Detectives have today made a fresh appeal into the 32-year-long murder investigation of an elderly grandmother, killed in her home in SE1.
Clara Kirton, was 86 when she was found dead by her son, and with her throat slashed, at her home in Great Suffolk Street on the Sunday morning of November 17, 1985.
Despite many enquiries over the years, her murder has never been solved. But after Mrs Kirton’s family requested a review of the case, detectives have offered of a £20,000 reward, which they hope may now encourage someone to come forward.
The substantial amount of money is available for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of Mrs Kirton’s killer.
Detective inspector Susan Stansfield, from the Met’s Special Casework Investigation team, said: “Detectives at the time carried out a lengthy and thorough investigation into Mrs Kirton’s death but despite speaking to hundreds of people and carrying out many other enquiries, no one was brought before the courts.
“Mrs Kirton’s son had the horrific shock of discovering not only his mother’s body inside her flat but also that she had clearly been the victim of a ferocious attack. That memory has, of course, been impossible to erase and the only small amount of comfort he and the rest of Mrs Kirton’s family might gain is from the conviction of the person who did this.
“It was a long time ago but such an awful incident would stick in your mind if you were local to the area at the time. If you have any information, no matter how small, please come forward.
“Maybe you were worried about telling police at the time. But now, more than 30 years on, you might feel able to approach us. We hope the reward on offer will also encourage people to contact us.”
Mrs Kirton’s body was found by her youngest son Brian, then aged 42, in the lounge of her ground floor flat of the Victoria Buildings.
He immediately alerted his sister Joyce and her husband and they called police and an ambulance.
Mrs Kirton’s son Brian, now aged 74, said: “My Mum was a wonderful lady, always friendly and happy to talk to people despite her poor health. She certainly did nothing to deserve what happened to her.
“Finding her like that was just awful. I still can’t believe someone could do that to my gentle loving mum.
“Those feelings are only made worse by the fact that no one has been caught for her murder. I would ask that anyone who has information please, please come forward and tell the police what they know.”
Mrs Kirton was pronounced dead at the scene at 10am.
A post-mortem examination found she died from inhalation of blood and crush injuries to her face and neck. The attack had most likely taken place between 4pm and 6pm the previous afternoon.
She had a number of wounds to her face and massive slash injuries to her throat.
The broken remnants of a beer bottle – believed to be the murder weapon – were found strewn around the lounge.
Drawers in the lounge and bedroom had been opened and searched but the only thing stolen – despite the fact she had £700 elsewhere in her flat – was Mrs Kirton’s red purse containing a small amount of cash.
There was no sign of forced entry, however Mrs Kirton had been in the habit of leaving her flat door open.
Police searched the immediate area looking for any evidence of a suspect but with no trace.
An incident room was opened at Southwark police station with fifteen police officers assigned to investigate Mrs Kirton’s murder.
Mrs Kirton was a widow and had four children and 26 grandchildren. She was frail, in the early stages of dementia and suffered diabetes. She was virtually housebound, leaving her flat only twice a week to visit a local community centre.
She relied heavily upon Brian who visited every day plus help from a meal delivery service and a district nurse.
It was her son and daughter who were the last to see her alive around 10am on the morning she was believed to have been killed, having taken her a chicken casserole for lunch.
Officers made extensive enquiries around the beer bottle which had been brought by the killer into Mrs Kirton’s house. It was a bottle of John Courage Strong Bitter, only available to buy at public houses.
However, the identity of the person who bought the bottle has never been found.
A number of appeals were made through the local and national press and an anniversary appeal conducted a week later in Great Suffolk Street with more than 200 vehicles and pedestrians stopped and spoken to. A total of 766 premises were visited during house-to-house enquiries.
However, no information was received that significantly progressed the investigation. Seven men were arrested during the course of the inquiry but released with no further action.
DI Stansfield added: “We don’t know for sure what the motive was but the evidence suggests someone made their way inside Mrs Kirton’s insecure flat and she disturbed them as they searched for cash to steal. The extreme violence used against her gave the original investigation team cause to believe the killer may have been under the influence of drink or drugs.
“Whatever the motive, Mrs Kirton’s family are desperate for answers and we would ask anyone who can help to come forward.”
Officers can be contacted on 020 7230 4294, via 101 or @MetCC or you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.