Fresh appeal to trace

By Sharon AsplinA FRESH appeal has been made today to a killer, urging him to "clear his conscience" and confess to one of Essex's most bizarre murders.

By Sharon Asplin

A FRESH appeal has been made today to a killer, urging him to "clear his conscience" and confess to one of Essex's most bizarre murders.

Just over 10 years ago, frail pensioner Ron Cousins was found stabbed and strangled at his terraced home in Chelmsford.

The body of the devout Christian was sprawled on the floor and covered in white paint. In a gruesome twist, a page from his Bible had been ripped out and stuffed into his mouth.

The paint was so thick it was 24 hours before it could be cleaned off Mr Cousins' face and he could be formally identified.

Despite talking to more than 2,000 people in house-to-house inquiries and spot-checks in the streets and following numerous lines of investigation, his callous murderer has never been caught.

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An Essex Police spokesman said yesterday: "This remains very much a live case. Despite the huge investigation the killer has not been found, nor has a motive.

"The person responsible has been harbouring a terrible secret for 10 years and we would ask him to clear his conscience and come forward.

"We would also appeal to anyone else who has any information or has started to suspect something over the last 10 years to get in touch."

Mr Cousins, 78, was found dead at his two-up, two-down home in Anchor Street, Chelmsford, on April 16, 1994.

Concerned neighbours, Paul and Phyllis Nestor, worried that water was pouring from the overflow to his bath and his curtains were still drawn, went to investigate.

The elderly couple found Mr Cousins strangled and stabbed, face upwards on the floor, and his house ransacked. More white paint was splashed over the walls and floor and the bath taps were left running.

Det Sgt Gary Glassfield, of Essex Police, said at the time that the victim "looked like a mannequin" and added: "We have never seen anything like this - it's a bizarre, baffling case."

A kitchen knife was discovered missing, but, along with the ligature used, it was never found. If he were not already dead, the paint would have asphyxiated him.

Mr Cousins was last seen alive by his next-door neighbour, David Bailey, at 6.30pm on April 15 and he thought he heard banging from the home three hours later.

An inquest in 1996, which recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, heard the killer of the defenceless pensioner had probably stayed at the murder scene for several hours

The Essex Police spokesman added: "This was a very shocking crime which left the local community scared and stunned.

"There were many peculiarities with this offence, such as the page torn from the Bible and placed in his mouth and the white emulsion paint which was poured over Mr Cousins' face and body.

"His home was ransacked, but some £700 in cash was found at the house, so if it was a burglar, he was an incompetent one. Also, the level of violence was far greater than was necessary to overpower an old man."

Ex-soldier Mr Cousins was a regular churchgoer and known locally as a Good Samaritan. He was a supporter of the Salvation Army, where he was dubbed "Big Ron", and had attended the United Reformed Church for 57 years.

He had never married and had lived in his street for more than 30 years and was proud of being its oldest resident. Mr Cousins had been a milkman and had worked in a local factory - and was known as a friendly man who could have invited his killer in.

During the murder hunt, police followed up and discounted a number of leads, including a possible link to the occult and a connection to a burglary at a home in Bradfield where white paint had also been splashed around.

A £2,000 reward was offered by Crimestoppers and the incident was re-enacted on the BBC Crimewatch programme.

Detectives also enlisted the services of an offender profiler who had helped solve a number of high-profile cases - such as the Jamie Bulger murder and the kidnapping of Stephanie Slater - to try to draw up a psychological picture of the killer.

The motive for Mr Cousins' murder still remains unclear today, although a burglary which went wrong is considered the most likely explanation

Many sets of fingerprints were uncovered by forensic teams at Mr Cousins' home, one of which still remains unidentified - possibly that of the killer.

A 16-year-old youth and a 32-year-old car salesman were arrested in connected with the murder, but were later released, while a young man seen outside Mr Cousins' home that evening has never been traced.

Anyone who has information about the murder should contact Det Supt Kevin Macey or Det Sgt Bob Gilbert, of Chelmsford police, on 01245 491212.

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