Eight clues that would collar real Bakewell graveyard killer after an innocent man was jailed for 27 years

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Eight clues that would collar real Bakewell graveyard killer after an innocent man was jailed for 27 years



FOR 27 years Stephen Downing rotted in a cell for a crime he did not commit.
It was one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice in British history — a 17-year-old with a reading age of 11 forced to confess to a murder during a nine-hour police grilling without a solicitor.
Trevor Smith Wendy Sewell, seen here with her husband, was murdered in 1973, but a series of clues point to her killer remaining at large
Matlock Mercury Stephen Downing rotted in a cell for a crime he did not commit for 27 years
Downing languished in jail for 17 years longer than his recommended sentence, simply because he maintained his innocence over the killing of 32-year-old legal secretary Wendy Sewell.
And the real murderer — who sexually assaulted and bludgeoned Wendy in a secluded cemetery in Bakewell, Derbys, during lunchtime on September 12, 1973 — has never been caught.
Now crusading journalist Don Hale, who campaigned for Stephen’s release, has looked back over the evidence and examined the other potential suspects in his new book Murder In The Graveyard.
And it is possible the killer struck more than once.
There are compelling links between the deaths of Wendy and two other young women in 1970.
Don, 66, tells The Sun: “The Wendy Sewell case is a murder mystery which could be linked to other unsolved murders.
“I have looked at different witnesses, timings and the possibilities for what could have happened in Bakewell graveyard.”
As Don dug deeper into the Sewell story, attempts were made on his life, including a lorry trying to ram his car off the road.
Don claims police threatened him with prison and obstructed his investigation, and that evidence went missing.
So even after Stephen was released in 2002, when appeal judges ruled his conviction was unsafe, the journalist wanted to understand why so many people had gone to such lengths to try to shut him up.
‘COERCED BY OFFICERS’
Don, who was awarded an OBE for his campaigning journalism, has spoken to nine new witnesses and gone through case files with forensic experts for the new book.
The mystery started at around 1.25pm on September 12, 1973, when council worker Stephen raised the alarm after finding blood-soaked Wendy laying barely conscious in the cemetery.
The married woman, from nearby Middleton-by-Youlgreave, who had been known as the Bakewell Tart for her affairs, had been battered with a pickaxe handle. She died from her injuries two days later.
By this time Stephen had already confessed to attacking her after being questioned by detectives.
Having found Wendy, and with blood on his clothes, Stephen had become the prime suspect for police.
Later he retracted his admission of guilt, claiming he had been coerced by officers, and even though the trial judge raised questions about police procedure, the youngster was found guilty of murder.
He was sentenced to life, with a minimum term of ten years.
As the editor of the Matlock Mercury, Don started to dig into Stephen’s conviction in 1994 after being told by many locals that the wrong man was in jail.
What he learned only increased his curiosity.
The police had failed to find the “running man” who was seen fleeing the cemetery with blood on him shortly after Wendy had been attacked. A witness, not interviewed by the police, claimed he said, “What have I done?” When one local woman told an officer they knew the identity of the stranger, the policeman is said to have told her he was not interested.
CLUES COULD COLLAR KILLER
Don knows who the man is but has named him Mr Blue because his guilt cannot be proven.
Similarly, two other men possibly connected with Wendy’s death have been called Mr Orange and Mr Red to protect their identities.
Ex-con Mr Orange was placed at the scene of the crime by many witnesses and Don found evidence that the powerful Mr Red had forced men to give him a false alibi.
Both Mr Red and Mr Orange were reported to be Wendy’s former lovers. Don says: Mr Red “went to an awful lot of trouble to threaten people into giving him false alibis”. He added: “He was a thug and a bully. He had a lot of power and influence.”
One of the most shocking revelations the journalist discovered was that Mr Red was also questioned about a murder three years earlier.
The police spoke to him in connection with the death of Barbara Mayo, whose body had been found near Ault Hucknall, Derbys, in October 1970.
The 24-year-old trainee teacher had been sexually assaulted and strangled and had a wound to the back of her skull.
While Stephen was still in prison, the Home Office sent a file to Derbyshire police on other unsolved murders that could be linked to Wendy’s.
One of the possible cases is Jackie Ansell Lamb, who was discovered strangled in Cheshire in March 1970, after hitchhiking from London.
Don explains: “Barbara Mayo was murdered just 12 miles away from Bakewell. The victims were all choked, hit and garrotted. They were stripped, kicked and assaulted.”
I was threatened by the police for not revealing my sources. They told me I could be charged with obstruction of the police. I refused point blankDon HaleCampaigning journalist
Former detective Chris Clark has said Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who was caught in 1981, could have killed all three women because striking the skull was his preferred method of attack.
But Don prefers to focus on the men seen near Bakewell cemetery around the time Wendy died, none of whom appear to be the Ripper. The most likely motive for killing Wendy was either an argument with a lover or a desire to keep her quiet. Don says: “Wendy had a number of lovers. Three were prominent in the Bakewell area.
“If it had come out at the time that they’d been having an affair with Wendy, it could have destroyed their marriages and reputations.
“Wendy potentially had a lot of dirt on a lot of people. She kept a black book on them. She would give a Mars bar to men, then wink at them in order to indicate she was interested in them.
“To be involved with these men could have been very dangerous.”BOMB THREATS
These men would stop at nothing to keep the prying local reporters quiet. The Matlock Mercury had to deal with bomb threats, firebombs and a brick thrown through the office window.
It didn’t deter Don. The more he searched, the more he found.
A pathology report, which was never shown to the jury during Stephen’s trial, revealed bruise marks on Wendy’s neck which suggest she could have been strangled. And Don realised that tights she was said to have been wearing were never recovered. They remain a potential murder weapon.
The ferocity of assault on Wendy, with at least seven blows to the head and kicks from what could have been winklepicker shoes, suggest two men could have been involved.
The pathologist believed the pickaxe was wielded by a right-handed killer, yet Downing is left-handed.
The Wendy Sewell case is a murder mystery which could be linked to other unsolved murdersDon HaleCampaigning Journalist
For many years the police maintained all the original evidence from the murder had been destroyed.But Don found out the pickaxe was in Derbyshire police’s museum and that scrapings taken from underneath Wendy’s fingernails had also been preserved.
The pickaxe had a bloody handprint on it which did not match Stephen’s palm and was not, as police had claimed, one that belonged to the council he worked for.
All this crucial evidence stacked up to show someone else must have been responsible for the murder.
Yet rather than examining it, the police chose to investigate Don.
They threatened the journalist with prison for not telling them which police officers were leaking information to him — and CIB2, an internal police investigations unit, were put on his tail. Don said: “I received priceless inside information from the police that many statements in the Downing case had been manipulated and were false. They had been taken by officers who didn’t exist.
“I was threatened by the police for not revealing my sources. They told me I could be charged with obstruction of the police. I refused point blank.”INNOCENT MAN FREED
Stephen had always maintained his innocence in jail. Doing so meant he was never eligible for parole, because at the time a failure to show “remorse” for a crime meant a convict could not be released.After eight years of unearthing vital fresh facts, the British legal system finally agreed to put his case before a judge again in January 2002.
Three appeal judges ruled that the conviction was “unsafe” due to the fact Stephen had not had a solicitor when he gave his confession.
Their judgment, though, did not declare Stephen was innocent and Derbyshire police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the crime. Don thinks a £500,000 reopening of the Sewell murder case by the police was “half-hearted”. Stephen received £750,000 compensation and has returned to live in Bakewell.
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Having trained as a chef after his release, he now suffers from osteoarthritis and is looking after his sister.
By pulling all the facts together for his new book, Don is more convinced than ever that Wendy’s killer evaded justice.
He concludes: “My investigations have produced a wealth of evidence and an analysis of all the witness claims and reveal a mass of potential evidence that was either rejected or deliberately ignored by the police at the time, and confirms that within days of the attack they knew that the person arrested for the murder was innocent.”

Times Newspapers Ltd Stephen Downing maintained his innocence over the killing of 32-year-old legal secretary Wendy Sewell
Raymonds Press Agency Potential victim 2 Barbara Mayo was killed nearby in 1970
Page One Potential victim 3 Jackie Ansell Lamb was murdered in 1970
Rex Features Former detective Chris Clark has said Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who was caught in 1981, could have killed all three women
Crusading journalist Don Hale, who campaigned for Stephen’s release, has looked back over the evidence and examined the other potential suspects
The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story – How did police investigation into serial killer Peter Sutcliffe go so wrong?

 

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