These Manchester’s Vilest articles concentrate on some of the true crime stories of the city and its surrounding areas - but this is the first time we’ve featured a murder that is yet to be solved.
Both the victim and the killer are still unknown, and with this being a murder that likely took place in the 70’s or 80’s it’s almost certain that someone out there knows what happened all those years ago.
The case is still open and detectives continue to follow leads or information on the case, but many argue that with such a large time period where the victim was still undiscovered - it’s almost impossible to solve. Well, let’s see about that shall we…
In 2010 a team of workmen, grafting on the new NOMA site for the Co-operative Group, uncovered a ghastly burial site. Located in an old car park, someone noticed a skull which then led to the discovery of a full human skeleton.
Now, this would not normally be big or even distressing news considering the location in which the body was found. In fact, the whole area around Angel Meadows was once the biggest (and most disgusting) Victorian slum in the city - a place which Frederich Engels described as “hell upon Earth”.
It’s estimated that there are up to 40,000 bodies buried underneath Angel Meadows, a result of such overcrowding in an area that was set aside for the city’s poorest workers. But this body was immediately different; it had been wrapped in a range of carpets, one of which was later found out to have come from a Ford Cortina.
Not only that but the victim was still partially clothed in a blue jumper, black stiletto shoes and a very distinctive 1970s style green pinafore dress. This skeleton was certainly not from the Victorian times.
The Victim’s Identity
The police were called and the body forensically examined. They discovered that she had suffered from a fractured neck, clavicle and jaw - injuries which were likely the cause of death.
They believed her to be aged between 18 - 35 when she died, which was sometime between 1975 and 1988. Her height was between 5ft 1in and 5ft 7in and she was missing her upper right premolar, something that would have been highly noticeable when she smiled.
But that was it. There was no name and no family - she was a Jane Doe.
The first port of call for police would be to try to identify just who the victim was, a process which would hopefully then lead to her killer or at the very least some potential suspects. Going through reports of missing persons around the time though was long, arduous work that yielded few results or leads.
They then turned to modern technology, creating a facial reconstruction of the woman based on her skull, which was revealed to the public in an episode of Crimewatch in 2011. Despite a few potential leads with some women that had gone missing at the time - dental records did not match up and police were left with a case that was truly cold.
A year later the police announced that the strongest possible candidate for the identity of the Jane Doe was a woman who was brought to their attention after a family from Tanzania got in touch.
The possibility may be that her family moved around a lot, and now live in Tanzania, and it is true that around the time of the 70s and 80s Angel Meadows was still home to a large community of WWII refugees and immigrants who may have subsequently moved on or headed back home in the period since her disappearance.
The leads from Tanzania however haven’t really gotten anywhere and police are not much closer in finding out who the woman was and perhaps finding out what happened and giving her the justice she deserves.
The Killer’s Identity
Without a name or identity for the victim it is nigh on impossible to find out who her killer was. Without these details there can’t be a motive and therefore - it could literally be anybody who lived in and around the city centre in a nearly 15 year time period.
There have been a few theories about the identity of the killer over the course of the case, mostly revolving around already convicted killers, something which to me seems like a rather convenient and easy solution - but which shouldn’t be totally ruled out.
Much like in the United States, the 70s and the 80s were rife for serial killers. Many have questioned the reasons behind such a spike in these kinds of killings - from the impact of violent movies to the dangerous levels of lead in petrol - but I’ll just leave that kind of hypothesising to the professionals.
What is true though is that there were a few serial killers operating in and around the area at the time, of which the Angel of the Meadow may have unfortunately fallen victim.
DNA from her remains have been checked against over 140 offenders that were operating during the two decades but there has yet to be a solid match. Theories include ones that saw her fall pray to the Yorkshire Ripper, serial sex killer Peter Tobin or even James Lloyd who liked to keep a shoe from his victims as a ‘trophy’.
Unfortunately none of the DNA tests have been a match and the identity of the killer, much like that of the victim is still unknown.
An Eyewitness Comes Forward?
One recent twist in the tale occurred at the beginning of 2020 when a bloke called Alec Whittle went to the police with possible information regarding the victim.
In a piece written by the MEN, Alec recounts how in the early 70s, after just leaving the Army, he went out for a pint at a club in Longsight.
As he entered and sat down at the almost deserted bar he got chatting to the barmaid, who was very chatty and also rather forthcoming with showing Alec a series of bruises on her neck and shoulders.
“She showed me all these injuries down her face and shoulder. She said she had no relatives here. I wanted to help her, I wanted to take her home to my parents house, but she refused and said she couldn’t.”
Then all of a sudden, a bloke came in and the barmaid became visibly frightened and told Alec to be quiet and sit down.
These details had been playing on Alec’s mind for almost 50 years, and he believes that the woman he was speaking to that night was indeed the Angel of the Meadow.
Was it? Well, that’s just it, as well as with everything else in this case - nobody knows.
Even with Alec’s ‘eyewitness’ account the police are still none the wiser and the case remains just as cold as it was over ten years ago. The Angel of the Meadow has yet to receive the justice she deserves and by all reckoning - her murderer is still out there.
If you have any information you should call police on 0161 856 5978 or 101. Reports can also be made anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.