Date: 16 Jun 1996
Place: River Ribble, Penwortham
Janet Murgatroyd was attacked in some gardens by the bank of the River Ribble and was later found dead and naked in the river at Lower Penwortham.
It was thought that she had just walked across the Penwortham Bridge and that she was attacked soon after on the other side. It was also thought that she had been left on the river bank and had been carried away upstream by the tide to where she was found near Margaret Road in Lower Penwortham.
She died from head injuries and drowning. She had been kicked, punched and stamped and had a broken nose and jaw. It was thought that she had been kicked in the head at least three times. She also had scratch marks on the back of her leg that were consistent with her having been dragged through some undergrowth naked. She also had bruising on her face indicating that her killer had put his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming.
A man was convicted of her manslaughter, but his conviction was later quashed in 2004 on appeal. He had confessed to her murder, but it was later heard that he did so because of mental health issues that led him to believe that he had murdered her.
She had been a law student at the University of Central Lancashire and had been out shopping with some friends and had then gone on to some pubs with them. She was later seen leaving the Adelphi with a man but later separated from him. She was later seen sleeping at Fishergate near Preston Railway Station.
She had met some old friends from school later that evening but didn't stay with them.
A person reported seeing a woman in distress trying to hail a taxi-cab and it was thought to have been Janet Murgatroyd.
She was later seen running away from a man across the Penwortham Bridge by a taxi driver around 1am on 16 June 1996.
At around the same time a man and a woman were seen to be having an argument in the gardens by Broadgate and Penwortham Bridge.
Noises were heard soon after coming from the bushes and the next day some children that were playing in the gardens found a pile of blood-stained clothes. However, when the police went to collect the clothes, the jeans had vanished.
Two brothers that had been walking across the bridge said that they heard a woman moaning on the bank of the River Ribble and saw a man crouching down. The police said that they thought that the man seen crouching down by the bank of the River Ribble was Janet Murgatroyd's killer. They said that he had been wearing a light-coloured baggy shirt and said that they also saw him clamber unsteadily down the river bank.
She had been wearing a white top and jeans on the night but when she was found she was naked.
The first suspect in the case was a lorry driver from Liverpool, but he was later ruled out of the case.
The police later considered Janet Murgatroyd's ex-boyfriend as a prime suspect but later ruled him out when it was found that he had a cast-iron alibi.
A barman was also considered a suspect after he admitted to stealing her silver cross and some money from her when he met her at a taxi rank at the top of Fishergate Hill that night. It was heard that he had a £50/day heroin habit and had used the money he took from her to buy some food from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. However, he was ruled out after it was found that his food was still warm when he had got home to Clifton Street in Broadgate.
The case went cold until August 1999 when the man that confessed to her murder came forward after having a breakdown in a taxi. However, the Crown Prosecution Service didn't prosecute him until October 2002. However, the jury in that trial failed to reach a verdict. He was then retried and convicted of manslaughter in the summer of 2003 and sentenced to 8 years, but 8 months later he appealed, stating that he had made his confession because of mental health issues that led him to believe that he had killed Janet Murgatroyd.
Her jeans were never found, but some hairs were found on her top and one of her socks, but the police said that they were unable to match any DNA from them.
Janet Murgatroyd was the daughter of a former chairman of the Chorley Football Club. She was also a part-time staff member with Lancashire Police.