Date: 28 Dec 1997
Place: Ely, Cambridgeshire
Deborah Steel went missing on 28 December 1997. She was the landlady of the Royal Standard pub in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
Three men were arrested during the investigation, but no charges were made.
She was last seen at 1am leaving the Royal Standard pub in Forehill, shortly after it was said she had just had an argument. However, her disappearance was not classified as a murder case until September 2014. When her home was searched Deborah Steel's mobile phone, keys and medication were found left there along with some distinctive jewellery that she always wore. It was said that she only took her jewellery off when she went to sleep and that a part of that included her mother's engagement ring which she wore on a gold chain around her neck and never went anywhere without.
The police also found a map with some underground maps marked on it but it was thought by people that knew Deborah Steel that she would not have taken a bus or train because she suffered from anxiety issues and panic attacks. It was also noted that she couldn't drive.
Two wine glasses were also found at her house which were thought to have been recently used and the police said that it would have been out of character for Deborah Steel to have left the glasses out and to have not washed them up and tidied up after herself.
It was also found that some of her clothes and a sports bag were also missing from her home.
It was said that she had worked the late shift at the pub and that it was planned that she would stay overnight at the pub, but she didn't. Her partner, who stayed at the pub, said that when he woke up the next morning he found that Deborah Steel wasn't there and that her bed had not been slept in.
A man was later arrested for her murder in November 2014 and in February 2015 the Royal Standard pub was searched and a patio dug up. An excavation was also carried out at her home in Longfields. However, the man was later released without charge in June 2015. Two other men who were arrested during the investigation were also released in January 2015.
It was thought that she had then taken a taxi to her home in Longfields, Ely, a mile away where she was then murdered. The police said that when she left the pub it would have been unlikely that she would have walked all the way home. The police said that they thought that she had walked from the pub to the Almonry restaurant nearby where she would have got a taxi, probably from a local taxi driver that she knew
She had a partner at the time, however, he said that he had thought that Deborah Steel had gone to London to visit some friends without telling him as she had done before and her disappearance was not reported for several days.
It was said that Deborah Steel had been doing well and had money in the bank and owned properties. It was also said that she would have been seeing pound signs through the pub at that time of year.
Deborah Steel's half-sister, who ran another pub, said that Deborah Steel had also secured finance for a new catering business. She also said that she last spoke to Deborah Steel a few days before Christmas but that they didn't speak much on Christmas day as they were both so busy. However, she said that they had made plans for Deborah Steel to come and visit her between Christmas and New Year, saying that either a friend was going to pick her up to come and stay with her or she was going to pick her up herself.
The police said 'If you live in the UK you leave a footprint somewhere, it's very difficult to disappear. But there is no sign that Debbie is alive. She had plans in life, she had aspirations. I really believe that she was murdered, and her body concealed somewhere, within easy travelling distance of Ely'. The police also said, 'The evidence gathered strongly suggests that she was picked up by a local taxi driver that she knew well. I believe Deborah was murdered and I am convinced the answers to what happened to her lie in Ely'.
In December 2017 the police appealed for the taxi driver that took her home after work to come forward so that they could have a proper conversation with them.
During their investigation the police also said that they questioned a prisoner who was in HMP Whitemoor about Deborah Steel's disappearance after it was said that he claimed to have killed a woman in East Anglia and buried her body in a shallow grave. He gave a description that matched Deborah Steel as the woman that he had killed but later withdrew his claim. He described the location that he had buried the body in as being an unsurfaced road in a predominantly rural area which was two cars wide and that had a solid white line down the middle. He said that there had been a 5ft hedge on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other.
Deborah Steel was described as being 5ft 6in tall, of medium build, with ash blonde hair, brown eyes and with a fair complexion. When she was last seen she was wearing brown trousers, brown boots and a dark-coloured anorak type raincoat.