We are not trying to rake over old coals or assert a theory of our own. We just hope to record this awful tragedy as other similar cases have an element of suspicion over them. By this I refer to Mark Billington, 1984, and Adrian Stevens in 1968.
There is a lot of blogging, like ours, to be found online about 15 year old Reece Collins. However, there is little in the way of original news sources. Newspapers.com have two entries about an inquest in 1988. They relate that:
Reece Collins was a lad living in or near Croydon. He went missing one evening in February 1985. He was found by his father and the family dog hanging from a tree in Norwood not far away from home. The only reason his father was there was because he had been out searching for his boy.
In 1986 a first inquest decided that he had died while ‘experimenting’. This gave the impression there was a sexual element to the tragedy.
His parents did not accept this and their feelings were vindicated in 1988 when a second inquest returned an open verdict. They had had to campaign to get this second hearing. The case had gone to the High Court who quashed the first ruling.
As there is so much missing online I will try and fill in the blanks. The first inquest could not have found clear evidence of suicide. If they had then that would have been the verdict returned.
In the second hearing the coroner, Dr William Dolman, said there was no evidence of suicide, unlawful killing or misadventure. In short, they had nothing concrete to go on.
That must be a terrible thing for a family to bear. It is a great big ‘ We don’t know.’
The Reddit Post About Suspicious Behaviour
It is said that Reece was found hanging via a belt taken from a raincoat. On Reddit I saw these details recounted and some additional assertions. 1) That the belt did not belong to Reece and it was clean. 2) The tree was covered in lichen which was undisturbed, and Reece had no sign of that powder like substance on him. He was too high off the ground to have hung himself without a scramble up the tree.
The origin of all this information is not known to me. It might well be accurate, however, I have not seen references for it. These facts have been repeated in both written and video presentations. The fact that the poor lad was hanging with a coat belt around his neck is mentioned in the second inquest.
The substance of the above points I took from the Reddit post. I did see someone had commented as Reece’s sister. She did not dispute the details. She did try and get another user to contact her because he had some really interesting stuff to say.
I will link it all, but our habit is to write up such information in case the threads and references disappear. So a summary is:
The commenter was 8 years old when he joined a Croydon football team. Reece was in the same child’s team but was two years older than the Reddit user. That puts the following account of events from about 1980. He writes of very suspicious behaviour by the adult manager of that Sunday youth team. He also said that this ‘manager’ introduced him to another man who gave him the creeps. So much so that he ran away from him. He described this man as looking like the caretaker in the Harry Potter movies. Both of these adults wore trench style coats and were reasonably scruffy.
He talks of sleep overs being arranged and an air of something not being right with the set up. He also relates that a few years later he ran into an older boy who had been assisting this manager when he was on the team. At this point the story is around 1983.
This boy (who would have also been two years older) had a friend with him and asked if the Reddit user would help find their dog. Again he says he felt uncomfortable so he said no. After that the companion tried to throw him in quarry water and threw rocks until the lad he knew got him to stop. The older boys left.
The Reddit user did not seem to reply to Reece’s sister when she asked him to do so twice. She said she was very interested in what he had to say which suggests it may have rung some bells with her understanding of the situation around Croydon at the time. I have not included the name of the older boy as he does not appear to have done anything wrong. I am more interested in the set up around this youth team. Of course I have to say the Reddit user, though sounding very credible, is anonymous so what he says cannot be verified.
What else is out there About Reece Collins?
The only other fact I can confirm is a story that came out of the second inquest. ‘Friends’ of Reece had played a ‘prank’ on him a year before his death. He had been tied up in a derelict house and a cord had been placed around his neck. Reece had been angry and upset by this as you would be.
A boy who was described as a friend of his, Robert Byers, gave evidence about the prank but I am not sure what point anyone was making by telling it.
My interest lies in this and two other teenage hangings. Further to that were two additional disappearances of teens around the same time.
In 1968 a boy called Roy Tutill went missing. His body was found in rural Surrey. He had been sexual assaulted and strangled. Within days of him being found a 13 year old called Adrian Stevens was found hung in among trees not that far from where Roy Tutill was discovered. School boy Mark Billington disappeared from his home in 1984. He was found hung from a tree in woodland not far from his Birmingham home.
It took over 30 years to convict an inadequate of Roy Tutill’s murder. Brian Lunn Field is in prison for the crime now. He is getting very old at about 86 years. An interesting aspect of these hangings is both Mark Billington and Adrian Stevens had Brian Lunn Field living not far away.
Kevin Hicks, Lee Boxell And Reece Collins
Kevin Hicks was a 16 year old lad who vanished on a late evening walk to local shops and Lee Boxell was a 15 year old lad who disappeared one Saturday afternoon.
Kevin and Reece lived quite close together and Lee only a matter of nine miles (14km) away in Sutton, Surrey. All were about the same age and all died or disappeared between 1985 and 1988. All vanished from those streets and none left any indication it was their intention to step into the mists of forever.
As a result, understandably, the question is are these cases linked? I only wish I had the answer. The accounts about Lee Boxell are that he might have fallen foul of a group of sex offenders who operated out of an informal youth group he belonged too. In the case of Kevin Hicks, police believe he may have been keeping some secrets about his life. They have offered the theory that he had gone to meet someone the night he disappeared.
Now we have some information, the Reddit user, that suggests there was sex offending type behaviour in Croydon around a football team. All within less than 10 miles.
The point is do groups of child sex offenders operate in isolation? The answer has to be often they do not. They co-operate and sometimes form hideous unions to sexually exploit kids. Not just today, when they can take exploitation online, but back then too.
Sydney Cooke, for example, was part of a group that committed repeated assaults on teenage and younger children in the 1970s and 1980s. One estimate puts the group at about 12 in number and Cooke is said to have boasted of up to 15 child murders. He and several others served various terms inside. Cooke is there still. Of the 12 it seems they were working together sometimes and separately at others.
The point here is not to link that group to the deaths we are discussing, even though they were active not that far away at the time. It is more a point that paedophile groups and individuals can co-operate. An informal ‘youth’ group in Sutton might well have been in contact with a group operating around a kid’s football team only 10 miles away.
If you look at how Cooke and his inadequate monsters operated you might agree with me that anything is possible between these creatures.
There is way more speculation in this article than in the many others we have written about UK child missing and unsolved murders. That is because Reece Collins was not officially viewed as a murder victim. Hence the coverage is way less than in many cases. However, Mark Billington was not regarded as a murder victim at first either. As for Adrian Stevens in 1968? His inquest found his death was self inflicted. I’m not disputing the finding as I cannot discover what the level of evidence was. I would be interested in knowing why they think he killed himself.
Kevin Hicks and Lee Boxell are considered murder victims even though they have never been found. This is based on a combination of various factors. The main one is common sense. They took nothing with them like money etc. Their last journeys were normal, routine and totally devoid of any indication they intended to disappear.
Normally we don’t refer directly to Reddit or similar. We like original media sources. I was a bit stuck here so the above is all I have. You could enquire, why don’t I ask the family? I don’t because I bet they have been hammered over the years and I have seen some awful things said of them and Reece. I hope they have some peace.
I write about the case because where it can happen once it can happen again. If someone reads this, who spots some signs of danger with their kids because of what happened then that is great by me.
We have put together a linked list of all those we have written about just in the UK. Other lists from elsewhere are to follow.
A footnote: I mentioned Brian Lunn Field. I should also mention that the information I have about him means he would probably not have been able to commit a crime against Kevin Hicks. I’m told he was on remand ( in prison awaiting trial) at the time. I stress I am not linking him etc. It is just curious that he was killing at the time that Adrian Stevens hung himself, curious that he lived in Birmingham when Mark Billington was killed and a fact that he knew South London and Surrey well.
Could there be a connection between the death of Reece Collins aged 15 in 1985 and the disappearance of Kevin Hicks aged 16, who police suspect was murdered, in 1986? : UnresolvedMysteries (reddit.com)