At 1.30 p.m. on the fog-shrouded day of DECEMBER 20th, 1961, Maureen Dutton was at her home in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, when her mother-in-law phoned to say she couldn’t baby-sit that afternoon as arranged: it was too foggy. Maureen had planned to take her two-year-old son to Childwall parish church to see the Christmas crib. Instead she stayed at home with him and his baby brother.

At 6.10 p.m. her 33-year-old husband arrived home from his work as a research chemist at Widnes. He was surprised to find the semi-detached house in darkness, and on entering the living-room he found his wife sprawled on the floor, stabbed to death. Their two-year-old was also in the room, upset but uninjured, and the baby too was unharmed.

There were no signs of a struggle or a forced entry, which suggested that Mrs. Dutton had admitted her killer to the house and that he – or she – was someone she knew.

The little boy and the baby were taken to the home of their grandmother, where a policewoman kept them company in the hope that the boy might say something revealing. He was believed to have witnessed his mother’s murder, but his speech was mostly incoherent.

An autopsy found that Maureen Dutton had received 14 stab wounds, and her assailant was believed to have forced her back into her hall and into her living-room at knife-point before launching the ferocious attack in front of her children. Nothing had been stolen, and nothing in the victim’s background indicated a motive for her murder. But there was no shortage of shadowy suspects.

Detectives learned that at 4.30 p.m. that day an agitated, breathless Irish woman had boarded a local bus bound for the city centre. She had been heard muttering, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” and telling herself that she must get to London straight away to board a plane. Witnesses said she was tall, plump and aged about 30. A second potential suspect surfaced when it was reported that on the day prior to the murder a man posing as a doctor had called at the Halewood home of a woman who, like Mrs. Dutton, had recently had a baby. The man had been plausible and had examined the woman, whose husband became suspicious when he came home and she told him of the visit. The name the man had given was not that of any doctor in the district, and the woman described him as dark, curly-haired, bespectacled and in his late 20s.

The most promising lead, however, came from several witnesses who had seen a young man walking along Thingwall Lane, where the Duttons lived, on the afternoon of the murder. He was wearing a black leather jacket, and one woman said she had seen him vomiting outside a local church. Another told the police that such a youth had called at her home shortly before 1.50 p.m. She said he had smiled and stood on her doorstep, tapping his left hand with his right one and saying nothing. She had slammed her door in his face.

The investigators also pursued another theory when they heard that the Duttons’ home had earlier been visited by members of a sect worshipping the Polynesian god Tiki. Looking into the cult, detectives discovered that during the winter solstice its followers made sacrifices to Tiki. So was Maureen Dutton the victim of a ritualistic murder? Merseyside members of the sect were interviewed, but the line of inquiry yielded nothing. The unsolved murder remains as big a mystery as it was on the day it was discovered.