Following on from Part 1 of this article (here) , regular NYE contributors Tim Hicks and Chris Clark investigate another of the UK’s great murder mysteries; the brutal murder of Mrs Ann Heron in August 1990, which is Durham Constabulary’s only unsolved murder. Their analysis has linked it to the June 1980 murder of Mrs Trevaline Evans in North Wales.
Trevaline and Ann: Was it Halliwell? (Pt 2)
by CHRIS CLARK & TIM HICKS
Many readers will be aware that the NYE has been investigating serial killer Christopher Halliwell, who was convicted of the murders of Becky Godden-Edwards, aged 20 in 2003, and Sian O’Callaghan, aged 22 in 2011, at Swindon, Wiltshire.
In Part 1 of this article, the authors described how Chris analysed new witness information developed by our colleagues from the Mirror that Halliwell had worked in North Wales, to connect him to the disappearance of Mrs Trevaline Evans in North Wales in June 1990.
Part 1 of the article covering the murder of Mrs Evans can be read here.
As a result of this analysis, Chris has also linked the murder of Mrs Evans to the murder of Mrs Ann Heron near Darlington two months later in August 1990. The author’s investigation has:
- Led to an evidential link between both crimes, revealed here for the first time by the NYE, on an exclusive basis.
- Identified four new lines of enquiry for the murder of Mrs Evans.
- Identified three new lines of enquiry for the murder of Mrs Heron.
- Eliminated a man who has been held out in the media as a suspect in the murder of Mrs Heron.
The Murder of Mrs Anne Heron
In their article Halliwell the River Tees Murders, the authors put forward the theory that Halliwell should be considered as a suspect in the murder of Mrs Ann Heron aged forty-four in Durham on Friday the 3rd of August 1990.
The Crimewatch UK program broadcast in October 1990 covered Mrs Heron’s murder at the beginning of the programme. It also covered Mrs Evans’ disappearance (at 10 minutes) and can be seen here. Please take the time to watch it before reading further.
Mrs Heron had been sunbathing in a bikini the front of her home – an isolated property situated just outside Darlington called Aeolian House – in a place that was visible from the A67.
Mrs Heron’s body was found by her husband Peter at about 6.00 p.m.in a pool of blood in the lounge. She was found naked from the waist down. Her bikini bottom was never found. The autopsy established that her throat had been cut with a weapon like a Stanley knife or a cut throat razor. There was no sign of forced entry. The front door was open, the house had not been ransacked and nothing had been stolen. The post mortem established that the time of death was at about 5.00 p.m.
A blue Vauxhall Astra was seen parked at Aeolian House and a ‘sun-tanned’ man in his early thirties was seen leaving Aeolian House in a blue four-door car.
Why the authors believe Christopher Halliwell should be considered as a suspect in the murder of Mrs Ann Heron
The authors believe that Christopher Halliwell should be considered as a suspect in this murder because:
Access to the area
- Halliwell was a keen fisherman and travelled widely. One mile to the south east of Aeolian House on the A67 there is a very popular fishing venue at Middleton St George Water Park. Darlington Anglers Club is based at Cleasby and has approximately nine miles of river fishing coarse fish which includes Pike, Bream and Carp. The River Tees is known for its Brown Trout, Grayling, Salmon and Coarse fish. The club water is situated in the middle reaches of the River Tees. Its river space stretches from High Coniscliffe in the North, down to where the River Skerne meets the River Tees at Croft, to the south of Darlington. Cleasby is five miles to the west of Aeolian House on the A67 then the A66. Croft is about another mile further on. So he could have been in the area to enjoy a weekend of fishing, or be on holiday in the area. If so, the crime scene would have been within easy travelling distance for him. He may even have previously reconnoitred it.
- Halliwell lived in Swindon, Northampton, North Yorkshire, Liverpool, Aughton Park near Ormskirk, Lancs and also worked in North Wales as a roofer or window fitter and travelled widely. Halliwell worked as a bin man, grounds man, grave digger, driver and builder all over the country. His itinerant lifestyle means he could have been in County Durham at the time.
- Darlington is three hours’ drive from Llangollen and two and a half hours’ drive from Aughton Park. So if he was living in Aughton Park or staying/working in Llangollen, Darlington would be within easy striking distance.
- Halliwell attacked lone females. Mrs Heron was visible from the road and on her own in an isolated large house in the afternoon, when her husband was probably at work. Making her vulnerable and attractive to Halliwell as a victim.
- Halliwell’s mother was a misandrist who abused him as a child. As a consequence he hated her and would become enraged if he saw a woman that looked like her, because of the awful memories it brought back for him. His second known victim Miss Sian O’Callaghan looked like his mother. Mrs Heron has a similar appearance to Miss O’Callaghan and particularly to his other known victim Miss Becky Godden-Edwards.
Left to Right: Miss Becky Godden Edwards, Christopher Halliwell and Miss Sian O’Callaghan
NB: the facial similarity between the victims and Mrs Heron shown in the lead illustration
- Mrs Heron was an attractive woman with a slim build, as were Miss O’Callaghan and Miss Godden-Edwards.
- Halliwell had started his criminal career as a burglar, raiding isolated properties for antiques. He used his work to reconnoitre the properties and identify if there were any antiques there worth stealing. His work as a window cleaner of window fitter gave him the perfect opportunity to carry on with this modus operandi. Aeolian House as a target dwelling fits this aspect of his criminal history perfectly. It is possible that Mrs Heron went into the property leaving the door open, he entered the property to steal antiques, encountered Mrs Heron and murdered her as an opportunistic crime. He may even have previously reconnoitred the property.
- Halliwell was well dressed, clean, tidy and a persuasive speaker. If he had been passing and seen Mrs Heron in a bikini he may have tried to talk his way into the house and then conducted an opportunistic attack.
- Mrs Heron’s body was partially undressed with her genitalia exposed, indicating a sexual motive, as in the murders of Miss Sian O’Callaghan and Miss Becky Godden-Edwards.The authors suspect the murderer was disturbed possibly by the phone ringing or Mrs Heron’s dog, which prevented him from going further and committing rape.
- The murder weapon was taken away and never recovered, as in the murder of Miss O’Callaghan.
- Mrs Heron’s bikini bottoms had been taken as a trophy. A classic Halliwell indicator. Here the authors speculate, but the bikini bottom may be one of the items recovered by Wiltshire Police from Halliwell’s trophy store in a lake he used to go fishing at, at Ramsbury, Wiltshire.
- No forensic evidence of any sort was found. Halliwell had a small library of books on forensic science and was forensically aware. He took great pains to ensure he left no forensic evidence.
- Cutting someone’s throat is a ruthless, brutal and gory act, indicating a man that was proficient with a knife, had used one to kill before and may have enjoyed using a knife on a woman. It is also efficient, instantly rendering the victim incapable of resisting. Similarly, Halliwell murdered Sian O’Callaghan with a knife by very efficiently severing her spinal cord; again instantly rendering her incapable of resisting. Halliwell had been a butcher and was a fisherman used to gutting and filleting fish. He was proficient in the use of a knife and enjoyed inflicting pain on women. So the cause of death fits Halliwell’s known capabilities and modus operandi perfectly.
- Whoever murdered Mrs Heron came to Aeolian House armed with a Stanley knife or a cut throat razor. Weapons that are easily concealable and could be carried on him safely and comfortably, while sitting in a car. Halliwell was carrying a knife he was able to conceal on himself comfortably while he was sitting in his car and bring it into action instantly when he murdered Miss O’Callaghan.
- The authors believe the man seen speeding away from Aeolian House is the murderer. A surprising number of victims of homicidal cutthroat suffer very little bleeding apart from post-mortem drainage. If the incision is wide and deep, so that the jugular veins are cut, and especially if the Victim is upright, air immediately fills the right atrium of the heart and the circulation ceases -this process is called air embolism. This would explain why there were no bloodstains on the man seen driving off from Aeolian House.
- Halliwell fits the description of the man seen leaving the crime scene by a witness. Halliwell had dark hair and photographs show him tanned. If he was on holiday or working in the area in August, he may have been facially tanned from time in the open working or fishing. He was twenty six or twenty seven in August 1990, not quite early thirties. However, this discrepancy could be due to an error by the witnesses.Who after all, only had a fleeting glimpse and was concentrating on his driving and the car.
Appeal for information
Anyone with information on the murder of Mrs Heron should contact Durham Police on 101.
The connections between the murders of Mrs Evans and Mrs Heron
Mrs Evans disappeared on the 16th of June 1990; Mrs Heron was murdered less than two months later on the 3rd of August 1990. In both cases a light blue four-door vehicle was seen and featured prominently in the enquiry.
The image below is from the Crimewatch UK reconstruction of the murder of Mrs Evans showing the vehicle and Man 4 – who resembled Halliwell – outside the antique shop.
The image below is from the Crimewatch UK reconstruction of the murder of Ms Heron, showing some makes of car the police believe cold be the one seen speeding away from Mrs Heron’s murder.
Please note that all five cars are four-door saloons and that both teams of detectives have independently identified that both cars were exactly the same colour.
If Mrs Evans’ killer did use the car featured in the Crimewatch UK reconstruction, he would not have known that his vehicle had been seen and described to the police until the September 1990 broadcast of Crimewatch UK covering the murder of Mrs Evans. So he had no need to discard it until then, i.e. after the murder of Mrs Heron. In summary, the connections between Halliwell and the two murders are:
- Both attacks took place on a holiday weekend in the summer, at rural locations near fishing venues.
- Halliwell had a reason to be in the area for the purpose of fishing, sightseeing or work.
- The descriptions of both vehicles are very similar and constitute an evidential link between the two crimes.
- Both attacks were on women on their own in daylight.
- Both attacks may have been connected to the theft of antiques.
- Halliwell fits the description of men seen in the vicinity of both crimes.
- Both attacks fit perfectly with Halliwell’s modus operandi.
- Darlington is two and a half hours drive from Aughton Park. Llangollen is one hour twenty minutes’ drive from Aughton Park. So if Halliwell was living in Aughton Park, Llangollen and Aeolian House were within easy striking distance for him.
- Darlington is three hours’ drive from Llangollen. So if he was living/staying/working in the Darlington/County Durham area, Llangollen would also be within easy striking distance or vice vursa if he was working in North Wales in the summer of 1990.
Elimination of Michael Benson as a suspect in the murder of Ann Heron
There has been a suggestion that the violent armed robber Michael Albert Benson (deceased) may have murdered Mrs Heron. Northern Echo article here. Crimewatch UK coverage of Benson from December 1990 here at 10 minutes.
The authors have analysed this theory carefully. They entirely agree that Mr Peter Heron had nothing to do with his wife’s murder, they have ruled Benson out as a suspect. Their reasoning is as follows:
Access to the area
- Benson’s identification as a suspect is based on him being responsible for two attacks on women in Durham on the 18thof July 1990, two weeks before the murder of Mrs Heron. According to this hypothesis, this attack puts Benson as operating in proximity to Darlington, which is about twenty five miles away from Aeolian House. In fact, there is no evidence that Benson was the man that robbed two women in Durham on the 18th of July 1990. Other than having dark short hair, Benson does not fit the descriptions of the attackers or the photofits issued of them at the time. He was five foot eleven inches, slim and aged 40, whilst the attacker was five foot nine inches tall, stocky and aged 30. Further the Durham attacks were foot based in an urban environment, while the attack on Mrs Heron was vehicle mounted in a rural environment.
- At the time Benson was “on the run” and according to the Crimewatch coverage was working all over the country in security. Benson’s base area was Leeds or Southampton, not Darlington or Durham. There is no credible reason advanced for why Benson should specifically visit Darlington or Durham, in preference to any other place in the UK.
- Benson was a violent robber, but nothing was stolen from Mrs Heron or the house.
- So far as the authors can ascertain, Benson had no known history of sexual offences against women.
- Benson had no history of taking trophies from his female victims.
- If Benson was earning money from security work, he would have no reason to rob two women of £35.00. Indeed the secret of his success in evading the police from 1990 until his death in 2011 would seem to the authors to be, that he maintained a low profile and did not come to the attention of the police through petty crime. So the attack at Durham is contrary to his modus operandi while he was “on the run”.
- Cutting someone’s throat is a ruthless, brutal and gory act, possibly indicating a man that enjoyed inflicting pain on a woman. Particularly as there was no reason to kill Mrs Heron. So far as the authors can ascertain, Benson did not have any history of this type of offence against women.
- Benson’s weapon of choice was a firearm. Although he did use a carving knife which is primarily used for stabbing to rob three people, the authors can find no record of him ever using a small folding/retractable blade which is used for slashing or cutting.
- Whoever murdered Ann Heron was proficient with a knife and had probably used one to kill before. The authors can find no record of Benson ever stabbing anyone. The authors therefore consider it is highly unlikely that he had the experience to expertly cut a woman’s throat with a knife.
- Whoever murdered Ann Heron came to Aeolian House armed with a Stanley knife or a cut throat razor. A weapon that can be conveniently and safely carried while sitting in a car. So far as the authors can ascertain, Benson has no history of travelling while armed with a knife. Further, carrying a knife on your person carries a huge risk of being arrested for possession of an offensive weapon. Something that being “on the run”, Benson would be anxious to avoid.
- Witnesses describe seeing a Ford Sierra, not a Ford Orion.
- Benson was driving a Ford Orion, which did not feature in the above montage provided by Durham Police.
- The witness that saw the vehicle leaving from Aeolian Housewas a taxi driver. He would have probably have described the colour of the car accurately and he described it as mid blue not the dark metallic blue of the vehicle that Benson was thought to be driving. This is such a glaring difference, that the authors are satisfied it rules out Benson’s dark blue Orion from the enquiry.
Appeal for assistance
Anyone with information on the murder of Mrs Heron should contact Durham Police on 101.
Did you know of Christopher Halliwell’s father, a man called Alan Keith Halliwell who might have lived in Huddersfield, York, Ampleforth or Oswaldkirk, who previously served in the RAF?
Did you see Christopher Halliwell:
- Fishing at Scarborough?
- Fishing at Whitby?
- Fishing along the River Tees?
- Fishing at Scaling Dam?
- Fishing along the River Dee?
- In York?
- At Ampleforth?
- At Oswaldkirk?
- In Middlesbrough?
- On the North York Moors?
- In Huddersfield?
- In Merseyside?
- In Northampton?
- At Aughton Park?
- In Manchester?
If you prefer to talk to a journalist anonymously, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Durham Police was provided with a draft of this article and asked for a comment, but did not provide one by the time of publication.
The NYE Christopher Halliwell series
The NYE is the only media organisation that has conducted an in depth ongoing investigation into Halliwell. Links to our articles are below. They constitute the most up to date and continually updated source of information on Halliwell available to the public.
If you enjoyed this article, you may want to read the others in the series:
- The breaking of Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher. By Tim Hicks
- Book review: “Catching a serial killer” by Stephen Fulcher. By Tim Hicks
- Christopher Halliwell and Peter Sutcliffe compared. By Chris Clark & Tim Hicks
- Christopher Halliwell how many victims?By Chris Clark & Tim Hicks
- Christopher Halliwell: The Secret Murders.
- Scotland 1.
- Is Halliwell the “East Lancs Ripper”?
- The other Northern and Midlands cases.
- Have you seen this man?
- The River Tees Murders.
- Halliwells undetected victims.
- Police media operations against the NYE’s Halliwell investigation. Part 1: Wiltshire Police, 2. North Yorkshire Police and 3. Cleveland Police).
- Police media operations against the NYE’s Halliwell investigation Part 2: (4. Greater Manchester Police. 5. Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner).
- York: Did Halliwell murder Claudia Lawrence? 1: Operation Cabin Part 1.
- York: Did Halliwell murder Claudia Lawrence? 2: Operation Cabin Part 2.
- York: Did Halliwell murder Claudia Lawrence? 3: Operation Essence Part 1.
- York: Did Halliwell murder Claudia Lawrence? 4: Operation Essence Part 2.
- The Swindon and Bristol cases.
- InsideOut Justice. Who murdered Linda Razzell?
- Re-assessments based on fresh evidence or comment.
- Scotland 2: Caroline Glachan re-assessed
- Manchester 2: The murder of Helen Sage re-assessed
- Bristol 2: Jacky Waines AKA Linda Guest re-assessed
- Claudia: Halliwell antecedent investigation re-assessed
- Sharon Harper re-assessed
- Julie Finlay re-assessed. Fulcher and the NYE vindicated
- Rachel Wilson murder solved
- Trevaline Evans and Anne Heron: Was it Halliwell? Part 1
- Trevaline Evans and Anne Heron: Was it Halliwell? Part 2
- Christopher Halliwell the documentary.
- Detective Superintendent Fulcher the TV series.