Who killed a lone middle aged woman in her own home in 1995 and got away with it? In the days of DNA dominance the offender disappeared not only into the dark Buckinghamshire night, but has never had the spotlight of science shone on them in the decades since.
Janet Brown, 51, was a researcher at Oxford University. Her role was to go through data relating to infertility in women. She was a qualified nurse married to a pharma consultant. She had three children. Two of them were living away from home and the youngest was in the sixth form of a school in High Wycombe. On the night of April 10th 1995 Janet was alone in the house on Sprigs Holly Lane. The dwelling was smaller than it is now but was still a substantial home set in its own grounds. It was, however, near the road. Her daughter Roxanne would normally have been home but had made arrangements that day to be out of the house overnight. A friend was celebrating passing her driving test that day.
The house had recently been on the market and building work on behalf of the buyer was being carried out. Janet’s husband was often away for work purposes and that night he was out of the country in Switzerland. From around 4 pm Janet was not known to have had any visitors. Shortly after 8pm she answered the house phone when a friend of her daughter’s called. Shortly after the builder rang the house about the following day’s work. There was no reply.
The house main alarm was heard sounding by a passing motorist at about 10pm and had silenced by the time they drove back again at about 10.15 pm.
When the builder arrived for work early on 11th April Janet Brown was found tightly wrapped about the head in tape and dead from severe blunt force trauma. She was at the bottom of a set of stairs that led to the ground floor. The curtains were open and the lights were on. The internal intruder siren was sounding.
Janet was otherwise naked. The patio doors had been forced in a curious way. She had not been sexually assaulted and though there was some evidence property may have been prepared for removal, money left out had not been taken.
In 2015 the police announced they had isolated DNA that they believed might be pivotal, but at the time of writing there has been no direct or family link. Any family involvement in the murder was discounted from an early stage. Suspects were interviewed and wide DNA testing was carried out locally.
NB In the UK alarm systems are installed and a national requirement is a that any external alarm must reset after 20 minutes. This is to avoid false activation from driving neighbours mad. Internal sirens can carry on for as long as power is directed to them.
As always I stress theories are just that. I will write more on this but robbery was the main theory of the police though I cannot state if that has changed. A consultant psychologist was asked and he gave very different ideas on the possible motive. Until I circle back to this if you want one the few accounts of the scene and many curious features of this case have a look at Britton’s book, ‘Picking Up the Pieces.’
Unlike many cases (with this amount of unusual features) the murder of this lady has slipped through the cracks somewhat. That is not the fault of the police or the family. They regularly try and bring it back to public attention. The good thing is that it has not been treated to the coating of crazy coverage online. So it is possible to look at the facts that are known without being bogged down in mad leaps of nonsense.
Most curious of all is that there were big patio doors. Someone tried to cut a man sized hole in them to gain entry. It is possible this was done after the assault. In any case having removed one pane of glass ( double glazed unit) they then gave up and smashed the inner pane of glass. That method is outside of my experience and seems hopelessly amateur. This appears to be particularly daft as there were easier windows to force at the rear of the house.
I link this murder to the unsolved murder of Dr Michael Spike Meenaghan purely because of their mutual ties to Oxford University and the approximate time scale. They both worked in different areas of medical research. Oxford University employs about 14,000 people so what you have is two people killed five months apart from a population equivalent to that of a small town. I would link two murders on this site if they had any location or occupational similarities.
What is obvious is that this was a bad time for the area of Oxford when it comes to unsolved murder. Between 1994 and 1997 there were four murders that are still unsolved. Three of them involved women killed in their own homes. Two of the four were in Oxford itself and two were in nearby Buckinghamshire. I have listed them below with links to articles on here.