Unsolved Murders

Debbie Linsley

Age: 26

Sex: female

Date: 23 Mar 1988

Place: Victoria Station, London

Debbie Linsley was found dead in a train compartment at Victoria Station on 23 March 1988 at about 2.50pm.

She had been attacked in an old-fashioned train compartment and stabbed at least eleven times to the face, neck and abdomen with at least five stab wounds to the heart. The police said that they thought that she had been attacked with a heavily bladed knife between five and seven-and-a-half inches long. She was found to have defensive injuries indicating that that she had fought back whilst being attacked.

The murder weapon was never found. The police later said that they thought that the knife could be described as a good quality kitchen knife and said that they thought that the murder would have been premeditated as it was unlikely that anyone would have found such a knife in a carriage and that the murderer probably left home with the weapon.

Debbie Linsley was from Bromley but lived and worked in Edinburgh as a hotel receptionist/manager but had come back down to London to attend a hotel management course in Hertfordshire and had taken some additional time off to see some relatives in order to help with preparations for her brother's wedding and to have a bridesmaids dress fitted, which was planned for a few weeks later. She had got on a 2.18pm train from Orpington to Victoria Station in London, boarding at Petts Wood station after being dropped off by her brother there at about 2pm in order to look around the Sherlock Holmes Hotel in Baker Street, London where she had been offered a job by the manager of the hotel after meeting him at the course she had just been on.

There were no more sightings of Debbie Linsley after her brother dropped her off although it was determined that she had bought her train ticket at 2.04pm.

Debbie Linsley had been wearing a blue skirt, white blouse and black leather jacket.

The train had consisted of a mixture of carriages, including come that had common corridors, allowing access from one compartment to another, as well as the older style compartment carriages to which access to the compartments was only possible when the train was at the station. Her mother said however, that Debbie Linsley generally knew the dangers of a closed compartment style carriage and said that when they were travelling together Debbie Linsley was always mindful of getting into an open style carriage. However, it was noted that Debbie Linsley was a smoker and that the old style carriage was the only carriage that was not a no-smoking carriage and that that was probably why she had got in. The compartment that she had got into was at the front of the second carriage.

It was suggested that when Debbie Linsley had got into the compartment that there might have been other female passengers in it, making her feel safer, but that they might have at some point later got out.

The police said that they thought that Debbie Linsley had had at least one cigarette whilst in the compartment and that she had also started to eat one of her sandwiches.

They said that there was nothing to indicate that she had been sexually assaulted although added that rape may have been the initial motive of her attacker.

When she was found she still had her belongings with her which ruled out robbery. She had her purse, jewellery and £5 that her brother had just given her.

A passenger in an adjacent compartment, an 18-year-old French au pair, said that she heard screams that lasted for about two minutes coming from the compartment that Debbie Linsley had been in shortly after the train left Brixton railway station. She was later criticised by the coroner at Debbie Linsley's inquest for not pulling the communication cord, but she said that she had been 'glued to her seat' and too shocked to move or pull the communication cord but had contacted the police after she had heard of the murder.

She said, 'I had never heard such screams. They stopped for about five seconds and started again. She called out as if for help. They were screams of fear and very, very loud. I wanted to use the alarm but I remained glued to my seat'.

She later followed a man that got out of the last compartment of the first carriage and a photofit was released of him, but he was never traced.

The train had stopped at Bickley, Bromley South, Shortlands, Beckenham Junction, Kent House, Penge East, Sydenham Hill, West Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton. The journey would have taken only 31 minutes.

Relevant train times are:

  • Petts Wood: 2.18pm.
  • Penge East: (five stops from Victoria) 2.34pm. Here a man was seen by a woman hurriedly changing compartments on the train and is was thought that he might have got into Debbie Linsley's compartment and might have been the murderer.
  • Brixton: 2.43pm. French au pair hears screaming.
  • Victoria: 2.49pm. French au pair said that when she got out at Victoria she saw a man with red hair getting out of the compartment next to the one that Debbie Linsley had been in. She said that she followed the man out of the platform but lost sight of him in the concourse.
  • Victoria: 2.50pm. Debbie Linsley's body was found by a porter who was checking each compartment and carriage.

It was thought that there had been about 70 passengers that had used the train but only the French au pair had heard anything although some later reported having heard a commotion but didn't investigate. The ticket collectors at the platform said that between 30 to 40 people got off the train at Victoria but the police said that only 26 of them had been accounted for. The police added that they thought that there would have been at least 20 other people that had been on the train that had not as yet come forward.

The Daily Mirror published a set of times that the train would have arrived at each of the stations in its newspaper on Friday 25 March 1988, stating that the train would stop for no more than 20 to 30 seconds at each stop:

  • Depart Orpington: 2.16pm.
  • Petts Wood: 2.18pm.
  • Bickley: 2.22pm.
  • Bromley South: 2.25pm.
  • Shortlands: 2.27pm.
  • Beckenham Junction: 2.30pm.
  • Kent House: 2.32pm.
  • Penge East: 2.34pm.
  • Sydenham Hill: 2.37pm.
  • West Dulwich: 2.41pm.
  • Herne Hill: 2.41pm.
  • Brixton: 2.43pm.
  • Victoria: 2.51pm.

The newspaper noted that the longest time between stations was eight minutes between Brixton and Victoria and that her murderer might have killed her in the half-mile-long tunnel between Penge East and Sydenham Hill.

When the police searched the compartment they found that Debbie Linsley had injured her attacker whose blood it was thought was found there. It was also noted that a man was seen walking away from platform two with blood and an injury on his face which was thought might have been caused by Debbie Linsley as she defended herself. However, the police have not as yet been able to match the DNA from the blood samples with anyone. The police said that they were still hopeful that they could trace the man's DNA through familial DNA searches.

During their investigation the police took over 1,200 statements and ruled out over 650 potential suspects.

The police released details of several people that they were trying to trace:

  • A short stocky man that was seen jumping from the train at Victoria.
  • The man that the French au pair saw getting out of the last compartment of the first carriage (Debbie Linsley had been in the first compartment of the second carriage). He was described as being aged about 40, well built, muscular rather than fat, reddish brown hair and with a moustache with that followed the contour of his lips, and wearing a light wind cheater and grey trousers. A photofit was released of him.
  • A man was seen walking away from platform two at Victoria with blood and a cut on his face about ten minutes after the train pulled in. A man was seen a while later in the gentleman's toilets at Victoria station cleaning a cut on his head. It was thought that he was not the same person that the French au pair had seen getting off the train. He was described as being in his late 20s, 5ft 5in tall, with long ash-blond hair and with scratches on his left cheek. However, the police noted that there had been a football match on and that there had been several fights and that he could well have been involved in those and not Debbie Linsley's murder.
  • A man was seen leaving one of the compartment on the train at Penge East and to then get back on board, possibly into the compartment that Debbie Linsley had been in. He was described as being aged about 30 years, with a stocky build, dirty blond hair, a scruffy appearance and wearing a pale brown jacket.
  • A man was seen staring at women getting on the train at Orpington.

The police said that it was possible that the attack had started off as an attempted rape although they said that there was no evidence of any sexual attack about her body.

It was noted that Debbie Linsley had been security conscious and used to carry a rape whistle with her on her keyring.

The police also said that they thought that Debbie Linsley was not her killers first victim and that he had probably attacked women before. It was said that the ferocity of the injuries indicated that her attacker had attacked other people. A detective on the case said that he thought that it was puzzling that whilst they had the murderers DNA and that he was probably a repeat violent offender, that they had not been able to trace him.

Debbie Linsley had had a boyfriend in Scotland.

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