The Murder of Clare Hutchison and related events

Introduction

1980, May-June: An attempted rape occurred at Frensham near Farnham when an 18 year old girl was threatened by a man with a knife and attempted to rape her. On the 5 June a 14 year old girl was reported missing from her home in Farnham and a search was undertaken finding her body half concealed in woodland in Farnham. A murder enquiry began.

The following Monday a 16 year old girl was walking home in Haslemere when she was approached by a man who threatened her with a knife and tried to get her into his van. The girl was freed by the intervention of a passer by.

A man living in Churt was arrested later that day and admitted the murder and attempted rape appearing before the central criminal Court and being sentenced to life in prison.47

Attempted rape at Frensham

Paul Dance Scenes of Crime Officer: A young female kennel maid was grabbed and taken from Bacon Lane, Frensham by a male. She was dragged into an area of shrub land between Bacon Lane and Frensham Big Pond, stripped naked and raped by the male later identified as Kenneth Kirton. He also attacked her with a knife; the young girl had defence wounds on her fingers.

She escaped and ran naked back to kennels where she worked close to Frensham Pond Hotel. I examined the scene together with David Strudwick. There was very little forensic evidence available initially other than shoe marks in the sand.

The offender Kirton was not caught but within a month he had murdered Clare Hutchison.

Return to main text

The Murder of Clare Hutchison

1980: Clare Hutchison from The Bourne aged fifteen was reported missing on the way to school. There was also a rape at the Frensham Ponds Hotel dealt with by Scenes of Crime Officers Dave Strudwick and Paul Dance, see above. The third incident was when a young woman was attacked near Haslemere station but she fought back, ran home and wrote a vehicle number in lipstick on the kitchen table.

This led to the arrest of a suspect who late at night said he would show where Clare was buried. This was the first indication that she was dead. Detective Superintendent Ron Underwood was Officer in Case. Scenes of Crime Officers went to Frensham Woods where the body was found partly buried face down.

When the suspect's home was searched there was a copy of the Reader's Digest of murders open at the page of the earlier Wigwam murder (see Part 2) in the same area where the deceased had been buried face down. This case was unusual in that it was proved by Scenes of of Crime Officer Dave Strudwick that the girl had been in the van as her big toe print was found on the windscreen.

Paul Dance Scenes of Crime Officer: Following Kirton's arrest I attended his home in Churt. I searched the premises and seized numerous exhibits. In the loft I found a book by Professor Simpson on murderers. The sleeve of the book was folded in on a page showing a dead naked female body. The body of Clare Hutchison had been left in exactly the same position in Bourne Woods.

Another factor about Kirton was that he was fascinated by Ludwig van Beethoven. There was a huge picture of Beethoven hanging on the lounge wall. He apparently used to sit and listen to his music for hours on end.

Graham Ingram: I think this was in 1980/1981 as I was working at Frensham (Rowledge), at the time, although I was away on leave when it happened. Sergeant Brian Potter at Frensham would have details, as might Neil Hansford (Ex PC 749 at Tilford).

Phil Dunford: The funeral director was David Leggett, then of H. C. Patrick. The body was found off Old Frensham Road in the Bourne Woods. I was tasked to stay at the scene overnight. A bit spooky when the generator stopped, all lights went out and I had to follow the tape into the woods to the scene, to refill the petrol tank.

1980, 12 June: The Times: Kirton a thirty five year old decorator was remanded in custody for the murder of Clare Hutchison.

Jim Allen: This is my account of the background and my personal involvement in the murder of Clare Hutchison including a small amount of knowledge of events prior to and after which led to the detection of the offender in 1980.

Clare Hutchison was a fourteen year old schoolgirl who lived at 2 Dene Walk, Lower Bourne, in Farnham with her mother Betty, elder sister Janet, and younger brother David. Clare attended Weydon Secondary school and was a friend of my daughter Paula. Betty Hutchison had been separated divorced from her husband Bob Hutchison for some time.

I first met Betty Hutchison when I lived in the police house in the Old Frensham Road, Lower Bourne, when as a result of the separation from husband Bob her son David had reacted badly. I assisted in getting support to overcome the problems, as well as working with David on the repair of his pedal cycle that his father had smashed in temper.

About 1630hrs on Thursday 5th June 1980 whilst on a single crew beat car, I received a message over the personal radio from PS 211 Randall which stated that Mrs Hutchison asked if I could be informed that her daughter Clare had not returned home from school; enquiries with the school revealed that she had not attended that day.

At 10pm that evening I attended the address at 2 Dene Walk with Inspector Ian Swaddling as Clare had not returned and there had been no contact from her. This was a very unusual pattern of behaviour.

An interview with Mrs Hutchison, together with a search of the premises did not reveal any correspondence that would provide clues as to her failure to return home. Clare's usual route on her journey to school was via Dene Lane into Lodge Hill Road crossing the Bourne crossroads with the A287 into Burnt Hill Road. At the junction of Burnt Hill Road with Shortheath Road she would cross into Greenhill Road and then onto Weydon Lane to the school. This area was searched without result and no witnesses were traced.

An incident occurred in mid May 1980 which connected with the disappearance of Clare but this was not immediately linked. Between 12th May and 17th May 1980 I was covering Crime Prevention duties for PS Fred Johnson. It was during this time that at a divisional parade, which was being taken by Chief Superintendent Trussler, information was received of an attack on a kennel maid from Frensham Pond kennels which was on the Hampshire side of Frensham Great Pond.

The young kennel maid had been dragged onto the common by a male who had been driving a van, she was stripped of her clothing and beaten with a birch branch but managed to escape and she ran back naked across the heath land to the kennels. A CID unit was dispatched and a search instigated, the assailant had driven off on the A287 towards Churt in a van. A photo-fit was made of the assailant that at a later date was found to closely resemble the person responsible for the murder of Clare Hutchison.

On the 6th June 1980 I was allocated the job now known as the Family Liaison Officer. Searches and interviews of persons within the family and connected with the family continued. Dog teams commenced a search of the area of the Bourne and surrounding woodland without result. The enquiry was being headed by Superintendent Dave Stewart with Chief Inspector Ivor Bushnell.

As no progress had been made in sightings of Clare we engaged the services of the media, both newspapers and television with appeals being made by Betty Hutchison for Clare to get in touch to show she was safe or for information leading to knowledge of her whereabouts. I remember the television channels were really good and in majority the newspapers also, except for a woman reporter from the Sun newspaper that I had words with for making unnecessary and upsetting suggestions to Betty Hutchison as to the morality of Clare. I banned her from any further contact and the Sun had to send another reporter.

Once the appeal for information was out in the public media, letters and phone calls began to arrive at 2 Dene Walk some of which were of a disgusting and derogatory nature which caused great distress. I then began to monitor all telephone calls received with help from technical equipment provided by HQ, and also to monitor all letters received.

As a family liaison officer working with the family over long hours, starting at 7 am and perhaps working until midnight, you begin to experience the highs and lows at close quarters. It becomes a difficult job to keep their hopes alive as time passes without any information; you experience them in great depression and anxiety, to great anger and sometimes a reaction that could jeopardise the enquiry.

About 10.30 pm on Saturday 7th June 1980 I received a telephone call at my home from Betty Hutchison saying that she had received a telephone call from Pip Holdaway the licensee of The Fox Public House, Lower Bourne saying that a close male friend of the family, Jack Partridge, who was extremely distressed by Clare's disappearance, was at the premises with four other males, all had been drinking heavily and there was criticism of the failure of the police to provide any answers or to find Clare. This group were going to obtain information their way starting with the young boyfriend.

The bar emptied of locals because of the atmosphere and Pip Holdaway was worried that the situation was getting out of hand. Betty Hutchison asked if I could de-fuse the situation. Jack I knew had a Special Forces background and was ranked nationally extremely highly in Jujitsu and Karate, so when I went into the bar I did wonder if I was going to come out on a stretcher, but knowing Jack previously for some time, and with the help of Pip Holdaway, and a lot of talking (also I think the last drink was a lot more potent than they knew), they were all loaded into a van and delivered back to 2 Dene Walk to sleep it off, and to face the wrath of Betty Hutchison the following morning and apart from Jack Partridge never to be seen again.

Enquiries on the 8th June 1980 did not produce any useful leads. On 9th June 1980 there was a failed attempt to adduct a young female at Haslemere by a male driving a van, the abduction failed because the girl fought back whilst being dragged towards the van screaming, a woman passer-by shouted and the assailant threw the girl to the ground and jumped in the van and drove off, but not before the index number had been noted by her in lipstick.

Enquiries revealed that this vehicle was a hire vehicle owned by Swain and Jones Garage, East Street Farnham, and the vehicle had been hired by them to a painter and decorator by the name of Kenneth Kirton from Parkhurst Cottages Churt.

A team with PS 211 Randall attended the address and Kirton was arrested. During interview at Farnham, by I believe Detective Sergeant Jim Burgman, Kirton admitted the attempted abduction and assault at Haslemere, the abduction and murder of Clare Hutchison and the attempted rape at Frensham of the kennel maid.

At 0030hrs on Tuesday 10th June 1980 I receive a telephone call instructing me to go to a location in the wooded area in The Old Frensham Road on the bend Farnham side of Dove Cottage, it was at this location we found the body of Clare Hutchison most of the clothing was missing and she was lying in a dip in the ground and an attempt had been made to hide her body. Kirton scattered her clothing along the A287, between Frensham, Churt, and Hindhead.

The post-mortem showed Clare's throat had been cut. At 0130hrs that morning in company with Chief Inspector Bushnell I informed Mrs Hutchison that we had found the body of a young female which we believed to be Clare and was subsequently identified as such.

Kenneth Kirton had been employed painting the outside of a house in Burnt Hill Road Lower Bourne and had seen Clare walking to school every morning prior to her abduction on the 5th June when using his painters knife, he forced her into the hire van and drove to the Old Frensham Road wooded area where he forced her out of the van and attempted to rape her. (Subsequent enquiries revealed that there were problems within the marriage and he was impotent at that time.)

He stated that he believed that Clare would laugh at him so he cut her throat with his painter's knife. At the time of the search of his home address a book was found which made reference to "The Wigwam" murder at Hankley Common of a local girl by a Canadian/Indian soldier, this book was marked at this page. (see Part 2.) I remained as liaison officer to the family until 31 October 1980 when I attended the Central Criminal Court with Mrs Betty Hutchison where Kenneth Kirton entered a guilty plea to the Murder of Clare and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he be detained for a minimum of 25yrs.

Return to main text


47 Annual Report 1980.

 

Surrey Constabulary badge