The family of the accused man, Ian Spencer.
The latest news about the 1966 murder of Elsie Frost is encouraging, thanks to the investigations of the BBC and their reporter, Jon Manel.
If this is the first time you have heard of this case, previous articles are linked below.
The first news comes from the West Yorkshire Police. The BBC interviewed Detective Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton who said that the case is now being investigated again.
You’ll remember that Elsie’s siblings, Anne and Colin, have been trying to find out the truth about what happened to their sister all those years ago. The detective inspector explained that because the horrific child murder took place so many years ago, the perpetrator might not be found but she also said that she was optimistic that new information would come to light.
She explained that the new investigation would study the paperwork and files from the case, but also the West Yorkshire Police will be going out into the community to talk to people who knew Elsie or who might have information that they haven’t until now disclosed. Although it’s hard to imagine the feelings of Elsie’s brother and sister, it will surely be of some comfort for them to know that the case hasn’t been simply forgotten.
Ian Spencer’s family
Wakefield man Ian Spencer was arrested for the murder. This was because the coroner in charge of the inquest reckoned that Mr Spencer’s evidence of his whereabouts was inaccurate. However, when the case came to court, the jury was instructed that there was no case to be answered and he was found to be not guilty and released.
Those were the bare facts.But who was Mr Spencer and what happened to him? What are the effects on someone who is accused of murder – even if the courts determine that he is not guilty? When he was released he said that it had been a nightmare for him and that he wanted to go home to try to put i tin the past. But could he?
The BBC’s Jon Manel spoke to Mr Spencer’s son, Lee, and also to his cousin Brian Orange, now in his eighties. Mr Spencer himself is still alive but suffered a stroke some time ago and is in a care home and unable to communicate. (I read one report that claimed he has Alzheimer’s but this was not mentioned in the interview).
Lee Spencer described his father as a railway worker, a man who loved the outdoors and had a close circle of friends. Brian, Mr Spencer’s cousin, explained what a shock it was to the entire closely-knit family when the arrest took place. Until the trial, Mr Spencer was held in jail in Leeds,about twelve miles away from Wakefield where the family lived.
Twelve miles doesn’t seem far to us these days but in those days there was no motorway network or ring roads and what is now a drive of about twenty minutes would have taken much longer in 1966. It would have taken even longer by public transport, which is probably what many of the members of the family used. Nevertheless, at least one member of the family went to visit Mr Spencer every day for the eight weeks during which he was incarcerated there. His cousin, Brian Orange, explained that he went every week but never even thought to ask Mr Spencer about his innocence – knowing him as well as they did, there was no question in their minds.
Ian Spencer – after his release
Mr Spencer had declared that he wanted to put the event behind him and try to continue with his life but circumstances made that very difficult indeed. His son Lee described how many people assumed that Mr Spencer was indeed guilty and had been released on a technicality. This was patently not the case.
He described too how whenever an investigation was taking place into similar crimes, the police would come knocking on the door. This included the time during which Yorkshire was terrorised by serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Lee explained that he didn’t think that the police seriously suspected that his father was guilty of the Ripper (or other)murders, but that he was on a list, as it were of people to be routinely questioned.
The person who suffered the most was Lee’s mother, Mrs Spencer. She dreaded that knock on the door and hated the fact that her husband was routinely questioned in any murder case for years to come. Mr Spencer appeared to take it more in his stride – but did he really?
During his interview with Jon Manel, Lee Spencer produced a notebook – one of many in his possession. He explained that until he was incapacitated by his health, Mr Spencer wrote down, every day, where he had been, the times he left and arrived plus the mileage on his vehicle. Every single day.
Papers and cuttings
The BCC correspondent discovered that the Spencer family had kept every single piece of paper and every newspaper cutting related to the case.
They are now lending them to Anne and Colin so that the pair may be able to find out more about what happened to their sister.
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