Date: 10 Apr 1995
Janet Brown was gagged with packing tape, handcuffed behind her back and beaten to death at her home in the country.
She was attacked at her home on 10 April 1995 and was found dead the next day just after 8am, naked at the bottom of the stairs by a builder and his son who had arrived to carry out some work on the estate. They had heard the internal alarm going at the house and saw that the lights were still on and the curtains pulled back. The builder’s son then looked in through the window and saw Janet Brown dead through the living room lying head downwards at the bottom of the stairs.
It is thought that she was in bed when her home was burgled by someone and that she had disturbed them. The police said that they thought that she had been in bed at the time when a person had burgled her home and that she had woken up and gone to find out what the noise was. It was said that she generally slept nude and thought that when she had got up, she had put on her dressing gown before going to investigate. Her dressing gown was later found on her bedroom floor.
However, the police said that they were open minded about the motive but added that there had been no evidence of a sexual assault.
However, the police said that the house had not been ransacked and that nothing had been stolen. A police profiler who later looked at the evidence said that he thought that the murderer might have deliberately gone to the house to target both Janet Brown and her 19-year old daughter sexually, thinking that they would both have been at home alone, the husband being away in Switzerland where he worked, and as such, the killer would have had relatively intimate knowledge of the goings on at Hall Farm.
It was also suggested that the killer might have been carrying out a burglary and been recognised by Janet Brown. The police profiler’s book on the case, Picking Up The Pieces, states that it was quite likely that the murderer was local and knew that Janet Brown and her daughter lived alone and that no one would come by. The possibility that the murderer knew Janet Brown and her behaviour was said to have worked both for the motive of burglary and during which the killer had been identified by Janet Brown as well as the motive of a sexual fantasy involving Janet Brown or Janet Brown and her 19-year old daughter.
It was noted that if Janet Brown had been disturbed by a burglar that she would probably have not gone down the stairs naked, where she was found, and would have probably put on her dressing gown when she got up, which was later found on the floor in her bedroom. As such, it was thought that she might have got up, put on her dressing gown and then either encountered the intruder upstairs or downstairs and that the intruder had then taken her in to the bedroom and bound her, possibly with her hands in front, and forced her to take off her dressing gown and possibly changed her handcuffs from her front to her back. It was also noted that Janet Brown had been bound at the ankles at some point as she had cuts and abrasions there.
It was also noted that Janet Brown had no defensive wounds, indicating that she did not put up a struggle and had possibly been paralysed by fear. However, it was also thought that she might have tried to run away, possibly from the bedroom, and down the stairs where she was attacked and killed.
It was also noted that there was a man's dressing gown in the bathroom on the floor but it was not clear how it got there.
The police said that Janet Brown died from head injuries and thought that she had been hit over the head multiple times with a blunt instrument, such as a crowbar.
It was thought that the killer had cleaned up after and diluted blood was found on several light switches upstairs. It was also suggested that the killer might have had a shower, or used the shower, as the shower head appeared to be in the position for a tall person whilst Janet Brown was a short person.
It was also noted that at some point the intruder alarms, two of them, went off and that they could have been set off by Janet Brown pressing one of two panic buttons or by the killer himself. It was stated that it was probably unlikely that the killer would have stayed for long in the house with the intruder alarm going off, and with the lights on and the curtains open, noting that the loud noise was enough to drive a person out of the house in its self.
The police found that one large pane of glass in the rear patio doors to the house had been removed and the other had been smashed, and that entry was thought to have been made there. The house was relatively isolated with no close neighbours, the nearest being 200m away and was about 10m from a country lane. When considering the possibility of a burglary gone wrong, it was suggested that the killer had gone to the house, scored out a man sized piece of glass from the patio door, taped it up with all weather cellotape, which was in its own right said to be an unusual tape, and broken it out and that when he had discovered that the patio doors were double glazed and that he would have to go through the same process again he had just smashed the second pane, waking Janet Brown. However, it was noted that there seemed to be more glass outside the house then in, suggesting that the glass had been broken from the inside. It was thought possible that the killer had staged the break-in as there would have been many other ways to get into the house, such as through the other sash windows or where places where there were more shadows and more escape routes. It was also noted that the situation, with a man sized piece of glass removed from the patio door was unusual and not what would be expected in a burglary.
It was thought that Janet Brown had left work that day at 5.30pm although no one saw her leave.
Janet Brown was seen at about 6.30pm earlier in the evening driving away from her home towards Radnage by a woman that was riding a horse along Spriggs Holly Lane who knew her. The horse rider said that when she saw Janet Brown she appeared to be preoccupied by something and said that normally she would slow down as she approached but that on this occasion she didn't. She added that she didn't remember that Janet Brown was in her own car.
Her daughter said that when she called her mother at 6.40pm Janet Brown told her that she was really tired and was going to go to bed early. She said that Janet Brown asked her what time she was getting back the following day and that when her daughter told her about lunch time, Janet Brown told her that she would leave the alarm on.
Janet Brown had last spoken to one of her daughter’s friends on the telephone from her home at 8.10pm which was the last time that it is known that she talked to anyone. It was thought that she was murdered between then and 10.20pm when the outside burglar alarm at the house was heard by a passing motorist. Her husband called at 8.30pm but got no reply. They had two alarms on the house, an internal one that would ring until the power was cut, and which was still going in the morning, and an external one that would ring for 20 minutes before resetting.
The police said that the packing tape and handcuffs used to subdue Janet Brown had not been at the house beforehand and it was thought that her killer had brought them along to the house, along with other tools. It was also noted that some tape found in the bedroom was of a different type to the tape used to gag Janet Brown and that the killer had brought two rolls of tape.
The handcuffs were noted as being very standard and without any marks of identification.
The police profiler said in the book that he wrote after retiring that he thought that the killer had gone to the house at a time when he knew that Janet Brown and her daughter would have been home alone and that his plan was possibly spoiled because Janet Brown's daughter had gone off unexpectedly to a friends and was out for the night. He said that he thought that the killer had possibly been in the house for two hours and had gone there, around 8.20pm or so, when it was still early and the lights were on and people would have still been awake and then staged the break-in and then forced Janet Brown to wear some of her jewellery and play a passive role in his violent fantasy of control in which he bound her hands behind her and her feet together and that at some point she might have tried to flee, taking the key to the hand cuffs with her, meaning that the killer would not know where they were (they were found under her body). He said then that he thought that the intruder had then killed her at the bottom of the stairs, hitting her from two vantage points in a tight space in which he had changed positions, possibly hitting her a few times whilst she stood up and then again after she fell.
He also noted that there were two cars parked outside the house, and only a person with intimate knowledge of the household would have not assumed that there would have been multiple people in at the time.
It was noted that the packing tape around her head, covering her nose and mouth was tight enough and far enough up her nasal passage to have suffocated her in its own right.
The police profiler also suggested that the killer might have got some ideas from the television in which things like cutting glass out of glass panelled doors, such as patio doors was made to look easy, and had little practical experience in burgling homes. The profiler noted that most experienced burglars would create smaller holes near to the lock, score the marks, tape over them and then punch out the glass and put their hands in through the opening to open the door. The profiler also noted that when an appeal was made on the television program Crime Watch UK that a man claiming to be a professional burglar who did not give his name, said that no self-respecting burglar would have carried out a burglary like that.
Two cars were reported to have been seen in the area at the time, a brown Ford Escort and a small car such as a Fiesta or Metro, and the police said that they were interested in tracing them.
It was also noted that at the time of the murder, Janet Brown and her husband were in the process of selling the house and Janet Brown was going to move to Switzerland with her husband who worked there, and that as such, they thought that the theory that the killer had known Janet Brown was given strength as in a few months’ time, the layout and behaviour of the household would have been very different.
The police said that they were satisfied that the husband was not involved in her murder. Although it was noted that Janet Brown and her husband had not been intimate for about ten years, with the husband working in Switzerland and only coming home about once a fortnight for a day or so. It was also noted that Janet Brown had cancelled her life insurance some years earlier and had no will, although her husband said that he didn’t know that she didn’t have a will.
In 2015 the police said that they had produced a new DNA sample of an unknown person from the evidence and in 2018 they said that they had ruled out more than 300 suspects. However, the police did not reveal the source of the sample.
The police said that they thought that her murder could have been linked to the murder of Michael Meenaghan who was killed at his home nearby the year before, but no links could be proven. Michael Meenaghan's murder is also unsolved. He was a lecturer at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University. Both he and Janet Brown had both been working on medical research projects at Oxford University at the times of their murders.
Janet Brown was an Oxford University primary care research nurse and at the time of her murder had been working on examining the health of women who had undergone treatment for infertility.
Hall Farm was on an 11-acre estate.
Her husband, who was a doctor, was working away in Switzerland at the time, which was regular. Two of Janet Brown’s grown children had moved away but her third 19-year old daughter still lived at home with her but had stayed out, unexpectedly, that night with a friend.