Murder of schoolboy Roy Tuthill

Roy Tuthill

1968, 26 April: Murder of Roy Tuthill, Dorking: detected by DNA 2001:

Brian Field: On the 26h April 1 Roy aged fourteen left for school in Kingston from his home in Wheelwright's Cottage, Wheelers Lane, Brockham. His parents were never to see him alive again.

He left school at 3.30 dressed in the Kingston Grammar School uniform of a pink blazer with grey stripes, carrying a brown satchel containing the usual items for a boy to use at school. He caught the bus to Chessington where as usual he got off and attempted to hitchhike home to Brockham. Later a bus ticket was found in his pocket confirming that he had made this sixpenny trip.

At 9.20 that evening the police at Dorking were told by distressed parents that Roy was missing. Some enquiries were made overnight but by the following morning there was a real cause for concern.

The following day at the time Roy would have been on his way home police were sent to make enquiries at the large roundabout and shops at Tolworth just outside Kingston, within the Metropolitan Police District. Photographs of Roy were taken by PC Bartlett to Tolworth and to Chessington Zoo where several busses waited before returning to their routes, and spoke with bus drivers to see if they could remember the missing boy.

This attempt to find a sighting of Roy was not successful. As there were links with the Metropolitan Police District i.e. Kingston and Chessington, a Metropolitan Detective Chief Superintendent Percy Brown, took charge of the enquiry.

Many enquiries were made including searching all the pill boxes close to Brockham to see if he was hiding there. On Friday the 28th at 1 pm four forestry workers found Roy's body in a beech plantation near a private road at Mickleham, which led to the A24. However at 8.15 that morning when the foresters passed that spot there was no body there. The body was covered by the school blazer and stood out like a beacon.

A total of one hundred and fifty officers became involved in the enquiry, leading to 10,344 people being interviewed.

One of the witnesses a bus driver, stopped on the Bridge Road roundabout at Tolworth and found that an Austin Westminster occupied his bay. The driver was leaning across the front and was speaking to a schoolboy, which was no doubt Roy Tuthill.

This resulted in eighteen thousand drivers of Austin Westminster cars being traced and interviewed across the UK. There were no computers and so all the records had to be searched manually and all the records maintained by hand on a card index. Over one million car registration documents were examined by the Surrey Constabulary working in shifts at the vehicle registration office in Tolworth Towers, from where the last place Roy was known to have been could easily be seen.

When in 2001 the murderer was finally convicted it was revealed that he had a white mini, in the boot of which Roy's body was carried. Twenty-eight witnesses were traced who could say that the body had not been dumped before 1 pm.

One woman said that she passed the spot at 11.10 that morning. As she approached she saw a dark green motorcar parked facing towards the private road. She is certain that there were at least four men in the car, including a white-faced youth. As she approached it drove off towards where the body was found. (When a final detection was made it is believed that Field dumped the body from his white mini. It is not known if he acted alone or was involved in a paedophile ring.)

The pathologist Dr Keith Mant reported that the boy had been dead two to three days when he was found, but had not been at the spot where he had been found very long. Death was by strangulation with a rope ligature, and the boy had been raped.

Several officers were sent to the scene to work with scenes of crime officers to undertake a thorough search of the area, known as Small Beech Copse, in the grounds of the home of Lady Beaverbrook, Cherkley Court.

On the day that the body was found a fifteen year-old boy named Stevens was reported missing from Chart Downs in Dorking. It can be imagined the stir that this caused in the town, in the national media and within the police. Chief Inspector Chris Atkins led the enquiries and the boy was found hanging in a tree close to his home, death being accidental.

The Tuthill enquiry carried on for years. Many hundreds of homosexuals were interviewed and observation kept on public toilets and other such places where these men gathered. It was something of a surprise to discover who was being traced by this method. In 1970 a TV programme, Police 5, featured the murder and this resulted in one hundred and forty calls and fourteen letters. Still there was no success.

In 1989, a sergeant who had worked on the original enquiry, Vince McFadden, was by then the detective chief superintendent interviewed a man who had admitted the murder. He had the right Austin Westminster car, and was a salesman who on that day had called at a shop alongside where Roy had last been seen. Scientists were by then able to develop DNA from stains on exhibits. This again came to nothing.

The suspect had come to notice after he was brought to Dorking Police station by a sex therapist. The suspect admitted the murder but had done so. It was the therapist who persuaded him that he had murdered Roy. A DNA sample was obtained from the suspect and examined alongside a sample taken from the murdered boys trousers. There was no match and the man was released. This was not the man finally convicted.

In 1998, Detective Superintendent Brian Woodfield was again reviewing the case, hoping that advances in forensic science might yield that vital corroboration that will allow the murder finally to be solved. Again in 2000 Detective Superintendent Cook, who had transferred to Surrey from the Metropolitan Police to where he was to return just before the trial of the murderer, reviewed the case and in 2001 there was success.

A motorist was stopped in Birmingham for drink driving and a routine DNA swab was taken and entered into the national database. After all these years the murderer had been found. The drink driver's DNA matched that of the sample taken from Roy's clothing when the technological advances had allowed.

Due for trial in November 2001 a senior officer said in October that Field would plead guilty to the murder but not to the sexual assault as he did not want to be branded a paedophile with all the consequences of that when kept in prison for a long time.

Brian Field, who murdered Roy Tuthill in 1968

Thursday 15 November 2001 was a good day as this was when Brian Field, by now sixty five, admitted murdering Roy Tuthill and was sentenced to life in prison. When sentenced he showed no emotion.

He had lived not far from Tolworth in Thames Ditton where he worked for the Milk Marketing Board as an engineer. According to the Daily Mail four years after the murder following a conviction for attempted abduction and indecent assault on a fourteen year old boy in Aberdeen, Surrey Police officers interviewed Field.

However with little to link him to the murder, the matter was not progressed. Roy's parents never lived to see their son's murderer appear before Judge Gerald Gordon QC at the Old Bailey. Both parents, Hilary and Dennis died many years before, the mother never recovering from the death of her son. Roy's brother and sister both emigrated.

The new investigation had been completed by bringing back together as many of the original murder squad that were alive, or could be found. Paddy Doyle who led the enquiry for Surrey came back to the UK from retirement in the Irish Republic and was to be given a commendation by the Chief Constable Dennis O'Connor – a nice touch.

Bill Bethell: I had been involved in the Roy Tuthill murder as a cadet searching records at Surrey CC vehicle licensing department, Tolworth, searching for a special grey car that we never found.

John Thorne: I was at HTB at the time and was seconded to the murder squad. I drove Detective Chief Superintendent Percy Browne from New Scotland Yard and his bagman Detective Sergeant Jim Boff. The murder room was at Leatherhead Police Station. I think it was Nick Carter in charge. I think I was with them for about three months or so until it began to wind down.

Robin Maddison: I got involved in the Tuthill Murder when doing my CID attachmernt. I did a lot of door-to-door around Kingston and then ended up at Tolworth tower trawling the records, I hated it, which showed, and I was rightly soon sent back to Woodbridge Road to do some growing up!

Dave O'Connell: In April a 14 year old schoolboy called Roy Tuthill was found murdered in the grounds of Lord Beaverbrook's estate in Givens Grove, Leatherhead. He had been sexually assaulted; thus started one of the Surrey Constabulary's longest police enquiries. I was a detective constable and was seconded to the murder squad assembled at Leatherhead.

Scotland Yard were asked to assist. In those days if a county force called in the Metropolitan Police within twenty four hours of the murder being discovered the Home Office bore the cost of the enquiry. This was a great incentive for the counties to call in the Metropolitan Police. The Met maintained a murder squad consisting of five Chief Superintendents who rotated as the requests for assistance came in. They were assisted by a Detective Sergeant who became known as the "bag carrier".

The officer appointed to lead this enquiry was Chief Superintendent Percy Brown. The Surrey officer was Chief Inspector later Detective Chief Superintendent Walter Simmons. The enquiry in my opinion was doomed from the start and ranks as the worst led enquiry I have had any connection with.

To start with detectives from all over the county were told to be at Leatherhead Police Station for briefing at a certain time. The senior officers arrived some two and a half hours later after clearly having enjoyed the benefits of a good lunch. The first words dispensed by Chief Superintendent Brown were, "You will be lucky to detect this one." This was said from behind a cloud of smoke emitting from a huge cigar.

The detectives on the case worked very hard but there was little direction to the enquiry. As luck would have it the local Detective Inspector Philip Doyle was a fine copper who realised that things were not as they should have been. He made up his mind to try as far as he could to ensure that all the evidence that was gathered was properly documented and preserved. As time dragged on he also took a more active part in directing certain parts of the operation. His dedication was later to prove vital.

Eventually the enquiry wound down with no detection and very little progress. The main thrust of the enquiry was to try and trace the owner of an Austin Westminster car believed to have been in the area where Roy Tuthill was last seen alive at Chessington. Detective Chief Inspector Phillip Doyle retired back to his home in Ireland.

Every year he returned to Surrey and would go through the papers looking for that one scrap of evidence that could lead to the killer or killers.

The detection came in a very roundabout way years later. I was not privy to the end of the enquiry having left the force but the then investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Cook kindly informed me of the result and what had happened. The man convicted was suspected of being involved in other sexual assaults and murder. Chief Inspector Cook returned to his original force the Metropolitan Police on promotion to Superintendent.

Phillip Doyle lived to see the satisfactory conclusion to the case and the conviction of the killer for murder. He came back to England at the end to meet with the officers bringing the case to a conclusion. He died shortly after. I believe that this was the longest running enquiry in the annals of the Surrey Constabulary or at least one that was eventually brought to a successful end.

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