Murder of Lisa Hession

The murder of Lisa Jane Hession[1] (12 April 1970[1] – 8 December 1984) is a notorious[2] British unsolved murder which involved a sexually-motivated attack on a 14-year-old schoolgirl in Leigh, Greater Manchester, while she walked home from a party shortly before Christmas. On the evening 8 December 1984, Lisa Hession was found strangled to death in an alleyway only 200 yards from her home, with the murder occurring after a spate of sex attacks on women and girls in the area. Despite a reconstruction and appeal on Crimewatch in 2005 and the subsequent isolation of a partial profile of the killer's DNA, the murderer has not been apprehended.

Lisa Hession shortly before she was murdered
Murder of Lisa Hession
Aerial view of the town of Leigh. Hession's murder occurred around half way between the Leigh Sports Village stadium in the centre and the industrial site at the top-left corner of the image
Date8 December 1984 (1984-12-08)
TimeApproximately 10:30pm
LocationAlleyway behind Rugby Road in Leigh, Greater Manchester, Great Britain
Coordinates53°29′27″N 2°31′06″W / 53.490723°N 2.51826°W / 53.490723; -2.51826
CauseStrangulation with the neck of her own t-shirt
MotiveSexual assault

The DNA developments led to local swabbing of men taking place in 2011 and increased hopes that the killer could be caught, with Greater Manchester Police stating that only the naming of an individual by the public to be DNA tested was needed to solve the case. The murder continues to receive a large amount of publicity, and in 2017 a particularly high £50,000 reward was offered by police for information leading to the capture of the killer. This reward remains on offer.

Background edit

Central Leigh, Greater Manchester, the town in which the murder and the previous sex attacks had taken place

Hession was an attractive, academic schoolgirl who ran cross-country for Leigh Harriers and was a keen gymnast.[3] She lived in Bonnywell Road, Leigh, attended Bedford High School, and was a popular, outgoing child.[3] She was raised by her mother Christine and grandmother Eleanor.[3]

In the four months before the murder, three women had been victims of separate, sexually-motivated attacks within a one-mile radius of where Hession would go on to be killed.[3] The third attack had occurred only the night before Hession was murdered.[3]

Murder edit

Shortly before Christmas 1984, on 8 December, Hession's mother let her go to a friend's house party, on the agreement that she had to be home by 10:30pm.[3] The party was held at the terraced home of 16-year-old friend Andrew Heaton in Leigh Road, and attending was also her 16-year-old boyfriend Craig Newell.[4] The only girl at the event, Hession left the party at 10:15 after saying goodbye to her boyfriend.[3] She was then to walk the two mile journey home, and witnesses saw her walk through the town centre on St. Helen's Road and then spotted her walk along Buck Street, which was only about a minute's walk away from her home.[3] She had walked the route home many times and it was well used by locals.[5]

What occurred next is not entirely clear, but an attacker managed to lure or force her into a nearby alleyway between Newlands Road and Rugby Road.[3] Her assailant then attacked her sexually and killed her.[3] She was indecently assaulted.[6] The pathologist later concluded that her death had been due to pressure on her neck, probably due to her t-shirt being tightened around her neck by her attacker.[7] Her clothing had been disturbed, with her skirt pulled up over her waist and her underwear ripped.[7] The conclusion was that the killer probably pulled her t-shirt hard in one hand and used the other to clasp his hand over Hession's mouth.[7] The coroner later observed that he may not have meant to kill Hession.[7]

Hession's mother reported her daughter missing at 10:45pm after she did not return home as expected at 10:30.[3] She went out herself to look for her, actually passing the alleyway where Hession had been attacked three times.[3] Five minutes before midnight, a man out walking with his son discovered Hession's body in a recess in the alleyway, by a garage, only 200 yards from Hession's home which was on Bonnywell Road at the junction with Eton Street.[3][8] It was evident that Hession had fought desperately with her attacker; she had severe bruising to her lips and to her face, and also scratches on her neck.[3][9][4] It was concluded that the bruising on her lips had likely come from her being punched in the mouth, and lead detective Terrence Millard described her as being "very roughly handled".[9]

Investigation edit

At a press conference for national and regional press three days after the murder, police noted the three previous sexual attacks on women in the area.[3] In the first of these incidents, in August, a woman had been attacked when walking home to Rugby Road, which was behind the very alleyway where Hession was assaulted.[3] The victim in this case had reported that the attacker had come up from behind her, put his hand over her mouth to stop her screams, and threatened to kill her.[3] Threats to kill were also a feature of the two other attacks on women.[3] The offender in these cases was described as about 20 years old, good-looking and wearing jogging gear.[3] The victim of the August attack had managed to escape by calmly talking to the assailant and walking with him for 300 yards before he left her alone and left.[3] She stated that he told her in their conversation about how he "could not get a girlfriend".[3]

Inquiries also determined that a man had been seen watching Hession by witnesses on the Monday and Tuesday of the week she was killed.[3] It was discovered that the man had then followed her home on the Wednesday.[3]

Police were optimistic that the case could be quickly solved.[3] A man was soon arrested on suspicion of her murder, but he was released without charge.[3] He remains the only individual ever arrested on suspicion of the murder.[3] This man died in 2005, having been ruled out of involvement in Hession's murder by police.[10]

Another individual was questioned in prison in Merseyside two and a half years after Hession's murder, being held there for a separate offence, but no further action was taken.[3] This 32-year-old Merseyside man had first been interviewed by Hession investigators after they had been alerted by a Liverpool detective to comments he had made when being questioned and charged for the separate murder of an 84-year-old woman.[11][12] The prisoner was interviewed a second time about Hession's murder two weeks after first being spoken to about it, being questioned at Risley remand centre.[12]

Possible further attack edit

In May 1985, there was another sexually-motivated attack in the area which may have been linked to the previous cases.[3] A man grabbed a woman and held her up against a wall but fled while trying to take the woman's clothes off after a car's headlights disturbed him.[3] This attack occurred only a few hundred yards from where Hession's murder had taken place.[3]

Continuing publicity edit

"My gut instinct is that the person who murdered Lisa must have been local, must have known the area, and must have known this back entry ginnel that afforded some degree of seclusion for him to drag Lisa down and murder her."

"I am convinced someone knows who attacked Lisa and left her for dead and they should do the right thing and get in touch, via Crimestoppers or the Cold Case Unit on 0161 856 5978."

—Martin Bottomley, head of Greater Manchester Police's cold case unit, December 2022[7]

The site of Hession's murder is only 250m (273 yards) away from Christ Church, Pennington, and 600m (656 yards) from Leigh Sports Village, where Manchester United Women play their football.

The cold case has continued to receive significant publicity in the years since. In 1988 the Manchester Evening News highlighted the case as one of the high-profile unsolved murders in the region that still hadn't been solved.[13] Hession's case was featured on the 1 February 2005 episode of Crimewatch, which led to 27 calls to the programme offering potential information and a fresh wave of publicity.[14][15][6][16] Police revealed that they had two new leads to follow after the calls, some of which were from women who were concerned with the behaviour of their partners at that time, and several callers named the same two suspects.[5]

In 2011, the Manchester Evening News revealed that Greater Manchester Police had taken the "radical" step of swabbing groups of men in the Leigh area, after investigators had managed to isolate a partial DNA profile of Hession's killer.[17][18] The head of Greater Manchester Police's cold case unit confirmed that the swabbing was taking place, saying that "this is one of the cases we won't let go of".[17] Later, in 2019, it was revealed that the DNA profile isolated is good enough for a direct comparison to a suspect, and the public simply providing the name of an individual could solve the case by just allowing a comparison of their DNA to the sample.[10] Only two years after Hession's murder the importance of DNA in possibly solving the case had been highlighted by the apprehension of Colin Pitchfork for two sexually-motivated murders around 100 miles away in Leicestershire, in what was the first time DNA was used in the UK to convict a murderer.[10] The strategy used in that case, the swabbing of large numbers of local men, was the same later used in the Hession case.[10]

In 2018, Hession's murder was included on a map of cases on Mark Williams-Thomas's series The Investigator: A British Crime Story which he suggested could not be ruled out as possibly linked to serial killer Peter Tobin.[19] However, Tobin's DNA is already on the national DNA database and the police investigation into whether Tobin claimed further victims ended in 2011 as there was no evidence to link him to further cases such as Hession's.[20][21]

A well-known community Facebook page was set up in the 2010s devoted to helping solve the Hession case.[3] Current chief reporter of the local Manchester Evening News Neal Keeting said that it revealed "The strength of feeling in the Leigh community, they've not forgotten Lisa".[3] The case has further received notability as chief reporter of the Manchester Evening News Keeting's first murder covered happened to be the Hession case, reportedly "haunting" him ever since and leading to a significant amount of continued coverage of the case by this local paper.[3][1][17][10][18] In 2018 the paper paid for the printing of hundreds of appeal posters for the police to distribute across Leigh shops and businesses.[18] Hession's murder has been described as one of the most notorious unsolved murders in the region,[2] and a particularly high £50,000 reward was offered by police from 2017 for anyone who can provide information leading to the conviction of Hession's killer (this reward remains on offer).[22][3] As of 2023, the Hession case continues to be regularly featured in the media.[22][3][2][1][23]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d "Lisa Jane Hession would have been 50 today - her killer has never been found". Manchester Evening News. 12 April 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "New quest to track down Lisa Hession's killer". Wigan Today. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai "The case that haunts our chief reporter: The unsolved murder of Lisa Hession". Manchester Evening News. 4 January 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  4. ^ a b Horrocks, Paul (10 December 1984). "Killed by sex fiend". Manchester Evening News. p. 1.
  5. ^ a b "New leads for schoolgirl's murder". BBC News. 2 February 2005. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  6. ^ a b "Lisa murder: TV probe sparks new clues". Lancashire Telegraph. 2 February 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e "I'll never forget the morning I was told my classmate had been killed. We must keep her memory alive'". Manchester Evening News. 11 December 2022. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  8. ^ Keeling, Neal (10 December 1984). "The shadow over a small town: Who killed Lisa Hession, and why?". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  9. ^ a b "Murder sex link". Torbay Express and South Devon Echo. 10 December 1984. p. 1.
  10. ^ a b c d e "The killing of Lisa Hession: We have the proof, now give us the killer's name". Manchester Evening News. 8 December 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Man to be quizzed on 1984 murder". Manchester Evening News. 13 May 1987. p. 3.
  12. ^ a b "Prisoner in Lisa quiz". Manchester Evening News. 28 May 1987. p. 2.
  13. ^ "Killers who remain free". Manchester Evening News. 17 December 1988. p. 12.
  14. ^ "New appeal over schoolgirl murder". BBC News. 1 February 2005. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  15. ^ "Crimewatch UK BBC One logo BBC One Tue 1st Feb 2005, 21:00 on BBC One London". BBC Programme Index. February 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  16. ^ "New leads in hunt for Lisa's murderer". The Bolton News. 4 February 2005. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  17. ^ a b c "Unsolved Murder: Lisa Hession, strangled in Leigh". Manchester Evening News. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  18. ^ a b c "The breakthrough that could finally get justice for tragic Lisa Hession". Manchester Evening News. 14 November 2021. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  19. ^ The Investigator: A British Crime Story. Season 2. Episode 1. ITV.
  20. ^ "CSI Scotland: How forensics caught Peter Tobin". BBC News. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  21. ^ "Peter Tobin police probe Operation Anagram 'wound down'". BBC News. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  22. ^ a b "Police's £50k reward to solve Leigh girl's 1984 murder". BBC News. 11 December 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  23. ^ "Horrific murder cold case reviewed 35 years after teen strangled yards from home". Daily Mirror. 4 June 2019. Retrieved 24 June 2023.