23-year death mystery reopened

By Roddy AshworthDETECTIVES have reopened a 23-year-old inquiry into the death of a motorcyclist after being told he may have been killed by burglars fleeing a £7,000 raid.

By Roddy Ashworth

DETECTIVES have reopened a 23-year-old inquiry into the death of a motorcyclist after being told he may have been killed by burglars fleeing a £7,000 raid.

Essex Police have received fresh information about the death of Vernon Searl, an 18-year-old amateur athlete, who died in a motorbike crash in Coggeshall in 1981.

Detectives have been given an anonymous letter from a member of the public, who alleged Mr Searl may have been hit by a car driven by a a gang of burglars, who then left him to die.

The teenager was killed in a road crash in Colne Road in Coggeshall on the night August 24, 1981.

He was riding his motorcycle home to Hilton Way, Sible Hedingham, after visiting friends in Coggeshall - where he used to live in the Lamb pub - when it struck a tree.

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A police investigation was carried out and an inquest was held in Colchester on December 18, 1981, where a verdict of accidental death was recorded.

However, police inquiries revealed a burglary had taken place at a house in Colne Road, Coggeshall, at the time of the Mr Searl's crash.

Police said at the time they believed the burglars - who escaped with a £7,000 haul of silver, jewellery and watches - may have either been disturbed by the noise of the crash or may have even witnessed it.

They appealed for information about two vehicles - a white Ford Escort 1300 van and a beige estate car with a figure 3 or 4 in the number plate - that they believed were near the scene of the burglary.

But now Essex Police has received information suggesting the two incidents were connected and have reopened the investigation into Mr Searl's death.

Inspector Mark Harman, who is leading the investigation, said: "It appears the whole story didn't come to light during the initial investigation.

"The passage of time changes people, with perhaps misguided loyalty and fear preventing witnesses coming forward during our initial investigation. They now have a second chance to do the right thing."

He added: "I can't say the burglars were responsible for knocking him off his bike, but that is what the letter we received alleged.

"It says one of the vehicles hit the bike and then drove off. However, it must be remembered that this was an anonymous letter."

Insp Harman said he wanted to trace anyone who remembered details of Mr Searl's movements on the night of his death, and particularly the movements of the burglars.

He also wanted to like to speak to the person who wrote the anonymous letter, whom it was believed could hold vital information relating to the inquiry.

Anyone with information should contact Bocking traffic police on 01376 330722.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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