This post is about a quartet of deaths in County Durham in the 1990`s that appear to be linked. The first was that of IT Consultant Julie Smailes, 27, on 30th October 1996. Her home in Wingrove Terrace, Leadgate, Consett, had been set alight. Miss Smailes was found bound, stabbed and strangled. She had received more than 45 stab wounds. Detective Superintendent Harry Stephenson, who lead the hunt for the killer, speculated that the motive was robbery. Miss Smailes had supposedly received £19 - £20,000 in share money and this became known around the area, so not unreasonably, this motive was a strong one. At her inquest, it was decided that four people were involved; two in the murder and two in the cover-up. Forensic evidence was obtained that placed a man called John Thompson in the house, and he quickly became the chief suspect, but was never charged. A couple of years later, a man called Darren Willis was arrested over her death but was later released without charge. Julie`s sister, Wendy, and her partner Steve Nelson were initially held by Police and questioned for 36 hours. Wendy says she told Police that her sister had bought recreational drugs from Thompson, but she says that they simply did not want to know.
The next death was that of trainee teacher Rachel Tough, 18. She suffered blunt force trauma, after leaving her home in Warwick Avenue, Moorside, Consett. She received a telephone call from John Thompson asking for help to fix a washing machine. A week later John Thompson hanged himself in woods about a mile away from his home. At the Inquest, the Coroner stated that he was in doubt that Thompson murdered Miss Tough. Whatever was the motive?
Then on 31th December 1999, the body of 28 year old Emma Kennedy, of Dorset Crescent, Moorside, was found at the foot of Hownsgill Viaduct. Police concluded that she was depressed and that she committed suicide - a scenario hotly disputed by her father, John. He stated that she was in good spirits, and looking forward to a millennium party at her father`s house. John Kennedy says that his daughter was thrown from the viaduct by people involved in the murder of Julie Smailes. He said that Thompson had told her about the murder of Julie, which unsettled her. Emma, he said, received numerous death threats over the phone, about the murder, which meant that the people threatening her and possibly responsible for her death, were the others involved, as Thompson hanged himself a week after Rachel`s death. The Coroner recorded an open verdict as there was not enough evidence to justify a suicide ruling. As ever, if anybody knows anything, they should do the decent thing and call the Police.