The Red Riding Hood Murder 1970

1970, 24 December: Red Riding Hood: Janet Stevens was murdered in Pirbright over Christmas 1970. The range areas were the scene of a great deal of police activity because of a missing girl Janet Stevens who was aged eleven. The case became known by the media as the Little Red Riding Hood Murder.

Janet Stevens, the victim of the 'Red Riding Hood' murder

Janet went missing as she was on her way to visit her grandmother. She left her home in Pirbright at 2.45 pm on Christmas Eve intending to deliver Christmas presents. She had also intended to visit the Pirbright village post office to buy a present for her father, but she didn't arrive.

Her murdered body was found in the snow twenty four hours later on Christmas Day on Stoney Castle Ranges near Pirbright Guard's Depot. Janet's bag was found at Frimley and local enquires led to the suspects.

Two young men, a twenty one year-old driver and an eighteen year-old Royal Navy cook were later arrested and convicted of her murder at Lewes and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Officer in Case was Detective Chief Supt. John Place. Part of the team was DS Brian Cane and DC Charles Mitchell who arrested one of the suspects. The suspect was questioned by Mr Plaice and Detective Supt. Wally Simmons. Dr Margaret Piereria of the Forensic Science laboratory and Dr Mant the pathologist were involved.

Tony Forward: On Christmas Eve, this eleven year old girl left her home in Pirbright to take presents to her grandmother's house on the other side of the village. She did not return home. On Christmas Day a large number of officers and members of the public methodically searched the Army ranges nearby.

Chief Constable Peter Matthews arrived at lunchtime with a chicken pie for every officer and some brandy in a plastic cup. That was their Christmas lunch. He had got a local bakery and off-licence to open up and provide the refreshment. I was there as the inspector in charge of public relations and it was hoped that some TV coverage could be mustered.

Her dead body was found in a shallow grave on the ranges. She had been strangled with a cord lanyard. Because of the circumstances, the press gave this the case of the Red Riding Hood Murder. The bag, in which she had been carrying the presents, and the presents themselves, had not been found and a replica red plastic bag was obtained that I showed on the TV news on both channels some four days after the murder.

Children playing ball against garage doors off Wolesey Road, Frimley, hid behind the garages to avoid 'Mr Grumpy' who had previously told them off for playing there. They saw a red plastic bag in the snow. One of the children saw the news coverage and told his mother about the bag. Police were informed, the bag recovered with some Christmas wrapping paper in it.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Plaice MBE

Detective Chief Superintendent
John Plaice MBE

The garages were opened up and a car inside one was found to have matching wrapping paper on the seat. The owner lived nearby and he was arrested. His accomplice was traced and both were charged with murder.

They confessed that they had set out with the intention of kidnapping the first person they saw walking, robbing them, murdering them and concealing the body. Unfortunately that was Janet Stevens. They received life sentences and she was buried in an unmarked grave in Pirbright churchyard.

Charles Mitchell: Called out Christmas to search for an eleven year old missing girl. The next day standing with Chief Superintendent Maurice Jackman looking at the girl's body laying in the snow. Mr Jackman was crying and was in a violent rage at what had happened.

At first I was partnered by Tom Styles and then later with Brian Cane. We carried out various enquiries, then I said to Wally Simmonds could he give us a job with some meat in something we could get our teeth into. Superintendent Simmonds then gave us the enquiry that made all the difference.

He said right as you know the incident room moved here because some of the wrapping paper the girl had was found behind some garages. I want you to interview everyone who has a garage in that block and search them all. Brian and I went to the first house. The door was opened by Smith the murderer.

From the start I found it strange that he was off work, I asked him why and he said he had been sick. Further questions showed that he had been off sick since the time of the murder. Now the alarm bells were ringing. We went down to his garage and he said he thought someone had broken in. I said I don't think so.

We opened the garage and he reversed the car out. I noticed a True Detective Magazine in one corner with violent scenes and in the other a leather jacket with studs on it. This did not fit the person we were talking to who was quietly dressed and of a different demeanour.

Open the boot removed the spare tyre cover and there was the wrapping paper we were looking for. Brian grabbed it and put it behind his back so that I could see it. The game was up and we took him up the road.

At this point he knew and we knew that we had him. We talked and he told us the other person he had been with. This person a young sailor cadet was picked up by John Horton and Ron Briggs. On entering the incident room I had my arm over his shoulder whilst giving a thumbs up to the squad that we had him.

Later at the station the chief constable looked in and told us to carry on. At the right time we called in Wally Simmonds to take the statement. There was more but I will leave it for now.

Jeff Bloomfield: The victim was a young girl, who was last seen on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, walking along a lonely road at Pirbright with Christmas presents for her Grandmother. She was reported missing that evening, and as DCI at Woking, I went out and interviewed her parents. I was satisfied she had not run away from home and I suspected foul play.

As a result of my findings Chief Superintendent Jackman organised an extensive search to take place on Christmas Day. A caravan was set up on Pirbright Green as a command post manned by Chris Atkins, then a superintendent. Later in the afternoon the girl's body was found on the ranges. She had been strangled by her murderers standing on a piece of wood across her throat.

Extensive enquiries were made and within a few days some wrapping paper was found behind some garages at Frimley. Wally Simmons then Detective Superintendent took over the Frimley end of this enquiry. The wrapping paper was identified as that of the grandmother's present and two men, who used one of the garages, were arrested and subsequently convicted of murder. Both men were merchant seamen on Christmas leave.

On the day of the crime they had been drinking and picked up the victim on the lonely road and then drove into some wooded area on the ranges. They did not rape or seriously sexually assault the girl, but killed her to avoid detection.

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