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Unsolved Murders

Diana Suttey

Age: 36

Sex: female

Date: 7 Sep 1956

Place: Green Lane, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead

Diana Suttey was found partly naked and dead in some bushes in Green Lane, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead on Friday 7 September 1956.

She was found by three boys shortly after they had seen a man wearing kid gloves dumping her body there.

She had been strangled with a pink and white scarf and it was thought that she had been dumped where she was found by someone in a motor car. The scarf was said to have been tied tightly around her neck.

The police said that they thought that sex was the motive for her murder and that her murderer was a sex maniac and the doctor said that he thought that she had been murdered only a very short time before her body was discovered.

The police also suggested that Diana Suttey had been murdered by a man that she had met secretly on several occasions in the Hemel Hempstead area and that he had decided to kill her after a quarrel, possibly over another lover.

It was noted that many men had figured in her life and it was stated in later accounts of the crime that Diana Suttey had in fact been a prostitute although the initial newspaper reports did not mention that.

The suspect car was seen by a number of people and was described as being a medium to light-blue ten horse power saloon car which was within three years old and with the registration number SUU 138. However, the registration number turned out to be either fake, as it was found to match an electric three-wheeled milk float in London, or to have been remembered incorrectly. The police reported that they had checked thousands of registration numbers similar to SUU 138 in the hunt for the murderer, but without success. The police said that they were satisfied that the electric milk float had not been in the Hemel Hempstead area on 7 September 1956.

It was reported that the police were searching for light-coloured cars with the registration 138 or a combination of that and that their search took them as far as Aberdeen and that owners of such cars were being invited to asked, 'Where were you on the night of September 7, 1956?'.

The car was seen in Green Lane at about 3pm on Friday 7 September 1956 and it was thought that Diana Suttey had been strangled somewhere along the lane which was about three miles long, before her body was dumped in the bushes.

The police said that they believed that the car that they were searching for might have been shut away in a private garage, its owner being too frightened to take it out and they appealed to people that might have noticed that their neighbours car might have been suddenly taken off the road and left in a garage.

It was reported that many hundreds of people were interviewed in the search for the car and a car identity parade with 40 small cars was held in which witnesses went about examining cars whilst detectives noted their observations. It was reported that the car was thought to have been a Standard 10, but that one witness had said that they thought that it was a Morris Minor and another a Hillman Minx. It was said that the descriptions of the car had only tallied in one detail and that was that the car had been a pastel shade of blue or grey. Makes of cars included in the car identity parade had included Ford, Austin, Hillman, Standard and Morris.

It was reported on 1 October 1956 that the police had so far checked 30,000 cars in their investigation.

On 6 October 1956 it was reported that the owners of 150,000 similar vehicles had been interviewed in what was described as a vast car-checking operation. It was additionally noted that if the operation was ever completed that half a million cars would have been checked.

The car was seen by several people:

  • Woman walking her dog and two children.
  • Van driver caused the car to reverse in the lane.
  • Farmer in his Landrover.
  • Two boys saw a man and a woman in the back of a car.
  • Three boys saw a man dumping Diana Suttey's body.

The woman, a cowman's wife, who had lived in Hog End Lane, Leverstock Green, had been walking her dog, called Susan, accompanied by her two children, a 3-year-old girl and a 15-month-old boy, along Hogend Lane, said that her dog, which had been running about, had forced a car to stop and said that when she looked at the car she saw that there were a man and woman in it and it was thought that the woman had been Diana Suttey. She said that she tried to apologise to the man but that he just drove off. She said that the man had looked very cross and that she noticed that the woman's mouth appeared to be twisted and that she seemed to turn her face away. It was also said that she had caused the car to stop by waving it down because there was a deep puddle in the road at that point.

It was reported that the woman later looked through books of photographs of sex maniacs and criminals with records of violence at Scotland Yard in what was described as their 'Rogue's Gallery' to see if she recognised anyone, but with no luck.

The van driver, who was from Cumberland Close in Pimlico, Leverstock Green who was employed by a wholesale tobacconist, said that he had caused the driver of the suspect car to reverse into the side of the same lane so that his van could pass. He said that he had been driving along the lane but that because of its narrowness his van and the car had had to stop and that the car, which he said had a man and woman in it had had to reverse to allow him to pass. He said, 'The man didn't seem to like having to reverse, and he appeared annoyed. He reversed sharply back and then drove away quite fast'. He added that when he drove by he asked the driver of the car if he was 'OK' and said that the man replied, 'I am all right' but that the woman didn't speak. He said the time that he saw the car would have been about 2.55pm. It was noted that Diana Suttey's body was found only a few minutes’ drive from where the van driver had encountered the car.

Diana Suttey and the man were seen soon after by a farmer as he drove his Landrover out of the gate that the car had pulled into. He said that he remembered seeing the woman in the car in Hogend Lane, but said that he didn't see the driver.

The two boys were reported to have seen a man and a woman in the back seat of a car at about 3pm in the same gateway that the farmer had seen them in a short time before the murder was discovered, about ten minutes. They had been on a cycling tour and had gone to the police to say that they had seen the car about two miles away from where Diana Suttey's body was later found.

The three boys said that they saw the man, who they described as being about 50-years-old and wearing kid gloves, lifting her body out of a car and hiding her body in Greenway Lane, at which time it was thought to have been 3.15pm. It was heard that after the man drove away in the car that the three boys went to investigate what the man had dumped and found Diana Suttey's body and informed the police. One of the other boys said, 'We cycled on a little, then hid our cycles and crept back. We saw the man go back into his car and drive off. We investigated and saw a pair of legs sticking from under the coat'. He had entered a description of the man in his notebook diary including a description of the man, the car's licence number and the time. Part of the account that he wrote down read, 'The man came out of the bushes and shut the back door. Then he opened the front door and brought out something round that was glittering in the sun. He placed this object on the opposite side of the road and when he came out from the bushes he did not have it with him.'. The boy later explained that the thing that had glittered was about six inches in diameter and could have been a bag. Regarding the man driving off in the car, the boy said, 'We all noticed it and kept it in our heads'.

A description of the man that Diana Suttey was thought to have been last seen with was later given out by the police:

  • Age: 50-55.
  • Height: 5ft 8in, (medium).
  • Thick Set.
  • Stern oval face, long thin mouth and a board forehead, sunburnt.
  • Dark-brown well-greased hair, parted on right. Grey at the sides and temples.
  • Wearing a dark suit (or navy blue pin-striped suit).
  • Wearing horn rimmed spectacles, also described as tortoiseshell glasses with heavy pebble type lenses.
  • Wearing white kid gloves.
  • Generally of Latin appearance.

An artist’s impression of the man was also published in the newspapers and it was reported on 6 October 1956 that it would be shown to 60,000 police officers throughout Britain. It was said that the sketch had been prepared by a well-known artist who had asked that his identity be kept secret. The sketch was photographed for use in the Police Gazette and was published with a bold caption that read, 'Do you know anyone who looks like this?' and then followed, 'If so, report to your headquarters at once, and give the identity. If you see anyone like this, found out who they are and where they live'.

The police said that they thought that the man had been driving a stolen car and that he had been wearing gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints.

A doctor that was called out soon after her body was discovered said that Diana Suttey had died within three hours of his examination and that her death was due to asphyxiation due to strangulation by manipulation.

Her black plastic type handbag and her left shoe were never found. Diana Suttey's handbag was thought to have contained letters addressed to her in three names:

  • Diana Morgan (her maiden name).
  • Diana Ledger (her name by her first marriage).
  • Diana Suttey (her name by her second marriage).

The police used bill-hooks and rakes to search the area around where her body was found but they never found her handbag. On 13 September 1956 it was reported that the police searched a large pit in which rubbish had been dumped by the side of a grassy space close to where it was thought Diana Suttey and the man had been seen. They were said to have made a minute search of the rubbish but to have found no trace of the black handbag.

The police said that they thought that Diana Suttey had been earlier given a genuine chance lift along Watling Street near Redbourn and appealed for driver of the car that had given her the lift to come forward. The car was said to have been a dual-tone Rover car and she was thought to have been picked up by it outside a transport cafe, Crow’s Nest Cafe, between Redbourn and Markyate on the A5 on the Friday 19 September 1956 at about 2.30pm. The proprietor of the Crow’s Nest Cafe said that she knew Diana Suttey and it was said that she had seen her about 45 minutes before she was murdered.

The police said that they were certain that the car that Diana Suttey was thought to have got into near Redbourn was not the one that she was seen in in Hog End Lane. It was said that the man had given Diana Suttey a lift from the A5 and dropped her off in a layby near Hog Lane End down which she went some minutes before she was murdered.

The police said that they were trying to piece together Diana Suttey's last movements and were carrying out inquiries at transport cafes and petrol stations along the trunk roads in the area.

The woman that worked at the Crow’s Nest Cafe just outside of Markyate said that Diana Suttey had been a regular customer. She said, 'She was laughing as I served her a cup of tea on Friday. She told me she had won £4 at the dogs. We had a little gossip and played the juke-box. Then she left'.

On 15 September 1956 it was reported that the police sealed the main roads from London to the north in a dramatic hunt in four counties for the murderer. They were reported as having patrolled trunk roads in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, stopping hundreds of motorists in their hunt. It was reported that they were showing motorists a photograph and asking them three questions:

  1. Have you seen this woman before?
  2. Have you ever given her a lift?
  3. Have you seen her with a foreign-looking man?

It was reported that the operation had involved 500 policemen, including 100 patrol car men and 100 detectives all linked by radio.

On 16 September 1956 the Sunday Mirror detailed six clues for 'pic' detectives in the murder:

  • 2.15pm: Mrs Suttey walks from the cafe and is given the first car lift after having what was described as her last cup of tea. It was said that after leaving the Crow’s Nest Cafe that she had walked alone to the bus-stop near the cafe on the A5 road at Markyate.
  • 2.30pm: Five miles away, along the road to London, she leaves the car. It was noted as being a warm sunny day.
  • 2.45pm: Car no. 2 picks her up and then turns into lovers' lane, otherwise known as Hogend Lane.
  • 2.50pm: The car slows down as it passes the woman with the dog and the puddle. It was noted that the woman had flagged the car down as it approached her at speed because there was a deep puddle in the lane. It was additionally noted that a hundred yards farther up the lane the car met the van and reversed into a farm gateway to allow to pass.
  • 3pm: What two boys saw, murder being committed in the rear seat of the parked saloon.
  • 3.15pm: What three boys saw, the murderer dumping the body.

On 19 September 1956 an appeal was put out in a country wide search for an Irish woman who disappeared from a hospital in Newcastle. It was heard that the woman had told nurses that she had known Diana Suttey. She had been admitted to the hospital after collapsing in the street and had said that she had no fixed abode and came from Belfast. The police said that they thought that the woman might have been a close friend of Diana Suttey and that one theory that they had was that the woman might have known Diana Suttey's murderer and had disappeared because she feared the man. The woman became known as the 'Frightened Witness', but she was traced the following day in Hertfordshire but was unable to help the police.

On 18 October 1956 it was reported that the British Dental Journal had published three photographs which reconstructed the probable formation of some of the teeth of the man that they wanted to interview, which included natural and artificial teeth, or both. It was said that the police had earlier made an appeal to dentists asking, 'Can you make a reconstruction of the probable formation of a man's teeth from marks on a body?', after which a set of dentures based on the findings was made and the resulting photographs published. in the journal. The journal was the publication of the British Dental Association. It was noted that the description emphasised that the dentition was probably not confined to the teeth illustrated in front, side and full views and added that the chief constable of Hertfordshire would greatly appreciate any information as to the identity of any middle-aged man having a similar dental formation. Assurance was further given stating that any information given would be treated as confidential and that the source would not be disclosed by the police.

It was said to have been the first case of its kind where the police had used teeth marks to try to identify a murderer. A later case in 1971 similarly used dental evidence in the successful conviction of Ronald Bennell for the sex murder of Linda Stewart.

Diana Suttey had lived in Pinner Road, Harrow and had been a nurse and married twice.

Her second husband, who lived in Paulham Road in Kenton, Middlesex, said that they had married on 24 December 1955 and that they had lived together until 3 June 1956 and that he last saw her on 25 August 1956. He was described as a slight, pale man, aged 28 and it was said that he had met her by chance in a tobacconist's shop. When he was interviewed following Diana Suttey's murder, he said, 'I fell in love with her right away. She was an attractive woman and during our courtship she never showed any signs of the bad temper I knew after we married'. He said that they were married at a register office after some opposition from his family. He said, 'I never knew why she was divorced from her previous husband'. He said that on 3 June 1956 that she came home drunk late at night and swore at him for being a cripple and there was an argument and a blow was struck after which he returned to his family and she returned to hers. He said that he later met her on 25 August 1956 when they went out for drinks together but they argued and he told her that he didn't want to see her again and that that was the last time that he saw her alive.

Diana Suttey's inquest concluded on Tuesday 12 February 1957 at Hemel Hempstead with a verdict of murder by a person or persons unknown.

Diana Suttey's murder was later compared to that of Jean Townsend who was murdered in Ruislip in September 1954 after similarities in the two murders were highlighted, with both women having been dumped in a lane near Hemel Hempstead. It was also noted that Diana Suttey's murder took place almost two years exactly after Jean Townsend's, there being only seven days difference.

Similarities between Diana Suttey and Jean Townsend's murders also included:

  • Both women were strangled with their own scarves.
  • Both women's bodies were dumped from a car.
  • Their handbags, shoes and other personal belongings were placed or thrown beside their bodies.
  • Jean Townsend came from Ruislip whilst Diana Suttey came from Harrow, the two places being only four miles apart.
  • In both cases it was suggested that the girls had known their killers and accepted lifts from them.

Other cases that were reported being connected with the murder of Jean Townsend, and by definition, Diana Suttey included:

  • Hellen Carline: Pimlico, London on 6 September 1954.
  • Muriel Maitland: Cranford Woods, Heathrow in 1957.
  • Gloria Booth: Ruislip in June 1971.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see find.galegroup.com

see National Archives - MEPO 2/10031, MEPO 2/10032, MEPO 2/10033, MEPO 2/10034, MEPO 2/10035, MEPO 2/10036, MEPO 2/10037, MEPO 2/10038

see OUR CORRESPONDENT. "Police Issue 'Portrait' In Murder Case." Times [London, England] 6 Oct. 1956: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 11 September 1956

see Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 19 September 1956

see Daily Herald - Saturday 06 October 1956

see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 12 February 1957

see Halifax Evening Courier - Monday 11 February 1957

see Leicester Evening Mail - Thursday 27 September 1956

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 11 September 1956

see Daily Herald - Monday 10 September 1956

see Daily Mirror - Wednesday 12 September 1956

see Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 10 September 1956

see Belfast Telegraph - Friday 14 September 1956

see Western Mail - Thursday 18 October 1956

see Sunday Mirror - Sunday 16 September 1956

see Western Mail - Thursday 13 September 1956

see Daily Mirror - Monday 01 October 1956

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 15 September 1956

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 11 September 1956

see Daily Mirror - Monday 10 September 1956

see Daily Herald - Thursday 20 September 1956

see Shields Daily News - Friday 14 September 1956

see Bradford Observer - Monday 10 September 1956

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Wednesday 19 September 1956

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 02 October 1956

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 18 October 1956

see Belfast News-Letter - Monday 17 September 1956

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 10 September 1956