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Martlesham/Coggeshall: New details emerge in Diane Jones murder case 30 years after her death

PUBLISHED: 08:26 23 July 2013 | UPDATED: 08:26 23 July 2013

Diane Jones

Diane Jones

Today on the 30th anniversary of one of Suffolk's most infamous unsolved murders new details have emerged about the night Diane Jones is believed to have been killed.

Crucial evidence could have been destroyed

A potentially crucial piece of evidence which could have led detectives to Diane Jones’ murderer was destroyed before her body was found.

Former Detective Chief Superintendent Eric Shields, who headed the case, believes bad luck played a part in the killer never being caught.

Mr Shields, now 83, also told of the frustration and disappointment at the murderer evading justice.

On the weekend Mrs Jones was last seen, someone was seen taking a rolled up carpet from a car at the spot where her body was subsequently found.

As the witness was suspicious, they wrote the car’s registration number down, but discarded it before Mrs Jones’ remains were discovered three months later.

Mr Shields said: “The main frustration is that nobody was brought to justice.

“Everybody working on the case would have liked to have seen a conclusion to satisfy everybody.

“It was disappointing for everybody that no action was taken against anybody.

“We had a lot of bad luck. Firstly the body had been laying there for some three months. A lot of evidence had gone and there was no DNA in those days. That was all lost to us.

“We were unlucky in that the guy who took the number plate of the car where the body was dumped and wrote it on a Melton Grange (a Woodbridge hotel) menu card unfortunately threw the card out before her body was found.

“He knew the date when it was put there because they were going to the Melton Grange to celebrate something, and I think it tied up with the weekend Mrs Jones went missing.”

Despite the passing of 30 years Mr Shields urged anyone with information about Mrs Jones’ murder to contact police.

He said: “If somebody came forward and gave the police any concrete evidence which allows them to bring someone to trial it would be a good thing.”

The doctor’s wife was around two months pregnant at the time of her disappearance on July 23, 1983. She was found dead in a copse in Brightwell, near Martlesham, three months later.

The case captured national headlines after the 35-year-old was reported missing by her husband Dr Robert Jones nine days after last being seen.

During the media coverage that followed it emerged Mrs Jones had been seen arguing with her husband on the night of July 23. At the time the pair, who lived at Lees Farm, Coggeshall, were in a pub in the small Essex market town.

Thirty years on further light has been shed on what is alleged to have been said during the argument via a Suffolk Constabulary report on the case obtained by this newspaper.

The Major Crime Current Position Report reads: “During the evening Diane asked to be taken out and at about 10.20pm they went to the Woolpack public house, Coggeshall (approximately one mile from Lees Farm). In the Woolpack Diane was described by some witnesses as drunk.

“Soon after being seated at the bar Diane fell off a stool backwards and had to be helped up.

“At closing time Diane refused to leave the public house and said to Dr Jones ‘I’m not going home with you, you’ll beat me up’.

“Dr Jones then put his dog, and Diane’s brown handbag, in his car and returned for Diane.

“She refused to leave and had to be manhandled and carried to the door by Dr Jones. He then allegedly put her over his shoulder and carried her from the pub.

“What happened after the couple left the Woolpack Public House remains in dispute.”

Dr Jones was said to have driven his wife home and left her at the front gate while he parked their car.

The report states: “This was the last time she was seen alive.

“Dr Jones eventually reported his wife missing to the local police on August 1, 1983.

“Essex Police immediately treated her disappearance as suspicious.”

Mrs Jones’ decomposed body was discovered 30 miles away in Brightwell at around 3.30pm on October 22, 1983. It was found by a beater during a pheasant shoot at Sheepdrift Farm. Mrs Jones was identified through dental records two days later. Her skull had been fractured in four places. From the injuries sustained it appeared she had been hit with a weapon similar to a slater’s hammer with a long spike on one side and a square hammer on the other.

At Mrs Jones’ Ipswich Crown Court inquest in April 1984 Home Office pathologist Geoffrey Gresham said given the warm summer in 1983 her body would have been there since July or August.

A large-scale hunt for Mrs Jones’ killer involving Suffolk and Essex police was headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Eric Shields, of Suffolk Constabulary.

Incident rooms were set up in Coggeshall and Suffolk. House-to-house enquiries were conducted. Searches were made of 70 miles of roadside verges and the Jones’ home. Although he was not initially arrested Dr Jones was questioned thoroughly on more than one occasion, according to police records.

It was reported the 41-year-old and Mrs Jones – his third wife – had been on verge of separating when she went missing.

Before her body was found Dr Jones explained to reporters how she had vanished whey they returned home from the pub.

She had got out of the car by the house, he said. He added: “She always liked to do that because the gravel damages ladies’ heels. I parked the car in the garage and was just a few minutes.”

However, he said when he went into the house his wife had gone.

Dr Jones was subsequently arrested on November 14, 1983, before being released on bail two days later.

The police report states: “The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) subsequently decided that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against Dr Jones.”

His former wife and surgery receptionist Sue Smith, and Paul Barnes from Maldon, were also detained, before being released without charge.

Dr Jones was arrested again on June 16, 1990, and interviewed at Ipswich police station after detectives were said to have unearthed ‘fresh evidence’ on the case. However, after consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service Dr Jones’ bail was cancelled.

Dr Jones always denied publicly, and to the police, that he had anything to do with his wife’s murder.

At one stage it was intimated there was a link between Mrs Jones’ killing and that of Dawn Wakefield, in Buxton, Derbyshire in 1982. The information was looked at but it was decided there was insufficient evidence to re-open the Diane Jones inquiry.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hayward from the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team said: “Unsolved cases are periodically reviewed and this is the same for the Diane Jones murder. Thirty years is a long time, but I am sure anyone who was living in the area in 1983 will remember this case.

“Any new information we receive will be reviewed and considered to see if it can assist with the investigation and I would ask anyone who may have information to contact us.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Suffolk Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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