From the files of Tom Sargant - the Case of Neil Edginton, left unfinished.This article was written for the lecture brochure of 1989 - but is still relevant. Edginton is still in jail ffor a crimin committed in 1981 which he claims he did not do.
THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS MOTORCYCLIST.
Joy McKenzie, 23, 5ft.5ins, dark hair, worked as an educational fitness instructor and lived with her boy friend at 36 Scotgate Road, Honley, near Huddersfield. She was murdered on the afternoon of Sunday, 12th of July 1981.
She had left her home at twenty to five to jog around the village on a circular route that she usually took along the Old Moll Road. Her boy friend was timing her, he expected her home in less than twenty minutes.
It was a lovely summer's day, there were many people in Honley because it is a local beauty spot. The Old Moll road runs along a tree - covered valley it leads to a popular picnic area, Moll Springs. Tourists there may have seen her slight figure running along Old Moll road through the woods. She was wearing a dull dark-blue athletic singlet with white edging around the arms, a pair of denim cut-off shorts, and white track shoes. Her dark hair was fastened up tight behind her head in a bun.
Joy never returned home: her body was found the next day in the stream at the bottom of the valley. She lay face down in the water,strangled - concealed under a sheet of corrugated iron and weighted down by some stones.
The pathologist thought that the murder had taken place between five o'clock and seven the previous evening. She still wore her running vest , and her torn knickers were around her right leg. But her denim shorts were never found.
Up the hill, by the road, the police found a flattened area in the undergrowth measuring about seven yards by two yards. Some of the vegetation here was bloodstained. A gold hair grip, apparently one of hers, was found here.
The bruises and scratches found on her body supported the theory that Joy had been attacked in this area of the undergrowth, murdered there, and then dragged down the slope and hidden in the stream. Although no semen was found on her body, internal injuries indicated forceful sexual intercourse, but another piece of evidence suggested another theory. A 3 ½ feet length of branch broken off a bush in the undergrowth was found bloodstained along its lower five inches. One small polyester fibre was found on the stick - possibly from Joy's denim shorts - and it was thought that the stick might have caused the girl's internal injuries.
There was no physical evidence which pointed to Joy's murderer, although there was one forensic point of value - she had a rare blood group common to only 14% of the population of Great Britain. But there were four witnesses to another event of that afternoon which might have had some connection with Joy's death.
Joy could have reached the spot where she died at about a quarter to five. About five minutes before that, Paul Rushworth, his wife and three children left the Moll Springs area to go home in their car. Moll Springs is less than a minute by car from where Joy appears to have been murdered, and Mr. Rushworth was driving towards Honley, so he should have passed her. None of his family saw a jogger - but Mr. Rushworth and his 8 year old son Tony remembered one unusual occurrence.
Just along the road to Honley - and indeed, near the undergrowth where Joy was apparently attacked, Mr. Rushworth passed a motorbike parked in the middle of the road. It was so far out into the road, that Mr. Rushworth had to pull over and go up the banking on the wrong side of the road in order to get around the bike.He commented that it was a silly place to leave a bike.
Mr. Rushworth remembered this bike as being silver - grey, about a 250 c.c. with a white box on the back on which there was an L plate.
His son, 8 year old Tony, sitting in the back of the car, took a close look at the bike as his father manouevred around it. He also saw the L plate on the box, but he remembered much more.
Tony agreed with his father that the general colour was light grey. The box on the back was white. The name of the bike was on the petrol tank, which had a red-lined boxed side, there was a white fairing on the front of the bike, with another L plate on the left side. The saddle, said Tony, was black, the mudguards white. The wheels were slightly rusty, and there were two clocks behind the fairing - the needles on the clocks were orange.
Both father and son had also seen the motorcyclist - but apparently in different places. Mr. Rushworth saw the motorcyclist through his rear view mirror, just after he had negotiated his way around the motor bike. The man was coming along the road behind the bike - from the same area where the Rushworths had been. He was on the road, but, as became apparent later, was within a few yards of where Joy McKenzie was probably attacked five minutes later.
Tony Rushworth told the police that the man was wearing jeans, a black bomber jacket and black gloves. He came up from the valley onto the road.
Luckily for the police, there were two other witnesses to this suspicious motor bike and its rider, one of whom even reckoned himself as something of an expert on motorbikes.
Michael Moorhouse, then 17, was out for the afternoon with 15 year old Julie Haigh. They had been visiting the cemetery, and were walking away from Honley along the Old Moll road.
At about twenty to five, or perhaps five minutes later, they arrived near the spot where Mr. Rushworth had difficulty getting around the motor bike. They too saw a motorbike. According to Paul and Julie the bike was in a small layby, facing the river.
They saw the motorcyclist in the undergrowth - where the police subsequently found traces of the attack on Joy McKenzie. He looked up, saw the couple, then crouched down again. Julie was embarrassed, she thought the man must be relieving himself. He seemed upset or excited. She thought he was doing something on the ground, but the undergrowth was too thick for her to see clearly. She thought he was about 5 feet 11 inches tall.
Michael Moorhouse was quite sure the man was not as young as he - indeed, the motorcyclist was about 30 years old in Paul's estimation, and about his own height - 5 feet 7 inches tall, medium build.. He was wearing a green waterproof jacket - a lime green kagoule, according to Julie.
So far all the descriptions had been vague and contradictory, but Michael Moorhouse owned a motorbike, and read the specialist magazines about them. He gave the police a vivid description of the bike, which he thought he'd seen somewhere else around Honley. He said it was:
a) a silver Yamaha solo, either a 200 or a 250 c.c..
b) It had a white box on the back with stickers - but no L plates on either the front or the back.
c) The yellow double-winged Yamaha emblem was on the box.
d) there was a white fairing on the front with a large "Stars and Stripes design " figure 1 on the nearside.
d) The registration ended with either a P or an R.
The police were so impressed with Michael Moorhouse's description of this bike that they toured local Yamaha showrooms, and within two days of the murder found a Yamaha which fitted his description. They asked him to see if it was like the one he had seen. He thought it was almost a perfect match.
To this was added another clue - an impression of a motorbike tyre which they had found in the layby. It ran for about 12 feet along near where Joy McKenzie had apparently been attacked.
The police came to the conclusion that the motorcyclist must have been the murderer of Joy McKenzie. They began looking for a Yamaha bike, with a P or R registration, owned by someone in his late twenties, between 5ft 7 ins and 5ft 11ins, of medium build, who habitually wore a dark green, or lime green kagoule.
Why then, one might ask, did they eventually successfully bring a charge of murder against Neil Edginton? He was 21, thin, 6ft 1 inches tall; he had a yellow kagoule which was reversible as a blue one, and he owned an R registration Honda at the time of the murder.
A simple answer might be that Edginton was foolish enough to say that he drove his Honda along the road to Honley on the afternoon in question, stopping to mend it in a place where one of the witnesses had placed the motorcyclist; foolish enough to say that he saw a jogger, albeit one who was clearly not Joy McKenzie.
Edginton was picked up two months later when he was reported to have followed a lady motorist in Oldham.
He subsequently told the police that he had been determined to give the lady a piece of his mind - because she had almost killed him on a Sunday just one week earlier.
He had seen her by chance again on the second Sunday - and followed her home to give her his opinion of her driving. In the event, he lost his nerve and did not approach her - but her husband had already phoned the police.
The police, in checking the number plate, noticed that Edginton's bike was a Yamaha. This "menace", as Edginton was now suddenly perceived to be, lived less than half an hour from the scene of the murder of Joy McKenzie in July - whose murderer also owned a Yamaha.
The murder squad visited Edginton. He denied being anywhere near the scene of the murder on the day in question. He gave an alibi - he had been at work. This was proved to be a lie. He had a kagoule, blue on one side, yellow on the other - it was taken away to the laboratory.
But the police now discovered to their surprise that Edginton had not owned the Yamaha at the time of the murder. He had owned a Honda then - and traded it in during August for the Yamaha. Would the murderer have done such a stupid thing when he knew the police were so sure that the bike seen at the scene was a Yamaha?
When the police recovered the Honda Edginton had owned, it had thick black stripes across its petrol tank which any observer would have commented on. However, it had a tyre on the rear wheel which might have made the impression in the mud near the supposed scene of crime - and it had the large " Stars and Stripes" number 1 on the front - as Moorhouse had described the Yamaha.
Edginton's kagoule - yellow on one side, blue on the other - had blood on the blue side; it was of the same unusual grouping as that of the murdered girl.
And then, after apparently telling lies about his movements on the day of the murder, Edginton said he had been in the Old Moll road on that Sunday afternoon , and had seen a jogger.
He told the police he had been through Honley at about four o'clock on the afternoon in question. He had seen a young female jogger. She had had long dark brown hair, a green running vest and green shorts. He had seen her just after he had turned the roundabout in the centre of the village. He had ridden past her along one of the main roads in the village - Thirstin Road. In the woods along the Old Moll road, which is further on, his motorbike began to cough. He turned his bike around, and then stopped by the road to adjust the timing. There were other people about, he said, who had seen him doing this. He had seen a woman with a dog, a coloured boy with a white girl. And he had almost been knocked down just after he stopped the bike by a yellow car which came past him. After he had fixed the bike he rode on and asked a couple of old women where he might get a cup of tea.
The police took Edginton , accompanied by his solicitor, to Honley. Edginton pointed out where he had seen the jogger - she had been going towards Scotgate. He stopped the police car where he had mended his bike - it was where the wall on the side of Old Moll road came to an end. Edginton was charged with the murder.
The jury at Edginton's first trial in Leeds could not reach a verdict. The judge dismissed them.
His second trial also took place in Leeds. Between his arrest and his trials, the balance of the evidence had changed in one important respect. The evidence of the bloodstains, apparently so damning ,had been neutralised.
Edginton had proved to have exactly the same uncommon blood group as Joy McKenzie. Moreover, he produced witnesses to the fact that he had been subject to nose bleeds, and had spilled blood on the very kagoule that the police had felt to be such good evidence.
Moorhouse stuck by his story that he thought the bike on the Old Moll road was a Yamaha. He had seen the yellow Yamaha double-winged emblem. He still maintained that the motorcyclist he saw was of about his own height - some six inches shorter than Edginton. No one who had seen the motorcyclist could identify Edginton as the man.
Against Edginton was the impression of the tyre - an Avon Roadmaster. It was a common enough tyre, but it could have been made by his Honda's rear wheel.
The rest was Edginton's own story. He admitted he had been on the Old Moll Road. The judge read out the statements he made to the police in which he said that he had been there at 4 o'clock, and had stopped "where the wall ends". But he still maintained his innocence.
The judge, Mr. Justice Cantley, pointed out to the jury the coincidence that they were being expected to believe - that two motorcycles had stopped along that stretch of the Old Moll road near Honley on the Sunday afternoon, and that each had been passed by a car; that two joggers had been running through Honley.
The impossibility of such a coincidence seems to have been enough for the jury. Neil Edginton was found guilty and is currently serving a life sentence in Hull jail. He has just been told that he will not get parole until he has served 15 years.
Edginton - and Joy McKenzie's parents - may well feel that all is not well. For this case has a built-in paradox. If one believes the word of the witnesses who place the motorcyclist at the scene at the correct time, then one must also believe that their evidence eliminates Edginton.
Moreover, if more analysis of the evidence had emerged during the trial - Neil Edginton might have gone free. And the search for the real murderer of Joy McKenzie would have been resumed.
For many thought that his guilt had not been proved - and indeed that the balance of the evidence had turned out in his favour. The main points were:
1 The jacket.
Moorhouse and Haigh were certain that the kagoule worn by the suspect motorcyclist was green, Edginton's only kagoule was before the court. It was blue and yellow.
2 The Tyremark.
Although the tyre mark was found near the supposed scene of crime, it was not found in connection with any marks made by the stand of a motor bike - which if Moorhouse and Haigh were to be believed, it should have been. The plaster coast brought into court had been taken at a point 8 feet from the edge of the road. If this had been made by the mysterious motorcyclist's bike, it could only have come from his front tyre - because Moorhouse saw the bike facing away from the road, and the layby is not wide enough for the rear tyre to have been 8 feet away from the road in such circumstances. Only Edginton's rear tyre could have matched the tyremark in the layby.
Moreover, the weather had been relatively dry during that period, and there was doubt as to whether the mark could have been made on the afternoon in question. In any case, there was no evidence at all as to when the tyre mark had been made. Indeed, the forensic scientist who visited the scene on the first afternoon, and noted the flattened undergrowth, did not notice the tyre-mark in the layby.
3 The position of the motorbike.
There was a discrepancy in Edginton's evidence that no one noticed. When he was arrested, two months after the crime, Edginton had shown the police where he had stopped to mend his bike - " where the wall ends".
Every policeman on the case knew that the girl had been attacked "where the wall ends" - but in fact Edginton had not pointed out the scene of the murder, he had pointed out the wrong location, and the wrong wall. The wall he said he stopped near was the wall on a bend in the Old Moll road where the valley dipped steeply away. The supposed scene of the crime was about two hundred and sixty yards away from this point, where a supporting terrace wall - invisible from the road - came to an end.
The jury do not appear to have grasped this discrepancy at the heart of the case. Although they visited the scene of the crime, it seems quite possible that they did not understand that Edginton had placed himself near the wrong wall.
Moreover, the summing-up may have further confused the matter. The actual distance between Edginton's position and the scene of the crime does not emerge clearly. It was stated that the difference between the two points was in excess of "20 yards ", when in fact it was more than ten times that distance.
A casual glance at the police photographs shown in court might seem to confirm this apparent estimate of the distance as simply more than 20 yards. In the foreground of the key photograph are two traffic cones, one apparently where the mysterious motorcyclist stopped, the other where Edginton claimed to have been. In fact the actual traffic cone showing the spot where the mysterious motorcyclist was seen is a small speck in the far distance in this photograph - not noticeable by anyone who does not have it specifically pointed out.
4. The joggers.
Although the jury must have thought it to be too much of a coincidence that there were two joggers in Honley, the evidence before them indicated that there were in fact three.- and that joggers were common in Honley.
Remember, Joy McKenzie wore a dark blue athletic vest with a white stripe around the armholes, and denim shorts. Her long dark hair was done up in a bun. It seems it stayed in that bun until she was attacked - because one of her special gold hairgrips was found at the supposed scene of the attack; in any case it seems unlikely that, having done up her hair in a bun especially for the jog, she would have immediately let it down again.
Four witnesses presented by the prosecution saw a jogger. Two of them, Brian Hinchcliffe and Carl Wood, knew Joy McKenzie by sight. Both describe her blue clothing. But two other witnesses seem to have seen a different girl.
John Bone, an auto-electrician from Honley saw a girl in light-coloured shorts and a Tee shirt - with long dark hair. Simon Bottomley, a supervisor at a local Tractor firm, saw a girl with shoulder - length dark hair, wearing a Tee-shirt running towards the Old Moll road.
Why should these two witnesses describe the jogger as having long hair and a Tee shirt when Joy McKenzie had her hair in a bun, and was wearing a dark blue athletic vest with a white stripe around the armholes?
And then there was the jogger that Neil Edginton said he saw at about 4 o'clock. She was dressed in a green running vest and green shorts. He saw her as she was running along Thirstin Road away from the centre of Honley towards Scotgate, where Joy McKenzie lived. This is a location in the village which was not actually on Joy McKenzie's circuit - she ran away from Scotgate. No one noticed that "Edginton's jogger" was at the wrong place at the wrong time to be Joy McKenzie.
The importance of the hairgrip at the scene of the crime did not impress itself on the jury. This had held the bun she put her hair into before she set off - and therefore given her the appearance of having short hair.
Nor does the jury appear to have realised that that two of the witnesses saw a jogger in a Tee shirt - not an athletic vest. They were not helped by the fact that Prosecution counsel further confused this issue by referring to Joy's athletic vest as a Tee shirt - a phrase subsequently used in the summing-up. No one seems to have appreciated the difference.
Nor did the jury apparently realise the significance of the evidence of the witness John Bone, who had been renovating a house on the corner of Scotgate for the past 9 months, had said in his statement that he hadn't paid much attention to the jogger because " I am so used to seeing people running past"
5. The blood on the stick.
The jury missed another important point. The stick presented in evidence coated with blood, was assumed during the police investigation to have been an instrument of sexual penetration. During the trial however, it emerged that the blood on it was not menstrual blood - whilst the victim was at the end of her period and the pathologist associated the bleeding from her vagina with this.
There was now no satisfactory explanation as to how the blood came to be on the stick - right around its circumference for 5 inches. Without the sexual connotation, there was now no apparent purpose for the stick in the supposed attack. There was also no explanation of how this remarkable amount of blood could have got there - without similar amounts getting onto the clothing of the accused.
Any scenario which explained this amount of blood on the stick without it being inserted into the body of the victim presumed far too much blood to incriminate Edginton. No trace of blood was found on anything associated with him, except on the kagoule for which he had an explanation.
6. The Motorbikes.
Perhaps the simple fact that Edginton had not owned a Yamaha at the time of the crime - while the supposed murderer apparently did own such a bike - should have been enough for the jury. But in fairness to them, they were never presented with a concise list of the differences between the bike - or bikes - which the witnesses saw, and Edginton's Honda. If they had, they would have realised that:
1) Edginton's bike had thick black stripes, not noticed by Moorhouse and Haigh.
2) These black stripes were quite different to the red lines that Tony Rushworth had observed - yet Yamaha had a standard livery at that time which had the red stripes, just as the boy had seen.
3) Edginton's bike had L plates, though Moorhouse and Haigh had seen none.
4) Although Paul Rushowrth and his son had seen L plates on the "top box" on the carrier, Edginton's L plate at the back was on the rear mudflap - low down.
5) Although all the witnesses had seen a white 'top box', and Edginton's had been white when he bought it - he had painted it silver. When the police recovered the box this silver paint was old enough to be flaking off. In court, Mr. Rushworth said specifically that Edginton's top box was not quite like the one he had seen.
6) Moorhouse and Haigh remembered that the box had stickers on it - but Edginton's box had no stickers.
7) Moorhouse and Haigh remembered the large "Yankee " style figure 1 on the front of the Yamaha; Moorhouse distinctly remembered it was on the nearside - which was generally facing away from him. Edginton's Honda had two such stickers - one on each side of the front fairing. If Moorhouse had seen the sticker which was on the side of the bike facing away from him - how could he have missed the sticker on the side facing him?
Edginton's appeal presented no new evidence. His lawyers re-iterated the trial evidence under separate categories, claiming that none was of sufficient strength to merit conviction - and indeed each supported the view that he was not guilty.
As to the strength of each item, the Appeal Court agreed - but added that the evidence when added together was sufficiently persuasive.
The Judges of Appeal accepted the jury's decision that the mysterious motorcyclist must have done the murder, that Edginton must have been that motorcyclist, the blood on his kagoule must have been from the victim, and it was his Honda's tyre which had made the tyremark.
The conviction was upheld.
What we are left with in the Edginton affair is a feeling that it is quite possible when a jury is faced with a myriad of confusing facts that a foolish, but innocent, man is serving a life sentence for a crime that another man may well have committed - a man 5 feet 7 inches tall, thirty years old, owning a Yamaha bike. Yet there is nothing that we can do about it. Such is our system that no evidence is likely to be found which will prove Neil Edginton's innocence - or give him another day in court. No one can now investigate this case adequately.
It is easily assumed that the motorcyclist seen by the Rushworths, Michael Moorhouse and Julie Haigh, was the murderer. Yet even the evidence on this is not certain. If the mysterious motorcyclist was the murderer, he killed Joy before the pathologist on the case estimated she had died.
The only common factor among the witnesses to the motorcycyle is that it had a white box on the back. There is even enough evidence in the various statements to argue that there were three motorbikes on the Old Moll road that afternoon.
One of these 'other ' motorbikes is of particular interest. Kenneth Duggan, a milk tanker driver, was coming into Honley from the north - unlike everyone else in this story who approached the area from the south. He was driving at only 10 miles per hour because of the difficult road - and he saw a motorbike. It had an L plate on the top of a white glass fibre box - just as the Rushworths described. Mr. Duggan lost sight of this bike, though it could have gone to the scene of the crime; if it did, it would have got there at just about the time that the Rushworths saw the bike in the road. If we accept this as being the same bike, then we have three witnesses to the L plate on the white box - when Edginton's box was silver and had no L plate. If we do not accept the bike as being the same, then we must accept that yet another bike was in the area that afternoon.
But which if these motorbikes might have been the one that Moorhouse and Haigh saw - the man who may have committed the murder? Michael Moorhouse saw the mysterious bike and its rider most clearly. He made a statement which clearly ruled out Edginton and his bike. Edginton was 21 - not 30 - years old, much closer to Moorhouse's own age; he was not of medium build, but decidely thin - and 6ft 1 inches tall, not 5ft 7 inches.
Moorhouse saw this man at ten yards distance, and walked within a yard or so of the bike.
In spite of the weakness of the case against him, it is likely that Edginton will serve his full fifteen years unless some dramatic new evidence turns up which supports his version of what he did that day - such as the discovery of the identity of the girl in green whom he says jogged through Honley.
Evidence that Edginton was telling the truth when he said he was in the Old Moll road at 4 o'clock - almost an hour before Joy McKenzie was murdered - and left the scene before Joy McKenzie even left home has now come to light. It has lain dormant in the case files for seven years, ever since the trial.
On one occasion when he was interviewed by the police, Edginton suddenly said he had seen a van parked - it was " an orange coloured van.... like an old G.P.O. van." This part of the story was never checked further by either the police or Edginton's lawyers. The G.P.O. vans that Edginton described are more mustard yellow than orange - and in fact there was such a van on the Old Moll road that afternoon - just as Edginton described it.
Mr. Brian Whitehead, a self-employed joiner, had been working on his premises at the end of the Old Moll Road that afternoon. He has a good memory, and could clearly remember details of the afternoon - after all a murder had taken place just after he left. He went to work at 3:30 and went home at 4:30 -in his mustard coloured Toyota Hiace van. This van, very like an old G.P.O. van, had been parked in front of Brian Whitehead's workshop at the end of the Old Moll Road - the very place where Edginton's bike had started to give him trouble, and where he said he saw such a van.
So if Edginton saw Whitehead's van parked as he seems to have done, he saw it between 3:30 and 4:30, and yet when Brian Whitehead drove home along Old Moll road, Edginton was not parked in the road mending his bike.
If Edginton saw Whitehead's van - but Whitehead did not see Edginton on the road - then Edginton had left the scene before Joy McKenzie set off from her home. His route home - the obvious one - was never in dispute; it took him away from Joy McKenzie's jogging route. Even if he had gone the long way - through Honley - he would still have passed through the village before she left home.
Mr. Whitehead's evidence virtually precludes another such van being at the end of the Old Moll Road during the relevant period. What is particularly persuasive is the fact that Edginton placed a mustard yellow van at the end of the Old Moll Road when one was there. If he was guessing, it was a remarkable guess.
This evidence, if presented at the trial, might well have swayed the jury into finding Edginton not guilty. It would have undermined the view that the jogger Edginton had seen was Joy McKenzie and that he had been in the area at around five o'clock, instead of 4 o'clock as he claimed.
Although the evidence of the bloodstains on the kagoule should have had little weight during the second trial, a dramatic incident during Edginton's first trial which had been heavily reported in the Press may have placed more emphasis on it than it was worth.
During cross-examination of Doctor Grant, the Defence's forensic expert, prosecution Counsel alleged that, when first confronted with the blood on the kagoule, Doctor Grant had said " I don't know how we're going to explain this".
The implication was clear - there was a lot of blood on the kagoule an it incriminated Edginton. Doctor Grant hesitated, no doubt taken aback by the accusation, and said that he may have said something of the sort, though he did not remember.
Today, 8 years later, that kagoule lies in the laboratory of a leading forensic scientist in London. It is there because Neil Edginton's parents want a DNA test to be made upon it. But the scientist in question is reluctant to make such a test because there is not enough blood on the kagoule to form an adequate sample.
His evidence, 8 years later, supports the original Defence contention that there is very little blood on the kagoule.
The Court of Appeal however could not accept the Edginton case back for consideration without some more investigation by a professional body. There is currently so such body in existence in Britain.
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