Unsolved Murders

John Plant

Age: 9

Sex: male

Date: 17 Nov 1963

Place: Alt-Yr-Yn Court, Alt-Yr-Yn Drive, Newport

John Plant was found dead inside a box in a garage on Sunday 17 November 1963.

He had been missing since 6 October 1963.

He had gone missing after watching a western on TV.

He was found in a mahogany packing case in his father's garage.

An open verdict was returned at his inquest on 21 November 1963.

The inquest heard from two expert witnesses as to the cause of his death, but they were not consistent with each other and the Coroner said that he could not reject or accept either of their evidence and there returned an open verdict.

John Plant had lived at Alt-Yr-Yn Court in Newport. his father said that he found the body of his son in the box when he went to put some loose books in it.

He said that on the night that John Plant disappeared that the family had been preparing for a party as he was due to take up a position in East Africa.

He said that about 6pm John Plant went out for about 15 minutes, and when he didn't return home he went to neighbours’ homes looking for him and then walked along the canal bank and that later the party guests joined in the search.

He said that the garage doors had been open at the time, in which were his packing cases for his journey and that when the police arrived he told them that he had already looked in the garage.

John Plant was known as 'Toy Gun' John. When he had gone out he had taken his toy six-shooter gun in a holster decorated with a white star with him.

1,000 people were said to have joined in the hunt for him following his disappearance.

He had walked out of his home after watching Maverick on the TV, and was not seen since.

In the days that followed a large search was made for him, which included police and soldiers with tracker dogs that combed the area. Searches were made of quarries, the Monmouthshire Canal and the docks.

His father, an engineer, had been due to sail to Sierra Leone on the Friday, the day after John Plant vanished and it was thought that John Plant might have tried to stow away in the liner, but nothing was reported from Liverpool. Radio messages were also sent out to sea in case John Plant had stowed away in some ship.

However, John Plant's father said that he didn't think that his son had run away because of his plans to go to Sierra Leone.

However, he said that he didn't discount kidnapping and offered a £1,000 reward.

On 12 October 1963, volunteers crowded into the Newport Assizes Court for a police briefing where they were asked especially to watch out for John Plant's toy gun and for the worn sandals that he had been wearing.

Photographs of him were also issued to the volunteers before they set out for the quarry-pitted hills near the boy's home.

John Plant's picture was also flashed up regularly on TV screens in South Wales.

The detective inspector that led the search said:

We will not call off the operation while there is any hope of finding John. It will go on indefinitely. This is the biggest search we have ever carried out.

John Plant's mother said:

I think he may be trapped in a culvert or lying injured somewhere. I would give everything I possess to get him back.

John Plant's father had offered a £1,000 reward for information leading to the return of his son.

A week before his body was found, the police issued an Identikit picture of a man that John Plant had been seen speaking to near his home.

John Plant's body was found by his father on the packing case on 17 November 1963 when he went to put something in it. The garage was about twenty yards from their luxury flat in Alt-Yr-Yn Court, Newport.

After discovering John Plant's body, his father called the police.

The police, after some investigation, said that foul play was not suspected.

The packing case in which John Plant was found was said to have been on of a number that were stored in the garage ready for John Plant's father's trip to Africa.

John Plant had been an only child.

After his disappearance, his father put off his departure.

A Home Office forensic scientist said that he examined the lock of the box and found that it had been strained and that the four inch deep lid was out of alignment and that he had come to the conclusion that most of the damage and distortion to the box had been caused from the inside.

He noted that when lid was dropped that the lock engaged and that it was:

impossible to open it from the inside.

A Home Office pathologist said that his death was due to vagal inhibition and that in his opinion the cause of death was a sudden cessation of the circulation brought about by nervous influences on the heart. He noted that in the event of some shock, the heart would stop and death would follow immediately. He said that if John Plant had struggled and used such force as to put the box out of alignment, that he:

would have died slowly of exhaustion.

And not suddenly.

John Plant's father, after hearing the evidence, said:

This has been a dreadful occurrence. If any children take note of what has happened, and pause to think before they do anything foolish, it will not have been in vain. The town of Newport has been searched for weeks. Many people have helped us.

A detective inspector at the inquest said that the garage had been opened and that two police officers had searched it.

When the Coroner summed up, he noted that the evidence of the Home Office forensic scientist and the Home Office pathologist had not been consistent with each other.

He also noted that the police had made repeated requests to search any place or anywhere that might give a lead and that he thought that those requests might have led John Plant's parents, upset though they might have been, to have:

really searched this garage.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Birmingham Daily Post - Friday 22 November 1963

see The People - Sunday 13 October 1963

see Daily Mirror - Monday 18 November 1963