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Who killed the Bristol Night Nurse?

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Susan Donoghue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Detectives examine the point of entry of the killer

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

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

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

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

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

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Tobacco tin recovered at the scene of the crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

Death in Highgate Woods

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Michael Williams

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

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

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Michael, his wife and baby daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A replica of Michael’s distinctive Rolex watch

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

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who Was The HallBottom Street Hammer Killer?

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Frieda Hunter and Joe Gallagher

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

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

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The pub where Frieda worked, The Queen’s Hotel

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

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

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

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

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The broken kitchen window to the rear of the property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Press clippings from the time of the original murder investigation

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

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

 

 

 

The Murder of Veronica Anderson

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

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

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Veronica Anderson

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

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

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

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Veronica’s Ford Cortina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A glove similar to the one found at the murder scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

Who was “The Beast Of Stanmer Park”?

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

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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