True Crime Writers And Their Theories: The Murder Of Muriel Drinkwater, Wales.

Muriel Drinkwater

A long time ago I gave up on the Jack The Ripper debate. If you are one of those still enthralled by it then good luck to you. The mist shrouded serial killer of the 1880s certainly left a mystery worth looking at but I gave up because of the ‘True Crime’ writers and their theories. After years of watching one ‘Final Solution’ after another roll by I believe the real killer is lost. Lost amid the chaos of self serving sleuths and their assumptions.

There are genuine Ripperologists. Maybe you are one of them. Perhaps you feel the same as I do.  The shear tonnage of books on the subject does support scepticism about the credibility of many theories.

If you ignore the not so strong parts of a theory and concentrate entirely on the good bits two things can happen. First you might get a book sold along with the recognition as a web sleuth extraordinaire. The second thing that is likely to happen is that at some point you will be proved wrong.

Muriel Drinkwater

On 27th June 1946 a school girl was walking through countryside on her way home. 12 year old Muriel Drinkwater had only a mile to travel from the South Wales village of Penllergaer to the farm she lived on with her family. Ms Drinkwater was seen by her mother in the distance. The light was good, it was only 4.30 pm. The track on which her daughter walked curved around and then dropped into some woods.

When her daughter did not arrive home a little time went by and Mrs Drinkwater went into the village to look for her. As alarm grew people from Penllergaer helped look for the schoolgirl. Ms Drinkwater was found the next day by a police officer.

She had been raped and beaten. Finally she had been shot twice in the chest with a large calibre pistol. The gun was later found, it was a Colt .45 which was 30 years old. The grips, originally wooden, had been replaced with Perspex. It was believed it had been in the possession of US servicemen who had been garrisoned in Penllergaer until only a year before. A theory went that it had been sold to a local. Appeals aimed at US ex military got no useful response.

What has helped is the careful storage of the poor girl’s clothing. It was placed in a paper bag and buried under later years of evidence.

The Little Red Riding Hood Murder Theories

This 12 year old girl had been wearing a blue coat so I am not sure where the commonly used name for this murder comes from.

The cruelty of the act seems amplified by the fact that the threat of war had only been lifted the year before. So as the nation was breathing a sigh of relief because of a return of peace and security Muriel Drinkwater is killed on a summer’s day in sight of home. The years rolled by and despite Scotland Yard’s help nothing solid came from extensive enquiries.

In a Daily Mirror article some good news was heralded in May 2019. A cold case review team found the victim’s clothes and because of advances in forensic science we had DNA profiling.

Harold Jones

Over the years many theories had developed as to who had ended the life of Ms Drinkwater. A 13 year old boy had bought eggs from the Drinkwater farm. He was walking home along the track when the victim passed him. He became a suspect and apparently remained so in the minds of many locals.

True crime writers and ex cops developed an interest in the case. I have written about this sort of ‘investigation’ before. I am not a fan of the theories that often come out. One of the issues I have is when a known killer is linked with a murder. Then that link is reported in the newspapers, bold declarations are made that evidence has been handed to the police and then nothing happens. Usually these sort of stories involve pictures of the ex cop/true crime writer pondering themselves in a home office.

Another aspect of amateur sleuthing I am suspicious of is when a case is considered and some poor man or woman is named as a suspect from outfield. A person who the cops never interviewed and never suspected. Their name is published and in every such case they are long dead. Dead as in they cannot defend themselves nor can their relatives who are left reeling and wondering if old uncle Fred was really a child murderer.

In this case a known child killer was linked in print to the killing of Ms Drinkwater. Harold Jones was a despicable creature for sure. He killed one little girl in 1921 and was acquitted. Then he went out and within 17 days he killed another. By November 1921 he had admitted the murders and at the unimpressive age of 15 he escaped the death penalty. He did 20 years in prison, came out and joined the merchant navy. From what I can tell he didn’t return to live in Wales. He died in 1971 of cancer, at that time time he lived in London.

A ‘True Crime’ writer believed that Jones was the killer of Muriel Drinkwater after he left the services in 1946. In fairness I would have to read the reasons why this writer came to that conclusion before any heavy criticism. What I can say is it is a safe bet he was wrong.

The cold case unit found the victim’s clothes and on the coat was a semen stain that had been circled in yellow pencil. The news has since come out that whoever the killer of Muriel Drinkwater was it was not Harold Jones. The writer Neil Milkins, also linked Jones to a series of sex worker murders in the 1960s. These are known as the Jack the Stripper murders. This is, as was the case with the original Jack the Ripper killings, a name drawn from the way the victims were debased.

He, along with others involved in a documentary series, asked for the  killings to be reinvestigated by the Metropolitan Police. His evidence was apparently looked at and rejected. A reply to him is quoted in a SW Londoner article as saying:

To link Harold Jones to any murder other than those for which he is convicted is purely speculative and without any evidential basis.’

That would appear to have been a real blow. Mr Milkins had linked Jones to Muriel Drinkwater’s murder and it turns out it wasn’t him in all probability. Then after over a decade of work the police abruptly say there is no good evidence that Jones killed the sex workers of over 50 years ago either.

Mr Milkins is quoted then as saying the police response does not give any credit for all the hard work he had put into the investigation. I am not sure why you get credit for presenting something that is seen as wrong, but I am maybe a simple writer as opposed to an investigative consultant, true crime writer and historian. All of those titles have been given to Mr Milkins in articles I have seen him quoted in.

Thomas ‘Ronnie’ Harries

A guy called Ronnie Harries is mentioned as being a possible murderer of Ms Drinkwater. He was a killer. In 1953 he battered his aunt and uncle to death and forged a cheque in their name. This 24 year old was hung for the crimes in 1954. It is true he lived in the area near Swansea/ Penllergaer and in two references there are claims he once worked for the Drinkwater’s on their farm.

Where I think an answer could be found is in the testimony of the then 13 year old Hubert Hoyles. He was the lad who had bought eggs from the Drinkwater farm. He passed Muriel as I mentioned. They said hello and given the distance she had to walk to home doubtless she was attacked a short time later. He said that a couple of weeks before he had been almost at the same spot when a man in his 30s emerged from the bushes.

The man seemed startled at seeing him and was annoyed. He demanded to know what the boy was doing there. The lad said he had just bought eggs and was on his way home. This seemed to confound the man. He was abrasive and told Mr Hoyles to get on his way.

When the scene of Ms Drinkwater’s murder was examined traces of bread and cigarette stubs were found. It looked like her attacker had been waiting awhile for her. Mr Hoyles apparently had tears in his eyes despite the passage of the time. He said that he had never seen anyone else before or after on that track other than the family.

If that account is still as crisp as the one he told the police, and I have no reason to doubt it, then that could not have been Ronnie Harries. First if he was working there at the time Hubert Hoyles would have probably known him. Even if he did not, Harries was 16 at the time, not the 30 years plus of Mr Hoyles description. Of course the killer on the day may not have been the man that Mr Hoyles had seen. It seems a bit illogical to discount his account though.

To my mind the killer had local knowledge and was a local man. Mr Hoyles said he had an accent that matched that theory. The track was narrow and largely hidden. The girl’s routine allowed for a thought out ambush and as the boy saw no-one following it is unlikely an outsider would have known where to intercept the school girl. By the same logic would you agree that this so called man was not likely to have been living in the village then? My thinking is if he was a resident then the chances are a 13 year old like Mr Hoyles was would have at least seen him before.

A Returning Soldier?

I am not asserting this little theory, it was just something that was nagging at me as I wrote about Mr Hoyle’s account. The gun that was recovered was from the WW1 era. It had been adapted using material only available years later. The cops contacted many US servicemen who had been garrisoned around the village yet established no original owner of the gun. Yet if an American garrisoned there had a gun with adapted grips it would have been an unusual weapon. Anyone seeing it would have remembered it. I can understand the owner not wanting to step forward, but would everyone who had seen it have covered for him?

Given that the weapon was a Colt it made sense to wonder if a soldier had sold it to a local. However, many British men went off to war. They may have been away for longer than their US counterparts. WW2 started for us in September 1939. If a local went away then Mr Hoyles may have only been about seven years old. Once off to war opportunities and trauma meant people moved around more than they had in centuries.

Was this child murderer a local who picked up the gun on his travels in the military? Someone who returned to the village to visit for a short time? Someone who knew the terrain and the lane and who saw Ms Drinkwater, watched her and returned to kill her. After the murder he left. Whoever he visited might have seen the leaving as natural as he now lived in another part of the country. Mr Hoyles would have been too young to remember the man from when he used to live locally.

A Case Review In 2020

In a Walesonline article former detectives got together and re examined the case. They came to the conclusion that the uncle and aunt killing Harries was a very likely candidate. In the article it also establishes that Harries was working for the Drinkwaters at the time. The text also stated that the DNA taken from the coat had been compared to the DNA of Harries but the results had been withheld. I would be very interested in what else they must know.

In the final analysis there is a DNA profile of the likely killer but of course it is now over 75 years since this awful crime took place. Anyone involved would now be dead. What a crushing blow all that must have been to Ms Drinkwater’s parents and sisters.

Best wishes


NB: Just a thought that I could not quite fit in anywhere. The gun that was used was a .45 calibre. That is a big, loud pistol. I cannot find any mention of gunshots. As the family home was only about 400 metres away and her mother was there, how come no-one mentions hearing any shots? If you know anything about this I would be grateful if you would tell me.

Investigative consultant still searching after Met refused to reopen ‘Jack the Stripper’ case

8 thoughts on “True Crime Writers And Their Theories: The Murder Of Muriel Drinkwater, Wales.

  1. Interesting read John. Something very fishy about this case. I was brought up in Penllergaer and this crime still gets talked about today. My Aunt was at junior school with Muriel, they were the same age. Obviously FOI has been denied and no one can access the case notes until 2032. Why? I think the police know who did it but don’t want a public outcry? Why other would things be so hush hush about a murder that took place over 75 years ago. When Dark Land did the documentary a couple of years ago, and DNA was taken from Harries cousin, nothing was ever revealed to say if it was him or not. DNA was taken from Muriel’s cousin, but again, nothing revealed.
    There are lots of things about this case that don’t add up. Thanks for giving another perspective other than trotting out the usual suspects.

    1. Those are very good points and we will have a look at this. Thank you very much for the background and kind words.

  2. D.N.A. has not cleared Harold Jones.
    “A guy called Ronnie Harries is mentioned as being a possible murderer of Ms Drinkwater. He was a killer. In 1953 he battered his aunt and uncle to death and forged a cheque in their name. This 24 year old was hung for the crimes in 1954. It is true he lived in the area near Swansea/ Penllergaer and in two references there are claims he once worked for the Drinkwater’s on their farm.”
    Fake news. Ronnie Harries never worked at the farm although it looked as though that “fact” was being quoted from a newspaper.

    Muriel’s niece Margaret is convinced that Jones was Muriel’s killer.

    I am in the process of making a third documentary into the Hammersmith murders. Below is a link to a recent youtube documentary that I have only recently seen. It backs up my conviction that Harold Jones was the Hammersmith killer. The pertinent part is 35 minutes in.

    1. Hello, instead of putting fake news just give me the reference. We can then review it. A mainstream one. I don’t know who killed this poor girl. I hope you do prove who did. It would be a warning to others. We have no ego in this. We have covered over 300 cases. Our references are many, we quote a few. Unless we are working with family they are mainstream. If we have written it, we have read it. The police rejected your theory. We didn’t. We reported that they had in an article that quoted you. We also wrote a lot about the case from different angles whereas many just concentrate relentlessly on the main two.
      You say he did it, the others say different. The police say your work was not proof. So prove it to them. Then we will report it. The last mention we made in that article said that your man in all probability did not do it. Good luck to you.
      On a personal note I’m not jumping up to look at videos when all I need do is wait for you to get your theory validated by the cops. NB, We don’t link to sources unfamiliar to ourselves from other folk and we always change commentators surnames. Hence your link and surname is not included.
      Update: I have left it two weeks for the references etc from this commentator. There is nothing so far in this section or via the various ways anyone can contact us.

  3. The fact that nobody heard the gunshots is bizarre. A brief online search shows how loud that type of gun is, and whilst the heavy rain would have dampened the sound somewhat, it still would have been loud. The inquest mentioned poachers used the woods, so perhaps people just dismissed it as coming from a poacher, but you’d think once they knew how she died, they would have linked hearing shots to her death.

    1. Great thought, thank you. Yeah especially as we get an idea of scale in that her mother said she had seen the poor kid drop out of sight on her way home.

  4. I remember posting a comment on another website regarding Jack the Stripper, which was seeking to pin it on Harold Jones, pointing out that coincidentaly having a convicted murderer living in the neighbourhood of unsolved crimes does not constitute proof connecting him to the killings. “Give a dog a bad name’ type insinuations do not constitute evidence such as will convince a jury! As you say, there are some strange ‘loose ends’ to this sad case – how common, for example, was it for local farmers to shoot pigeons around that time, either to protect their crops or (with rationing still in force) put food on the table? If that was the case, could it explain why noone noticed two shots from a revolver? OK, so the gun was a US Colt. But that doesn’t mean the man who fired it was a US serviceman. The old IRA used a lot of American weapons; a Tommy could have picked one up by barter during one or other of the wars; the gun could have been ‘found’ or ‘inherited’. You get my drift. DNA is only of use if a match can be found and linked to an existing record – maybe the killer never offended again, and neither have any of their descendents. That could explain why the test results weren’t made public – but the conspiracy merchants can make all sorts of mysteries from the 2034 ‘release date’ – the current chief constable’s ne’re do well uncle sort of thing. If you have a fertile imagination, you can come up with anything and the wilder the theory (preferably linked to a well known historical figure) the more likely it will get published. After all, why let facts get in the way of a good story? I doubt if the case will ever be solved now – but would like to be proved wrong, if only for the poor girl’s sake.

    1. I cannot disagree with anything you have said. It is often the case (on emails too) that people see our reluctance to state their theory as fact as us saying they are wrong. We are only saying ‘maybe’. I definitely have an interest in the weapon and see that as key and as a variable . It could have gone to anyone in the joyful chaos of those de mob days. The one witness there was, as I recall without reading back through it, had very interesting things to say about the guy he saw on a previous occasion. Who was that that told him to get lost? As you say a solution is doubtful now. I appreciate you taking the time with those comments, Tim

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