Unsolved Murders

Joan Macan

Age: 81

Sex: female

Date: 6 May 1988

Place: Timbray, Ashbridge Estate, Hertfordshire

Joan Macan was hacked to death outside her home on her 81st birthday after disturbing intruders in the early hours of Friday 6 May 1988.

She was a well-known dog breeder and had judged at many shows including Crufts.

She had lived in Timbray on the Ashbridge Estate in Hertfordshire.

She was seen by her kennel-man earlier in the morning at about 8am on 5 May 1988. After that she went into town for a regular appointment at a hairdresser at 9am. It was noted that she had been going there every Thursday morning for about twelve years.

She was back home by 2pm at which time she met an old friend at her cottage who was also a dog breeder and they talked about using one of Joan Macan's dogs for breeding.

It was noted that Joan Macan was renowned for her Labrador dogs and that people from all round the country would come by and visit her and so it was noted that any number of people could have got a good look at her house.

It was said that by about 6.45pm she was getting ready to go to a meeting of the Kent, Sussex and Surrey Labrador Association, having been made president of the association fifteen months earlier. She was seen to drive off alone by her housekeeper, who lived 100 yards up the road from Joan Macan.

Joan Macan was next seen at the meeting which took place at the The Bell Inn public house in Constan, Surrey, 60 miles away, at about 9.40pm. It was noted as being a long way for Joan Macan to drive, but said that she would always make a special effort to attend the meetings and that it had taken her three hours to get there.

It was noted that at about the same time, 9.40pm, Joan Macan's housekeeper had gone down to Joan Macan's cottage, Timbray, to lock up for the night. The housekeeper said that she knew that Joan Macan disliked coming back to a dark house because of its isolation and so she closed the windows and drew the curtains but left the lights on to make the cottage look occupied before locking up.

The meeting ot the Kent, Sussex and Surrey Labrador Association ended at 11pm and Joan Macan drove home, accompanied in part by another member of the Kent, Sussex and Surrey Labrador Association who drove along with her in his car to the M25 as Joan Macan was said to have been slightly apprehensive about making the journey home at that time in the dark. It was noted that the other member was as such the last person to see Joan Macan alive.

It was heard that a couple that had been courting in a car that was parked up in the lane on the Ashbridge Estate that led to Joan Macan's cottage at about midnight saw a car drive up and down the lane about six or seven times. They said that they didn't notice what make of car it was, but said that they did think that it was a dark four-door saloon. The couple said that they next saw an estate car drive down the track at about 1am which was thought to have been Joan Macan arriving home.

It was thought that Joan Macan was then murdered as she went from her car to her cottage.

Shortly after, the couple that had been in the car in the lane at about 1.30am said they saw an estate car, thought to have been a Bluebird, leaving the cottage along the lane. The police said that they thought that the car had been used by the burglar, but said that they could not rule out the possibility that it was owned by another courting couple in the area and asked for any courting couples that might have been in the area in an estate car to come forward.

The police noted that it was a senseless murder as the burglar could have easily escaped from her cottage when she had arrived and run off into the nearby woods with no problem at all.

The police said that a number of items were stolen in the burglary that they thought would be key to solving the murder, including:

  • Bronze antique statue of a pointer dog with a rabbit in its mouth which was signed PJ Manay which was valued at about £2,500.
  • Statue bronze of a greyhound with E Fremiet inscribed on the base.
  • Bronze statue of a pointer dog on a tree stump over a rabbit. The statue was described as so rare that a copy could not be made but an artist’s depiction was drawn up. It was also noted that the rabbit on the base had become detached.

It was also noted that a number of snuff boxes and small ornaments were also taken from her cottage.

The police appealed for all antique and secondhand dealers to contact them if they came across any of the distinctive dog bronze statues that were stolen.

When her will was later heard she had left £1,051,723 gross, £1,030,204 net. She also left £125,000 to the 19th May 1961 charity as well as sharing £75,000 between three other charities, the Royal Vetinary College Animal Care Trust, the Animal Health Trust and the Distressed Gentlefolk's Aid Association. She also left her housekeeper and kennel-man £25,000 each.

Joan Macan was also noted for her work during the second World War during which she had lived in France under a false name and had helped over 80 Allied airmen to escape across enemy lines.

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

see youtu.be

see Sandwell Evening Mail - Friday 16 September 1988