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It’s 21 years since Janet Murgatroyd was found dead in the River Ribble

Posted on - 16th June, 2017 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Crime, News, Penwortham, Preston City Centre
Janet Murgatroyd's murder remains unsolved
Janet Murgatroyd’s murder remains unsolved

Her body was found 21-years-ago floating in the River Ribble and her killer is still at large.

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Marking the 21st anniversary of the death of Janet Murgatroyd a fresh appeal by Lancashire Police has been launched for new information.

The 20-year-old student at the University of Central Lancashire was found dead on June 16, 1996.

The Penwortham woman had been out with a friend the night before and was attacked as she walked home alone from the city centre.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Brooks of the force’s major investigation team said: “Twenty-one years on from Janet’s brutal murder we remain committed to finding her killer.

“Janet was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. A student at the University of Central Lancashire and a part-time staff member with Lancashire Police, she had much to look forward to and enjoy.

“However, this was all taken away from her in a vicious attack, which we believe was sexually motivated. Janet was left with serious head injuries before being found dead in the River Ribble

“At the time of the attack Janet was vulnerable. She was under the influence of drink and was walking home alone in the early hours of the morning.

“This was an opportunist offence by a very dangerous man who, despite the passage of time, still needs to be brought to justice.”

Janet’s final movements

During the previous day – Saturday 15 June 1996 – Janet had been shopping with a friend in Preston. It was the same day as England versus Scotland in Euro 96 and the Arndale Shopping Centre bombing in Manchester.

Janet and her friend returned to a flat in Ashton and went back into Preston shortly after, drinking in several pubs.

Later in the evening Janet left The Adelphi with a man before leaving him close to Boltons Court.

CCTV cameras captured Janet in Fishergate
CCTV cameras captured Janet in Fishergate

Police say she was seen asleep on Fishergate outside the entrance to Preston Railway Station and later spotted walking towards Penwortham in Fishergate Hill.

In the early hours of the Sunday (16 June) when Janet was found, she was last seen by a taxi driver being chased by a man across Penwortham Bridge away from town.

A short time later two witnesses walking out of town on Penwortham Bridge described hearing the sound of a female moaning and saw a man crouched down on the bank of the River Ribble by Priory Road car park. Police believe this was Janet and her attacker.

Later on that Sunday, Janet’s body was found floating in the River Ribble between the Bridge Inn pub and the Continental pub.

Janet’s clothing, with the exception of her jeans, was found on the river bank by Priory Park.

A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as drowning and head injuries.

Following extensive enquiries detectives arrested a 22-year-old man. He was charged by police before being prosecuted and convicted for her murder in October 2002. However, his conviction was later quashed at the Court of Appeal.

The new appeal

Det Chief Insp Gary Brooks said: “I would like to use the 21st anniversary of Janet’s death to appeal to anyone with information which may assist us to please come forward.

“The date was significant for two reasons. Firstly, the bombing of the Arndale Centre in Manchester and secondly, when England played Scotland in Euro 96. These events may help may people to remember what they were doing 21 years ago.

“The person responsible for Janet’s death will have had this horrific act on their conscience for more than two decades. There has to be a possibility the offender confided in someone or someone suspected they may be responsible due to a change in behaviour around this time. Even if you think the information is insignificant, please come forward so we can investigate.

“We still desperately want to solve this crime and anyone who has information about the murder can contact Lancashire Police or Crimestoppers in confidence.”

Anyone with information can call police on 101. Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 5555111.

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