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Surrey Police's unsolved murders uncovered

By Surrey Mirror  |  Posted: February 21, 2012

  • The Surrey Mirror and County Post from the time

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TWELVE unsolved murders – one of them dating back more than half a century – remain outstanding on Surrey Police’s books, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed. Brian Haran leafed through the files to root out the stories behind the incidents and spoke to police about the 52-year-old murder of a widow in Oxted, and other crimes.MORE than 50 years have passed since a solicitor's widow was found battered to death in her bed.

Florence Gooding, 73, who lived alone, was not known to have an enemy in the world. But her gardener's son found her unconscious with a severe head wound at her detached house in Oast Road, Oxted, on August 4, 1959.

She died in the early hours of the following day. It is believed she had lain dying for about 48 hours, having been attacked in her own bed following a break-in.

Mrs Gooding was last seen alive three days earlier, the same day she had answered a phone call at her home.

Police subsequently pinned down the time of the assault to between the evening of August 1 and the following morning.

Mrs Gooding, whose husband Frank had died two years previously, was described locally as a "gentle, friendly and generous-hearted old lady".

One neighbour said at the time: "It's so shocking and unbelievable. I saw all the police cars and thought there had been a burglary. It was awful to hear that she had been found dead."

Her death prompted a huge investigation. About 15 detectives as well as several uniformed men were drafted in.

All the undergrowth and grass was cut in the garden of her home, and tracker dogs searched the grounds – unsuccessfully – for a murder weapon.

Over the following fortnight, police officers visited about 2,000 homes and interviewed 8,000 people in Oxted and further afield.

Police believe Mrs Gooding was battered with a blunt instrument. The only clue was a smudged fingerprint.

Hundreds of men were subsequently fingerprint-tested but no match was found, so detectives then put forward the theory that the frenzied assault may have been carried out by a woman.

In the previous two months before Mrs Gooding's death there were 16 burglaries within half a mile of Oast Road.

One positive thing to emerge from the tragedy was, as a result of visiting the 2,000 local homes, the police were able to clear up six other unsolved crimes dating back more than a decade.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman said last week: "In the case of Mrs Gooding, it was subject to a review by the major crime review team in 2007 but no new investigative leads were uncovered at that time. The investigation remains unsolved."

Former long-serving district councillor Robin Harling can still recall Mrs Gooding's murder.

Now 79 and living in Chestnut Copse, Hurst Green, he told the Mirror last week: "The murder was such an incredible shock for the whole community. Things like that virtually never happened, let alone in a well-to-do area like Oast Road. The police were really stunned by it."

At the time, he said, the local rumour mill led to the fingers of suspicion being pointed at some of the more notorious local characters but detectives were never able to pin the murder on anyone.Unsolved murders are regularly reviewed as new lines of inquiry are pursued.In a statement issued last week to the Mirror, Surrey Police said: "Unsolved murders are never closed but may be filed when all the current lines of enquiry have been exhausted, and after a thorough review. Alternatively this may occur where police have identified a suspect or suspects, charged them and then a jury acquits, although again only after thorough review."Filed enquiries are reopened for live investigations if new information or evidence emerges. They are also the subject of periodic review. A major feature of these reviews is the revisiting of forensic lines of enquiry as scientific techniques are constantly improving."Additionally, it may be that other lines of enquiry are also later revisited, for example unco-operative witnesses seen after a number of years have lapsed."There is no standard time limit or cut-off point – if there are lines of enquiry to be pursued we will continue to pursue these."FORMER public schoolboy Matthew Demko died after suffering extensive injuries to his head and face.The 25-year-old was found with a ligature tied around his neck at a garage in Links Road, Ashtead, in April 2008.Mr Demko, a grounds management company supervisor, lived in nearby Ashtead Wood Road.He had allegedly been supplying 'recreational drugs' to his friends, and was said to be owed money from a cocaine deal.His friend, Michael Jordan, 25, who lived in Links Road, was acquitted of his murder in February 2009.Mr Jordan, a football coach, told jurors at the Old Bailey he discovered Mr Demko’s body at the garage, which belonged to the Jordan family, and had not killed him. The court heard Mr Jordan had been helping Mr Demko supply cocaine and cannabis to his friends.After the trial a police spokesman said: "Following a thorough and detailed review by Surrey Police of the investigation into the murder of Mr Demko, a decision has been made not to reopen the inquiry. "If, however, anyone has any information on this case which they have not previously brought to police attention, they should contact Surrey Police or ring Crimestoppers."Mr Jordan also issued a statement, saying: "It seems the only chance of finding justice for Matt is for the case to be re-opened and I hope this will be possible. There are so many unanswered questions."A FATHER of three who left India to look for work in Britain was found dead near Epsom Downs Racecourse five months later.Sukhwinder Singh, 27, who left his family in the Punjab region to look for work, His body was discovered in a racecourse car park by a passer-by on a January morning in 2006. He had been strangled.The previous evening he had attended a party at a flat in Sandfield Road, Thornton Heath, and police suspected an incident there might have led to the murder might have happened after.They posted a £10,000 reward, and a for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.A 36-year-old man was later detained by Spanish officers several months later in Barcelona, but released pending further enquiries by the team of Surrey detectives investigating the case. At the time Temporary Detective Superintendent Jon Savell said: "The arrest of the man in Spain is a significant development in this long-running investigation which continues while he has been released on bail. We are still making every effort to trace a second man and will continue to rigorously investigate this case until we can bring those responsible to justice."A Surrey Police spokesman has now said: "The investigation remains active."No person has ever been prosecuted. The matter remains unresolved."

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