New light shed on Wendy Sewell’s murder

Wendy Sewell
Wendy Sewell

A retired detective has unearthed a rarely seen pathologist’s report which sheds startling new light on the murder of Bakewell woman Wendy Sewell.

Chris Clark, who believes notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe may have been responsible for the death, said the report is a vital breakthrough and shows the victim was kicked and choked with a ligature before being struck several times with a pickaxe handle, a mode of attack used by the Yorkshire Ripper.

1973 derbyshire times. Wendy Sewell murder.

1973 derbyshire times. Wendy Sewell murder.

Mrs Sewell’s body was found in Bakewell Cemetery and Stephen Downing, a 17-year-old with learning difficulties, was convicted of her murder but cleared after 27 years in jail. Nobody else has ever been charged with the killing.

The pathologist’s findings dated September 14, 1973, state that Mrs Sewell had “massive ecchymoses in the mucus membrane below the level of the false vocal cords” as well as “deep bruising” of the neck’s cervical muscles.

The report also finds some of Mrs Sewell’s injuries might have resulted from “kicking with heavy boots”.

Mr Clark added: “Wendy’s injuries are consistent with being garrotted and kicked. To me it’s a classic Ripper attack.”

He said the strangulation, frenzied and sexual nature of the murder bore the hallmarks of Sutcliffe’s killings.

Mr Clark has sent a dossier of evidence to the Home Office, calling for them to reopen the case.

Don Hale, former editor of the Derbyshire Times’ sister title the Matlock Mercury, said for years he had tried to get hold of the pathologist’s report - only to be told it had been destroyed.

He added: “I asked many times but was always told it was not available and it had been burnt, lost or destroyed.

“But I did eventually manage to get hold of some mortuary photos which showed Wendy’s body with a bruised ring around the neck. I asked police about the bruising but was always refused an answer.”

Mr Hale has now been contacted by the Home Office - and asked if he will support Mr Clark’s findings.

He said: “We did not know until recently about the strangling or the kicking and this was before we really knew about the Ripper.

“Wendy could have been one of his early victims and maybe if this had been looked in to and he had been caught it could have prevented several more murders.”

The pathologist’s evidence was not presented to the judge or jury at the 1974 trial of Downing or his appeals.

A Derbyshire police spokeswoman said the case was now closed and all possible lines of enquiry were exhausted during the re-investigation.

She added if the post mortem details were not mentioned at the trial in the 1970s that was a matter for the defence and prosecution teams.

“The bottom line is that Wendy died as a result of serious head injuries caused by a pick axe handle. That fact has never been disputed,” she said.