Date: 23 Dec 1992
Johanna Young was sexually assaulted and murdered in a wood in a field about a mile from her home.
Two people were arrested for her murder in 2014, but the police said that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them. Two or three other people were also arrested earlier on in the investigation, but no charges were made.
Johanna Young left her home on the Wednesday night, 23 December 1992 at about 7.30pm and was last seen at about 8.30pm on Watton High Street. Her partially-clothed body was found face down in a waterlogged pit in the woods in the field near Griston Road in Watton on 26 December 1992 by a dog walker.
When she was found she was covered in scratches and was determined to have died from drowning and a fractured skull.
The pit was near to a local lover's lane.
It was noted that she had broken up with her 17-year-old boyfriend two days before she was murdered. It was said that Johanna Young had appeared down after the split. It was also reported that her ex-boyfriend was questioned by the police but soon ruled out of the investigation as he had an alibi.
The police said that there was no evidence of a sexual motive although other reports stated that she had been sexually assaulted.
Johanna Young's underwear and other items of clothing were found at the scene, but the police said that when they found her body that her blue denim jeans were missing, and the police appealed for anyone that might have found them or knew where they were to come forward. However, her jeans later reappeared close to the scene of the crime on 19 January 1993, thrown onto a bush off Gartston Road, about four weeks after her body was found. They had been washed and there was no DNA on them. It was also noted that there were no signs of a struggle and that as such, it was thought that her clothes had been removed after she was unconscious.
Her shoes were actually found before her body was found, on the evening of 25 December 1992 at about 8.15pm. It was noted that they had been carefully placed neatly by a hedge on Garstan Road near the pit. It was thought that one possible explanation was that someone found her shoes elsewhere, or nearby, had picked them up and examined them and then placed them neatly by the hedge as they were later found on 25 December, the day before Johanna Young's body was found. It was said that it was the finding of the shoes that eventually led the police to find Johanna Young's body in the pit, although it was also said that her body was found by a dog walker.
Forensic analysis of the scene indicated that two people were probably involved in her murder. The police said that they found drag marks on Johanna Young's back that matched drag marks near to the pit where she was found near Wayland Wood which they said meant that she was probably dragged in a U-shape, with one person holding her top-half and another holding her feet.
Evidence given at her inquest also suggested that Johanna Young might have been killed accidently and that any charge might have been manslaughter, with the coroner saying, 'What may have started as a youthful prank finished up in tragedy'. It was also heard that it was thought that Johanna Young might have received her head injury in a fall in which she banged the back of her head and that the fall had left her unconscious and that the person or people that she was with had then dragged her to the water-filled pit where she then drowned.
It was later suggested that the police could have treated the case as a case of manslaughter from the start, which would have in turn encouraged more people to come forward. It was also heard that it was thought that many people had not come forward because of the way that the police were treating witnesses.
The police said, 'The killer undoubtedly would have been heavily mud-stained and may have suffered scratches from brambles or undergrowth. I ask families if they have any doubts about any one close to them, inform us immediately'.
Johanna Young's parents said that when she didn't come home on the night of 23 December 1992 they just thought that she had stayed at her boyfriends or other friends because of the weather, but when she failed to turn up for her paper round the following morning they called the police.
It was noted that the night that Johanna Young went missing was a cold and foggy night and that that, combined with the time of year, meant that there were not a lot of people about.
It was reported that the police investigation targetted local men and it was said that the solution to solving the case lay in the local community. It was also reported that the police thought that her murderer might also have been a pupil at Johanna Young's school.
After her murder the police received a cryptic letter that had the words Griston Rd, Watton, 23/12 9pm followed by a drawing of a motorcycle, a youth and a girl. The police added that it was thought that a young man with a motorcycle had been seen in the area on the night that she was last seen.
It was later reported that a man in a silver van had been seen arguing with a young woman on the night of 23 December 1992 at the junction of Griston Road and Norwich Road in Watton which was not far from where her body was later found. The van driver said that he had been driving home at about 9.30pm when he passed the junction and saw the young woman standing by the side of the van, which he said he thought was a Luton Van, and the man sat in the van, and said that they were gesturing to each other and that he heard raised voices.
The man said that he knew Johanna Young, but at the time didn't recognise the young woman as Johanna Young. The man, who was 27 years old at the time, said that he passed the name of the man that he thought owned the van at the time, noting that he himself had been questioned by the police twice and had had a DNA sample taken.
Another witness said that they saw a young man with a motorcycle at the junction at about 9pm, saying that the young man was leaning against the motorbike.
It was also reported that Wayland High, where Johanna Young went to school, and opposite of which she lived in Merton Road, was broken into on the night she vanished.
The Eastern Daily Press published four key questions to help solve the case in an article published on 17 November 2018:
Johanna Young had been a pupil at Wayland High School.
see EDP 24
see Liverpool Echo - Monday 28 December 1992
see Newcastle Journal - Wednesday 30 December 1992
see Newcastle Journal - Thursday 31 December 1992
see Newcastle Journal - Tuesday 29 December 1992
see Evening Herald (Dublin) - Monday 28 December 1992