Laitner house.

Hutchinson entered a plea of not guilty on all counts, and denied even being at the house. He changed his story, however, when he realised the extent of the forensic evidence that tied him to being at the Laitner house that fateful night. Hutchinson has a rare blood group that is unique to only one in 50,000 people. A forensic scientist gave compelling evidence that showed the jury that blood of this type – an exact match for Hutchinson’s blood – had been found all over Nicola’s bed sheets. Blood that had come from the knee wound obtained from escaping from Selby Magistrate’s Court. Also, forensic odontologist Dr Geoffrey Craig testified that bite marks found in a piece of cheese from the buffet in the wedding marquee exactly matched Hutchinson’s bite marks, an impression of which was taken after his arrest. And then there was the evidence of Hutchinson’s palm prints being found on a bottle of champagne in the marquee itself. Faced with this evidence, “The Fox” attempted to use some of his cunning.

Hutchinson concocted a story that after all, he had in fact been to the house, after being invited the night before by Nicola. He claimed they had met in a pub in Sheffield, and she had invited him to go to the house the next night. He claimed that she had said she would leave the patio door unlocked for him, and that he would find a bottle of champagne waiting for him when he arrived. He went further to say that they had had consensual sexual intercourse, and that he had left and that “others” must have come and killed the rest of the Laitner family. Because he had pleaded not guilty, Nicola was forced to undergo cross examination from Hutchinson’s defence counsel. She proved to be unshakeable, and impressed the jury with her sincerity. Visibly shaking and upset, she denied Hutchinson’s claims steadfastly. She had not invited him to the house, she had not left the patio door open for him, and she had not willingly consented to sex with him. The court heard from Nicola how she had pretended, out of fear for her life, to enjoy the sex with Hutchinson. The jury further learned of Hutchinson’s cunning nature when Nicola told them how he had affected a Scottish accent throughout the entire ordeal. She was an impressive witness, proving to be unshakeable and impressing the jury with her sincerity. With his web of lies in tatters, Hutchinson, reveling in the attention that he was being given, changed tack.

Hutchinson next claimed, quite ludicrously, that a reporter from the Sunday Mirror, Mike Barron, had been the one who committed the murders. He even pointed to him in court, saying “That’s your killer there”. He explained his prints had been on the champagne bottle because he had picked it up to use as a weapon to defend himself against Mr Barron. Hutchinson claimed that the media had had a vendetta against him, and that:

“Every week for the last 10 months, that man there has been going to my mother’s house threatening her. I was frightened for her and wanted to get the truth out. There’s your killer.”- Arthur Hutchinson

He could not clearly, however, explain why Mr Barron had even been at the house at the time. This absurd story did not sway the jury, and they were not out deliberating for long. After just 4 hours deliberation, on 14th September 1984, Hutchinson was found guilty of all three murders of the Laitner family and repeated rapes of 18 year old Nicola Laitner. He showed no emotion as the trial judge, Mr Justice Mcneill, sentenced him to multiple life sentences with a minimum tariff of 18 years to serve. Ten months after he was jailed, Hutchinson failed in an appeal against his conviction. He was left to serve his sentence in Wakefield prison, where he was feared by fellow inmates and described by officers as being “like a bomb about to reach the end of its fuse”.

After his conviction, the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, ruled that Hutchinson’s crimes demanded that his be extended to a whole life tariff, effecting Hutchinson to die in jail. He has consistently challenged this decision, and has appealed several times against it. In 2008, long after serving the minimum term imposed upon him at his trial, Hutchinson went to the High Court to challenge his whole life term. The imposed whole life tariff was reviewed by High Court judge Mr Justice Tugendhat, who ruled that Hutchinson must never be set free. Undeterred, he appealed this decision later the same year in the Court of Appeal. But his bid for freedom was shattered when the court’s three judges ruled that his crimes were so despicable, that life must mean life. All three judges were to describe his case as the most heinous crimes they had ever dealt with.

Hutchinson was again in the news in 2013. He became the first British prisoner to challenge the sentence after a controversial ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in July ruled that whole-life tariffs are a breach of human rights. It was held that there had been a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which relates to inhuman and degrading treatment. This violation was on the basis that whole-life tariffs were not “reducible”. Relying on Article 3, Hutchinson claimed that his whole life sentence amounted to “inhuman and degrading treatment” as he has no hope of release. He has, as of writing, not been released after spending 32 years behind bars for his horrific crimes, and is likely to die in prison. He is now 75 years old, and the name Arthur Hutchinson still conjures up revulsion at his crimes whenever it is mentioned. If he was ever successful in appealing his whole life tariff, it could be the gateway for many of Britain’s other most reviled killers to do the same and make bids for freedom. The surviving members of the Dore massacre have long since moved away under new identities, hoping to be free of the media spotlight and to put the tragic event behind them as much as possible. It is fitting to conclude here by showing just how fresh a hell they are put through whenever Hutchinson is mentioned in the press as appealing his sentence.

“Whenever even the name Arthur Hutchinson rears its ugly head, it does nothing but create fear and cause distress to the victims of this heinous crime. Let the Human Rights judiciary members be thrust into our position for just a day, and maybe they would understand this” – spokesman for the surviving Laitner family members

Powerful words.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

Blood In The Glens: True Crime From The Scottish Highlands – Book Review

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Blood In The Glens: True Crime From The Scottish Highlands is an anthology of true crime cases taken from the Highlands of Scotland, in the United Kingdom. The author is a retired lawyer named Jean Mclennan who, apart from having an extensive background in civil law and a vested interest in criminal law, has also served as a Sheriff in the Highlands. This combined knowledge and experience is utilised and brought together to create this fascinating book.

Featured here are 11 cases of true crime and murder from the Scottish Highlands, the majority of which will not be common knowledge cases to any reader of true crime. TTCE as has mentioned before enjoys a well written and researched account of any case, especially if it is a case to peak the attention, and is a case that is not widely published. This book does just that.

Out of the 11 cases featured in the book, the majority will not be familiar to the reader – in fact (and TTCE modestly considers himself as very well read on the subject of British true crime) there was only one case that was very familiar, albeit one that TTCE would say was well documented. This case in question concerns the murders committed in the 1970’s for gain by the “Killer Butler” Archibald Hall/Roy Fontaine. The chapter in this book dedicated to this case would serve as a worthy introduction to those unfamiliar with the crimes of Fontaine, and this is not written lightly as Fontaine’s case is a fascinating study and well worthy of a reader’s attention.

The only other case that TTCE had heard of in this book concerns the disappearance/suspected murders of Renee Macrae and her son Andrew in 1976, and again TTCE was only aware of the bare facts. It is TTCE’s opinion that the account contained in this book is the definitive account of this case. The remaining nine cases TTCE would not say are ones that spring to the forefront of the enthusiast’s mind, so it was always appealing to read and learn about new cases.

Readers will learn of the crimes of Iain Simpson, and how his case (whilst deserving of a chapter solely devoted to itself) ties in with the escape from custody of killers Robert Mone and Thomas Mccullough, and the bloody rampage that followed. Amongst the cases also featured are the murders committed by the “Casanova Killer” Brian Newcombe; the murder of 5 year old Danielle Reid; and the unsolved murders of Alistair Wilson, Kevin Mcleod and Willie Macrae.

TTCE overall found Blood In The Glens: True Crime From The Scottish Highlands a very enjoyable book to read. The accounts of each case are clearly and painstakingly well researched and written in a logical and chronological method. There are also 8 pages of colour photos, not just pictures of victims and killers, but a mix of these, crime scene photos, appeal photos and press and appeal releases. TTCE was also refreshed and interested to read the introduction to this book, which details aspects of Scottish law and the aspects in which it can differ greatly from English law. For a book to hold one’s attention it has to flow well and hold interest, and this does so effortlessly. Perhaps the best testament to the faith shown in this book is by the foreword being written by celebrated and successful Scottish crime writer Val Mcdermid. If TTCE has only but one gripe, it is that this to date remains the only book written by Jean Mclennan. Hopefully, this will be the first of many.

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

The Murder of Jacqueline Palmer-Radford

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Jacqueline Palmer-Radford

The village of Eversley is a small village located in the community of Hart in the county of Hampshire, UK.  It is a wealthy community, located close to the large towns of Basingstoke and Reading, and is considered peaceful and relatively crime free. Eversley  is an old English term meaning  “Wild boar clearing”, and a testament to this is reflected in the presence of a boar depicted in the village sign.The type of place every family would enjoy living in.

The one blot on the otherwise idyllic appearance of Eversley, however, is that since 1992, Eversley has lived in the shadow of a brutal, still unsolved murder.

Jacqueline Palmer-Radford was 40 years old in 1992, and lived with her two sons, aged 17 and 6, in a converted Post office, Riversdale House, on the main road running through Eversley. Jacqueline and her husband had separated amicably in 1990 after 18 years of marriage, and since then her and the boys had remained in the family home. There were plans for Jacqueline to put the house on the market and move to a smaller house, although the house had not yet been put on the market.

Wednesday 01 April 1992 started as a day like all others for Jacqueline and the boys. Her oldest son attended college some miles away and commuted via train, so Jacqueline dropped her older son at the nearby train station at about 8:30am. As usual, on the return journey Jacqueline dropped her youngest son at his school in the village of Crowthorne, four miles away. She was back at Riversdale House by 9:15am, which can be confirmed as she spoke to her mother on the telephone at this time. Jacqueline had sounded fine and her usual self, and told her mother she was going to spend the day shopping in Basingstoke.

What happened that day has never been confirmed.

At 4pm that day, Jacqueline’s youngest son was still waiting for Jacqueline to collect him from school. This was most unlike Jacqueline – she was a conscientious mother and her life revolved around her sons. If she was going to be late for any reason she would have telephoned the school, or made arrangements for him to be safely collected. Her eldest son was also waiting at the train station to be collected. Eventually, he made his own way home, arriving at about 17:30pm.

What he discovered is something that no child should ever have to discover. He found his mother lying on the kitchen floor of their spacious home, suffocated. According to differing reports, she had also been raped.

As with most cases, Jacqueline’s estranged husband was an immediate suspect in her murder. He was arrested and questioned, but was able to provide an irrefutable alibi for his movements the entire day, an alibi that was corroborated by witnesses.  Police were to eventually completely rule him out of the inquiry.

By the time June 1992 had arrived, the police inquiry was nowhere nearer to solving the case. There were a few points of appeal that they had to make, and a TV appeal was made through Crimewatch UK. The Crimewatch appeal was aired on Thursday 18th June 1992, and built up a picture of Jacqueline’s life and what was known about the days leading up to the day she was murdered.

What emerged was a picture of a doting mother. Since her separation, Jacqueline’s life had revolved around her sons, and she did lots of activities with them. Jacqueline wasn’t employed at that time, but kept herself busy and had begun to widen her interests and social circles. She began playing many new sports, such as tennis and badminton, widening her circle of friends in the process. She had also made enquiries into undertaking a study course through the Open University. She was well liked and all who were interviewed testified to her good character. None of Jacqueline’s friends or family knew of any romantic relationships that Jacqueline was involved in, her life seemed to revolve around her sons.

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A Vauxhall Chevette, similar to one described by witnesses.

The Crimewatch appeal focused predominantly on two vehicles and their occupants that police wished to eliminate. The day before Jacqueline was murdered, she had picked her youngest son up from school at 3:15pm as normal. At the same time, one of the other parents at the school remembers seeing a brown hatchback car, possibly a Vauxhall Chevette, parked across the road.  The occupant did not seem to be watching the school but instead seemed nervous and tense, staring straight ahead.

Crucially, what could have possibly been the same car was sighted the next day, the day of Jacqueline’s murder, right outside Riversdale House at 9:05am. Chris Gayler was on his way to work in Reading, and his daily commute took him through Eversley and past Riversdale House. As he pulled level with the driveway to Jacqueline’s house, he had to wait behind a brown hatchback car, similar to the one sighted at the school the day before. The car was indicating right, and turned into the driveway of Riversdale house. Who was the caller?

At about the same time, employees of an office block located about 200 yards down the road from Riversdale House noticed an unfamiliar car parked in their car park. The car was either a beige or yellow coloured Metro, and the occupant was a lone woman. When she was first sighted, she had a headscarf on and was reading a newspaper as though to hide her face from view. Office employees checked periodically and the car remained there for a number of hours, and later on they noticed that she had removed the headscarf. She was described as being in her mid to late 20’s, slim, and short haired. She had left the car park by 12:00pm – who was she?

There were two other people that police wished to trace. A motorist driving nearby remembers a man running down the road away from the direction of Riversdale House at about 11:00am. This man was described as wearing a raincoat, jogging bottoms and trainers, and was carrying a carrier bag in each hand. Then at about 12:00pm, a motorist driving past Riversdale House noticed a smartly dressed man carrying a clipboard stood outside the house. As mentioned, Jacqueline had plans to sell the house and downscale – was this an estate agent? Nobody ever came forward to eliminate themselves. Perhaps this man dropped an expensive pen whilst he was there – a search of the house and grounds found a distinctive pen on the driveway. It’s retail value (in 1992) was between £30-32 pounds, so it was quite a substantial amount then and surely wasn’t just a throwaway item. It did not belong to Jacqueline or any of her sons, and police enquiries failed to establish its owner.

It is a very sad case indeed, and frustratingly information on it is very scarce. What can be established? There are conflicting reports about the murder, with some stating that Jacqueline was sexually assaulted and others not mentioning this. The Crimewatch UK appeal certainly negated to mention this fact. An article on the True Crime Library alludes to Jacqueline having been raped,  yet was found fully clothed. Would a rapist killer bother to redress his victim? It goes on to suggest that Jacqueline was killed by someone she knew, someone who raped her and then killed her when she threatened to report him. But would a killer bother redressing his victim? TTCE thinks this is unlikely, but cannot deliver a definite opinion due to conflicting reports. The presence of a sexual assault or the lack of a sexual assault presents two differing offender profiles, and as TTCE is unsatisfied as to the evidence for or against, cannot comment upon this.

It does however, seem likely that Jacqueline was killed by someone she knew. She spoke to her mother at 09:15am on the day she was murdered, and her mother reported that Jacqueline sounded fine and was heading out shopping for the day. If the sighting of the brown car turning in to Riversdale House driveway is correct, and the timing is correct, then the driver must have been at the house during the phone call to her mother – meaning it was someone Jacqueline knew and was comfortable enough to let into her home. There were no signs of forced entry or any signs of struggle, which further supports this theory. Nothing was missing from the house, and Jacqueline’s purse and belongings were all present in the house.

So why Jacqueline? Police enquiries failed to find anything illegal or illicit that Jacqueline was involved in, and she had no apparent enemies. Her murder  has the feeling of being an unplanned crime,  perhaps for the following reasons, which TTCE must stress are purely hypothetical. Perhaps Jacqueline was involved in a relationship she wished to keep secret. It is understandable that as she doted on her sons completely, she would keep any possible romantic attachment separate from them until she was sure it was serious? Perhaps it was an affair she was having, and she was killed by her lover following a heated row over something? Jacqueline’s family and friends all testify that her having an affair would be completely out of character, and were unaware that she had been seeing anybody. This is not to suggest that this should be disregarded – plenty of people are extremely private and consider their business to be exactly that, their business. The location of the body also suggests it being a spur of the moment crime – why would anyone move a body to the kitchen? It would be more likely that a row escalated and she was killed where she was found. A planned murder would surely have taken place in a different room, for example a bedroom if it was a sex crime, or a bathroom where a killer could clean up any forensic traces more easily. Jacqueline would have also been possibly restrained, and killed in a different way, for example with the use of a knife. Again, due to the lack of information on this case this has to remain speculation.

Over the past 24 years, the crime has been re-appealed, but police are no further forward in identifying a suspect than they were in 1992. The points of appeal outlined here are vague at best, and may be completely nothing to do with the crime whatsoever. Yet it was widely appealed, and none of these people have ever come forward for elimination. Police have little if nothing else to go on. Jacqueline’s sons have both grown up now and long since moved away. But they have had to grow up without a mother, and they have had to grow up knowing that whoever killed Jacqueline has never faced justice for his crime. It remains as big a mystery as it did that fateful day in 1992.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

“Back In 2 Minutes….”

“It is without doubt the strangest inquiry I have ever been involved with. How a happily married woman could vanish without trace on a sunny Saturday morning in a busy town centre is totally baffling.” – Detective Chief Inspector Colin Edwards(speaking in 1992)

One of the most baffling cases in North Wales police history, and one its biggest investigations, is the much celebrated disappearance of antiques dealer Trevaline Evans in 1990. Now, 26 years later, it is still commonly claimed by police to be one of the strangest cases they have ever investigated.  Trevaline has long since been declared dead and it is accepted that she was the victim of a murder. But her body has never been found, there are no suspects, and no discernible motive for her disappearance. It remains as puzzling a case 26 years later as it did back in the summer of 1990.

Llangollen is a small town in North Wales situated on the edge of the River Dee and at the foot of the Berwyn Mountain Range. It has a population of less than 4000, but is a thriving visitor and tourist centre, with people attracted by the many beautiful and scenic walking routes it has to offer. The annual Llangollen International Eisteddfod and Fringe Festival attracts many thousands of visitors to the town in the months of June and July, and June 1990 was no exception.

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Trevaline Evans

Trevaline Evans was a 52 year old businesswoman who lived and worked in the town, running a small antiques shop on Llangollen’s Church Street. She was a family woman, happily married to her husband Richard, and had a son, also called Richard. Trevaline and Richard were also the proud and doting grandparents of two boys, Huw and Owen. The couple lived comfortably in a modest house on nearby Market Street, and were financially successful, owning a holiday bungalow in the North Wales coastal town of Rhuddlan. Saturday June 16th was a normal working day for Trevaline, who would open her shop, Attic Antiques, daily about 9:30am and remain open until about 4pm. Friends and neighbours of her and Richard were accustomed to popping in for chats throughout the day, along with browsing customers and visitors to the town.

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Trevaline’s Shop, Attic Antiques, in 1990
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Richard Evans

Richard was away that Saturday at the couple’s holiday bungalow in Rhuddlan, having been there for a week at the time doing some renovations to it. Trevaline had accompanied him there at the start of the week, but had returned to Llangollen on the Wednesday before she had disappeared. When Richard tried calling home that Saturday evening, there was no answer. After having tried a few times, he rang neighbours and friends to see if they had seen or heard from Trevaline, but to no avail. Richard began to wonder if perhaps his wife had had an accident and was hurt somewhere, and again contacted their neighbours to ask them to visit the shop. Perhaps Trevaline had fallen and was hurt? His concern turned to alarm when the neighbour who had gone around to the shop reported that Trevaline’s car, a dark blue Ford Escort estate, was still parked in its usual spot just 30 yards from Attic Antiques.  The shop was locked, and the sign that would become synonymous with the case, “Back in 2 minutes” was fixed to the door. Thoroughly alarmed, Richard contacted the police to report his wife as a missing person.

“Back in 2 minutes” would hardly suggest a woman who is about to voluntarily disappear, indeed, from the off, Trevaline’s disappearance is perplexing. Enquiries revealed that that Saturday morning, 25 friends and visitors had called into the shop. All of the friends who had visited testified that Trevaline appeared normal, relaxed and happy, and had made plans to go out with some friends that Saturday evening. When the shop was searched, Trevaline’s handbag, car keys and jacket were left there. A bouquet of flowers and some fresh fruit were also there that Trevaline had been given by a friend that morning, and that she had said she planned to take home with her. The note affixed to the door, when coupled with the items that remained in the shop suggest Trevaline had just nipped out on an errand and had not meant to stay out for very long.

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The handwritten sign taped to the door of Attic Antiques

The resulting police investigation turned into the biggest missing person’s enquiry in North Wales history, and no stone was left unturned. Posters with photographs of Trevaline were plastered around the town and neighbouring villages. House to house enquiries were conducted at every household in Llangollen and the neighbouring villages. The town and surrounding countryside were exhaustively searched, divers combed the River Dee and Llangollen Canal, and detectives exhaustively spoke to Trevaline’s family, friends and neighbours and tourists to try to ascertain Trevaline’s movements on that day. Over 1500 people were spoken to within a 12 mile radius of Llangollen. Appeals were made in the local and national press; televised appeals were made, and Richard offered a £5000 reward. Yet all this led to nothing, it was almost as though Trevaline had disappeared off the face of the earth.

The exact events of that day have never been fully explained, and indeed can never be for definite, but detectives can best estimate the following from what is known: At about 12:40pm, Trevaline left her shop, leaving the note affixed to the door. This time can be determined as near approximate because a friend spoke to Trevaline in her shop at about 12:30pm. Trevaline then bought fruit, namely an apple and a banana, in a nearby shop on Castle Street, which she was seen crossing at about 1pm. Castle Street is the main street in Llangollen and is about a quarter of a mile from Church Street, so allowing for travelling on foot and queueing in a shop on a busy Saturday afternoon, this timing would seem accurate. Again this sighting can be confirmed because Trevaline was sighted by people who knew her well, both in the shop and when crossing Castle Street. The last confirmed sighting of Trevaline, again by someone who knew her well, was 90 minutes later at 2:30pm near her home in Market Street.

That sighting is the last definite sighting of her to this day.

There were two more sightings of a woman matching her description following this, but neither have ever confirmed as being Trevaline. At 2:35pm, a woman matching her description was seen walking out of town along the busy A5 road, heading towards the town of Corwen. Then at 3:45pm there was another sighting, this time of a woman matching her description walking into Park Avenue, which borders the River Dee. It is possible that Trevaline returned to the shop just after she was seen at 1pm, although this has never been definitively established. What raised this possibility was the discovery of a banana skin in the rubbish bin at the shop. Of course, there is no way to ascertain that that was the banana she had bought at the shop that Saturday, it could have been from a previous day.

The most promising lead police had as a result of the massive enquiry were reports that Trevaline had been seen several times in the company of a man other than her husband. Described as “well dressed”, this man was seen several times with Trevaline on the days leading up to her disappearance. He was seen in deep conversation with Trevaline in her shop on the Thursday before she disappeared, and she was also seen walking into town with a similar well-dressed man the next day. Two witnesses reported they were convinced they had seen her in a Llangollen wine bar with this man on the Friday night before she disappeared. Trevaline was again seen having a “heated” conversation with someone matching the “well dressed” man’s description in the back of her shop on the day she disappeared. Was this the same man each time? An artist’s impression of this man was widely publicised at the time, but this man – or possibly these men – have never been identified and have never come forward. Who was he? Frustratingly, this artist’s impression is unavailable to reproduce here, but is considered no longer relevant to the police investigation anyway.

All leads were investigated to exhaustion but came to nothing; though as with many high profile missing person’s inquiries, in the years following her disappearance there have been several twists and turns with the Trevaline Evans case. To the credit of police they have investigated each possible angle. Sightings of her have been reported as far afield as London, France, and even a remote town in Australia, but none of these have ever been confirmed. In 1993, three years after Trevaline’s disappearance, police utilised specially trained body sniffer dogs to searching a canal bank near Llangollen. They had done so on the basis of a member of the public having an “overwhelming feeling” that Trevaline was nearby. The year before a large area of woodland in the World’s End area was searched after a spiritualist medium claimed she was convinced Trevaline’s body was buried there. World’s End is a desolate area in close proximity to Llangollen, but nothing was found despite extensive searching. In 1997, Trevaline was declared legally dead, but police had long since been convinced that she had come to harm and they were dealing with a murder rather than a missing person. To this extent, at one time police considered a link between Trevaline’s disappearance and convicted killer Robin Ligus, who is serving life for the murder of three men in Shropshire in the 1990’s. However, this was ultimately ruled out. With no other leads to pursue, the investigation was left inactive.

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The Re-appeal posters from the 2001 investigation.

However, the inquiry was reopened and freshly appealed in January 2001, this time very much conducted as a murder inquiry. It concentrated upon Trevaline’s movements in the three days leading up to her disappearance, although by this time police had decided to disregard the artists impression of the well-dressed man from 11 years previously, describing it as “inaccurate now”. Posters of Trevaline were again put up in Llangollen and the surrounding area detailing her last known movements. House to house enquiries were again made in Llangollen, and a televised appeal was made for the second time on Crimewatch UK. Trevaline’s husband Richard was also arrested and questioned over her disappearance, but was ultimately released without charge. Once again, this investigation drew a blank.

As has been shown, it is a complex disappearance and TTCE believes that there are three explanations that are possible; Trevaline was abducted, Trevaline voluntarily disappeared, or Trevaline had some sort of mental episode and wandered off, perhaps suffering with amnesia. Starting with the latter, of course it is well documented for individuals to have sudden mental anguishes and to abandon all rational thinking. This can be triggered by a sudden event or as a result of a series of stresses. Trevaline and her husband had a happy marriage, and were devoted parents and grandparents. They had no money troubles, seemingly no stresses at all. Everybody who knew her who spoke to her on that Saturday were in unison that she was happy and had plans that evening – not the actions of a woman with suicidal thoughts. If she had had some sort of mental breakdown and had wandered off then it is more likely that she would have been recognised and found if alive. How far could she get on foot, with no money, without being seen? If she had committed suicide, then it stands to reason her body would have been found. Although the countryside around Llangollen is vast – the searches of the area at the time of her disappearance were equally as vast. The canal was dragged, the River Dee searched. Coal mines and caves in the area were looked into and local woods were searched. Surely a body would have been found had Trevaline committed suicide or died of natural causes? TTCE believes that this is an unlikely explanation for her disappearance.

Did Trevaline voluntarily disappear then, being of sound mind? As shown, Trevaline and Richard were financially secure and comfortable. They were happily married and Trevaline was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She had her own business, many friends and was well liked and outgoing. It seems extremely unlikely that she would voluntarily run off and start a new life. And if she was willing to disappear, however, then there are many questions that are raised.

Why was she leaving her life behind? There has been speculation that the well-dressed man Trevaline had been seen with in the days preceding her disappearance was a secret lover, and that she left to start a new life with him. This has never been proven and remains just that, speculation. The investigation scrutinised Trevaline’s life, and nothing was found to suggest she was having an affair.  Trevaline’s friends and family also claim that this would be extremely unlikely. If however this was the case, it raises questions.

Why then did she not leave the night before, or first thing in the morning? Richard was still away, she could have left anytime, even days before. Why that Saturday? Why even open the shop at all, knowing she was going to leave it all behind that day? Why take no clothes with her – no clothing was found missing from Trevaline’s house -, and indeed, leave behind essential items such as a handbag, money and a car? Why would you use no money – Trevaline’s bank account was never touched after her disappearance? Why buy fresh fruit and flowers – only to leave them behind? Why go to the lengths of deliberately disappearing in such a way that created such an enigmatic disappearance, knowing how missed she would be and the furore that disappearing in such a way would cause? And can it really be believed that a devoted mother and grandmother would excommunicate herself from her family, willingly? At the time of her disappearance this possibility was examined thoroughly and was dismissed. Everything that is definitively known about that Saturday suggests that Trevaline had left her shop to do errands, and fully intended to return. The handwritten note was checked by family members, and the handwriting was confirmed to be Trevaline’s, not written by someone else.

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A Google Street View of the former Attic Antiques, taken in 2009

No, it is the opinion of TTCE that Trevaline was abducted and murdered. It is also likely that she knew her abductor/killer, and it was someone that she felt familiar and comfortable with enough to be alone with. It seems likely that Trevaline set out to meet somebody that afternoon, but whether she did return to the shop or not at any point cannot be ascertained. TTCE is of the opinion that she didn’t return – why would you leave a sign on the door saying “Back in 2 minutes” if you had returned?  Frustratingly, there is a window of about 90 minutes between confirmed sightings of Trevaline that afternoon where her movements are unaccounted for – was she with her killer during this time, and what were they doing?  It is unlikely that she was abducted from the shop, as a forced abduction would have caused a disturbance and would have been witnessed – there are houses in very close proximity to location of where the shop on Church Street was. It no longer exists as a shop now, as the above image suggests. But the reader will still be able to appreciate how built up an area it is – surely an abduction would have been heard or seen? Trevaline would also be an unlikely choice for a random abduction – a middle aged shopkeeper? An easier random victim would be a hiker or tourist, a victim pool that Llangollen is rich in all year around. TTCE is of the opinion that Trevaline was taken soon after the last confirmed sighting of her.Where remains a mystery.

The abductor must have had a vehicle and must have been extremely calm and collected – Llangollen is one of the busiest towns in North Wales and on a Saturday quite near to the Eisteddfod, there would have been more people around than usual. No one reported seeing any sort of disturbance or scuffle between a man and a woman that day – so it seems likely that wherever Trevaline went, she went at least voluntarily to begin with. Perhaps the person she knew offered her a lift back to the shop? The abductor must have been able to restrain or incapacitate her, and then take her to places unknown to either kill her and dispose of the body, or just to dispose of the body because Trevaline was already dead. All this would have been done without drawing any attention to them – it is likely that the abductor had a house or premises and this is where Trevaline was taken and killed. TTCE believes that this was out of Llangollen, possibly up in rural North Wales or towards England. But this covers such a sheer massive geographical area, that without specific information pinpointing an exact area, it would be impossible to ever find a burial site unless one was discovered by chance. And none has been in 25 years.

Frustratingly, it is the lack of any real insight into what happened that afternoon that perplexes the most – all this is speculation based upon the scant evidence and leads in the case. There is no body. There is no discernible crime scene. There is no motive. There are no suspects. There is nothing in Trevaline’s past to suggest she had any enemies, or was involved in anything illegal or illicit. Her disappearance has the feel of being an impromptu crime, but a very well executed and very personal one. North Wales police claim that the investigation is not closed, but unsurprisingly is currently inactive. Sadly, most of the people who mourned Trevaline’s disappearance have now died themselves without ever knowing what had happened to her. Trevaline’s father, her brother David, son Richard JR and her husband Richard have all passed away now, but there is a surviving brother, Leonard, who still lives in the area. He has lived with the agony of not knowing for over a quarter of a century now.

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Leonard Davies

“The officers who worked on the case at the time, the ones I got to know, have all retired. There are no new theories about what happened, or any fresh evidence, and I realise the police have financial limitations. I would like the investigation to continue, I am forever hopeful of finding out what happened.” – Leonard Davies (Trevaline’s brother – speaking in 2015)

 

Will the mystery of Trevaline Evans ever be solved?

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

Who was the Tunbridge Wells Bedsit Killer?

The warm night of 22 June 1987 brought death to Tunbridge Wells, a large town about 40 miles from London, in the county of Kent. It was that night that a monstrously evil killer struck, taking the life of a young woman and destroying a family in the process. Horrifically, the same man killed again just a few months later only about a mile away from the scene of the first murder. He has never yet been caught.

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Wendy Knell

Wendy Knell was 25 years old in 1987 and worked as a shop manager in a Supasnaps store on Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells. She was attractive and slim, and had a boyfriend, bus driver Ian Plass. Although their relationship was becoming serious, Wendy lived alone in a basement bedsit at the end of Guildford Road, Tunbridge Wells. On the night of 22 June 1987 Ian and Wendy had spent the evening together, and it was approaching midnight when the couple arrived back at Wendy’s bedsit on Ian’s motorbike. That night was a Monday, and with both having to work the next day Ian dropped Wendy off, waving goodbye to her as he watched her get in safely. He then left and went home.

But somebody else was watching her also.

The next morning, Ian was contacted by staff at the store where Wendy worked, enquiring as to her whereabouts as she hadn’t turned up for work that morning. Ian went around to the Guildford Road bedsit to check on Wendy, and what Ian found when he arrived was the scene of unimaginable horror. Wendy was lying dead in her bedsit, savagely battered and had been strangled to death. She had also been brutally and savagely raped, and was left lying naked and covered in blood. Police were contacted by a shaken and distraught Ian, and began the murder enquiry by making house to house enquiries in the immediate area. A methodical search of the bedsit and surrounding areas began, and Wendy’s background and life was looked at to see if there was anybody who jumped out that could possibly bear a grudge or have the capability to commit such a heinous crime.

Police found nothing in Wendy’s background to suggest she had any unwanted admirers, and her family and friends were all in chorus that she was popular and well liked. She was faithful to Ian, and Ian was ruled out as a suspect almost immediately. Police could find no clear signs of forced entry to Wendy’s bedsit, and nobody in the neighbouring properties had heard or seen anything. Detectives came to the conclusion that the killer had gained access through a rear window, and was lying in wait for Wendy when she arrived home. He would have been there when Ian dropped her off.

The search of Wendy’s bedsit and the house to house enquiries revealed a number of possible leads. A few days before Wendy was murdered, a 19 year old female neighbour of hers was warned by a strange man not to leave her windows unlocked. An e-fit of this man is shown below.

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Face of a killer?

Who was this strange man – and why was he drawing attention to himself in such a way? He has never come forward, or been traced.

Police discovered during the search that Wendy’s diary had been taken from her purse, along with a distinctive key ring. The key ring had a small brass cow bell attached to a multi-coloured key fob, a brass plate with “Woman of the Year” engraved on it, and two keys. They have never been found, and were likely taken as trophies. A muddy footprint was also found on a blouse lying on the floor of her bedsit. It was from a Clarks and did not match any of the shoes owned by Wendy, Ian or Wendy’s family and friends, leading detectives to believe that it belonged to Wendy’s killer. Detectives also believed that this trainer would have been rare at the time. Forensic detectives managed to recover trace elements of semen found upon Wendy’s body, leading them to be able to recover a partial DNA profile of her killer.

The enquiry continued and all leads were followed, with no success. The women of Tunbridge Wells lived in fear at the time; however, this fear had almost been put to the back of their minds by 5 months later.

Almost.

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Caroline Pierce

Like Wendy, 20 year old Caroline Pierce also worked on Camden Road as a shop assistant. She also lived alone in a bedsit, coincidentally only about a mile from where Wendy had lived. There is no indication that both women knew each other, although they may have known each other by sight. It is reported that both women used the same café on Camden Road, so this is feasible. On the evening of 24 November 1987, Caroline had been for a night out with friends and had gotten a taxi back to her bedsit in Grovesnor Park. It was about midnight when she was dropped off, and as the taxi drove off, somebody attacked Caroline outside her bedsit. She managed to scream just once before she was abducted. Neighbours who heard a scream looked out of their windows, but saw nothing. The killer had been waiting in the shadows, and had efficiently abducted the young woman. When Caroline failed to arrive at work the next day, her concerned family reported her as missing. Officers immediately thought of Wendy Knell, and alarm bells rang that raised the question. Had the killer struck again?

40 miles away from Tunbridge Wells, a farm worker in St Mary in the Marsh on Romney Marsh discovered Caroline’s decomposing body in a drainage ditch three weeks later, on December 15. Like Wendy Knell, she had been battered to death, strangled and again savagely raped. It was clear that Caroline had been dumped there some time before, not long after she was last seen by the taxi driver. The clothes that she had been wearing on the night she was abducted, a long black skirt and a red jumper, were missing and have never been found. Caroline’s handbag was found nearby however- although her keys had been taken from it.

As with the Wendy Knell enquiry, detectives examined Caroline’s life searching for leads that may possibly lead them to her killer. They found nothing; Caroline had no boyfriend and had gotten on well with her family. She was popular and well liked, and all of her friends that were with her on the night she was abducted reported nothing out of the ordinary, no one had been seen paying Caroline extra attention or following her. Nobody had rowed with her, and she had left alone in a taxi. The taxi driver who dropped her off was interviewed and reported not seeing anyone hanging around the bedsit where Caroline lived. Tragically, he had driven off and turned the corner when Caroline’s killer struck. Detectives were convinced that the same man was responsible for both murders, and officially linked the two. The inquiry into both murders continued, but when all possible avenues had been explored, the inquiry wound down, although was never closed. Both cases have been appealed twice on Crimewatch UK years apart, and in each case calls have been received and possible names for the killer have been put forward. However, the crucial call has never yet been received. The hunt for the vicious killer remains active with regular reviews.

Is the same man responsible for both murders? TTCE is of the opinion that to believe that both murders were committed by two different people would be near impossible, even regardless of police officially linking both killings. What would be the odds of two men with the same psychopathy operating separately within a mile of one another, and randomly choosing two women that are quite similar in appearance, that worked in the same road, lived a mile apart from each other in bedsits, and it is reported that both used the same cafe in Tunbridge Wells for lunch? Surely too great to seriously consider? The mirrored features of the MO in both murders also support both killings being the work of the same man. Both women lived alone in bedsits. Both women were of similar physical appearance. Both women were raped, battered and strangled. Both had items taken from them as trophies – and in both cases this included a key ring and keychain.  Although detectives could find no evidence that either women had been stalked or followed, they remained convinced that the killer had deliberately targeted them – had he seen them at different times in the café perhaps? Did he frequent the Camden Road shops through living or working nearby?

What is then, known about the killer? To begin, it is impossible to ascertain a physical description of this man, even if the e-fit that police issued concerning the strange man who warned the neighbour is used as a basis. The passage of time since both killings is so vast that any appearance will have changed drastically. It is very likely that these are not the first crimes this man has ever committed. The level of violence, both physical and sexual used in each murder is too great for these to be this man’s first offences – crimes of this magnitude are built up to. It is likely this man is or has been a prolific burglar, and is very familiar with the Tunbridge Wells area – Guildford Road for example is a very populated street of terraced houses and it would take someone of experience and confidence in housebreaking to be able to enter unnoticed. He may have lived in the area at the time or at least at some point, or may have worked there.

It is also likely that this man will have sexual crimes in his past, as has been alluded to above; levels of horrific sex crimes such as these are unlikely first offences. This may include rapes or serious sexual assaults, and would almost certainly include perhaps being a Peeping Tom or a prowler. It is very likely due to the locations of the crimes that this man had watched and surveyed them on several occasions, and had measured the level of risk of offending here, the risk of disturbance or capture, and assured himself of clear routes of access and egress from the scenes. He is likely to have followed and stalked either or both women – they were not randomly chosen and it is likely that this man had learned their habits over a period of days or even weeks. It would be easy to label this man as being seriously psychologically disturbed, and he does have a serious sexual disturbance to have committed such horrific crimes as he has. But as any reader of true crime will know the psychopath can often operate successfully, functional in society, and under the radar. This killer is calm and collected and shows signs of organisation, yet abandoned all of this and was savage almost beyond control in the actual murders themselves. He left no fingerprint evidence and such minute trace evidence at the Knell murder scene that it took years for forensic science to advance to the point where a full DNA profile was obtainable from this evidence. He was patient and calm enough to watch and wait for both women, and was able to rape and kill Wendy without anybody in the adjoining bedsits hearing or seeing anything. He was able to efficiently and swiftly abduct Caroline from a populated street, meaning he owned, or at least had access to a car. Caroline’s body was not found for nearly 3 weeks and had been transported nearly 40 miles from where she lived. How else would she have been moved here? And why was she killed and moved elsewhere – this is a significant difference from the Knell murder, and is likely that the Romney Marsh area was another area that the killer was familiar with. It is possible that the killer had a place nearby, perhaps a workshop or building that he knew he could take Caroline to to minimise risk of detection. Perhaps he had apparatus at such a place to inflict extra pain and suffering upon her.

The taking of trophies highlights just how much this killer relished what he had done, and by collecting personal property from each victim, it creates his own macabre trophy cabinet. It is common for keys to be taken from victims by the offender as a trophy, examples being the Railway Rapist John Duffy, and the Pembrokeshire quadruple killer John Cooper. It is this necessity to relive the crimes by taking a trophy that must leave the reader of clear opinion that this man will have gone on to kill again. These murders have excited this man to the extent that he has taken an effect to help him relive that euphoria he felt – but as with other killers that feeling fades over time and needs to be repeated, refreshed. There are several cases of unsolved murders of young women around the country in the years following the Bedsit murders that police have examined that could be possibly linked. The use of a car in the Pierce murder drastically expands the potential geographical killing ground of this man – yet police have not to date been able to forensically link the man to other crimes in the country. It does not fit that this man would just stop killing unless it was due to circumstances out of his control. Perhaps he was caught and imprisoned for other offences, or there is the possibility that this man is now hospitalized, or even dead. Or of course, he may still be alive, free and still offending, perhaps in a different part of the country. If so, he has honed his murder skills as he has been able to have avoided detection for decades. Who knows just how many other murders this man may have been responsible for?

“These crimes are right at the top end in terms of violence. It would be unusual for someone like this to stop. Usually there is a build-up to attacks like this. We are not ruling out that this man could have attacked many more women. But at the moment we cannot forensically link him to more crimes”.   – Detective Chief Inspector Rob Vinson (SIO Kent Police Cold Cases Unit)

Two names that have been consistently linked with the case are that of serial killer Peter Tobin, and bus stop killer Levi Bellfield, due to their links with the Kent area. There is much documented about these killers and their crimes, so it is not the intention of TTCE to recap their crimes here. Both men are currently serving whole life tariffs and are being looked at for possible links to other unsolved murders UK wide, but in the case of the Tunbridge Wells bedsit murders, both men have been cleared on the basis of their DNA not matching the sample taken from the crime scene of the Wendy Knell murder. And it is the killers DNA fingerprint that remains the strongest, most crucial piece of evidence that detectives have– although a matching result on the National DNA database has so far proved elusive. Detectives have visited many persons of interest in the inquiry and to date have eliminated over 500 persons through DNA samples, and swabbed over 1000, visiting countries as far afield as Australia and Canada on the basis of information received. This elimination process continues as detectives still receive names and information from the public after every appeal. There are several high profile killers already serving life in UK prisons that, due to their MO and choice of victim when killing, it is the opinion of TTCE that they would undoubtedly be persons of interest to the inquiry. However, it is quite likely that because these killers DNA would be on the database already, they have been ruled out.

This man is believed to be one of the most dangerous and possibly prolific killers that Britain has ever seen, and destroys whole families through his actions. Caroline’s parents emigrated to Spain in the years following her murder, and although they are fully supportive of the investigation remaining open, they shun and decline any publicity because of the suffering that Caroline’s death has caused their family. Wendy’s family still to this day bear the scars of losing their middle child in such awful circumstances. When speaking to the press on the 25th anniversary of their daughter’s death, Pamela and Bill Knell told how the murder had impacted their lives.

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Pamela and Bill Knell

“It’s driven us apart as man and wife. My wife can’t bear me near her. She’s afraid of anything physical. If I put my arm round her, she’ll say, ‘Don’t do that’. Before we had the perfect life but from that day it’s just a stressful life. You just go from day to day and try to cope.”   – Bill Knell

“I had just turned 50 when we lost Wendy and everybody told me my life was going to begin – but it ended. We don’t want to die not knowing what happened and who did this, and we feel renewed hope that he will be caught. Things wouldn’t get a lot easier but we could sleep easy because of where he is, hopefully locked up for life” – Pamela Knell

The Knell family were given a bottle of champagne after the murder to “celebrate when he’s caught”. Amid frustration that this man still has not faced justice, the bottle was thrown away some years ago. But police have not given up, as the detective leading the cold case review had this to say about his quarry.

“What we realise is that over time allegiances change. Someone may have been shielding the killer and for whatever reason that person has not come forward yet. It’s important to note that any member of the public shouldn’t be afraid to give us names. We’ve got his DNA. Only the guilty man needs to fear us. We keep looking. You should spend every day looking over your shoulder because we’re still looking and we’re going to find you” – Detective Chief Inspector Rob Vinson (SIO Kent Police Cold Cases Unit)

Anyone with information should call Kent police on 01634 884 043 or the confidential Crimestoppers number on 0800 555 111.

 

The True Crime Enthusiast