Unsolved Murders

Ruth Penelope Bell

Age: 43

Sex: female

Date: 6 Jun 1991

Place: Gurnell Grove Leisure Centre Car Park, Perivale, London

Ruth Penelope Bell, generally known as Penny Bell, was stabbed 50 times in her car in the car park of Gurnell Grove Leisure Centre in Greenford on Thursday 6 June 1991.

She had left home earlier that morning at about 9.40am and was found dead in her car in the car park of Gurnell Swimming Pool at 12.15pm and it was thought that she had been murdered at about 10.30am about an hour after she had left home.

She was stabbed in her powder blue Jaguar XJS car, registration number E313 MYP, with a knife that was 3 or 4 inches long in broad daylight but there were few witnesses. She had defensive injuries indicating that she had put up a fight.

Her post mortem revealed that she had been stabbed about 50 times.

It was thought that she had been murdered at about 10.30pm.

Six months later, a lorry driver reported seeing a blonde woman struggling with a man in a Jaguar earlier but was not able to give any more details.

After a police reconstruction broadcast on television and an appeal, the police said that they were disappointed in the number of people that came forward. The police said, 'The response has been awful. We are very disappointed. There was no response from people who may have seen her on the A40, one or two sightings have been reported from the Greenford Road area and only two from the car park since the reconstruction'.

The police noted that the murder took place in broad daylight, but no one saw a thing. They added, 'It is very frustrating. The murderer must have had to destroy his bloodstained clothes, someone somewhere must know who did it or at least have suspisions'.

They said that they were interested in hearing from anyone that had been in the car park at Gurnell Swimming Pool between 9am and 12 midday on Thursday 6 June 1991.

They said that they were still trying to trace two cars that were seen at Gurnell Swimming Pool on the day of the murder, a black Peugeot 205 that was seen parked awkwardly near the scene of the crime and a silver estate car that was seen parked near to Penny Bell's Jaguar car.

A witness that later came forward said that she had seen a man in a white shirt with dark tie get into Penny Bell's Jaguar car less than an hour before she as murdered. The woman had been walking her dog in Black Park in Iver, about a five minute drive from Penny Bell's house, and said that she saw the man waiting by a bronze or brown coloured car at about 9.45am, about five minutes after Penny Bell was known to have left home, in a layby on Fulmer Common Road. She said that she then saw a blue Jaguar car pull up and the man get in. She said that he was smartly dressed in a light shirt and tie with dark trousers, about 5ft 10in tall, about 48 years old, and with a medium build.

Six months after the murder, the lorry driver came forward to say that had seen Penny Bell's Jaguar driving along the road at a snail’s pace with its hazard lights on near Gurnell Swimming Pool and that as he passed her Penny Bell looked at him and mouthed, 'help me'. However, he said that he ignored her. The lorry driver said that he saw that there was a man in the front passenger’s seat who he described as being in his early 30's with dark swept-back hair and with a mole on his left cheek. He said that the man had been wearing a jacket, a white shirt with tie, and had had a gold ring on his left hand and a bracelet.

The lorry driver who said he saw Penny Bell driving along in her blue Jaguar said that she was driving slowly and erratically with her hazard lights on said that she appeared to be trying to park in an available space on the side of the road but would then move back into the road and continue driving along. The lorry driver said that he assumed that she was learning to drive and said that when he overtook her, he looked over and saw that there was a man in a suit in the passenger seat who had his hand on the steering wheel. He said that they stopped at some traffic lights and that Penny Bell then turned off into Ruislip Road East.

The police said that it was hard to say what had been going on as Penny Bell was seen to drive along erratically, noting that she might have been trying to draw attention to herself, or that she might have been having an argument with the passenger over a parking space.

Penny Bell was a mother of two and was married to an Estate Agent and had lived in Baker's Wood, near Denham, Buckinghamshire. It was noted that her husband had previously had an eleven-year homosexual relationship with another man before he met Penny Bell.

Penny Bell had run an employment agency in London, but had previously worked for the Samaritans. She had been working at AS Franklins in Shaftesbury Avenue, South Harrow at the time as well as being a partner in Coverstaff Ltd, an employment agency in Kilburn.

It was noted that at the time of the murder, Penny Bell and her husband had been having extensive renovations on their home, which was worth £100,000 and that Penny Bell had withdrawn £8,5000 from her joint account with her husband on 3 June 1991 which was presumed to have been used to pay the builders, but it was said that she had never withdrawn large sums like that before. However, the money was unaccounted for. It was further noted that she had kept a meticulous record detailing the money spent on the building work which made the £8,500 withdrawal conspicuous.

She had taken the money out from her joint bank account with her husband from her bank in Kilburn High Road, the money being given to her in used £50 notes in a brown manila envelope. It was further noted that Penny Bell had not referred to the withdrawal in her otherwise detailed financial notes.

The police said that the reason for her making the £8,500 withdrawal was unknown.

On the morning of the murder her husband said that he had waved Penny Bell off as he left for work at 8.40am, but that she had not waved back, but said that he put that down to the fact that there had been disruptions in the kitchen which was being renovated at the time, and that there was a lot going on. It was additionally said that she had otherwise appeared to have been in more of a hurry than usual although an electrician who saw her go said that she had appeared normal and as usual.

It was thought that Penny Bell had then later left their home in her Jaguar car at about 9.40am which was the time she usually left having shortly before told the builders at her home that she was late for a 9.50am appointment. However, it was noted that no record of the appointment or details were found in her diary and it was not known who she was meeting or where.

Shortly before she had gone, she had been given some wood block and wallpaper samples for her to consider with regards to the renovation of her house which she took away with her.

Her usual route to her job in Kilburn would have taken her along the A40.

It was thought that she was next seen at about 9.45am by the woman in Black Park who said she had seen a man get into her car.

It was thought that she was next seen by the lorry driver driving erratically along the road with her hazard lights on before she arrived at Gurnell Swimming Pool where she parked up in the car park.

Her car was later seen by a woman who had been walking along near the car park at about 10.45am. She said that her hazard lights were on and that her windscreen wipers were going, which she said she thought was odd, but said that she didn't look in the car.

A man in a suit was seen leaving the car park at about 10.45pm. A woman that saw him said that he looked unusually smart and didn't look like he was going swimming and had no kit. The woman said that one side of his face seemed disfigured in some way.

At about the same time a woman who was driving onto Ruislip Road East, at 10.45am, said that she saw a car coming along fast but thought that she could pull out before he got to her, which she said she did, but said that he was driving fast and close behind her and was flashing his lights and trying to get round her, but said that she didn't pull over as she was quite angry about his driving. She said that the car was a dark blue car.

Penny Bell was later seen apparently sitting motionless in her car at about 11pm, but the person that saw her thought that she was asleep.

The police were later notified at 12.15pm after Penny Bell was found to be dead in her car.

When the police examined the car, they found the wallpaper sample spread out in the front of the car and her handbag was behind the front passenger seat with her purse still in it.

The police said that they thought that Penny Bell might have been looking at the wallpaper sample shortly before her murder, either as she was showing it to another person or looking at it whilst she was waiting for someone.

The forensic experts said that they thought that Penny Bell had been stabbed multiple times by a person in the passenger seat who had then got out and stabbed her again through the driver’s window. However, it was noted that the envelope that had previously been seen that was thought to have had the £8,500 in cash in it was missing.

However, the police said that they didn't think that robbery was the motive and that it was very likely that Penny Bell knew her murderer.

Whilst it was noted that the leisure centre was busy at the time and that the car park had been virtually full, no one saw the murder. It was noted that there had been a high hedge that had blocked general visibility and that Penny Bell's Jaguar car was virtually sound proof which would have prevented anyone hearing her cry out for help. It was also noted that the car had only had a small rear window through which her murder might have been seen by anyone.

The police said that they had dedicated 2,700 man-days to the investigation, costing £150,000 and had taken over 820 statements and interviewed over 3,000 people.

A verdict of unlawful killing was returned at her inquest.

In January 2019 a person came forward to tell the police that they recalled seeing a man in his underwear walking across a footbridge over the A40 Western Avenue in Greenford between 10.50am to 10.55am on Thursday 6 June 1991, adding that he looked wet as though he had just washed. She described him as:

  • Aged early 30s.
  • Tall.
  • Bronzed, tanned.
  • Short brown hair that was lighter on top.
  • Wearing blue stripped boxer shorts and a white t-shirt.
  • Wearing a chunky chain link thick bracelet.
  • Carrying a rucksack.

The police said that they thought that the new information was very significant and appealed for anyone else that saw anything similar to come forward. It was noted that the woman had not seen any of the media coverage about Penny Bell's murder at the time but had since two and two together and gone to the police.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see en.wikipedia.org

see Wikipedia

see You Tube

see Vice

see My London

see My London

see BBC

see The Independent

see Amersham Advertiser - Wednesday 26 June 1991

see Pinner Observer - Thursday 12 December 1991

see Pinner Observer - Thursday 24 October 1991