On the surface of this killing you could argue there is nothing particularly taxing about the unsolved murder of 40 year old Karen Chandler. I would say it is a really difficult case. It is one that that challenges us to be brutally impartial. As in the case of Sophie Du Plantier, you have all the circumstantial evidence you could want except a certainty of guilt. Without that concrete piece of the jigsaw, when it comes down to it, you have nothing.
Mrs Chandler was a divorcee who worked as a security guard for the Ministry of Defence. Her place of work was the Army Vehicle Depot near Ludgershall, Wiltshire. On the morning of 20th June 2000 Mrs Chandler had an early morning start from her home in West Lavington. Her friend, 64 year old Bryan Maloney, called her at 4.10 am to ensure she was up and out of bed. This was normal apparently. Mr Maloney and Mrs Chandler had known each other for over 10 years. He also knew her former husband.
Mr Maloney was later charged and stood trial for Mrs Chandler’s murder. It was claimed that the arrangement was for Mrs Chandler to stop by at 5 am and borrow a couple of buckets from him. The plan she had was to do some car washing while at work. She didn’t turn up and that was all Mr Maloney knew.
Mr Maloney had angina and was under medical instruction to take exercise. He had chosen cycling. By chance, later that day he was seen riding his bicycle on a significant route.
Mrs Chandler was found three days later after an extensive police and volunteer search. She was in her burnt out car on Salisbury Plain near a location called Dogtail Plantation. The damage her body had sustained was such that a cause of death could not be established. In the car was a charred knife which the prosecution would later claim was the murder weapon. In one report it is said that a gate had to be unlocked in order to access where the car was found. It is believed that Mr Maloney knew where the key to this gate was kept.
A Number Of Admirers
Mrs Chandler, according to the Gazette and Herald, was double dating. In addition, evidence was presented that married Mr Maloney had hopes of a relationship with her. The prosecution case was that after meeting one of Mrs Chandler’s boyfriends he had hatched a plan that led to her death. He had lured his victim to the house that early morning and somehow controlled her. They then drove to where she was later found. Mr Maloney is alleged to have killed Mrs Chandler and set the car on fire before riding back to his home.
The investigation looked at the alibi of the two boyfriends and it was declared they could not have been responsible.
NB I only mention this as relevant to the confusion surrounding this murder. I cast no moral doubt on Mrs Chandler. In my opinion there are many people who should not throw stones in a glass house on subjects like this. I am one of them.
Mr Maloney was seen riding his bike near the scene. The problem was that the route he took was a logical way of getting from his house to the place where the victim was found. He had no problem in telling the court this though it was said he had not mentioned it when first questioned by the police.
Two people said they saw him coming from the top of a concrete track in a direction that took him away from Salisbury Plain. Mr Maloney said he was not riding away from there. He had ridden in that direction but the hill gradient had been too much for him. The witnesses, according to Mr Maloney, saw him as he cycled down the track after giving up on the struggle. Dogtail Plantation is only about a mile south of the village where Mr Maloney lived.
On Mr Maloney’s vest and underpants were found traces of Mrs Chandler’s blood. He said their main connection was a love of gardening. During a trip to her workplace they had been planting roses. As they unloaded the plants she put her hand on his back. He noticed she was bleeding after being pricked by one of the rose bushes.
He claimed there had been a lot of blood and she had gone to a nearby toilet to stem the flow. He had at some point during this visit used the same toilet. The blood on his underpants was at the back of them. It should be said in balance no other forensic evidence seems to have placed Mr Maloney in a violent situation with Mrs Chandler. It is not specified how much blood was present. It could have been a very small area for all I know.
Bryan Maloney was acquitted. There were cheers in the court as this was announced. The cops went away and said they would review the case, but I can find no reporting of new appeals in the years since.
What you have is a love for the victim and a desire to be with her that was admitted by Mr Maloney. He ‘showered’ her with gifts according to the prosecution. Was this an obsession or just as the defence said an innocent enough infatuation? Only Mr Maloney would have known for sure. The defence said that gifts between the two had been common. Mr Maloney had not just bought things for the victim but also for her family.
I am aware I only have a handful of aging online news reports to go on. However, I saw nothing certain that put Mr Maloney there at the relevant time and proved him as a murderer. I can also see what you can. It is incredible coincidence that Mrs Chandler ended up dead only a short distance from where Mr Maloney lived. It is an incredible coincidence she was due at his home that June day. it is an incredible coincidence that he was seen in the area on his bike and a further incredible coincidence regarding the blood being found on his underwear.
Did Our Justice System Fail Karen Chandler
It is a definite yes as in no-one was convicted. As to it failing to convict Bryan Maloney though I would have to say no.
In our system we have a different burden of proof to some countries. We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. There were no witnesses that saw a fire, that saw blood on Mr Maloney or anyone who saw Mrs Chandler in his village. There were no sightings of them together that morning, no-one heard him talking or shouting to anyone. The cause of death is unknown. I suggest you could not convict him based on that evidence. In any case Mr Maloney walked free from court as an innocent man so that has to be good enough for me.
We might hate that fact. We might dwell on all the people who we think should be behind bars. It is a natural inclination. It is one we should fight against I think. We might find ourselves innocent of a crime one day and thank our lucky stars we have our system and not one like, for example, France. There it is a case of looking at an overwhelming probability. The issue is this is a crazy world and in a crazy world probability does not take into consideration random coincidence.
I feel a very great sense of sadness for Mrs Chandler and her family. I doubt there will ever be a solution for them, I still hope for one.
Another very similar case you can find from New Zealand. An early morning start, a woman driving to work and then she is found murdered in a burnt out car. The unsolved murder of Clare Hills in 1998.