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How police review an unsolved murder like that of Jeanette Kempton whose body was found near Wangford in 1989



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Being part of an unsolved murder investigation team means constantly asking yourself new questions.

Every day, you hope that it will be the day when you crack the case – having sifted through numerous claims to find the golden facts – with the aim of filing another murder investigation as complete and getting justice for the victim and their loved ones.

A small team works across Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary to solve the mysteries surrounding long-standing cases, some of which stretch as far back as the 1960s.

Jeanette Kempton went missing in February 1989. Picture: Suffolk Police
Jeanette Kempton went missing in February 1989. Picture: Suffolk Police

Cases come and go, with reviews conducted for a number of reasons and in new ways, as many investigations are helped by technological advances. The team continues to hope it can find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In the case of 32-year-old Jeanette Kempton, police started reviewing her death again nine months ago in the hope they could find the missing link in the now 33-year-old inquiry after her body was found in a ditch near Wangford.

Jeanette's story began on February 2, 1989. Some 12,124 days on from that day, when she disappeared from the Loughborough Hotel, in Brixton, London, her family and the major investigations team, remain searching for answers.

The scene where Jeanette Kempton's body was found Picture: Suffolk Police
The scene where Jeanette Kempton's body was found Picture: Suffolk Police

"We have probably been reviewing it for about nine months. I think July last year we started," said Andy Guy, head of the major investigations team in Norfolk and Suffolk Police.

"We get contacted all the time about all sorts of cases, and an individual might say ‘I want to tell you about a murder, I’ve never told anyone about this before. The person who did it was this.’ And it really changes and brings in a new line of inquiry.

"And there might something like DNA. All the time we are putting samples on to the national database and it might be a hit.

"There are all sorts of reasons, and sometimes, like Jeanette’s case, it hasn’t been done for a long time, we need to do it again. Of course, we can only manage one or two at a time – we only have three staff and myself, and there is a limit to what we can do."

Jeanette was described as full of life – the life and soul of the party. She had lots of friends and frequented her local pub when the opportunity arose.

On the evening she went missing, she was at the Loughborough Hotel, now home to flats and an art gallery in the London district, and had the equivalent of 11 glasses of whisky, or five-and-a-half pints.

Toxicology reports revealed her last meal had been a salad. This information has been key to clarifying details surrounding her death, as her stomach contents on February 16 was the same as her last meal.

Jeanette Kempton's murder remains shrouded in mystery. Picture: Suffolk Police
Jeanette Kempton's murder remains shrouded in mystery. Picture: Suffolk Police

Upon reviewing the case, one person close to Jeanette has been identified as a person of interest.

"We know she was having an affair – a long-term affair – with a particular chap," Mr Guy continued.

"So we have looked closely at him. He is dead, but we have gone to his family and followed up some questions and taken DNA from them. So we have a DNA sample on somebody that would be of interest to us, even though they are no longer with us."

Anyone who reads about this case will have one question – one that that remains unanswered to this day: How does a woman from London end up being found dead in a field more than 100 miles away?

Described as 'unusual' by the major investigations team, they say travelling that distance is a 'high risk'.

Key technology used today was not in use then, so finding a new suspect through CCTV is pretty much impossible.

One possible lead, though, is a hire van from London, which was seen in the surrounding area on February 5, three days later. Officers went through every hire company in the capital at the time, but to little avail.

Due to the limited information available – there was only a small part of the registration available – the identity of the van and its owner may never be known.

Mr Guy said: "When you go back and review a case, you have got an unidentified van with a London telephone number, but you don't know what the number is, where do you go with that? How can you possibly progress that?

"That is probably one of those inquiries that we are never going to be able to do anything with unless, of course, we identify somebody of interest, and we know they were in the hire business or they were moving house. As a lead on its own to progress the case, it's limited."

While the owner of the van remains a mystery, Mr Guy still believes that whoever was behind Jeanette's murder was comfortable enough with the location of where the body was left – the deposition site – to know what they were doing.

"I've been to the deposition site where Jeanette's body was found, and you're not just going to drive around and find that, you have got to have some knowledge of that place existing. You would have to drive across a muddy field or a track, where you're going past a farm. You're going to stand out like a sore thumb – you can't drive to the deposition site.

"You're going to have to carry the body, and that's really high risk. Somebody has got to feel comfortable with that site, or had been there before or had some connection with it, in my view, to do that. Normally there is a pattern to human behaviour.

"I suspect whoever dumped Jeanette off had some knowledge of that area, somehow."

In 2019, the Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright's ex-wife, Diane Cole, said she believed it was him who was behind Jeanette's murder.

Speaking to the Daily Star, she said: "I know he was in the London area and he knew the road where she was dumped.

"I believe the police should consider him seriously in relation to this murder."

However, without factual evidence linking him to Jeanette's murder, it is a line of investigation that is not being followed at present.

"Of course, Steve Wright, every time we do an investigation, that's the name that gets put forward to us," said Mr Guy.

"We are aware of Steve Wright, but of course, we can't just assume he has done everything in Norfolk and Suffolk. We have got to have some evidence to prove it.

"What I do in all these cases is I concentrate on known facts. What is really difficult is when somebody throws a name in, and there are no facts to connect it."

The review into the case has led to some of the witnesses in the original case being revisited, too.

Mr Guy said he found witnesses opened up more later. Despite that, the key to unlocking the vault to file Jeanette's case as complete remains forensic evidence.

As with any case, Mr Guy wishes anyone who might know something about Jeanette's case to contact the major investigations team.

"What you do have in the public often is people who know something who haven't told the police. Whoever killed Jeanette Kempton may have confessed it to somebody else.

"They may have got drunk in the pub one night, or if there was a wife there, they are going to be acting weird aren't they?

"That's often the type of people we try to reach as well, not so much another witness but someone who has never confessed before."

Anybody with information regarding the murder of Jeanette Kempton is asked to contact the major investigations team on 01953 423819.