DNA helps police 'solve' 1975 Joan Harrison murder
Published: 9th Feb 2011 00:05:32
Police in Lancashire believe they may have solved a 35-year-old murder case thanks to advances in DNA evidence.
The murder of mother-of-two Joan Harrison in Preston in 1975 was thought at one stage, due to a hoax, to have been committed by the Yorkshire Ripper.
But detectives said DNA found at the scene matched that of Christopher Smith from Leeds, who died three years ago aged 60.
They said the evidence could have led to his prosecution.
Miss Harrison, who had worked as a prostitute, was found dead in a derelict garage in Berwick Road, in the Avenham area of Preston, on 20 November 1975, aged 26.
Investigations into Mr Smith's life have revealed he had criminal convictions ranging from assault and theft to sex attacks.
Det Ch Supt Graham Gardner, head of crime for Lancashire Constabulary, said it had been a "long-running and complex" murder inquiry for the force.
He said: "Joan lost her life in a most brutal way and despite the enormous efforts of all those originally involved, no charges were ever brought."
Mr Gardner added: "It is with some regret that Smith is not still alive to stand trial for his crime.
"One can only try to imagine the sadness endured by Joan's family over the years and I truly hope this development will finally bring some closure surrounding their tragic loss."
At one point in the murder investigation, police were distracted by hoaxer John Humble, who had tried to convince officers that Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, had killed Miss Harrison.
It was Humble's letters in 1978 to West Yorkshire Police that first mentioned Miss Harrison's murder, which had not been formally linked to the seven Ripper murders.
Because saliva from the letters was linked to the same blood group as her killer's, police connected this death with the Ripper murders.
Humble's hoax, including his so-called "I'm Jack tape", clouded the investigation.
Internal police documents revealed that because Humble had a North East accent, this led officers investigating Miss Harrison's murder to focus on men who came from that region.
By the time Sutcliffe was caught and convicted in 1981, a total of 13 women had been murdered.
Humble was caught in a cold case operation in 2006 and jailed for eight years after admitting perverting the course of justice.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2011. DNA helps police 'solve' 1975 Joan Harrison murder. [Online] (Updated 09 Feb 2011)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/129117-DNA-helps-police-solve-1975-Joan-Harrison-murder [Accessed 12th May 2013]
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