Did They Strike Again? The Murder of The Smith Family, Birmingham, UK, 1992
This must have been front page news in 1992. I cannot recall this triple murder and have no idea why. The members of the same family were found in an area of Birmingham, West Midlands. Multiple stab wounds, two elderly victims and their 47 year old disabled son. A top British psychologist warned the killer enjoyed their dark work and would strike again. Did they?
2nd December and police responded to a request to check on a family in the suburb of Northfield. There lived Harold and Mary, both 72, along with Harold Jnr who was 47. Their daughter could not reach them and that was unusual. The cops forced their way in and came across a scene they will have relived many times in their minds.
Harold had been tied up and stabbed over 100 times with a five inch kitchen type knife. His wife was on her bed similarly restrained. Harold Jnr was bound to his wheelchair. He had a sock stuffed in his mouth. This was no sudden ‘burglary gone wrong.’
Mother and son had been stabbed in the head, neck and chest. Given their physical limitations what could have provoked such savagery? Paul Britton, who I mentioned in the unsolved murder of Janet Brown, was called in. He was our main man to turn to for building FBI style profiles.
His opinion was that the offender or offenders revelled in the way these poor people died. They would need to kill again. He suggested the detectives should be looking for people aged 14-25 years old. That would put them in the mid forties to mid fifties age range today.
In 2017 another appeal was launched for information about these crimes. It was the 25th anniversary. The police talked of evidence from 1992 that could still yield a DNA profile of the killer. By comparing the newspaper photographs of the time with Google maps, I believe the bungalow that was the scene is on the right of the below picture.
The investigation ranged over a large area with some waterways being searched. Over 1500 people were interviewed and hundreds of cars were checked out. The attacks were apparently sustained, a wooden club of some sort was also used to inflict injuries. I cannot see a time of day being reported for this crime. In one source it says the family had not been seen for a couple of days. I note that it is said Harold Jnr, who had been paralysed in a car accident 12 years before, was found slumped in his wheelchair. I assume that means a daytime or evening attack.
The bungalow is overlooked by high rise flats and so is not an obvious choice for a robbery in daylight hours. It is also in the middle of an area of quite dense housing. Many of the properties are in their own gardens, but all the same it is an unusual place for such a violent home invasion. I have written about many cases where the occupant of a house has been brutalised in this way. Almost all have been detached properties. In addition, they are mostly in rural areas and the victim is alone when attacked.
My own take is that it did start as a burglary. Probably a distraction type as in someone calls at the door with a story. Sometimes they claim to be utility workers or even law enforcement of some kind. Once in they plan to distract the householder so they can sneak steal.
The issue is that criminals have delusional ideas about themselves. A burglar of houses when they are empty thinks themselves better than one that would burgle a house and threaten an elderly occupier. The one who would threaten an older person thinks they are better than someone who will tie up an elderly victim and ransack a house at leisure.
In fact they are all ‘things’ that prey on the weak. Once they realise there is no threat, like for example they get in and find two older people and a disabled son, ideas get in their nasty little heads. Many love the power they have in those situations. Horrors like the one in Overbury Close often start as a theft and escalate because the offenders are inadequate and full of hate.
The location is lousy as a choice to carry out a very bloody crime. What complicates my theory a bit is very little was stolen. Maybe they got so much out of the event that it satisfied them? In the case of Janet Brown, who was beaten to death during a burglary, the offender took the time to bind her head in tape. There is also evidence that suggests this did not happen immediately after they encountered her. There was cash and property there yet none was taken.
So did this offender go on from 1992 to murder another family group or individual? Have you heard of any similar killings? I will have a think. I hope I don’t come up with anything. If they did not come to police attention through another crime what happened to this moron?
Update: Jan 2022. A gentleman called Brian was good enough to send me an archived clip about a murderer called Frank Rudolph Moe. Moe would have been about 37 years old in 1992. He had been in secure mental health institutions since 1976.
In May 1992 he was released and went to live with his parents in Birmingham. He was only free for four years. In May 1996 he was convicted of manslaughter. He killed a man called Peter Armstrong behind some shops. He had beaten the him to death. After being sentenced to 10 years inside he was hit with another conviction. DNA linked him to a cooling case that had once again been committed in Birmingham. This killing has ominous similarities with the triple murder we have been discussing.
Moe was known to travel the number 11 bus route and approach older people offering to assist them with carrying shopping etc. It is believed this is how he accessed the Perry Barr home of Mrs Rosella Middleton. This 83 year old lady was battered to death after being sexually assaulted. She was still in her coat and scarf suggesting she had just made it home. Moe was told by a judge that he should stay inside until he was carried out feet first. Unfortunately UK hand wringers managed to allow for such decisions to be challenged.
In 2006 Moe managed to secure a puny sentence of 18 years. He will be able to ask for parole in 2024. By then he will be almost 70 years of age, however, his victims are such as Mrs Middleton so in my book that makes him a continuing threat.
In the link that Brian sent me ( below) there is an interview with a detective that grilled Moe in 1996. He mentions a string of suspicious deaths where older men ‘fell’ into the canal and drowned. Moe is said to have had a strange distain for older people.
There is a very plausible argument for there to be another look at the killing of the Smith family with Moe in mind. All I have seen is that DNA evidence COULD be extracted as in it might be in the future. I will say that I am sometimes overly suspicious of ex coppers and their theories. In this case I can’t see any fault in that detective’s logic. Have a read of the Birmingham Post article by a guy called Mike Lockley. See what you think.
There is only one online picture of Moe and it is licenced. It is in the link below as well. Moe was born in Guyana and came here in 1971 at the age of 16. He is regarded as both deaf and mute. This is disputed by some people who have met him but I cannot confirm or deny it. It might be worth looking at his picture if you live in the UK, you know? In case he makes parole in 2024.
Anyway, take care and lock up please. If people come to the door. Talk through it. Get an idea who is on the other side. If unsure get the cops on the line.
I’ll keep a light on for the Smith family. The ‘Thing’ that did this has no place among us. Time is flying by and with it hope is drifting away yet there is still time. Someone knows something about this.
Crimestoppers: 0800 555 111
Moe article: https://www.pressreader.com/uk/birmingham-post/20200604/281840055890851
2 thoughts on “Did They Strike Again? The Murder of The Smith Family, Birmingham, UK, 1992”
I remember this crime happening, but am surprised that 30 years have now gone by with absolutely nothing in the way of new leads. That seems very strange, given the progress in DNA technology since then. The inference is that the people concerned (I’m assuming plural, thinking it hard for one person on their own to have done so much to three people) have never offended again in all that time. They may never have committed anything else so awful, but how unlikely is it that such people have ‘kept their noses clean’ ever afterwards? I know it has happened several times in America, but eventually a DNA trace, often from a relative caught for a totally unrelated, often trivial incident has led to their being traced. It would be satisfying if they were brought to book for this one; apart from the wickedly cowardly nature of the offence – I live about a mile up the road!
Hello, sorry for the delay we had some heavy duty tech issues. They are all good point you make. I was approached by a ex officer involved and a strong suspect does exist. As you say DNA should sort the matter but how strong the samples etc are I don’t know. Maybe it is a case of just waiting for the technology to catch up. Thanks for the comment
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