Polstead: We have never given up hope say family of murdered Linda Smith

Murder victim Linda Smith's headstone

Murder victim Linda Smith's headstone - Credit: Contributed

Linda Ann Smith’s body was found in a field next to Stackwood Road, Polstead, near Hadleigh, on January 20, 1961. The 12-year-old schoolgirl was clothed and had been strangled with her own scarf.

Linda's mother Pat

Linda's mother Pat - Credit: Andy Abbott

Four days earlier, she had disappeared from Earls Colne, near Halstead, while running an errand for her great grandmother.

The police picture issued of Linda

The police picture issued of Linda - Credit: Andy Abbott

Despite a large-scale police investigation headed by the Metropolitan Police, assisted by Suffolk and Essex detectives, her killer was never found.

The passing of time may have staunched her family’s tears. However, it has done little to extinguish their hope that one day the murderer’s identity will be revealed and, if still alive, the person responsible will be brought to justice.

Fifty-two years after Linda’s death, her 84-year-old mother Pat – who lives in Stanstead, near Long Melford, with Linda’s eldest sister Sheena Croll – recalled her darkest days in the hope it would prick someone’s conscience.

The family and detectives believe someone, somewhere, still has a missing piece of the puzzle which could lead to a breakthrough.

Suffolk’s Constabulary’s major investigation team is currently reviewing evidence and forensics from the time, with a senior detective stressing it is not too late for the case to be solved.

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Pat, Sheena, and Linda’s three other sisters Jane Sibley, Fiona Goldsmith, and Petra Southgate – who was born after Linda’s death, revealed the impact the schoolgirl’s murder has had on their lives. They also appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

Sheena, 63, said: “We have all had to live with this over the years.

“Linda was the sister closest to my age. We used to do lots of things together. We would tell stories at night to each other, just little ones’ stories at bedtime. We used to play out in the garden. I missed her quite a lot. As the years go by the memories are still there, but they are fading.

“I can still imagine what she looked like. She was a very loving sister, very caring. She liked to do things for other people. She was a very easy-going girl, very even-tempered, very placid.

“We are hoping that speaking about Linda will jog someone’s memory. Someone who has some small piece of information they have hidden somewhere. We would like closure over this, especially for our mum. Now people are older and time has passed people might be more inclined to come forward.

“We would like to get justice for a little girl who never did any harm to anybody. We are just so grateful that Suffolk Constabulary has not forgotten Linda.”

Fiona, 54, said: “As sisters we have talked about what happened. Mum doesn’t speak about it too much. It’s her way of coping. As we have got older we have wanted to find out more. It was a comfort to find out that she had not been indecently assaulted. As time has gone on it has started to give us a bit more closure.

“I would personally like to know who did it and why. If they are still alive it would be good to have a prosecution. It’s not going to bring anybody back, but it would bring us closure and we could put this to rest. You hear about a case never being closed until it is solved and that is true in our case. It just gives other families hope.”

Petra, 49, said: “Linda is a member of our family who was taken from us. We have all had families and children. Linda never had the chance to do that. Any little piece of information would help. We would like to get some justice for Linda.”

Like her sisters Jane, 60, said Linda is constantly in her thoughts: “Linda is still my sister and always will be my sister. I will never forget her.”

Should Linda’s killer ever be caught, the family said they would be comforted by the knowledge they had not given up.

Petra said: “It would feel like we had done as much as we could for Linda and not define her as our sister who was murdered, but as our big sister who is not with us.”

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