Murder at Leatherhead Golf Club

Detective Superintendent Shemming

1971, September: Leatherhead Golf Club Murder: This murder enquiry was led by Detective Superintendent Peter Shemming from the Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard Murder Squad, having been called in to lead the enquiry by Surrey's Assistant Chief Constable.

The victim's dismembered body parts having been found on land opposite Leatherhead Golf Club. A member of the public is alleged to have reported seeing in the darkness a fox running across the road with a human arm in its mouth. The skull of the victim was discovered in a package that the left luggage office of a London Railway Station. The victim was identified from dental records in Nottinghamshire.

The murderer was apprehended after some weeks and subsequently given life imprisonment at the Old Bailey.

Wednesday evening in September Dennis O'Flynn a dentist from Fetcham was playing a round of golf with a friend Mike Fisher on Leatherhead Golf Course two miles north of the town beside the A243. O'Flynn sliced a shot and went into a thick rough close to the road and found a severed female forearm.

Police were called and before dark they discovered part of a leg, much eaten, and a seven inch bone. A further search with tracker dogs was undertaken the next day but nothing else was found. Detective Chief Inspector Paddy Doyle became the senior investigator.

From the condition off the parts it appeared that death had occurred within two weeks and that she might have been about twenty five. There were teeth-marks on the arm and on the remains of the leg, and it was evident that the leg had been gnawed as had the bone.

A further search revealed a shallow grave in Ashtead Woods across the road, from the golf course, which had been disturbed by foxes. The left leg was still in the grave wrapped in polythene in a holdall. A dark blue corduroy slipper was still on the foot. Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Shemming from Scotland Yard was called in to assist.

A recluse who lived in a tent in Rowhurst Woods off the Oxshott Road and knew them well, Ted Churcher 71, was asked to help. He soon discovered where some ground had been disturbed and the torso was found, wrapped in a navy-blue slip. A third grave was soon found. PC Duck first of all unearthed the bones of a hand wrapped in polythene, and then the victim's decomposed head was found in the remains of a cardboard box.

Forensics concluded that the woman had died in December 1968 or in Jan 1969. Part of the newspaper, The Evening Standard, had been used to wrap the remains dated 5th December.

Do you recognise this woman?

A drawing of the remains was made by Roy Reynolds which was featured on Police 5 in October. This resulted in a possible identification when a Mrs Kuicel from Mansfield thought that she recognised the rings fond on the body. She was able to provide a photograph of a Mrs Eleanora Essens and this was blown up and compared to the skull and found to be a possibility.

Further evidence was needed. This came from a dentist that had treated Mrs Essens. Mr Essens was traced and identified the rings. She came from Riga in Latvia. Her husband and children were killed in the war and she came to Britain and remarried in 1947. They split in 1963 when Mrs Essens left home and set up with their lodger Alexander Vanags. In 1967 moved to Cheam.

The body had been buried at the end of 1968. Thursday 18th Nov 1971 police formally identified the body. The following day Vanags forty four went to West End Central to report Mrs Essens missing from a flat in Chiswick on the 28th Dec 1968 after a row.

Vanags was arrested and interviewed later being released. Monday 10th Jan 1972 Vanags was again arrested and on the 11th was charged with her murder. At first he denied the killing then told Detective Chief Superintendent Shemming "I did kill her. She was horrible to me."

Trial at the Central Criminal Court on the 3rd July 1972 he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years.

Martin Bruton: As a 17 year old cadet at Leatherhead in 1971/72 I remember helping the Scenes of Crime Officer with the remains of a dismembered female on Leatherhead Golf Course. I believe it was her husband who had been a butcher. He cut up the body and buried parts of her on the golf course only for the foxes to dig them up and left bits on the greens, much to the surprise of the golfers.

Colin Campbell: I was a constable serving at Burpham Traffic Centre in 1971, and on Friday 3rd September that year I was on the early turn shift when, during the morning I was called into the traffic centre to be told I was being seconded to driver duties for a senior Metropolitan Police officer who was leading an enquiry into the Leatherhead Golf Course murder.

I was given a Triumph PI motor car which was normally used by the driving school, and sent on my way to Leatherhead police station. When I got there I was introduced to Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Shemming and Detective Sergeant Robin Constable, both from New Scotland Yard's COC1 branch.

Lethaer Murder Squad 1971

A murder squad of about thirty detectives was formed to investigate the finding of body parts dug up, it was thought, by foxes on Leatherhead golf course area adjacent to the Kingston Road. My duties were to drive Peter Shemming and Robin Constable to wherever they needed to go, and in the early days of the investigation that was usually in the Leatherhead and West London areas.

At Leatherhead police station an incident room had been set up, managed by Detective Sergeant Nick Carter. As the enquiry progressed it was discovered the victim was one Eleanora Essens from London, and more of her body parts were discovered in a flat near the Chiswick flyover in West London.

Much of my time was being spent in the London area where Peter Shemming was continuing the investigations, so I got to know London quite well. There were many visits to New Scotland Yard. Long hours were worked by all involved, and the enquiry had been designated a 'special occasion' which meant any overtime incurred was paid for. Normally, overtime was compensated by 'time off'.

The enquiry lasted for five months and at it's conclusion a Latvian man named Vanags was convicted of manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court in London. I returned to my normal duties on 11th February 1972.

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