50 years on we remember Suffolk’s grisliest crime - the Tattingstone suitcase murder
Fifty years ago today 17-year-old Bernard Oliver left his home in north London. Ten days later his dismembered body was discovered in two suitcases next to a Suffolk field.
The Tattingstone Suitcase Murder still deeply affects the Oliver family today. Crime Correspondent Colin Adwent reports.
Even 50 years after his 17-year-old brother’s body was found in two suitcases on the outskirts of Tattingstone, Chris Oliver’s torment still moves him to tears.
Throughout five decades Bernard Oliver’s infamously disturbing murder – which gained national notoriety – has remained unsolved, although police believe two doctors with a sexual interest in youngsters were the prime suspects.
With both now dead they took any secrets they had to the grave.
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For Chris Oliver, now in his mid 60s, the nightmare never ends.
Mr Oliver, of Whetstone, north London, was the next youngest in age to Bernard of his five siblings.
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He said: “It’s just tormenting, knowing what happened to him. We were all boys. At the time I was 15.
“Bernard was a very gentle, friendly person.
“We used to do everything together. He was a bit backward. He found it difficult to pick up reading and writing.
“Bernard was a bit of a loner. He found it difficult at school.”
Police did not have a clue who the murder victim was when the teenager’s dismembered body was found, so they put out a photograph of his face in a national media appeal.
Mr Oliver found out about Bernard’s death from seeing his photograph in a paper as he was getting a bus to Muswell Hill with a friend.
“I was waiting for a bus going up to Muswell Hill. There was a clipping in the newspaper of this boy and the head was just showing. A friend of mine said that looks like your brother and he showed me the picture.
“I couldn’t believe it.
“How do you feel when you are reading something like that? – when his body has been found in a suitcase.”
Bernard was the fourth of six children to be born to his parents, George and Sheila.
The eldest was Maureen, his only sister. Bernard had four brothers Andrew, Philip, Chris and the youngest Tony, who was only 13 when Bernard died.
What happened to Bernard traumatised the family, which was already having to cope with George and Sheila separating less than a year earlier.
Mr Oliver said: “It had a massive impact on us. You can’t describe it. Even today it still upsets me. To be honest I don’t think any one of us have properly sat down and spoken and grieved about it.
“It was never really spoken about. At the time there was no counselling.
“It has done incredible damage. It split my family apart.
“It is still really raw after all this time.
“I just feel like I want to burst out crying now. I think I have bottled too much up for years.
“There was no one brought to justice. It is frustrating.
“I know they found my brother’s body, but look at the way they found it.
“They never, ever caught anyone who did this. At the end of the day it’s not going to make any difference.
“I have got my idea that the Krays (the notorious London gangsters) had something to do with my brother’s death and so has Tony.
“They all used to go down to this house (in Suffolk). There were rent boys brought in. There were all sorts of people that went to that place.
“It was very upsetting for Bernard when my mother left. He really went into his shell.
“It (his death) devastated my mother and devastated my father. She felt guilty because she left the matrimonial home.”
Sheila died around 2000 aged about 70.
Mr Oliver recalled: “All through my life she cried and felt really guilty even up until she died.
“I felt for my dad and found it difficult to be close to my mother for 10 years and then realised life is not always as it could be. Then I got closer to her in the last few years of her life.”
Asked if he thinks Bernard’s real killer or killers will ever be identified for certain, Mr Oliver said: “Anything is possible. You hear about DNA and that.
“I’m sure that somebody knows. Fifty years is a long-time.
“It won’t make a difference. It won’t bring my brother back. That is just the way I feel.
“You try to put it to the back of your mind, but I can’t do it.
“It’s there. You can’t stick it away in a drawer and forget about it.”
Photographing the crime scene
For more than 50 years former EADT and Evening Star picture editor Dave Kindred has chronicled the major events in Suffolk during a lifetime looking through the lens.
Mr Kindred, who lives in Ipswich, recalls his memories Tattingstone Suitcase Murder, a story he worked on as a young photographer.
“In January 1967 I was twenty-years-old and had worked as a photographer at the EADT/Star for almost four years.
“The first photographer from the Ipswich-based team was Ian McGrath who took a photograph from the road where the suitcases had been dropped off into the field.
“His picture was taken late in the same day of the discovery and used on the front of the EADT. Clearly there was no attempt by the police to cordon off the scene.
“I was at the scene when the cases and body parts were removed, but by then I had to work from the main road a couple of hundred yards away.
“Photographers and reporters were kept busy with the story over the next days and weeks as police tried to find out who the victim was.
A decision was taken by the police to have the head photographed in an effort to get identification.
“As I recall the Co-op funeral department were asked to prepare the head and a police photographer took the picture.
“The photograph was sent to national and local newspapers.
“The editor of the Evening Star, Tony Pyatt, took the brave decision to publish the photograph. Not something I think would happen now.
“The photograph was also published in a London evening newspaper where Bernard Oliver’s brother recognized him.
“My colleague Sam Brown later interviewed the man (Fred Burggy) who found the cases in the field at Tattingstone.
“He was presumably so shocked by what he found that he carried on working in the field for some time before telling anybody.
“Of all the stories I was involved in as a photographer at the newspaper for over 40 years this is one that still runs with no firm conclusion.”
Suspect - Dr John Byles
The body of Dr John Byles, 38, a former ship’s surgeon was found in a bedroom of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Proserpine, Northern Queensland, on Sunday, January 19, 1975.
The former ship’s surgeon had booked into the hotel under the name of John Matthews.
Byles, who death was thought to be a drug overdose, was one of more than 2,000 people interviewed about Bernard Oliver’s murder.
At the time of his death he was wanted for extradition to England as he was said to be part of the Holy Trinity paedophile ring, some of whose members were convicted at Leeds Crown Court in 1975. The case revolved around a church in Huddersfield.
During the trial Dr Byles is said to have been described as “evil”.
Among allegations made against Dr Byles was that he invited boys to his south London surgery, gave them alcohol and persuaded them to commit indecent acts. While they were doing so he took photographs which were then sold to pornography publishers in Denmark.
Following Dr Byles’ death Suffolk police were told he had once admitted murdering a cabin boy and cutting up his body.
Three notes were found beside Dr Byles’ body in the Australian hotel room which were addressed to Scotland Yard, his family and to another doctor – believed to be Martin Reddington. The note to Scotland Yard threw no light on the Tattingstone murder.
In 1963 Dr Byles, who was described in newspaper reports as a ‘Kensington Doctor’, stood trial along with another man for sexual abuse of a boy.
Suspect - Dr Martin Reddington
In February 1977 Colchester-born Dr Martin Reddington was charged at the Central Court in Sydney, Australia, with committing an indecent assault on a male.
Then aged 45, the medical practitioner of Turramurra was accused of an offence which was said to have occurred between December 1, 1971 and July 15, 1973.
Reddington had previously had a surgery in Muswell Hill. The premises were in the direction of the street Bernard Oliver was last seen walking down.
Two years before the teenager’s murder an arrest warrant was issued for Dr Reddington on charges of buggery and indecent assault on males in 1965.
Before he could be caught he fled to South Africa, but apparently made a number of return visits to the UK.
Despite several attempts, the warrant was never executed and his guilt neither proved nor disproved.
In 1977 a private investigator claimed to recognise the suitcase with the initials P.V.A. on its side as belonging to three men who used a laundrette in Muswell Hill, one of whom was Dr Reddington whom she identified through a photograph.
However, it was decided there was insufficient evidence to extradite him from Australia where he was living at the time.
Dr Reddington is said to have died aged 63 in Surrey in 1995.
Thirteen years ago original documents from the Tattingstone Suitcase murder probe revealed Drs Byles and Reddington were jointly wanted for a string of crimes.
One involved the murder of a boy in London in 1973, after an apparent homosexual relationship.
Unsolved murder still on police agenda
Suffolk Constabulary’s Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Millar said its joint major investigation team routinely review unsolved crime in the county and in Norfolk.
She said: “Using advances in forensic science such as DNA familial profiling and the experience of current and retired senior detectives, the team are looking for any development that could help with the investigation into the murder of Bernard Oliver, including new information from the public.
“Even with the passage of fifty years, it is never too late for people to come forward with any information they think may help this inquiry.
“The investigation into this death remains open and we will not stop looking for the person or persons responsible.”