I like a mystery, as do most people, and the unsolved murder of 17 year-old Anne Noblett is exactly that.
It’s a little while back, 1957, but there’s every chance her killer is still around. If he’s not there’s always the chance someone, all these years later, can point a finger in the right direction. So, anyone who reads this and has any idea as to how or why it ever happened time to spill the beans.
Anne’s body was found fully clothed, her spectacles still in place, on a piece of open ground inside a place known locally as Rose Grove Woods on 31 January 1958. Its discovery, some 6 miles south of Hitchen, marked the end of a 31 day police search which had covered much of Hertfordshire and yielded nothing. Forensic examination showed she had been raped, strangled and placed in refrigeration almost immediately after her death. It also deduced she had been placed there in a naked state and then re-dressed just prior to being taken to the grassy area inside the woodland where she was discovered; her clothing when found was dry, some buttons had been incorrectly fastened and those spectacles deliberately replaced. In other words her body had been carefully, and deliberately placed in that wood with the intention of her being found. Furthermore that placement had been made no more than 2 weeks earlier, food remaining in her stomach a clear indicator that her death had taken place within hours of her disappearance. That disappearance, reported on December 30 1957, meant her killer had kept her body in a cold place for something like 14 to 16 days and her clothes somewhere very dry.
Now refrigeration back in 1957/8 was hardly common. Freezers, industrial use only, had obviously been in use since the late 1930’s. Domestic refrigeration, the type you have in your home, very much in its infancy. Few homes in the 1950’s could afford to buy it, which would suggest Anne’s body had been kept in some sort of industrial setting. Farm perhaps, or a building allied to food preservation would seem likely. Also the level of preservation found by the forensic team was, so they argued, likely to have made it extremely difficult for her killer to have moved her to the place where she was eventually found. Refrigeration would have caused a degree of rigidity and access to those woods was not possible by car. There was no easy vehicular access. Her killer would have needed to manoeuvre her body across and through scrubland that stretched for about 300 metres. Now that would not have been easy, Anne weighed around eleven stone (70+ kg), which raised the question, were two people involved?
That question, like the murder, has remained unresolved for over 66 years. What has always puzzled me is why?
Police brought botanists to the murder site to try and ascertain exactly how long Anne’s body how been laid awaiting discovery. They were instructed to check the ground beneath where the body had lain for clues of stunted growth etc. What they found was no serious depression of plant growth or serious discolouration of the grass beneath where the body had been, and no clues in the surrounding undergrowth to suggest she had been outside for more than 10/14 days. In other words their conclusions fit closely with those of the pathology results.
So, who killed her?
Anne lived in Wheathampstead some 5 miles away from the woods where her body had been discovered. Most of those miles made up of open farmland. She attended dance classes in Harpenden, the nearest built up area to home, and she travelled there by local bus. On the night of her disappearance (30 Dec 1957) she had been to one of those dance classes and was believed to have been walking home at around 6pm. It was dark, this being the end of December and the last sighting of her placed her some 400 yards (370m) from home. So where did she go?
There is obviously no definitive answer to that, but the likely hood is she got into a car. Probably offered a lift by someone she knew. Why else, when so near home, would you accept a lift? Or maybe she decided to call on a friend who lived nearby. Either way they had access to some form of refrigeration and they murdered her.
Suspects? Locally none that I am aware of but I presume there must have been some. Appeals were made for help in 1960 and more recently in 2017. Nothing materialised but perhaps now, with no reason to keep the secret any more, someone may know something that would offer closure to the family. It would be nice to think that were true.