The village is turning into a location from Waking the Dead or Midsomer Murders – take your pick.
Last week two men were arrested and subsequently bailed in relation to the murder of Peterborough girl Sally Ann McGrath. She was last seen at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough in 1981 before her body was found by a local gamekeeper in Wild Boar Spinney, part of Castor Hanglands – just up the road.
The body had lain undiscovered for some time before it was found. It had been in a shallow grave and when it was found it had been partially uncovered and pulled around by foxes. That was back in 1981 and the case has remained unsolved. But the case has been re-opened because of new evidence possibly linking it to a series of other rapes and assaults that occurred in and around Peterborough from the mid to late 1970s.
But this wasn’t the only murder to darken the mood of the villages that year. In November 1981 Bill McCullough, a well-known local businessman, was found murdered in his bed – shot in the head while he slept.
This was the notorious ‘Kiss of Death’ murder. McCullough had met a former beauty queen and businesswoman Muriel while on holiday and after a whirlwind romance they married.
Things soon turned sour though when she realised that he wasn’t as cash rich as he had promised her he was. She arranged his murder in a contract-style killing. She kissed him goodbye and left home on a business trip on the day the murder was carried out.
It was soon discovered, however. Liverpudlian scallies asking for directions in The Wheatsheaf stood out a bit from the local crowd. And, as the beneficiary of McCullough’s life insurance, the finger of suspicion soon pointed at Muriel.
Police enquiries led them to shooter James Collingwood. Both he and Muriel McCullough were arrested and subsequently sentenced to life prison sentences.
But there have been other slayings tenuously linked to the village. The killer of a Peterborough cabbie, who directed the driver to a secluded country lane before stabbing him to death, was seen walking through the village shortly after his nefarious deed.
Later, in December 2002, there was a gruesome discovery of a man’s body at Dead Man’s Hollow, Upton. He was wrapped in a green blanket and a cream-coloured bedspread, and was wearing a blue T-shirt, a dark jumper, trousers, socks but no shoes, and a jacket with brass buttons. The man had been shot in the head, stabbed and then set alight.
After a year of forensic work he was identified as an Armenian gangster called Sako who had been wanted for murder in Russia and Belgium. Two Armenians, one of whom worked with Sako at a factory in Kings Lynn, were convicted of his murder almost three years later.
1981 might have been a year inept contract killers, black widows and a fear of strangers, but it was also the year I was taking my ‘O’ Levels so it all kind of passed me by at the time.
- Man held in probe over 1980 murder (independent.co.uk)
- Second man held over 1980 murder of Sally McGrath (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sally McGrath murderer arrested 30 years after naked dead body found in wood (dailymail.co.uk)
- Man arrested for brutal murder of woman found buried naked in woods and string of rapes 30 years ago (dailymail.co.uk)