New review aims to find who killed Martlesham pensioner Doris Shelley 25 years ago
- Credit: Archant
This Sunday marks 25 years since Doris Shelley was found covered in blood, cowering in a corner of her kitchen following a brutal raid on her Martlesham home.
The 82-year-old lost consciousness soon after being discovered by a neighbour. She would never come round – dying in a hospital bed 11 days later.
Her killer evaded justice, and her death still frustrates detectives on Suffolk’s unsolved crime investigation team.
But police are hoping a fresh review of almost 400 pieces of evidence, and a renewed appeal to anyone with new information, will lead to the case being closed.
Mrs Shelley, widowed in her 20s, lived only with her cats at a bungalow in Main Road, Martlesham, where neighbour Harold Scopes broke in through a widow on February 11, 1993, after becoming concerned when a woman who delivered shopping got no reply.
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He found his neighbour on her haunches, leaning against her stove and covered in blood from an attack with a blunt object.
Years later, in 2002, when Mr Scopes was 95, he said: “I broke in through the lounge window – although I later discovered a side door was unlocked, which I imagine was how her killer got in, because there was no sign of a break-in.
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“Her face was black and blue. She was scared stiff when she saw me. I had a job to get near her to do anything.”
Mrs Shelley had become a virtual recluse after the death of her husband. She had few relatives, and became further shut off following a violent robbery on her home 18 months earlier.
Police are currently halfway through reviewing almost 400 exhibits linked to the case.
Andy Guy has been major crime review manager for the last 10 weeks, having retired after 13 years as a senior investigating officer with Norfolk Constabulary.
His unsolved crime team has spent three weeks looking closely at the exhibits and taking advice from crime scene managers.
He said: “Doris Shelley was 82; she was reclusive and lived alone; she had a few friends and neighbours, but had no real intimate contact with anyone, and no family. She had lived in her home for about 30 years.
“On June 8, 1991, she was the victim of a robbery, when almost £13,000 was taken from her home. As a result, she was injured, and became quite security conscious and reclusive.
“She was last seen at home by neighbours at about 2pm on February 10, 1993. At about 12.45pm the following day, a neighbour (Mr Scopes) saw her curtains drawn and lights on inside. Through a gap in the curtains, he saw her cowering in a corner of the kitchen, quite seriously injured and covered in blood.
“She had been struck on the head – at least once – by a blunt instrument, and had suffered trauma to her face – possibly from a punch or kick.
“She lost consciousness before being recovered by an ambulance, but she never came round.”
In May 1993, the murder featured on BBC’s Crimewatch, prompting 50 calls and two photofits of men seen loitering around Mrs Shelley’s home in the days leading up to the attack.
One was aged 25-30, stocky, 6ft, with collar length wavy brown hair growing into dreadlocks. He was seen on February 8, 9 and 10.
A second man, aged 40, 5ft 10in, slim with dark brown hair and a fair complexion, carrying a Halfords bag, was seen standing by Martlesham underpass, near the A1214 roundabout.
Police also asked for help finding the driver of a red Ford Sierra-type car spotted on Mrs Shelley’s driveway, with the gates closed, on the last day she was seen alive.
At one stage, her death was linked to a similar attack on Eyke postmistress Susan Allum on September 10, 1992. The Post Office had already been targeted by robbers four months earlier, on May 19.
Mr Guy said: “A number of arrests were made at the time, when consideration was given to links with the previous incident at her home, and with the robbery of a Post Office in Eyke. However, none of the arrests produced suitable suspects for either crime.
“Since then, several reviews been carried out, and renewed appeals made. We are currently reviewing 397 exhibits to see if there are any potential forensic opportunities from a time when DNA was in its infancy. These include items taken from her home and herself, which have been previously reviewed but are being looked at again.
“This was a woman living a quiet existence, who was violently robbed twice in her home, and was killed the second time.
“A similar level of force was used on a woman in her 60s during the second of two Eyke Post Office robberies, which happened in close succession and near the time of Doris Shelley’s murder.”
Mrs Shelley’s bungalow, which was eventually torn down and replaced with a new home, was found in a state of disarray, leaving the scene difficult to examine forensically.
She was unable to tell anyone what had happened before she died.
In a direct appeal to anyone with information, Mr Guy said: “There is every chance that whoever was responsible is still alive.
“Looking at the level of violence involved, it’s unlikely this was their first offence. I imagine they had knowledge of Doris Shelley’s lifestyle – her property was quite identifiable as belonging to an older person.
“We don’t know what was taken, but cash boxes and drawers were opened in an attempt to find items of value.
“It would be foolish to rule out the return of those responsible for the previous robbery at her home.
“It’s not uncommon for people to confide in others about what they have done, or for prisoners to do so with other inmates, so it’s possible someone knows who was responsible.
“I appeal to anyone who has, or has been party to information, or had suspicions about someone at the time.”
If you have any information which could help, call 01953 423819 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.