On 27 June 1946, the body of 12-year-old Muriel Drinkwater was found in woods just one-quarter of a mile away from her home in Penllergaer in Swansea, Wales. The little girl had been raped, beaten and shot twice in the chest in a brutal and vicious attack in broad daylight. Last seen walking through the woods on her way home from school the previous afternoon, a frantic search had been mounted by her family and the police when she failed to return home. It was a murder which terrified the local community, wondering who could be capable of such a heinous crime and whether they were going to strike again.
The location her body was found gave this crime the name it became known by, the ‘Little Red Riding Hood Murder’ and it is a case that has haunted investigating officers and a community who still today, does not know who killed this young girl.
On 29 June 1946, a Colt .45 single-action revolver was found in the undergrowth near where Muriel’s body was found. Soon established to be the murder weapon investigations began on who owned such a weapon and whether it could lead them to her killer. Thousands of interviews were carried out across the region by police desperate to find further information and new leads, however, with no witnesses and little evidence the case soon went cold and Muriel’s killer remained free.
“It was like something out of a nightmare. Like Little Red Riding Hood, but with a terrible ending.”
57 years later, in 2003, investigators re-examined the case and sent the gun used in the murder for DNA testing, unfortunately with no success. In 2008, a cold case team made up of retired detectives managed to find the clothes Muriel Drinkwater was wearing when she was murdered, clothes thought to have been lost when new DNA testing was ordered on the evidence in the case back in 2003. Police now had Muriel’s underwear, her school uniform and the blue coat that she was wearing on that fateful day.
A new type of DNA testing was used which focuses solely on male DNA. The Y-STR analysis eliminates any traces of profiles containing the female X chromosome and looks instead for indicators of the Y chromosome, narrowing down the testing needed on often only minor and delicate traces of evidence, giving a higher likelihood of being able to obtain a useable profile. On the back of Muriel Drinkwater’s coat, a small semen stain was present and a DNA profile using this technique was able to be established. For the first time, police had some solid evidence in this harrowing murder. To date, no match has been found for this DNA profile, leaving the person responsible for this murder still a mystery.
“We have a DNA profile and it is on the DNA database. It has not produced a match as yet, bearing in mind the offender is going to be in his 80s if he is still alive today.”
This same technology was used in the cold case of 20-year-old Lynette White who was murdered in Cardiff in 1988. On 14 February 1988, Lynette White was found dead from more than 50 stab wounds inside a flat in the Cardiff docklands in Wales. Nine months later, five men were arrested and sent to trial the following year, however, after the unfortunate and sudden death of the judge during the trial, a second trial had to be ordered. This second trial in June of 1990 cleared two of the men and found Stephen Miller, Yusef Abdullahi, and Tony Paris guilty of murder, sentencing the trio to life in prison.
Two years later, all three convictions were quashed at the court of appeal. For the following 12 years the case remained unsolved until the arrest of Jeffrey Gafoor in 2002. Gafoor was found after DNA testing using the Y-STR process found a partial match with a family member, eventually leading police straight to him. In July of that year, Gafoor pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison. In the years since there has been ongoing inquiries in relation to the original miscarriage of justice of the three men sent to prison for Lynette White’s murder with a number of police officers questioned and trial witnesses jailed for perjury.
The brutality of Muriel Drinkwater’s murder has led some to look at individuals who have carried out similar attacks, with a suggestion they may have been responsible. A name that has come forward is that of Harold Jones. Welsh author Neil Milkins who wrote ‘Every Mother’s Nightmare: Abertillery in Mourning’ believes Jones, who murdered two young girls in Abertillery in 1921 when he was just 15 years old, was Muriel’s killer. He had been released from prison in December 1941 after he escaped the gallows for his crimes for being just two months too young to be put to death under current laws at the time. Harold Jones died in 1971, however, Milkins believes the similarities between the murder of Muriel Drinkwater and the two girls Jones killed are too great to overlook and Jones should be considered as a strong suspect.
Links have also been made with a second murder which took place just 10 days after the murder of Muriel Drinkwater. On 7 July 1946, 11-year-old Sheila Martin was found raped and strangled in woods near her home in Dartford. On the day of her murder a large race meeting was taking place at Brands Hatch with over 9,000 people in attendance. giving a possible link between the location of Sheila Martin’s murder and that of Muriel Drinkwater’s murder in terms of one killer being responsible.
Even though a match has not been found since a DNA profile was developed from Muriel’s clothing in 2008, investigators are hopeful that one day a direct match or familial match will be found, finally solving the mystery of who killed this young girl back in 1946 in rural Wales.