New lead in hunt for killer of Una Crown, who was stabbed and set alight in her home in Wisbech

Detectives are re-launching the investigation into the murder of Wisbech pensioner Una Crown. Picture: Ian Burt Detectives are re-launching the investigation into the murder of Wisbech pensioner Una Crown. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
5:12 PM

Detectives uncovered a new lead hours after re-launching the investigation into the murder of an 86-year-old pensioner, who was stabbed to death and set on fire.

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Mystery of who killed Una

Una Crown was last seen alive on Friday, January 11 2013.

Detectives working on the original investigation believed she was killed between 5pm the following day, when she spoke to a friend on the phone, and her normal bedtime of 10pm. Her bed had not been slept in and she was still wearing daytime clothes.

Det Insp John Hutchinson, who led the original investigation, said the offender was “skilled” in the way they locked the door and made the killing look like an accident.

One question is how the offender got into the bungalow before he or she attacked Mrs Crown. There was no sign of forced entry to the property, so did Mrs Crown let them in? Was she killed by someone she knew?

Most people are, according to the police’s own murder handbook, which says there are few killings where there has not been some kind of “prior association” between the offender and his or her victim.

Yet no obvious motive has emerged for why violent death would come calling out of the blue on this quiet, leafy lane on the outskirts of Wisbech, near Elgood’s Brewery and the River Nene.

Why would anyone want to kill the sprightly pensioner, who ran the village post office at nearby Elm with her late husband Ron, before they retired.

A single act of barbarity, which ended a life of goodness. That’s how the priest described the frenzied attack six weeks later, when Una Crown’s family and friends gathered at Mintlyn for her funeral.

Una Crown was found in the hallway of her bungalow on Magazine Lane, Wisbech, in January 2013. At first, detectives believed she had suffered a terrible accident.

But post mortems revealed she had received multiple stab wounds to her neck and chest, and had died before the fire - meaning her killer had set her alight to disguise her injuries.

Two days after Mrs Crown’s body was discovered, police launched a murder hunt - a delay her family lodged a formal complaint about.

Det Chief Insp Sharn Basra, the detective now leading the inquiry, said: “The initial response was not the best but we’ve had to move on from that, we’re now looking forward.

“While the investigation to date has been full and thorough, with a number of significant lines of enquiry established no one has been charged.”

As a fresh team of officers from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit began house to house inquiries yesterday, a person came forward with information who had not previously spoken to officers.

DCI Sharn Basra said: “We aim to go back to the weekend of January 12, 2013, and recreate the investigation from scratch, in the hope of identifying further witnesses or any avenues of investigation.

“We’ve already identified one person who didn’t come forward at the time, who is now speaking with officers. There are several people who live in and around the area who may know something.”

A 50-strong team is now working on the investigation, based at an incident room at Cambridgeshire police’s Huntingdon HQ.

Officers will be in the Magazine Lane area of Wisbech all week carrying out house-to-house enquiries, revisiting witnesses, putting up posters and handing out leaflets appealing for information.

A mobile police station has also been set up in a nearby park, as a focal point for the investigation.

DCI Basra said: “The investigation into the murder of Una Crown has never closed, but the decision has now been taken to review the case.

“We firmly believe that there are people in Wisbech who know who is responsible for Mrs Crown’s death. Hopefully they will now have the courage to come forward and give us the information which will bring her killer to justice.

“Anyone who came forward at the time, we’d urge you to come forward again. We’d also urge anyone who didn’t come forward at the time to come forward, we’ll test everything that comes in.

“We will not stop until the person responsible has been brought to justice.”

A man in his 50s was arrested two weeks after the murder but released without charge.

The death was the subject of a reconstruction on the BBC’s Crimewatch in April 2013, which police said generated fresh lines of enquiry. That same month, a 29-year-old drug user admitted breaking into her bungalow and stealing a TV, stereo and DVD player and was later jailed for 10 months.

A £10,000 Crimestoppers reward is on offer for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Una Crown’s murder.

Anyone with any information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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