Date: 21 Jan 1993
Arthur Brumhill was murdered in the pet and garden shop that he was running whilst its owners were away on holiday in Northampton on 21 January 1993.
He was found in the cellar of the shop covered in straw. He had 26 injuries and it was thought that he had been beaten to death with a tyre iron.
Following an arrest in 2015 after new evidence was revealed, a man that had previously worked at the pet shop in 1993 when he was 17-years-old was arrested and charged with his murder, but following a trial In March 2017 he was acquitted. He had been 17-years-old at the time and had worked at the pet shop for six weeks but it was claimed that he had had a disagreement with the owner and left in November 1992.
At the trial the prosecution opened its case by saying, 'On the night of the 21st of January, 1993, in a small pet shop not two miles away from this court room, a 76-year-old man was brutally beaten to death with a weapon. He suffered the beating at the bottom of a set of stairs that access a cellar underneath the pet shop. He worked in the pet shop and had done for many years and suffered multiple injuries, fractures to the skull. He was left dead or dying'. The prosecution said that the murderer then escaped through an upstairs window and added, 'He covered his victim in straw before leaving the scene'.
Following the murder, the 17-year-old was questioned, but released due to lack of evidence. It wasn't until 2015, following a number of reviews and developments in forensic fingerprinting that he was arrested and charged with Arthur Brumhill's murder after the police found two of his finger prints on a bag that had contained straw that had been used to cover Arthur Brumhill's body in a place adjacent to the ripped part of the bag suggesting that he had torn open the bag of straw and covered Arthur Brumhill with it. However, the man's defence said the case was flimsy and said that the fingerprint could have got there any time when he was working at the shop in November 1992. At the trial the man said that that he could have ripped the bag open anytime that he was working at the shop.
The bag of straw was found on the top of a rabbit hutch adjacent to Arthur Brumhill's body. It was said to have had four finger prints on it, two of which belonged to the man that was being tried, and the other two having insufficient detailing to determine whose they were. It was heard that all of the fingerprints were discovered on the bag on the point where the bag was ripped open.
The youth had been working in the pet shop as part of a Government placement scheme at the time, and at the trial he said that he got on well with Arthur Brumhill. He said that he had been earning £32 a week whilst at the shop and that the reason he left was just the money. However, it was heard at the trial that he had left after he had been made to pay for a window that had been broken accidently out of his wages. It was also said that he had left because he had, 'failed to impress his employer'.
He had been working at the pet shop about 10 weeks before the murder. His placement had lasted for 6 weeks.
At his trial he said that he found out about Arthur Brumhill's murder on the news on the television.
When asked about Arthur Brumhill, he said, 'He was a nice old man, but he was not someone I would go and visit'.
However, it was heard that he had confessed to a friend shortly after the murder which resulted in him being arrested but the man told the police that what he had said was a joke. No further action was taken, it was said, because the police had no forensic evidence to link him to the murder.
At his trial he also denied that he had 'confessed' to murdering Arthur Brumhill to a former partner several times. He said, 'The only admission I said to her was that the only thing that ever really scared me was being questioned by the police'. The woman that the man had confessed to said that at the time she dismissed his claim as a boast. She had been in a relationship with the man since they were teenagers and she said that the man confessed earlier on in their relationship nearer the time of the murder, but said that he mentioned it on other occasions and added that years later, when their relationship was failing that he would say, 'I've done it before and I would do it again', which she said she took to be a direct reference to what he had previously told her. The woman said that one admission happened around 1996. She said that the man admitted to killing an 'elderly gentleman' who was 'at the pet shop he worked at'. She said that he told her that he had hit him on the head. However, she said that she didn't believe him and that she never went to the police about it and that it was the police that came to her in 2015 and that it was then that she mentioned it. She said that she didn't go to the police because she didn't believe him. When the defence cross examined her they suggested that she had misheard/misread what he had said or that she had deliberately twisted it around to suggest that he had done it. The defence also suggested that she had taken a perfectly innocent conversation and tried to turn it into some sort of confession.
At the trial the man said that at the time of the murder he had been round at his friends house.
The man's defence said that the prosecution had also failed to account for another robbery that had taken place in Wellingborough Road that same night, not far from the pet shop. It was heard that two boys had been seen running in separate directions in the area at about 10.30pm and that another suspicious looking man wearing a hi-visibility jacket was seen near the shop at about 10.20pm. The defence also pointed to evidence regarding a man seen in a yellow track suit the following morning that was said to have been seen throwing something about 18 inchs long away and later seen to have blood on him, and generally behaving in a suspiscious manner.
It was said that after his murder, the killer had stolen a few pounds that was on the premises. However, it was also noted that money had been going missing throughout the week from the till. At the trial when the owner was questioned it was noted that there had been a shortfall in the takings every day and that there was no sufficient note to explain it. The shop owner also added that there was been a discrepancy in the region of £30 during the first week of January 1993 that Arthur Brumhill had brought to their attention.
Arthur Brumhill had lived in Northampton all of his life and had worked at Dentons Pet and Garden Centre in Wellingborough Road for the past 11 years.
It was noted that he had previously run his own business and that after retiring he had chosen to make animals the centre of his life. He was said to have loved people too and it was said that almost everyone in the neighbourhood knew and liked him.
A woman that went into the shop on the Thursday 21 January 1993 at about 4.30pm to collect some orders said that she had known Arthur Brumhill for about four years and said that he was a lovely man and very friendly. She said that when she talked to him on 21 January 1993, he told her that he was very busy as the Denton's were away on holiday and that he was staying behind late and cashing up etc.
At the 2017 trial it was heard that Arthur Brumhill wasn't allowed home before 10-10.30pm at night and that the owner had given him a key so he could stay late. It was also heard that as a result of Arthur Brumhill not being allow home until late that he used to walk around a local park after which, upon hearing that, the shop owner had given him the shop key.
One of the shop owners said, 'Arthur wasn't allowed at home until about 10-10.30pm, so he would spend a lot of time at the shop. He used to go home for a short period mid evening from what I can understand and then he would return to the shop. Knowing Arthur, he was a lovely man. Dare I say we inherited him as much as the shop. We grew fond of him. We got him an easy chair, a comfy chair that he used to use upstairs. My recollection is that it was in the front room'.
It was also noted that Arthur Brumhill would often listen to his radio and read while sat upstairs in the kitchen and court the heard heard that Arthur Brumhill treat the shop like home.
About an hour after the woman left the shop, another called to buy a guinea pig and said that she just caught Arthur Brumhill as he was cashing up. She said that Arthur Brumhill told her that he was just closing, but that he let her in and she chose a guinea pig and then left.
It was heard that four hours later, the lights in the pet shop were still on. A man said that he was driving on his way home along the Wellingborough Road, between 9.30pm and 9.40pm when he saw that the lights were still on and said that he could see two people inside. He said that one of the people in the shop was the shop keeper and the other person was a friend or someone that he knew. The man said that the man that he saw with Arthur Brumhill in the pet shop was in his late teens, about 5ft 5in and with mousy brown hair.
It was noted that that was the last time that Arthur Brumhill was seen alive. However, a woman said that she was dropped off back home near the corner of the pet shop at about 10.20pm and that as she was walking to her house she saw a man in a hi-visibility jacket standing on the corner by Sernlight and Loriels saying that he looked really suspicious. She said that she had eye to eye contact with the man and said that he knew that she had seen him but said that he held back in the dark trying to avoid her, but at the same time said that she sensed that he watched her all the way to her door. She added that once she got to her door, she looked back once more and said that he was still watching her. However, she said that when she looked out of her front door about 5 or 10 minutes later she saw that the man had gone.
It was also found that early the following morning, another man, who had been wearing a yellow track suit was seen by a number of people acting suspiciously. A man that had been on the Wellingborough Road opposite the pet shop using a cash machine at about 7.25am said that the man was peering around the street as though he didn't want to be seen and said that it made him think that he was up to no good.
Shortly after, at about 7.45am, another man that had gone out to buy a newspaper as he did most mornings said that he had been walking down a street, a couple of streets away from the pet shop when he saw a man in a yellow track suit walking towards him from another street. He said that he thought that the man was going to catch a bus but said that when the man saw him, he darted back and went another way. The man said that he didn't take a lot of notice of the man in the yellow tracksuit but said that when he got down the road a little further to the next junction, he saw the same chap and said that when the chap saw him he threw down something about 18 inches long and ran off. However, the man said that whilst he thought that the man's actions were peculiar, he just carried on and got his newspaper. However, he said that when he came out of the newspaper shop he saw the man in the yellow tracksuit again standing by a house. He said that he looked straight at the man and said that the man then looked at him and said that he then noticed that the man in the yellow track suit had blood down the front of his tracksuit. He said that the man then ran off.
The thing that the man in the yellow track suit threw down was not found and it was thought that someone might have taken it away or that it might have been cleaned up amongst other rubbish.
The assistant at the shop arrived at the pet shop to start work at 9.30pm. Soon after arriving, he found Arthur Brumhill's body in the cellar against a wall at the bottom of the stairs.
It was later found that he had received several heavy blows to the head.
It was thought that he had been beaten to death with a tyre iron as one was found missing from the shop, and it was thought that it might have been a tyre iron that the man wearing the yellow track suit had been seen to throw away by the man that had been out to buy his newspaper.
The shop owner said that when he got to the shop he noticed that the till tray, which would ordinarily be kept in the toilet and locked with a side bolt from the outside, was on the floor, and noted that it was unusual as Arthur Brumhill was very good at tidying up at the end of the day and that everything would be in its right place.
The man in the yellow tracksuit was described as being in his late thirties, between 5ft 11in and 6ft tall and with blond hair and seemed dishevelled.
The police stated that the other man in the hi-visibility jacket that had been seen by the woman as she got home at about 10.20pm was in his early 30s, about 5ft 10in tall, with short dark hair and with a slim build.
The police noted that there was no forced entry into the shop and that they thought that Arthur Brumhill had let the murderer into the shop.
During the police investigation, they said that they found that there was a window open upstairs and that on the outside sill they found a particular boot print and thought that the murderer might have left through the upstairs window.
The police also said that they received two mysterious letters and said that they were anxious to speak to the people that had sent them.
At the time of the crime the police later said that the crime scene had been chaotic and that they had had too many suspects, stating, 'There were quite a number of people who could have been involved, but in the end transpired not to have been'. The police also noted that they had made a number of arrests at the time, but that no one was charged.