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This Week in Crime

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Practically every day of the year is a landmark of some sort in the annals of crime. Here’s where you can find out what happened this week in years gone by...

Stories from the week beginning November 7th.

Only The Killer Could Have Known

Battered and raped, Winifred Evans, a 27-year-old WAAF, was found to have been asphyxiated when her body was discovered in a ditch at her camp at Beccles on NOVEMBER 9th, 1944. She had been forced face-down in mud, and had suffocated.

Investigators learned that she had gone to a dance the previous night with Corporal Margaret Johns, who said they had returned just before midnight, parting shortly afterwards when Winifred set out for duty at the camp’s signal office.

Margaret had then gone to the WAAFs’ toilets, where she had been shocked to find a drunken airman. She asked what he was doing there, and he said he was lost and asked if he were in Number One Camp. She told him he wasn’t, took him outside, and pointed him in the direction Winifred had taken a few minutes earlier.

The police learned that an airman had entered Number One Camp shortly after 1 a.m. and had later been seen cleaning his uniform. He was Arthur Heys, a 37-year-old leading aircraftman, and he confirmed that he had encountered Corporal Johns early that morning. But he denied any involvement in Winifred Evans’s murder.

Wondering why it had taken him an hour to get from the WAAF camp to his own billet, the police took his uniform away for examination. This revealed the presence of brick-dust, and there was brick rubble in the ditch where Winifred’s body had been discovered. Moreover, hair on Heys’s tunic matched samples taken from Winifred. But when his wife was visited at her home in Colne, Lancashire, her hair was also found to match the samples found on her husband’s tunic.

Heys was nevertheless charged with Winifred Evans’s murder, and before his trial his commanding officer received an anonymous letter. It purported to be from Winifred’s killer, and it said that an innocent man was being held in jail. It also described Heys as having been drunk and lost at the time in question, facts known only by Heys, Corporal Johns and the police.

This convinced the investigators that the letter was indeed from Winifred’s killer: Arthur Heys himself.

Tried and convicted, he went to the gallows at Norwich Prison on March 13th, 1945.

Said He Didn’t Know He’d Killed Her

Michael Hart was a desperate, violent man. He had a long record of brutal crime. He was under investigation in Britain for more than 40 robberies and he was wanted in Paris on an attempted murder charge. Currently he was on remand for a jewel robbery – but despite all this magistrates had given him bail.

On NOVEMBER 10th, 1975, Hart, who should have been under lock and key, put on a wig and disguise and shoved a sawn-off shotgun under his raincoat. His target for the day was the branch of Barclays Bank in Upper Ham Road, Richmond.

When he marched through the door and pointed the gun at bank clerk Angela Wooliscroft, 20, of Chessington, Surrey, she did what he told her to do, handing over £2,500 in cash. As he scooped up the money Hart squeezed the trigger of the gun. The shot shattered the toughened glass screen between them and Angela fell, mortally wounded.

Hart wasn’t caught for nearly two weeks and only then when he tried to break into a Basingstoke garage. And when he was arrested it still took four days of interviews before he confessed to killing Angela Wooliscroft.

“I knew I hit the girl because she screamed,” he said. “I only found out she was dead when I heard about it on the TV.”

At the Old Bailey on November 3rd, 1977, he retracted that confession and despite a mountain of forensic evidence against him refused to admit he had shot Angela in cold blood.

He convinced one member of the jury, but not the other 11. He was sent to prison for life, with a recommendation that he should serve a minimum of 25 years.

The Son From Hell

Sixty-eight-year-old Derek Severs and his wife Eileen, 69, had to admit to one failure in their otherwise successful lives. They had given their only son Roger a public school education, rented him a flat and spent thousands settling his debts, but he had turned out to be nothing but a sponging waster and cheat. He was now 37 and seemed unlikely ever to change.

Derek Severs, a six-foot, 20-stone retired ICI executive, lived more than comfortably with his wife in the Leicestershire village of Hambleton, overlooking Rutland Water, and but for Roger the couple’s retirement would have been idyllic. Never keeping a job for more than a few months, their son had been a barman, crop-sprayer and an ironmonger’s shop assistant. But that wasn’t what he told the women who answered his “lonely heart” advertisements. To them he was a businessman, a hospital consultant and even a gynaecologist.

He had fathered a child during his last relationship, which was with a woman whose hotel he had “helped” to run. Instead he had helped himself to the takings, leaving her thousands of pounds in debt.

Between each failed relationship he had returned to his parents to sponge off them, and his latest affair was no exception. But this time it was different. His parents had wanted a grandchild, and Eileen Severs doted on her two-year-old grandson. If Roger didn’t repair his relationship with the child’s mother, his parents told him, they would not give him another penny and they would leave everything to his son.

Roger faked a suicide attempt in an effort to change their minds, but they were adamant. They’d had enough, they told him. If he didn’t patch things up with their grandchild’s mother, it was goodbye.

So he planned their murder, making a list of 14 things he must remember to do, like cleaning-up their bathroom and Rover car afterwards.

It was in the bathroom that he attacked his mother on the evening of NOVEMBER 13th, 1993, when he found her alone in the bungalow, his father having gone out for a drink.

Roger struck her eight times with a heavy steak-mallet which fractured her skull. Then as she lay dying he awaited his father, attacking him with the mallet as he got out of his car. Ten blows later he was satisfied that his father was dead, and he loaded the bodies into the couple’s Rover, drove to a wood a few miles away and buried them.

He told conflicting stories to explain his parents’ disappearance, and their worried friends alerted the police. Detectives questioned Roger, and were dissatisfied with his answers. Searching his parents’ home, they found not only bloodstains but also his check-list. He was charged with murder, and the distinctive mud under the Rover’s wheel-arches led officers to the wood where the bodies were discovered.

At his trial Roger Severs admitted killing his parents but denied murder, claiming diminished responsibility. But the police had found him to be a pathological liar, and the jury reached the same conclusion. On December 6th, 1994, they found him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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