Unsolved Murders
John Greenwood

John Greenwood

Age: 11

Sex: male

Date: 1 Aug 1980

Place: Liverpool

Source: find.galegroup.com

John Greenwood 11 and Gary Miller 11 were found dying on a council rubbish dump.

A man with a mental age of 10 was tried but aquitted.

They had been clubbed over the head and then buried beneath rubbish. When they were found they were both still alive but after going to hospital and recieving surgery they both died.

They were found by a man walking his dog. The man had seen another man on his haunches in a small hollow in the tip and after the man walked away the dog walker went to investigate and found the boys. The police said that they boys were well hidden beneath debri and would not have otherwise been easy to find.

They vanished after John Greenwood went round to Gary Miller's house on Raleigh Avenue, Whiston after tea to go out and play.

Police said that they were looking a man wearing a dark brown jacket, dark trousers, and with a swept back Ronald Reagan style haircut between 30-35 years of age and about 5ft 8in with a normal build.

The tip itself was bounded by the M57 motorway and two streets and was two miles square. Part of it was recently covered by soil and it was used by people scavenging through the rubbish.

The 999 call was recieved by the Ambulance Control Room at 19.38 hours and at 1939 the call was past on to Whiston Ambulance Depot and an ambulance with two ambulance men went at once to Colgate Lane.

They were found under a mattress on top of each other. John Greenwood was lying face down on the ground and Gary Miller was lying on top of John Greenwood on his back facing up.They both had injuries to the back of their head and were covered in blood and were having difficulty breathing. an ambulance was called but it had some diffuculty getting into the tip because the gates were locked but after two ploicemen arrived the padlock was fored and the ambulance drove up to the place were the boy were found.

They were taken to Whiton Hospital but were not there for long and at 8pm were transferred to Walton Hospital Neurological Block in seperateambulances with seperate medical teams.

John Greenwood died at 2.45am the next morning. Gary Miller died a fewdays later at 2.30pm on the afternoon of 20 August.

John Greenwood died from cerebral laceration and haemorrhage due to fractures of the skull. External inuries were sustained to the head, face and neck with bruising of the scalp and gross bleeding to the back of the head and a bruised and swollen left eye. His face, eyeblls, gums and the insides of his lips all had multiple pin head sized haemorrhages of asphyxial type.

Gary Miller also died from cerebral laceration and haemorrhage due to fractures of the skull and also had various head injuries. He also had various head injuries and the posterior ofhis skull was fractured and both frontal and temporal lobes were extensively bruised with a layer of blood over the surface of the brain.

In both caese the doctor saud that the injuries to the back of the skull were more consistent with their heads being banged on the ground rather than by blows delivered with a weapon.

Neither of the boys had any signs of having been sexually asaulted.

The man who was tried for their murders was questioned at Huyton Police Station at 8.55pm on Sunday 17 August 1980. when he was asked were he was on the previous evening, Saturday 16 Sugust 1980 he said that he was at a friends house playing cards between 6-8pm. When the police checked with the friend they found that he had been out and the man then said 'Oh, I remember now, his mum came to the door and said he'd gone to his nans' and the police then told him that that was not true either because the mother had also been out and he said 'Oh yes, I knocked at his door but nobody answered, so I went'. The police then asked him what he did next and he said he went to look in a shoe shop. The police then asked him what else he did and he said nothing. The police then asked him if he looked in the shoeshop for two hours and the man said 'Yes'. When asked if he wa sure he said that he met two lads. when asked who they were he said he didn't know but said that they were about 8-9 years old. the police then asked what they talked about and he said the football.

The police then asked if he fell out with the lads and the man said he did saying that they had smashed some bottles. They then asked him where they fell out and he said that it was on the field near some garages. the police then asked if that was all they fell out about and the man said 'Yes, they shouldn't have smashed them'. the policeman then asked if he told them off and he said that he did and the police then asked what happened next and the man said that 'One of them gave me the 'F' word'. The police then confirmed that it was on the football field and that it was flat and then asked if he had a fight with the boys and he said he did saying 'I jut pushed them over. The police asked him if that was all he did and he said 'Yes'. The police then asked what happened after he pushed them over and the man said 'They fell down'. The police aske dwhere they fell down and he said 'On the grass'.

The police then asked what the grass was like and he said it was about ankle/calf deep. THe police then asked him if there was anything else in the grass and he said that there were some tin cans and paper bags and then said 'There wasn't a mattress'. THe police then said to him 'Listen carefully I am going to ask you some questions now and you don't have to talk to me anymore if you don't  want to because I can repeat what you say in court' and the man said 'It's okay'. THe policeman then said 'Why did you say there wasn't a mattress?' and the man said 'Becaue there wasn't'. the police then said 'But what made you think about a mattress?' and the man said he didn't know. The poice then asked him if anybody had talked to him about a mattress and the man aid 'No'. The police then said There was a mattress wasn'y there' and the man replied 'Yes'.

The man said that the mattress was by the side of where he pushed the lads over. THe police then asked what else he did after he pushed them over and the man said 'Jut hit them with my hand, not punching, just like that (indicating a palm slap)'. The police then asked what happened and he said nothin becaue he saw a man coming with his dog and walked away.

The police then asked if he had hit them on the floor and he said that he hadn't and that he had just pushed them. They then asked if he did anything with the mattress before he walked away and the man said that he didn't. The police asked if he was sure and asked if he picked it up and he said 'No I never'. The police then asked him to tell them about the bottles nd the man said that that he had taken them to the off licence but they wouldn't have them and then he met the two boys and said that they wanted to smashed them and then they used the 'F' word at him. The police asked if he he used the 'F' word and the man said no.they asked him if it made him angry and he said that it did. They then asked if that was why he had hit them and he said that it was.

The police then asked if he was sure that he didn't know their namesand he said that he didn't know. they then asked him about the mattressand he told them that there was one near his house by the curb and that it was blue and silver. The police said that it wasnt the same one that was in the field and the man said it wasn't. The police then asked him why he had mentioned the mattress and he said he didn't know. They then asked if it was because he had done something with it and he asid that he hadn't.

They had a 5 minute break and when they started interviewing the man again they asked him if he was frightened about something and the man said 'Yes' and when asked what he said that he was ashamed and that he had heard that john Greenwood had been killed and that someone had said that he had done it. When the police asked how he knew about John Greenwood he said that he had heard it on the radio and said that the milkman had read it out to him from the paper and said that he could have done it. When the police asked why someone would say somthing like that the man said 'For a joke I think'. The policeman then asked the man 'Did you do it?' and the man replied 'No'.

The policeman then asked if it was John that he had hit in the field and the man said that it wasn't. The police then asked if he knew the other boys name and he said that it was 'Millar'. The police then asked if he had seen them that night and the man said that he hadn't. The police then asked him if he really had a fight in the field and he said 'I only pushed them over'. The policeman then asked 'Do you think you hurt anybody?' and he replied 'No'. The police then asked if he was sure and he said 'No, i might have'.

The interview was then terminated at 12.30am. At 1.30am they started to interview him again and asked him about the boys he had hit. The police pointed out that if he was telling the truth that the boy's would be easy to find and the man said 'Yes'. The police then asked if he was telling the truth and he replied 'I did hit two boys' and the police asked if they were the boys found on the tip and he said 'One was John Greedwood'. The police then asked 'Do you mean you jit John Greedwood because he broke a bottle' and the man said 'No, because John and his friend made fun of me'. The police asked in what way and the man said 'I dont like anyone who swears at me, they were saying that I was an 'F' bastard. I told them I'm not a bastard because I have a mother and a father'. The police then asked him what he did and the man said that he pushed them down about 5 times but he didn't mean to hurt them..The police asked what happened next and the man said 'They got up at first and i pushed them down again. I kept pushing them and they didnt get up again'. THe police then asked if he hit them with anything and the man said 'No, I just kept banging them back on the ground'. The police asked him what he did then and he said 'I listened to their hearts' the police asked if he did anything else and he said 'Yes, I put a piece of string round john greenwood's neck and pulled it tight'. The police asked if he did the same to the other boy and he said that he didnt as he thought that he was already dead.' they asked him where they string came from and he said that he found  it on the tip but that he later threw it by the bridge when he climbed over the fence. When the police asked if whether he realised that john Greenwood had died because of what he had done the man said 'Yes, I'm sorry'. He was then asked if he wouldlike tomakea statement and then ma said he would but that he couldn't write.

After the man's father was sent for and when he arrived he said to him 'It was me that done the two lads on the tip' and the father replied 'Oh no. This must be victimisation, they're picking onyou'. The man then got offof hi chair and grabbed his fathers arm and said ''No dad, no, I did do it'. they father was then told that his son wanted to make a written statement that that it would be made in his presence and dictated by the man and the father said that that was very fair.

In his statement he said:

At about six oclock on the day in question, I went down to Huyton tip to look for some bike parts, when I got there I couldn't find none, I came back and I seen John greenwood, I knew John from Scouts. I saw him on the tip so I went over to talk to him, he was with his mate. I didn't know his mate. Some more boys came over and asked me did I know where there was any bike parts. I said I think I know where there is some. I went with them and there was none their when we got there, so we came back and they went away. There there was only me, John and his mate their and they started to call me names John and his mate. They started swearing at me. I then started to hit them. They carried on calling me the F word and calling me names. So I started to hit them again. Then I thought one of them was dead, he wasn't breathing. Then I listened to his heart, then I got a piece of rope and put it around his neck. I thought the other one was dead, he wasn't breathing he was unconscious. The rope I had put around one of the lads neck, I threw away near the railings. John's mate said I was knocking a married woman off. When I hit them they fell on a mattress. When it was all over I left the mattress there, it was near them. I hope the Scout Master do'snt find out. When I left the boys I climbed over the railings and went through a tunnel and home.

The man didn't have any injuries on him other than an 1/8in cut on one of his knuckles.

They later went to the bridge mentioned by the man and found a cord beneath the railway line close to Pottery Lane, Wjiston.

The police also went to his home and took all of his clothes for examination.

The man said that he had left hi house at 6pm and when asked how he knew he had aid that he had had his watch on and had looked at it. His father said that he had got home at 8.30pm. At Hostock Close,Whiston there was a 3 faced clock afixed to the wall of some flats in Hotock Close. when the correct time was 1.30pm the face of the clock facing down Windy Arbor Road showed the time of 1pm whilt the face of the clock that faced the Horeshoe Hotel showed the correct time of 10.30pm and the face that looked down Greenes Road said 1.40pm.

The man was tried but acquitted. Hanard inferrs that he was acquiited because he had made a confession without his parents being present even though he had a mental age of 10. it also notes that legilation was requested to introduce legislation to make mandatory upon the police the present guidelines dealing with the interviewing of mentally subnormal suspected persons.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.
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see "Milkman is cleared of killing boys." Times [London, England] 12 May 1981: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 14 Aug. 2014.

see National Archives - J 222/141

see Google News

see Hansard

see Facebook

see BBC Whiston boys' murder: New leads in 1980 cold case investigation