Author Topic: 'We’ve waited 44 years for this day': Mother demands justice as coroner finds  (Read 99 times)


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'We’ve waited 44 years for this day': Mother demands justice as coroner finds her daughter, eight, was unlawfully killed and police are sure chief suspect strangled her and slashed her throat with penknife

    Heartbroken mother has said her daughter's dead 'blighted her family'
    She has called for justice and to get the killer named in order to have 'closure'
    West Midlands police have said they are 'hopeful' of bringing the killer to justice
    John Sir, now 72, made three confessions consistent with Helen Bailey's murder

By Luke Andrews For Mailonline

Published: 16:29, 5 July 2019 | Updated: 17:48, 5 July 2019

The heartbroken mother of an eight-year-old girl found strangled with her throat cut more than 44 years ago has called for justice after a coroner recorded a conclusion of 'unlawful killing' in a re-opened inquest.  Margaret Bailey said her daughter Helen's death had 'blighted' her family and left her 'grieving for all these years'.  John Sir, now 72 and also known as Kenneth Etchells, who made three 'entirely consistent' confessions to killing the schoolgirl between 1978 and 1979, has claimed they were invented so that he could get into Highcroft mental hospital.  After coroner Louise Hunt said she would write to the Crown Prosecution Service to ask them to re-open the case, following the conclusion, West Midlands police said they were 'very hopeful' that they could bring the girls killer to justice.  Helen Bailey was found by her father lying in a woodland near Birmingham with her throat slit the day after she disappeared on August 10.  She was dubbed Little Girl Blue after it emerged that she was wearing her favourite dress when she vanished.  The 86-year-old mother said she 'wants closure' and 'wants to get this man named'.  'We've waited 44 years to this day,' she said, 'so that we can get closure for Helen'.

After her husband found Helen's body she said he stood by it for three hours so he could identify her when the coroner arrived. The was 'tormented every day' by the experience.  'I have grieved for all these years,' she said speaking about her daughter, 'she's never left me really'.

'She's with me all the time, I'm talking about her all the time, my friends all know about her, and my family, everybody knows about it.  It's just blighted our lives. So now it would be lovely to have closure a bit late.  But better late than never.'

Helen's brother Adrian, now 53, said that they were thankful for the help at the moment but that people had made 'serious mistakes' in the past.  'We're still not getting final closure with having somebody arrested, he's still out there,' he said.

West Midlands police have said they have one suspect after re-opening the cold case, but after 'protracted discussions' with the CPS have not been able to agree that the evidence 'meets the charging threshold'.  'Helen's death has remained a mystery for over 40 years, but it is important for her family to have it formally documented that she was unlawfully killed,' said detective chief superintendent Mark Payne.

'Nothing can ever bring Helen back to them, or all the lost years that she should have been with them, but I hope this small recognition can bring some comfort.  This leaves us then with a murder enquiry into an eight-year-old girl's death back in 1975.  We are actively pursuing this investigation with a cold case review and we are very much hopeful of bringing an offender to justice.  Our investigation will remain open and, should any new evidence come to light, we will pursue it.'

The retired receptionist said her daughter Helen had disappeared a few days before the family were due to go on holiday to Cornwall.  She had been desperate to play games with her sibling and his friends after bath time, but after going out searching for them she was never seen alive again.  Margaret said: 'Helen was in the bath and Adrian's friends came to the door and said 'can Helen and Adrian come to the park with us', and Adrian he was 10 said 'do we really have to have Helen with us'.  And I said, 'go on then, I won't tell her'.  So she then washed and dried and she went down into the garden and was obviously looking for him.  And he said to her 'mom said you can't come with us'.  So then they went to one park, she went down to the other park thinking that's where they'd gone.  She went to the wrong park.  So I feel responsible, Adrian feels responsible, but it's all 'if-only' isn't it?'

Two innocent boys were first accused of killing the 'chatty' and 'lively' girl, after some residents thought they were linked to the case.  Margaret said she believed the rumours at the time 'because that's what we were told by the coroner'.  But my husband never believed that, he always thought it was murder and so did my son'.

The case remained untouched until 2014 when a cold case review was opened by West Midlands police.

A pathologist, who examined the original post-mortem photos, said the cuts on her neck, that had previously been described as shallow, were anything but, and also found typical signs of asphyxia.

Heartbroken mother calls for justice 43 years after her daughter was killed

Margaret Bailey, whose daughter was found by her father lying in woodland with her throat slit, called for justice today.  After a coroner recorded a conclusion of unlawful killing she said, 'Well I believed them at the time, that these two boys were responsible, because that's what we were told by the coroner.  We were told it was just an accident, but when I think about it they said it was just a little nick in the jugular vein and she could have got up and walked  way that's what he said.  But my husband never believed that, he always thought it was murder and so did my son.'

But when, six years ago, police told her it was murder she said it was "dreadful" to have discovered the truth had evaded the family for almost 44 years.  The police came to see us, opened the case again and so for the last six years we've known what's happened and it's different to what we were told in the beginning, so we want the truth now.  It was dreadful. My son said he was coming down to see me, and it was such a shock and he said 'mom, it's murder'.  I've never been the same since.  Obviously I have grieved for all these years. She's never left me really.  She's with me all the time, I'm talking about her all the time, my friends all know about her, and my family, everybody knows about it.  'So now it would be lovely to have closure a bit late.  We've waited 44 years for this day and we just want this man named.  So that we can get closure for Helen.'

Police came to see the family to say that they thought Helen's death was murder.  'It was dreadful,' said Margaret, 'my son said he was coming down to see me, and it was such a shock and he said 'mom, it's murder'.  I've never been the same since'.

The new inquest was opened after a ruling in the High Court overturned the original 'open verdict' conclusion last year.  Sir was arrested in 2014 after the statements emerged during a cold case review in 2012, but claimed he had lied about murdering Helen.  Appearing in Birmingham coroner's court via video-link wearing a yellow t-shirt and glasses, he said he couldn't remember what happened because it was 'so long ago'.  'I only know what happened to Helen Bailey from what I heard or saw in the papers or whatever', he said.

'I remember being admitted to hospital in 1978 because I was feeling suicidal and I wanted somewhere to sort myself out.  I had taken quite a serious overdose. I recalled myself because of problems. And I wanted somewhere to sort myself out.  I confessed to the murder to make myself interesting to them. To ensure I got in.  I didn’t think wanting to kill myself or my wife was enough.  I can only say it was a coincidence [that my confessions were consistent with later post mortem findings].'

Asked if he was responsible for Helen’s death, he answered: 'No.'

When asked if he could provide any information as to how Helen came by her death, he said: 'No.'

When asked if he owned a penknife at the time he paused and eventually said: 'I may have owned a penknife, as I go fishing, but it would have been in with my fishing tackle.'

The inquest heard Sir made three confessions to the murder while undergoing psychiatric treatment at Highcroft Hospital, in Birmingham.  A post mortem examination carried out by pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary in 2012 showed she had been strangled prior to her throat being cut.  This is a feature of Helen’s death which the original pathologist missed, the inquest heard.  The inquest heard Sir, now 72, admitted strangling Helen before cutting her neck with a penknife as she was still breathing to medical staff.  Detective Chief Superintendent Caroline Marsh said: 'I have no doubt in my mind. I believe the perpetrator was Kenneth Etchells [Sir] and there are no outstanding suspects in this inquiry.  Etchells/Sir described to medical staff how he killed Helen by strangling her and then cut her throat with a pen knife when he realised she was still breathing.'

Helen’s mother Margaret Bailey, who attended the hearing, said in a video interview played to the court: 'I just want closure.  I would like to think I can finish my life and know justice has been done for Helen.'

The inquest heard Sir attacked his mother in 1991 with a hammer. She never recovered and died months later from pneumonia.

44 years of pain: How the Little Girl Blue case unfolded over the decades after she was found with her throat cut in a woodland

11 August 1975 Father finds his daughter's body in woodland in Birmingham near the M6 motorway. He stays with the body for three hours so that he could be there to identify her when the coroner arrived, an experience which 'tormented' him for the rest of his life.

1976 An inquest returns an 'open verdict' and says her death may have been the result of an 'accidental joke gone wrong'. Her father and brother refused to believe the conclusion.

1978 & 1979 - John Sir confesses to the murder three times while at Highcroft hospital. He gives facts which are 'entirely consistent' with her killing. Two innocent boys are also wrongly accused of her murder

2014 - The cold case is re-opened after a pathologist re-examines post-mortem photos and says she had deep cuts in her neck and that there are clear signs of asphyxiation. John Sir's confessions also come to light

2018 - The High Court overturns the previous conclusion of the inquest and orders a new one to be carried out

2019 - The coroner rules that she was killed by 'unlawful killing' and says she will write to the CPS to ask them to re-open the case. John Sir tells the court that he made up his confessions in order to get into the hospital. West Midlands police say they are hopeful they can bring her killer to justice