UK UK - Diane Jones, 35, Coggeshall, Essex, murdered 23 July 1983

KarenUK

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On a side note - I wish I’d listened to the Outlines podcasts sooner, as having done so I now realise I’ve been ‘reinventing the wheel’ in a number of my posts. Not generally a fan of true crime podcasts (too much tangential waffle and ‘atmospheric’ music) but these were pretty concise and thorough, with a good amount of useful background info.
I am the same with true crime podcasts (far too many poorly researched or are just two people talking about their hilarious lives with a bit of crime thrown in), but Outlines is really well put together and you can tell an incredible amount of time and effort has been put into it.
 

shadwell

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I forgot to credit @Terryb808 for pointing me towards the Outlines podcast
As I should for pointing me to this thread, though I’m not sure there’s much more I can bring to it at this point and (NGL) I’m still struggling more with how it happened than who was responsible.
 

shadwell

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I am the same with true crime podcasts (far too many poorly researched or are just two people talking about their hilarious lives with a bit of crime thrown in), but Outlines is really well put together and you can tell an incredible amount of time and effort has been put into it.
The one slight niggle I have with Outlines is the occasional tendency to accept a single source as fact - eg: the last sighting of DJ was at the gate of Lees Farm. Afaik the last sighting of DJ by independent witnesses was at the Woolpack.

RJ found out days before her disappearance that DJ was pregnant. Did he? Was this corroborated? By whom?
 

shadwell

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The point being we really have no idea what happened after RJ and DJ left the pub. There was clearly some suspicion of an event in the area of the gate at Less Farm, but it appears no evidence was found of an attack resulting in DJ losing blood (eg a hammer attack) there. Was the car involved? RJ sold it before reporting DJ missing, but there is a suggestion that it was advertised prior to DJ’s disappearance. Could that imply a higher degree of premeditation than might be supposed from the events of the Saturday evening? Was DJ drunk again (having apparently told NG on the 22nd that she had stopped drinking) or could she have been drugged?

When the car is eventually traced, her handbag and various other personal effects are recovered from it by police. Given the accuracy with which police were able to ascertain her exact clothing on the evening of the 23rd, did these effects include her shoes, watch and jewellery? Afaik there was never any appeal by police to trace these items.

And how was it that police recovered the items from the car? Was the new owner unaware of their presence in the vehicle? Did he fail to inspect his new purchase or were they well hidden? OTOH, if RJ did kill DJ, it would seem reckless on his part to pass them on to a third party not known to him rather than attempt to dispose of them himself.
 
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Pinkizzy

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I guess NG could be questioned about DJ's final movements, he was the last person she called before the trip to the Woolpack. DJ may have called him to book a taxi from Coggeshall to Ipswich and he collected her from outside the pub or her house. DJ had connections to Colchester and Ipswich (lived there with first husband and studied at the college) and she may have arranged to meet someone up there that w/end.
 

Terryb808

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Been travelling so missed the started of this thread, Pinkizzy. I've been looking at James (Jimmy) Bell outlined in the forum above, he's almost invisible, and any links to Diane Jones are tenuous to say the least.

I've caught up with this thread and IMO RJ looks even more guilty than when I first started looking at this (thanks for suggesting it). Repainting the front gate and selling the car with her possessions still inside does suggest a blind panic. Thus far theres no direct link between RJ and the site where Diane's body was found.
 

Pinkizzy

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Your blog mentions that DJ stormed out of the pub. If she did that and jumped into her lover's car then it could explain a few things.
 

Terryb808

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Your blog mentions that DJ stormed out of the pub. If she did that and jumped into her lover's car then it could explain a few things.
The blogs a bit Hit n Miss, I think this thread is far more accurate, I was only interested in the link to James Bell, it references another website, when you eventually find it, it has just a single line of text.

Regarding the route quoted as the one JB would have taken and going past Brightwell is not really accurate, its far from the way anyone local would go, even back in 1986. You would need to make a considerable detour to go past the site where Diane's body was found, and know exactly where you wanted to go.

Additionally I think JB is too old for Diane to have been interested in (if his death records are correctly quoted), also, he has a natural link to shotguns, as he was a fly pigeon champion, so a hammer would not be his first choice of weapon.
 

Terryb808

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I'd read the info on the man witnessed with a rolled up carpet, and the witness saying they'd noted down the car registration number, I can't honestly is anyone dumping a body in what must have been daylight and being seen.

However, it would be interesting to read the statement made to the police to see what can be gained, general description, type of car & colour, plus age.

Some interesting points regarding the building of the by-pass, its entirely possible that this influenced the actually location the perpetrator used as a disposal point. I think if any of the construction workers had been involved we'd be looking at a disappearance without knowing what actually happened to Diane.

I'm even more surprised now after reading through this thread that the police found no concrete evidence to satisfy the DPP and get RJ to court. After all:

1. He failed to report her missing for 9 days.
2. Sold his car before reporting her missing.
3. left a lot of her belongings in the car.
4. Said he couldn't remember who he sold the car to.
5. Repainted the front gate prior to (or just after) reporting Diane missing.
6. I believe he was in the pub on the Sunday night and said that Diane had left him.

No woman (correct me if I'm wrong) would leave her husband and leave her handbag etc behind in the car, and no man would think she'd left him without taking these things with her.

Within the thread it's been suggested that maybe he ran into her by accident and that's why the gate needed repainting, this is possible and the hammer injuries are after death. This is a good narrative based on what we know so far, but there's no link between RJ and the location where DJ was found, not even grouse shooting?
 

shadwell

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I'd read the info on the man witnessed with a rolled up carpet, and the witness saying they'd noted down the car registration number, I can't honestly is anyone dumping a body in what must have been daylight and being seen.

However, it would be interesting to read the statement made to the police to see what can be gained, general description, type of car & colour, plus age.

I’ve not seen any more info re the witness’s statement to police, but they must have been spitting that he only came forward after the body was found, especially given that it had been a high profile case from the off.

As to dumping the body in daylight, it would certainly seem unusual, but it’s not impossible that the perpetrator’s car was backed up through the gate onto the track, the body removed from the boot and concealed in the long grass next to it (as seen in the EADT photo) - if the body was found by a beater on a shoot, the grass there would have been allowed to grow long since the spring as cover for ground-nesting pheasants.

But while there must have been police frustration that the witness took so long to come forward initially, it seems he wasted no time once the body was found on Saturday 22nd with at least some useful information. Because while there’s no mention of a carpet being found at the deposition site, by the Monday 24th October police were back at Lees Farm searching the outbuildings - the carpet being (IMO) the most likely target of their search. And (from the 25/10/83 Evening Standard piece) it looks like they may have recovered it.

Note also that DI Moss says in the Standard piece that he intends to speak to SS with regard to the outbuilding search - with her having lived there previously (and possibly visited since) this may have been an attempt to establish when the carpet was removed from the house to the outbuilding (as an aside - the ‘missing carpet/bedspread’ etc is a recurring theme in domestic femicide cases - often noted by the family of the victim when they visit the spouse to offer support in the wake of a disappearance).

And this is possibly where the dog becomes relevant…
 
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shadwell

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Listening to the Outlines podcast, I was struck by the claim that RJ, when arrested for drink-driving on the 5th of August told police “I’ve lost my dog.” It seemed a curious thing to say under the circumstances, but may have significance with regard to the carpet - because while there was no forensic DNA profiling available at the time, microscopic hair analysis and matching had been in use since the 1950s.

As I recall, RJ had only acquired the dog just before DJ’s disappearance, so had police recovered hairs matching the new dog mixed with blood on the carpet, while it may not have been possible at the time to match the blood to DJ it would strongly suggest the staining occurred in the recent past. But remove the dog, and you remove the police’s ability to make that match directly...
 

Terryb808

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I watched a series called “Expert Witness”, advances in forensic technology demonstrated how cases from as far back the 1960’s have been solved using the latest technique.
its worth a look if you’re interested in the tech side of things, might be on catch up, or YouTube.
 

shadwell

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And then there’s the gate again. Just as the Brightwell witness appears to have come forward quickly, it appears forensic findings were also made quite rapidly.

At the moment I can only find one photo of the gate:


This was taken on 9th August and looks to already have a fresh coat of paint at this point - IMO it’s highly unlikely to have been painted after DJ was reported missing; the house was constantly visited/occupied by police conducting initial searches.

The gate was removed by police on 26th October (Nottingham Evening Post 29/10/83) and searches made around the gatepost - most likely for any trace of blood staining, but also (IMO) for teeth among the gravel previously identified as missing from DJ’s body.

It’s noted in the Evening Post piece that the gate ‘had a small section missing.’ It’s possible to see from the Shutterstock image that there are projections above the top bar of the gate, but it’s not clear if these are spikes or loops. If they are spikes and it’s one of them that is the missing piece, it’s not hard to suppose that police theorised that DJ fell or was pushed in such a way as to cause a gate spike to penetrate her skull, resulting in death.

In this scenario, the slater’s hammer proposed as the murder weapon is somewhat of a red herring - the gate spike is the ‘weapon’ which causes the initial deep head injury, resulting in death and potentially an outline skull fracture matching its shape. An attempt is then made to disguise this fracture with further hammer blows post mortem, possibly using an ordinary claw hammer or (if the indentations are found to be square) a lump hammer. The gate spike, if not broken off in the original incident, is then also removed from the gate in a ‘belt and braces’ move aimed at preventing any match which might result from forensic reconstruction of DJ’s skull and the gate repainted in the hope of disguising signs of a fresh break or cut to the metal.
 

shadwell

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With regard to this - I had previously theorised that hammer blows were inflicted post mortem to frustrate identification, but on reflection it would seem a very half hearted attempt on that score. Afaik, DJ’s watch, jewellery and shoes were removed before deposition, but she was apparently found still wearing the dress in which she was last seen at the Woolpack and there were no reports of attempts to frustrate fingerprint identification (eg cutting off fingers/hands).

In this respect, a specific attempt to disguise the cause of the original injury as outlined in my previous post seems (currently, at least) more credible.

All MOO of course, but if this was what actually happened, accidental death remains a possibility - albeit with RJ making some poor decisions thereafter.
 

shadwell

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FWIW: for anyone who hasn’t already googled “slater’s hammer,” photo attached. This one has a circular hammer head, others have a square head.

Next question - what day was bin day on Colchester Road in Coggeshall in July 1983? Could take some finding…

0483422C-6950-4DC4-AD32-045875DC7FCD.jpeg
 

Terryb808

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This is my narrative based on everyones input.

What We Know & How It Might Fit Together

One way or another that last Saturday evening in the pub resulted in the death of Diane Jones, she was under the influence and very drunk. It’s highly likely that in this state she said a lot of things that might incriminate her husband and maybe others.

During the course of the evening she said “I’m not going home with you, you’ll beat me up”, according to other accounts this was not all that uncommon, so RJ must have had a temper.

At the end of the evening she was carried in what was described as a “fireman’s lift”, and put into RJ’s car.

What happened after this is conjecture based on the known facts, we’ll assume they went home to Lees Farmhouse, then its possible (as suggested by others) that she died as a result of some kind of accident.

Repainting the front gate tends to make me think this, RJ said he dropped Diane at the front door and then put the car in the garage, when he returned she was gone. What if the argument that was witnessed in the pub then continued when they reach home, RJ struck her and she fell against the gate?

RJ would be worried about what Diane said in the pub before they left and the fact that no one would believe it was an accident. The chain of events that followed supports this:
  1. Not reporting her missing for 9 days, a doctor would know that any evidence of violence would not be found after this, especially if more time elapses before Diane’s remains are found.
  2. He repaints the front gate, why if not to hide any possible evidence.
  3. The his car is sold, seemingly in haste, Diane’s possessions are still inside.
  4. He says he can’t remember who he purchased the car, another delaying tactic.
If he genuinely believed (as it is reported he said on the Sunday evening) that Diane had left him, he would have cleaned out hiss car before selling it. After all, Diane has left him before and returned, so in theory this is not an unusual occurrence, so why sell the car in such a panic?

Ask any police detective (or ex detective) about the statistics surrounding murders and they tell you that not every murderer is a serial killer. The vast majority kill once and never again, so the behaviour of these single killers is very different.

When Diane’s body was found she had to be identified via detail records, a forensic team back in 1986 would have had very little to go on due to the time delay in finding her body.

The 9 day delay in reporting Diane missing and the subsequent 3 months before she was found would also have rendered forensics difficult in the case of Lees Farmhouse and to a degree RJ’s car.

So given the circumstances its hardly surprising that RJ became the police’s prime suspect:
  • The husband is the first person the police look at in cases like this.
  • RJ’s account of what happened when he got home is highly suspect.
  • His 9 day delay in reporting Diane missing is very suspect.
  • Selling his car prior to reporting Diane missing is also very suspect.
  • Unless RJ is into DIY, repainting the front gate is also a little suspicious.
What goes against the above is that the police carried out extensive forensic work at Lees Farmhouse and also on RJ’s car, this turned up no evidence (or at least not enough for the DPP).

IMO if Diane had died accidentally during an altercation with RJ and the police had turned up on the Saturday evening RJ would have been arrested and charged with Diane’s murder. Again IMO had this have gone to court he would have been found guilty.





This is a factor that I’m sure didn’t escape RJ and self preservation may have taken over.
 

Terryb808

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And then there’s the gate again. Just as the Brightwell witness appears to have come forward quickly, it appears forensic findings were also made quite rapidly.

At the moment I can only find one photo of the gate:


This was taken on 9th August and looks to already have a fresh coat of paint at this point - IMO it’s highly unlikely to have been painted after DJ was reported missing; the house was constantly visited/occupied by police conducting initial searches.

The gate was removed by police on 26th October (Nottingham Evening Post 29/10/83) and searches made around the gatepost - most likely for any trace of blood staining, but also (IMO) for teeth among the gravel previously identified as missing from DJ’s body.

It’s noted in the Evening Post piece that the gate ‘had a small section missing.’ It’s possible to see from the Shutterstock image that there are projections above the top bar of the gate, but it’s not clear if these are spikes or loops. If they are spikes and it’s one of them that is the missing piece, it’s not hard to suppose that police theorised that DJ fell or was pushed in such a way as to cause a gate spike to penetrate her skull, resulting in death.

In this scenario, the slater’s hammer proposed as the murder weapon is somewhat of a red herring - the gate spike is the ‘weapon’ which causes the initial deep head injury, resulting in death and potentially an outline skull fracture matching its shape. An attempt is then made to disguise this fracture with further hammer blows post mortem, possibly using an ordinary claw hammer or (if the indentations are found to be square) a lump hammer. The gate spike, if not broken off in the original incident, is then also removed from the gate in a ‘belt and braces’ move aimed at preventing any match which might result from forensic reconstruction of DJ’s skull and the gate repainted in the hope of disguising signs of a fresh break or cut to the metal.
I like the point about the gate, you'd need a high res version of the photo to get enough detail, I'd have thought the post mortem would have confirmed that the spike on the gate matched Diane's head injuries? As I said to Pinkizzy when we started looking at this I'd have liked to read the post mortem report and make my own mind up on what type of weapon was used.
However, as this is an open case that's not going to happen, there's a lot that can be learned from the inspection of the site where her body was found. Given that it was adjacent to a public footpath the only area that might render something would be where her body actually lay.

Shadwell: I did my summary before I read your recent posts, but I think we are thinking alike on this.
 
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