Family of murdered Una Crown speak out about Cambridgeshire Police’s handling of the case
09:43 15 January 2014
The family of murdered Una Crown say they feel “very let down” at Cambridgeshire Police’s early handling of the case.
The 86-year-old’s body was found in the hallway of her Magazine Lane home in Wisbech on January 13 last year by her niece’s husband, John Payne, who was meeting her for lunch.
Officers originally thought her death was a tragic accident, but a post-mortem investigation concluded she had been repeatedly stabbed and set on fire,
It took the police 48 hours to launch a murder inquiry, during which Una’s family were allowed to enter the house and collect belongings.
Her murder investigation is one of the largest conducted by Cambs Police and an appeal for information featured on Crimewatch on April 29.
But, on the first anniversary of her death, the killer has yet to be found.
Una’s family were so unhappy they made an official complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which Cambridgeshire Police says was “locally resolved and the family are happy with the outcome”.
Una’s niece Judy Payne said: “We complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission because we felt very let down.
“We were told on the day she was found it was an accident.
“They said we could go into the bungalow and collect Una’s belongings. My brother came over and we were at the house on Tuesday when I got a call telling us to leave the house and that it was now a murder enquiry.
“This is what we thought on Sunday when we got home and discussed it. John felt very strongly it was not an accident.
“The last year has been the worst of our lives. It has been and still is a real struggle. We just want to get closure.
“We have tried to move on but it has been horrendous.”
Mr Payne described the moment he discovered Una’s body in her hallway.
He said: “We were going out with her for Sunday lunch so I went to pick her up.
“I tapped on the window to see if she was there but there was no reply.
“So I went to a neighbour’s house and picked up the spare key.
“The neighbour’s carer came round with me. I unlocked the house and opened the door. She was lying spread-eagled, face-down on the carpet in the front hallway.
“I could see part of her body was burnt and there was blood oozing from her neck which had stained the carpet.
“I stood there and the carer went to the kitchen to call 999. About 10 minutes later the police arrived.”
Mrs Crown was last seen alive on Friday January 11, but had spoken to a friend by telephone at about 5pm the following day.
Police believe she was killed between 5pm and her normal bedtime of 10pm on January 12. Her bed had not been slept in and she was still wearing normal daytime clothes.
Cambs Police Det Insp John Hutchinson says he sympathises with the family and could understand why they are unhappy about the early handling of the case.
He said: “The offender was quite skilled in the way they locked the door and set the body on fire to give the appearance of an accident.
“We now know this was an incorrect assumption, which has potentially meant we were not as quick off the mark as we should have been.
“The reason we will and must solve this is to bring closure to Una’s family. They are a wonderful family and, if I was in their position, I would be frustrated that it took 48 hours to launch a murder inquiry.
“But we have been working closely with the family through our police liaison officers and are gathering as much evidence as possible.”
Det Insp Hutchinson hopes the anniversary of Una’s death will be the catalyst for someone to come forward and provide information that could help them catch the killer.
He said: “We hope the anniversary of the death will trigger people to come forward.
“With the passage of time allegiances may have changed, so someone who may not have felt comfortable talking to us last year may now speak to us.
“This is one of our largest ever inquiries. A huge amount of officers have worked on it and a team remains working on it.
“If someone knows something, I urge them to speak to us in confidence. Now is the time.
“The investigation is ongoing and we are still doing forensic work. We will keep digging. This weekend we will increase our presence in the area, going door to door and putting up posters, as we try to unlock this case.
“We are absolutely determined to bring the offender to justice, bring closure to Una’s family and take a dangerous person off the streets.
“We have a really good record of solving murders. Sometimes it takes a few days and other times it takes years, but we will catch the killer and put them before the courts.”
A £10,000 reward has been offered by Crimestoppers for an arrest and conviction of Mrs Crown’s killer.
Anyone with any information should call the Major Crime Unit on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.