Date: 28 Aug 1959
Miles Vallint was found dead on wasteland in Tavistock Road, Croydon on Friday 28 August 1959. He had been strangled.
He had lived in a semi-detached house in Farnley Road, South Norwood near Crystal Palace football ground, about two miles away from where his body was found in a weed-covered plot that had formerly been the garden of the old vicarage of St James's Church in Croydon. The Old Vicarage was also noted as being only 300 yards from Miles Vallint's school.
His body was found by a man who was described as of no fixed abode as well as 'a vagrant type'. Following the discovery of the body the man remained at Croydon Police Station for the night in case he was wanted by the police for further assistance.
Miles Vallint's body was fully clothed when found.
Miles Vallint was described as a coloured boy, his father being Indian and his mother English.
He had left home at about 2pm on Thursday 27 August 1959 to look at bicycles in shops in Croydon to choose one for his twelfth birthday. His mother said, 'He asked me after lunch if he could go an look at some bicycles in Croydon. He left home with 10d in his pocket to catch a bus. I told him to bring some pamphlets on bicycles home and not to be back later than 4.30'.
It was said that when he had left the bicycle shops to go home that he had had two pamphlets about bicycles on him but when he was found they were not on his person.
Miles Vallint's mother said that after Miles Vallint failed to return home that she informed the police.
The timeline of known events was:
The medical evidence suggested that he had been murdered between 8pm and midnight. It was noted that Tavistock Road was frequented by many people until late at night and pedestrians there were later stopped to see whether they remembered anything.
It was also thought that he had been seen in a cafe a few yards away from where his body was found at about 5pm.
Following the discovery of his body the police cordoned off Tavistock Road, allowing only people that had legitimate reason for access to enter, in their search for clues.
An on the spot examination of Miles Vallint's body was made by the pathologist before his body was taken away. The pathologist later said at the inquest, 'At the place where the body was found there was no sign of the material that had been used. The only evidence was the impression on the neck. There was the clearest possible evidence of asphyxia'. It was also reported that Miles Vallint had died from 'gentle strangulation'.
It was said that the temperature of his body when it was found was 96 degrees, which it was noted was only 2 degrees below the normal temperature of a living person. It was added that it was thought that Miles Vallint had been murdered in the warmth of a flat or house near the waste ground and that after Miles Vallint had been murdered that the murderer had kept his body warm in some way, such as covering it up with blankets. It was additionally noted that the tramp that had found Miles Vallint's body had said that it had been a cold night.
However, it was also reported that his cause of death was strangulation by a cloth-like ligature and that very violent pressure had been used resulting in his skin being pinched in and that an impression had been left on his neck by the silver chain carrying a Roman Catholic medallion that Miles Vallint had always worn. The pathologist noted that the marks were extremely deep on the front but practically non-existent at the back. The pathologist said, 'It was a garrotting mark, not a suspension mark' and added that it would have been impossible for it to have been self-inflicted.
Police took samples of soil from the plot and also carried out house-to-house enquiries.
His father said, 'I understand that when he was found there was a piece of rope round his neck'.
His mother, who had been to identify Miles Vallint, said, 'I had to see him for one last time'.
It was reported that his body had been found on the rubble of the demolished vicarage and at the inquest heard that his body had been found on a dirty mattress.
It was also reported that the police were hunting a 'maniac child killer' and made references to 'another Straffen', who it was said killed for the sake of killing.
It was reported that a belt that could have been used to murder Miles Vallint was found in a dustbin by detectives on Thursday 3 September 1959.
A woman that lived in Tavistock Road recalled that she had seen a dark-skinned boy, thought to have been Miles Vallint who was Anglo-Indian, playing on the vicarage site on the Thursday.
The bicycle shop had been in Whitehorse Road, Croydon and it was said that when he left it that he was seen to meet another boy of about the same age with whom he went off with and the police said that they were interested finding the other boy. The police said that they thought that Miles Vallint and the boy had spent some time together after leaving the cycle shop and that he might have valuable information concerning the murder of Miles Vallint.
An assistant at a cycle shop in High Street, Croydon that was shown a photograph of Miles Vallint said, 'I remember the boy coming in just after 2 o'clock yesterday. He stayed for about 20 minutes and looked at some bicycles'. He was also quoted as having said, 'The boy came into the shop about 2pm and stayed for about 20 minutes. He was looking at the bicycles and I gave him a catalogue. He said he was going to choose a red sports cycle which we had in the shop. He talked to me for some time before he left and I am certain there was no one with him. He was a bright cheerful lad'.
It was later reported that the police were trying to trace two frightened little boys who they said they thought could give vital clues in the hunt for the strangler. They were:
The police addressed an assembly of pupils at Miles Vallint's school on Thursday 10 September 1959 and appealed for the two frightened boys to come forward, noting that if they were there in the assembly that they should come forward.
The police also appealed for any of Miles Vallint's friends that might have played with him after 1pm on the day he was murdered to come forward.
The police also asked a thousand school children to help them in their enquiry and showed his photograph to the pupils at five schools that were within a half-mile radius of the demolished vicarage where his body was found. The police said that they thought that some of Miles Vallint's friends might hold a vital clue as to his murder, but said that they had been unable to contact all of them because of the holidays.
It was reported that the police had several theories regarding his death:
It was also reported that a mystery man, aged about 55, had been seen talking to a boy, thought to have been Miles Vallint, outside a cycle shop in Croydon. The man was seen by a 65-year-old compositor that had lived in Foxon Lane in Caterham. He said, 'I heard the man talking to the boy. He more or less offered to buy him a bicycle. He was obviously a stranger to the lad, who seemed frightened of him. I have given the police a description of the man'. It was said that after that incident that Miles Vallint had then gone into two more shops to enquire about bicycles, but is was thought that the man might have followed him.
Another report stated that the police were trying to trace a tall gaunt very unkempt sort of man that had sent Miles Vallint into a shop to buy clothes line on the Thursday afternoon. The man was seen by the owner of a hardware shop in Whitehorse Road, Croydon. She said that when she saw Miles Vallint's photograph in the newspaper that she recognised him as a boy that had been in her shop on the afternoon of 27 August 1959 and asked for a length of rope. She said that the boy had been very vague about what sort of rope he wanted but eventually took a plastic clothes line to the door of her shop and showed it to somebody and that he then came back and said, 'We'll take the plastic one', and then paid 4s 11d for it.
However, it was noted that the woman had given a different statement at first, saying in her first statement that she had after hearing of Miles Vallint's murder that she had been exercising her dog at about 11pm on the Thursday when she had noticed a man on Spurgeon's Bridge who had been staring down St James Road and ignoring the barking of her dog. However, on 7 September 1959 she made another statement after seeing Miles Vallint's photograph in the newspaper referring to him as having come into her hardware shop and buying the washing rope. She said that the man was just very untidy and unkempt, not a tramp, but just rough. She further added that there had been another small boy with Miles Vallint and the man.
When the woman was asked whether she had seen the man that had been with the boy before, she said, 'Yes', but when she was asked whether she had seen him since, she replied 'No'.
His post mortem showed that he had been strangled with a scarf, necktie or a similar cloth like ligature.
However, the police said that they thought that it was possible that Miles Vallint had been strangled somewhere else and then dumped on the waste ground. They said that it was possible that he had been picked up by somebody in a car and that after he was killed that they then threw his body over the fence into the abandoned garden where it was found in a weed covered plot.
They were also reported as having said that they had decided that Miles Vallint's body had been carried to the spot where it was found.
On Thursday 3 September 1959 the police said, 'We have a theory that somebody may have information about the boy or some incident that may be linked with the crime, but is afraid to come forward. We are asking for the cooperation of the public in our inquiries, and we give an assurance that any information that is received by us will be treated in the strictest confidence. It is likely that the boy could have been killed elsewhere, perhaps in a house, and his body brought in a car and dumped after dark. It is now more or less certain that the last time that Miles was seen was between 2.45 and 3pm on Thursday last. We think that after that time he was indoors somewhere'.
The police later asked residents in Tavistock Road whether they had seen anyone carrying a bundle after dark on the Thursday.
They also toured the Croydon shopping centre in loudspeaker cars, asking for information.
It was noted that the piece of waste ground had formerly been the garden of the old vicarage of St James Church but that the vicarage had been demolished about three months earlier.
A local youth that did a milk round in the area said that he had recently been chased by a man.
It was reported that the police had found no motive for his murder, with it being noted that the post mortem had established that he had not been sexually assaulted and that there was no evidence of robbery. The police said, 'So far, we have drawn a blank in our inquiries because we have not been able to establish a definite line to work on. The boy had not been criminally assaulted, so we can't say whether his killer was a sex maniac or not'.
The police later said that they thought that Miles Vallint's murderer lived locally and that he might strike again if he was not traced soon.
On the weekend of 29/30 August 1959 a man walked into the police station in Andover, Hampshire and said, 'I killed the Croydon boy', however, the police said that they found his story to be baseless.
Miles Vallint had gone to the bicycle shop to look at bicycles because his father had promised him that he would get him one for his birthday which was in three weeks’ time. It was reported that he had wanted a new red and gold bicycle. Miles Vallint would have been 12 on 17 September 1959.
The police questioned parents, asking, 'Did your son badly want a bicycle?', stating that they thought that it was possible that such a boy might have come across Miles Vallint with his bicycle leaflets and in a fit of jealous anger had killed him accidently.
Miles Vallint's mother said that Miles Vallint was always very obedient and punctual and always in at night by 5.30pm. She noted that his last words to her were, 'Should I go and change first Mummy?', noting that he was rather proud about his appearance and didn't think that his khaki shorts, red and white cowboy shirt and green woollen jacket were smart enough to wear in Croydon, but said that she told him not to bother.
At the time he was murdered it was said that Miles Vallint had been wearing his 'Lone Ranger' shirt with a picture of a cowboy on it, khaki shorts and a green windcheater.
Miles Vallint's mother added that Miles Vallint was always quiet and reserved and avoided the company of unruly boys and very rarely went out by himself and was not allowed to wander around at night, adding that in fact he was a little bit frightened of the dark.
Miles Vallint had gone to a Roman Catholic school, St Joseph's College in Beulah Hill.
His funeral took place on Wednesday 2 September 1959 with his service taking place at his school chapel and his burial at Croydon Cemetery. One of the wreaths at his funeral was formed in the shape of a bicycle.
His funeral procession set out from his home in Farnley Road, South Norwood for his school, St Joseph's College in Upper Norwood and it was reported that crowds lined the route. There were thirteen cars in the procession which was flanked by a police motorcycle escort. It was also reported that people in shops and factories stopped work to see the cortege pass on its way. His coffin was carried into the school chapel by four sixth form boys and Scouts from Miles Vallint's own troop, the 58th Croydon, formed a guard of honour. The small chapel was packed with more than 250 people for the Requiem Mass and after the service boys from his school lined one side of the road as his funeral procession moved to Croydon Cemetery.
Miles Vallint was an Anglo-Indian and the eldest of three children, having an 11-year-old sister and a 3-year-old brother. He was born in India but had come to Britain with his parents around five years earlier. Miles Vallint's father, who was Indian, had worked for a rubber company whilst in India and had been working as a foreman at a tyre factory in England at the time of Miles Vallint's murder. Miles Vallint's mother was English.
Miles Vallint's family had lived with Miles Vallint's grandmother and there were 13 people living in the home. His family was described as a 'happy family'.
His 57-year-old grandmother said, 'Miles was a very reserved boy. If there was any trouble or fights in the road, he kept out of them'.
Miles Vallint had only recently returned from a school holiday in Barcelona, Spain.
His inquest on Saturday 10 October 1959 returned a verdict of murder by a person or persons unknown.
The police said that they had interviewed over 3,000 people but had been unable to find a definite clue to work on. They said, 'It appears to be a crime without a motive. The only thing we are fairly sure about is that the murder did not actually take place at the spot where the body was found. The boy was strangled elsewhere and the body later dumped in the old vicarage garden'.
At the inquest Miles Vallint's parents were asked whether Miles Vallint had been friendly with any coloured person, and when they said no, the pathologist explained that because ot the way that Miles Vallint had been strangled that he thought that there might have been some ritual significance. It was then suggested that Miles Vallint might have been the victim of a centuries old religious cult, the cult of Thuggery. It was reported that the CID were considering the possibility that Miles Vallint had been killed by Thugs and Miles Vallint's father was asked whether he had made any enemies in India before he emigrated.
The Coroner said, 'According to the pathologist there is some significance in the form in which this strangulation was carried out'. The police then said that they believed that Miles Vallint's murder might have been an echo of the age-old Hindu secret society practice of the Thugs which had been stamped out by the British in India more than a century earlier.
see National Archives - MEPO 2/9897
see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 15 Sept. 1964: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
see Belfast Telegraph - Friday 28 August 1959
see Newcastle Journal - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Norwood News - Friday 16 October 1959
see Halifax Evening Courier - Friday 28 August 1959
see Halifax Evening Courier - Monday 31 August 1959
see Weekly Dispatch (London) - Sunday 11 October 1959
see Western Mail - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Daily Herald - Monday 31 August 1959
see Daily Mirror - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 31 August 1959
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 01 September 1959
see Daily Mirror - Thursday 03 September 1959
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Halifax Evening Courier - Saturday 10 October 1959
see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Thursday 03 September 1959
see Norwood News - Friday 11 September 1959
see The People - Sunday 30 August 1959
see Norwood News - Friday 04 September 1959
see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Daily Herald - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 28 August 1959
see Sunday Mirror - Sunday 30 August 1959
see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Saturday 29 August 1959
see Daily Herald - Wednesday 09 September 1959