The Beenham murders were the murders of a teenager and two girls in the Berkshire village of Beenham in 1966 and 1967. David Burgess was found guilty of two murders in 1967 and convicted of the third in 2012 after new forensic evidence was found. Burgess is currently serving a twenty-seven year prison term for his 2012 conviction.
Yolande Waddington was seventeen years old and had just begun working for the Jagger family at Oakwood Farm, Clay Lane, Beenham, as a live-in nanny to their young daughter. Waddington was born in Maidstone in Kent and lived with her family in Newbury, about 9 miles (14 km) from Beenham, before moving to Oakwood Farm. At 22:15 GMT on 28 October 1966, Waddington left the farm for the village postbox to post a letter to her boyfriend; the walk would have taken about fifteen minutes. While she was in the village, Waddington visited the Six Bells pub to buy some cigarettes. This was at 22:35, and was the last known sighting of her.
When it was noticed the following morning that Waddington had failed to return Oakwood Farm, the Jagger family telephoned her boyfriend who told them he had no idea where Waddington was. They reported her missing to the police at midday. On 30 October, two farm labourers found bloodstained clothing beneath hay bales in a cow shed on Clay Lane. Waddington's body was found lying in a waterlogged ditch a short distance away.
Waddington's hands had been bound with baling twine and the post-mortem, carried out by home office pathologist Keith Simpson, revealed that the cause of her death was strangulation with a twine ligature. Waddington had also been stabbed twice in her torso; the wounds were about 2 inches (51 mm) deep. The time of death was placed between 22:30 and midnight.
Regional crime squad officers, along with officers from Scotland Yard, were brought into the area. A search of the area around the cow shed for the murder weapon was assisted by US airmen with mine detectors based at nearby USAF Greenham Common. A broken blade from a pen knife, similar to that believed to have been used on Waddington, was recovered. More than 4,000 statements were taken from local people. Analysis of blood on Waddington's clothing revealed traces of a blood group which was different to hers.
In November 1966, every male in Beenham aged between 16 and 50 was invited to give a sample of his blood in one of the first voluntary mass blood tests in UK criminal history. Over 200 men were tested and the samples were examined by forensic scientist Margaret Pereira at Scotland Yard, but no match to Waddington's killer was found.
Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline WilliamsEdit
On 17 April 1967 at 16:00, Jeanette Wigmore and Jacqueline Williams, both aged nine, went out on their bicycles together after school. Twenty minutes later, Jeanette's father, Tony, saw the two girls playing in the lane at the back of his house, this was the last sighting of them.
When Jeanette had not returned home by 18:45, her father grew concerned and went looking for the girls in his car. Jacqueline's father, Terry, also joined the search and, before long, a number of other villagers did too. As dusk approached, Tony Wigmore drove down to a disused gravel pit, known as Blake’s pit, as he knew his daughter sometimes played there. The pit was at the junction of Webbs Lane, Admoor Lane and Lambden's Hill and sat across the lane from gravel works called Fisher's gravel pits. He saw the girls' bicycles lying in Blake's pit and a short while later, at around 20:30, he found his daughter’s body. Jeanette Wigmore was lying face down in water at the bottom of a bank. Jacqueline Williams's body was found later that same evening at 22:45 about 100 yards (91 m) from where her friend had been found, she was lying face down in a pool of water and had been covered with leaves and twigs.
The post-mortem, again carried out by Professor Keith Simpson, found that Jeanette had been stabbed five times and that three wounds in her throat had caused her death. Jacqueline had been manually strangled and then drowned in a pool of water. The time of death for both girls was believed to have been between 17:30 and 18:45. It was suggested that the killer had attacked Jacqueline first and, having sexually assaulted and murdered her, he had then probably realised that Jeanette had witnessed the attack. It was likely that Jeanette had been murdered to silence her.
Eighty highly-trained police officers, along with officers from Scotland Yard, were drafted in to assist with the investigation. The gravel pit was drained and searched with metal detectors for the murder weapon. Villagers provided 1,350 statements and fear descended on the local community with parents ensuring that their children were never out of their sight.
It was widely believed by local people that the person who had murdered the two girls was the same person who had murdered Yolande Waddington the previous October.
Conviction of David BurgessEdit
During police interviews it was established that two brothers were working at Fisher's gravel pits around the time Wigmore and Williams were murdered. Burgess's older brother, John, stated that after the last of their colleagues had left at 18:00, Burgess had gone across the lane to check some rabbit snares near Blake's gravel pit. Burgess worked as a dumper driver at the gravel pits and, after supposedly checking the snares, he returned to the office between ten and twenty minutes later. The brothers left work at 18:45 and went to their respective homes. Burgess, along with other men in the village, was asked to give police the clothing he had been wearing on the day the girls had been murdered. During the course of the investigation, he chatted to detectives and admitted that he was in a "dodgy position" as he had been near the pit where the girls had been found. He was also interviewed by the Reading Evening Post on 20 April, stating that he had been interviewed by police about Waddington's death because he had lost a knife similar to the one which had been used to stab her.
Wigmore's blood group was AB/MN which is a rare blood group shared by only 1.5% of the population. Smears of blood from this group were found on Burgess's right boot which he had been wearing on the day the girls had been murdered. This, along with his brother’s statement, led to Burgess being charged with the murder of Jeanette Wigmore on 7 May 1967. A few days before his arrest, Burgess had bought a drink for Williams's father in the Six Bells pub. He was charged with the murder of Williams on 25 May.
Burgess's trial was held at Gloucester Assizes in July 1967. During the trial, he tried to pin the blame on a man called "MacNab" from Reading who he claimed he had seen standing over the body of one of the girls in Blake's pit when he had gone to check the rabbit snares. He claimed he had chased the man away and MacNab had threatened him a few days later. The trial established that MacNab did not exist and Burgess was found guilty of the murders of Wigmore and Williams on 21 July 1967. He was given two life sentences.
Burgess had been born in Beenham village, the second oldest of five children. His mother had moved to the area from Yorkshire while working in service and his father's family had lived in Beenham for a number of generations. The Burgess family lived in Stoneyfields which was a development of council housing built in the village during the 1940s. Burgess attended the local primary school and lost his left eye in an accident when he was aged eight. He wore a glass eye which was said to give him a "staring" expression. He attended the Willink School in Burghfield Common and was described as "normal and average". A girl who knew him said he was "a difficult person to make friends with". He left school at fifteen and worked as a labourer at Park Farm in Beenham. He enjoyed poaching and was said to be a skilled rabbit catcher. Shortly after Burgess's conviction, his family moved out of the village.
Thirty-one years after Waddington's murder, in January 1998, it was announced that evidence would be re-examined with the hope of obtaining a DNA profile of her killer. The case was then reopened by the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review Team in September 2010. Detailed forensic examination revealed that Burgess's DNA was found on Waddington's headband as well as a polythene fertiliser sack and a comb from the murder scene. Burgess was charged with her murder on 15 November 2011.
The five-week trial took place in 2012. Burgess, then aged 64, stated that at the time of Waddington's murder he had been drinking ten or twelve pints of Guinness in the Six Bells pub every evening. He claimed that he had seen Waddington in the pub on the evening she was murdered and that she had left at about 22:30. He said he had left the pub fifteen minutes later and gone home. The court heard that, over the years, Burgess had confessed to fellow inmates and prison wardens that he had killed Waddington. When police had interviewed him about the murder in 1968, he had told them, "you will have to prove it".
At the trial, a former resident of Beenham told how Burgess, then aged fourteen, had followed her and attacked her one evening as she walked home from a phone box in January 1963. The trial also heard that Burgess had been released from prison on licence in May 1996, but he had failed to report to Leyhill Prison when required and had been involved in incidents of drunken and violent behaviour. He had then absconded for seventeen months before being arrested in a Portsmouth car park in February 1998 after carrying out an armed robbery at a Havant branch of Lloyds TSB bank. He was jailed for this offence for ten years in June 1998.
Burgess was found guilty of Waddington's murder on 20 July 2012, and three days later he was sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment. It was never established how the blood sample he gave in November 1968 had not been matched, but police suggested that it might have been incorrectly labelled or Burgess could have persuaded someone else to donate a sample in his place.
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