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Bury St Edmunds historian Martyn Taylor looks back 10 years at the brutal murder of jeweller Peter Avis



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This year marks the tenth anniversary of a terrible event that occurred at number 20 Abbeygate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, the jewellery business owned by Peter Avis.

A Mr Collis opened a jewellers here in 1805, although the property itself dates from around 1720; it has a flying freehold with number 19. The shop front was designed by a London shopfitter, Sage of Clerkenwell, in 1897. At the same time, the display cases still evident up to 2012 were installed.

The trading name of Collis continued with its purchase in 1921 by William Miles, passing to his daughter and then on to her son, Peter Avis. He was one of the last owners of a business in Bury to occupy his shop premises.

Collis & Son, in Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds - scene of the murder of Peter Avis
Collis & Son, in Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds - scene of the murder of Peter Avis

He was a quiet, unassuming man and as he got older his mobility was impaired, probably due to a brain aneurism several years earlier. You could enter his shop and stand there for quite a while until he came through.

Like many jewellers he relied on repeat business for his merchandise, however it was said by many ‘how did he make a living?’

Rumours circulated that he dabbled in the bullion market, buying and selling gold, though whether this was true is pure conjecture.

Martyn Taylor
Martyn Taylor

It was possibly this that may have led to a botched burglary on January 13, 2012, by five Polish nationals.

The ringleader and responsible for stabbing Peter to death was Ireneusz Melanuik, who was a wanted man for other offences in Poland.

Eventually, he and his accomplices were tracked down and sent to trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

There, on August 13, he pleaded guilty after a two week trial. He later received a life sentence with a minimum tariff of 25 years on November 16 for this heinous crime.

The others were given a shorter range of prison sentences for burglary.

Peter, a vulnerable man, was just 66 years old when he was killed.