Murdertown is a 360 degree investigation of the impact of a murder on a local community, through the eyes of those most immediately affected (friends and relatives of the victims and, in some cases, the accused) as well as those further afield, such as local crime reporters, investigating police officers and criminologists.
In each episode, Anita Rani visits the towns and local communities where the murders took place to re-tell these tragic stories and shed new light on how lives and places are changed forever by such shocking and unforgettable crimes.
Milton Keynes: Episode 1 - Monday 27th September
Rachel Manning had been to a 1970s-themed fancy dress party and Chicago's nightclub with boyfriend Barri White before going missing in the early hours of 10 December 2000.
The teenager was found dead in undergrowth at Woburn Golf Club two days later. She had been strangled and her face disfigured with a steering lock, which was located 500m (546 yards) from her body.
In 2002 Barri White was convicted of murder and his friend Keith Hyatt of perverting the course of justice. Both had their convictions quashed in 2007, however.
Ten years later, Shahidul Ahmed's DNA was linked to the case after being arrested for a sex attack in 2010. His DNA was found on the steering lock located at the crime scene.
Ahmed was ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years following a trial in 2013.
Wakefield: Episode 2 - Monday 4th October
In 1994, Wendy Speakes was targeted by sadistic killer Christopher Farrow as she got off a bus and walked to her home after work. He managed to trick his way into the 51-year-old's home.
Farrow, then a 33-year-old painter and decorator, forced Wendy Speakes upstairs to her bedroom, where he gagged her and bound her hands with a pair of black stockings before carrying out a sexual attack.
Farrow stabbed Mrs. Speakes nine times in the back and shoulders and twice in the neck. Farrow was arrested in March 2000 in connection with the murder after his fingerprints were matched to the scene.
Farrow was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison. However, Wendy's daughter Tracey continues to campaign against Farrow's release from prison and has successfully kept him behind bars so far.
Wigan: Episode 3 - Monday 11th October
This episode tells the story of the murder of 15-year-old Louise Sellars, who went missing in 1995. The following day, her body was found five miles from her home in a field, strangled and severely beaten. Police immediately began questioning residents with a particular focus on the teenage population of Appley Bridge. The questioning allowed them to zero in on a suspect, Darren Ashurst, whose car was spotted on the evening in question, driving erratically.
After questioning Ashurst, the Police were able to pick holes in his alibi and build evidence against him as his story of what he did on the night in question continued to change. As a result, despite believing Ashurst was the killer, the Police only had circumstantial evidence, which wasn’t enough to charge him for the murder.
He was released and returned to Appley Bridge.
For three years, the case remained unsolved but was revisited as part of a cold case review. New evidence was collected, and with the advancement in DNA technology, the Police were able to match a cigarette butt found at the scene with Darren Ashurst’s profile. As a result, he was charged with the murder and found guilty. Ashurst has since served his sentence and was released from prison in 2020.
Wishaw: Episode 4 - Monday 18th October
17-year-old student Zoe Nelson was last seen on 22 May 2010 before residents reported seeing a fire in a nearby woods later that evening. The following day her body was found the next day badly.
A week later, Robert Bayne, who was said to be in a relationship with Zoe, came forward to give a statement about another man who allegedly told Bayne he had killed Zoe. As Bayne began to describe Campbell, police detectives walked into the caravan and immediately detained Bayne.
Tests on the swab taken from Nelson's hand demonstrated the presence of Nelson's DNA and traces from another person who was found to match parts of Bayne's DNA profile.
The trial was held over fifteen days at the High Court, March 2011, during which it emerged that Nelson's sister, Laura Anne, had been shown Zoe's body by Bayne on the morning after her murder but had kept this information from the police for five days. On 25 March 2011, the jury of seven men and seven women returned unanimous verdicts of guilty.
Bath: Episode 5 - Monday 25th October
Melanie Road, 17, was murdered on her way home from a nightclub in Bath in 1984. She had been out with her boyfriend and friends, but Melanie had been sexually assaulted and brutally stabbed 26 times on her way back home. A milkman found her body the following day.
After multiple lines of enquiries and arrests, the police weren’t able to find the killer, and despite recovering a large amount of DNA evidence at the scene, the case went cold. Over the next 30 years, the police continued to review the case and check the DNA database for any matches but no real breakthrough.
There were 100s of potential suspects who were checked against the database but not a match. The real breakthrough came in 2014 when the DNA database returned a familial match, leading the police to married father Christopher Hampton. This man had brutally murdered Melanie on the night in 1984 and had been at large for 30 years.
Southampton: Episode 6 - Monday 1st November
Pennie Davis' body was found with multiple stab wounds in a field where she rode her horse in the village of Beaulieu on 2nd September 2014. The case centered on Mrs. Davis' relationship with Benjamin Carr, 22, the son of her estranged partner, who had "lasting hate and anger" towards her.
Mrs Davis had reported Carr to police for two sexual assaults, which he denied and the matter was not taken further by police. Animosity resurfaced in 2012, however, when Mrs. Davis found out Carr's father was to re-marry and Davis threatened to disrupt the proceedings by going public with her allegations.
Carr hatched a plan to pay career criminal Justin Robertson £1,500 to 'silence her for good.' Police believe Robertson intended to scare Ms. Davis, but when she challenged him and removed his balaclava, he panicked, realised she could identify him and killed her. Both Carr and Robertson were charged with the murder and found guilty.
Oxford: Episode 7 - Monday 8th November
Vikki Thompson went missing in Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, while walking her dog on 12th August 1995. The dog returned home without her, raising the alarm. After a frantic search, she was found alive but badly beaten - she died six days later in hospital.
Local man Mark Weston emerged as the prime suspect, and the Police set about building a case against him, amassing enough evidence to charge him with the murder. When the case went to trial, however, Weston was found not guilty by the jury.
A decade after the murder of Vikki Thompson, the double jeopardy law was changed in the UK in 2005, allowing a person to be tried for the same crime twice; the Police decided to look at the case again as part of a cold case review.
Weston’s boots were resubmitted for testing and, due to the scientific advancements in the intervening period, tiny traces of blood were found on the boots. The blood was a match to Vikki Thompson.
In 2009 Weston was arrested again and faced another trial, and this time he was found guilty. The first time that the double jeopardy legislation was used to secure a conviction.
Leicester: Episode 8 - Monday 15th November
Police found 72-year-old Jane Hings' body on Sunday, September 24th, 2017. DNA samples found at the scene found a match for then 25-year-old Craig Keogh, who was subsequently arrested.
To complement the DNA evidence, the police begin to build a case against Keogh and track his movements on the dates in question. On the night of the murder, Keogh had visited a local pub, where he allegedly told others he was 'geared off his t**t'.
He was said to have been 'acting aggressively throughout the evening,' and the day after the murder, he sold the jewellery he had taken from Jane Hings' bungalow to buy food and drink for friends.
The investigation found that Keogh knew Jane Hings and walked her dog, Paddy, on several occasions. Keogh was charged with murder, two counts of rape, and burglary in connection with Jane's death. During the trial, Keogh claimed they had consensual sex and told officers Hings had paid him for sex and was still alive when he left her. The jury took just four hours to reject Keogh's version of events and find him guilty of rape and murder.
Lichfield: Episode 9 - Monday 22nd November
In July 1999, the remains of Wendy Upton were found in nearby woods; she was identified using dental records. Upton had been reported as missing nine months previously. At the time, police launched a major campaign to find the missing 40-year-old even staging reconstruction of her movements on the day she disappeared with the help of the local community.
One particularly helpful person was Steven Salisbury, who took part in the reconstruction and appeared in a press conference urging Wendy to get in touch. However, as well as helping the Police, Salisbury was also under suspicion, and when Wendy's body was found, he was quickly arrested and questioned.
It emerged Salisbury met Upton and had sex with her on wasteland behind the Tesco store where he worked. He said she became 'hysterical' afterward after telling her he would be unable to get her groceries that night.
When she threatened to tell her husband, Peter, and Salisbury's wife that he had raped her, the security guard took a piece of rope or cord and put it around her neck. After the killing, Salisbury left Mrs. Upton's body overnight but returned the following day, moved it to nearby undergrowth, and covered it in leaves.
Whitby: Episode 10 - Monday 29th November
In April 2012, Dawn and George Kibble visited the flat of Dawn's sister Julie Davison, concerned for her wellbeing after repeated phone calls went unanswered. On arrival, they found Julie's lifeless body on the blood-stained floor of her kitchen. She'd been attacked, stabbed multiple times, and left for dead.
Julie's home had been burgled with the killer making off with her laptop, jewellery, cash, and items of her clothing. The Police immediately began to investigate the crime and found a cigarette butt close to the scene that became crucial in the case's progression.
The investigation saw Police zero in on a suspect, James Allen, who was captured on CCTV wearing Julie's coat and trainers. That afternoon he sold a necklace identical to one missing from Julie's home and was seen carrying a laptop computer in a bag identical to one missing from Julie's flat.
Three days earlier, he had killed 81-year-old Colin Dunford in Middlesbrough, again following a robbery at the victim's home.
A week on from the murder of Colin Dunford, Allen was arrested by an off-duty police officer in Leeds. In November 2012, Allen was found guilty of both murders and was given a life sentence with no parole for 37 years.