Report contradicts Bakewell murder conviction

NEW CLAIMS: Crime writer Scott Lomax thinks whoever killed Wendy Sewell in Bakwell in 1973 may have also killed 14-year-old Judith Roberts in Tamworth a year before.
NEW CLAIMS: Crime writer Scott Lomax thinks whoever killed Wendy Sewell in Bakwell in 1973 may have also killed 14-year-old Judith Roberts in Tamworth a year before.

A retired detective has unearthed a rarely seen pathologist’s report which sheds startling new light on the murder of Bakewell woman Wendy Sewell.

Chris Clark, who believes notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe may have been responsible for the death, said the report is a vital breakthrough and shows the victim was kicked and choked with a ligature before being struck several times with a pickaxe handle, a mode of attack used by the Yorkshire Ripper.

Mrs Sewell’s body was found in Bakewell Cemetery and Stephen Downing, a 17-year-old with learning difficulties, was convicted of her murder but cleared after 27 years in jail. Nobody else has ever been charged with the killing.

Mr Clark said: “Three senior detectives were at the post mortem so they would have been aware of this. It must have been deliberately withheld and the conclusions were ignored at the original trial.”

The pathologist’s findings dated September 14, 1973, state that Mrs Sewell had “massive ecchymoses in the mucus membrane below the level of the false vocal cords” as well as “deep bruising” of the neck’s cervical muscles.

The report also states some of Mrs Sewell’s injuries might have resulted from “kicking with heavy boots”.

Mr Clark added: “Wendy’s injuries are consistent with being garrotted and kicked. To me it’s a classic Ripper attack.”

He said the strangulation, frenzied and sexual nature of the murder bore the hallmarks of Sutcliffe’s killings.

Mr Clark has put together a dossier of evidence which he has sent to the Home Office, calling for them to reopen the case.

Don Hale, former editor of the Matlock Mercury, said for years he had tried to get hold of the pathologist’s report - only to be told it had been destroyed.

He added: “I asked many times but was always told it was not available and it had been burnt, lost or destroyed.

“But I did eventually manage to get hold of some mortuary photos which showed Wendy’s body with a bruised ring around the neck. I asked police about the bruising but was always refused an answer.”

Mr Hale has now been contacted by the Home Office - and asked if he will support Mr Clark’s findings.

He said: “We did not know until recently about the strangling or the kicking and this was before we really knew about the Ripper. Wendy could have been one of his early victims and maybe if this had been looked in to and he had been caught it could have prevented several more murders.”

The pathologist’s evidence was not presented to the judge or jury at the 1974 trial of Downing or his appeals.

A Derbyshire Police spokesman said: “There is no evidence to connect Peter Sutcliffe with the murder of Wendy Sewell case and speculation about the case will no doubt cause Mrs Sewell’s surviving relations more heartache.

“The murder was thoroughly reinvestigated in 2002 after the conviction of Stephen Downing was quashed following an appeal.

“That appeal found that the conviction was unsafe as a result of procedural mistakes during the original investigation in 1973.

“From a police perspective the case is now closed. All possible lines of enquiry were exhausted during the re-investigation. Twenty two people were ruled out of the enquiry but officers were unable to eliminate Stephen Downing as a suspect.

“The re-investigation was carried out by Derbyshire Constabulary led by Detective Chief Superintendent David Gee and overseen by an independent advisory group. This comprised a representative from the Crown Prosecution Service; a senior barrister, who has an extensive background in criminal cases; a retired Senior Investigating Officer from another police force, who was the major crime adviser to the Stephen Lawrence enquiry; and Stephen Downing’s media adviser.”