Murder of Old Lady at Oxted

1959, 4 August: Dave Strudwick Scenes of Crime Officer, before the days of Scenes of Crime Officers a murder of an old lady in Oast House Road, Oxted, following a burglary. She was struck on the head. A number of young men waiting to go to training school were brought from HQ to help with the searching. One took a swig from a bottle and the fingerprints were found and for some time were thought to be those of the suspect. Gordon Ellerby was dealing with fingerprints and Ron Underwood was a DC.

John Molyneux: The murder of Mrs Gooding of Oast Hatch, Oast House Road, Hurst Green, Oxted, was on Tuesday, 4 August 1959. I was on the last week of my CID attachment and did a lot of house to house enquiries in the area with DC Barratt (or Balmy B as he was affectionately known to his colleagues).

Derek Dearmer: I was two days in the job and at Mount Browne for a week prior to going to Sandgate with fourteen new recruits, when we were called from breakfast and told we were going to Oxted to a murder scene to search the grounds for evidence. We arrived in sweltering heat and were tasked with a hands and knees search of the very large garden.

As I remember Harold Barnes was the training Sergeant and in charge of our much untrained squad. During the morning we were told we could break for a drink and I remember we were told the kitchen had been cleared and we could take water from the tap. From somewhere a bottle of squash was produced and most of us had some added to our water.

I believe someone had taken this from the larder and it was later discovered that this had not been fingerprinted. We all got a big rollicking but poor old Harold took the brunt of the fury, although he was totally innocent, but blamed because he was in charge.

The next day the Daily Express showed a photograph of us on our hands and knees doing the search and as I remember had the caption "A specially trained squad of Surrey CID men search the grounds for the murder weapon", or words to that effect.

As I remember of our group only Dave Stone, Brian Silver, Peter Earle and myself went on to stay in the force until retirement.

Peter May: The road was Oast House Road I believe and the addition to the tale about someone drinking from a bottle of squash or lemonade was, as I heard it, that all the people on the production line at the Kent factory, were fingerprinted before it was found that an officer had handled the bottle.

Lynn Evans: In the 1980s when DS at Oxted there was a binder file with all the details and copy statements from the murder of the old lady in Oxted in 1959. In the middle nineties I was working crime desk at Reigate. One day I was asked by Detective Chief Inspector Cooper if I had knowledge of the murder and was able to produce the binder.

Apparently the family were making enquiries as to whether the file was closed and Detective Superintendent Brian Woodfield made the inquiry. I went to see Bill Standen because he was involved and he told me the story and the name of a suspect who lived in the Oxted area but who died before interview. He believed the suspect murdered the old lady on the way to his home in Hurst Green.

Paddy Swain (the only name I knew him by) was the SIO I believe. Also in the binder was a list of officers involved. Ron Underwood may also be able to assist but the Binder tells all.

Brian Woodfield: There was a review of the case about twelve years ago when the file was examined in detail, some family spoken to but there were no exhibits and so it was not possible to take it very far.

Brian Silver: I was one of the PCs on an induction course at Headquarters, prior to going to Sandgate. I believe there were twelve of us who were sent to Oxted and instructed to search the garden for the murder weapon. The weather was very hot and one of our members apparently took a drink from the kitchen. When a fingerprint was found on the bottle it was thought to be that of the murderer.

I cannot remember how long it took to eliminate the print. Little did I know at the time that within two years I would be posted to Oxted, which at that time was considered to be 'behind the iron curtain'. Incidentally this case was one of those mentioned by Brian Marjoram at last year's Old Comrades reunion. My recollection was the same as that of Paddy Swain that the person responsible was known, although he was never actually convicted.

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