Bramford baby murder remains a mystery after 32 years
PUBLISHED: 17:58 10 March 2016 | UPDATED: 09:59 14 March 2016
Thirty-two years ago this week, a one-week-old boy’s body was found in Bramford. He had been killed and set on fire.
Crime correspondent Colin Adwent reports on Suffolk’s youngest unsolved murder victim. He was only a week-old when his life was taken. Three decades may have passed, but still virtually nothing is known about the infant found dumped and burned in a remote spot on Bramford Marshes. He has no name, save that of ‘Innocent’, which he was given ahead of his burial.
Without an identity and in an unmarked grave, it is as if he never existed.
The painfully bare facts are that he was white, male, and one-week-old.
After his body was found on Sunday, March 11, 1984, tests showed the infant had a “separate existence” from his mother, and had been fed at least once during the short time he was alive.
A murder inquiry was launched just before lunchtime on March 11 after a Home Office pathologist came to the conclusion the baby had not died of natural causes.
Petrol had been used in an attempt to incinerate the child after he was killed.
Try as they undoubtedly did, detectives were never able to unravel the mystery of who was responsible for the boy’s death or the reason behind it.
In charge of the case was Detective Chief Superintendent Eric Shields, then head of Suffolk CID.
Now retired, Mr Shields said: “There is a lot of emotion that comes out in these sort of cases where you can’t get a result. There was a lot of hard work put in by the officers.
“You still think about it no matter how long ago it was.”
Medical tests showed the boy was a full-term baby.
Police appealed in vain for the mother to come forward believing she would be in a ‘distressed condition’.
Teenagers had found the body while they were sheltering from the rain.
One, a 15-year-old, kicked over an old car fuel tank which had been dumped by bushes.
Initially he saw an arm, but thought it was a doll.
Then he realised it was a baby.
The infant was laying on his back in the middle of a makeshift fire built up with bricks and stones.
In the days that followed detectives issued photographs of the remnants of the scorched towel the infant had been laying on, and a can which may have held the petrol used to set him alight.
The can had been sold by John Keeble garage in Bramford with a gallon of petrol in it.
It was found about 60 yards away from the fields, known as The Meadows, where the baby was discovered.
Officers visited schools, discos and youth clubs in a forlorn attempt to identify the mother of the child.
They also contacted doctors and midwives.
Nearly two weeks into the inquiry police revealed they wanted to speak to a mystery couple seen walking towards the spot where the body was subsequently found.
That was at 4pm on Wednesday, March 7, 1984, and the man was carrying a bag clutched to his chest.
The couple, who were aged 40 to 45, had been walking in Bramford Marshes from the direction of John Keeble’s garage.
The man was described as about 5ft 9ins tall, stocky, with fair short hair, and was wearing a brown hip-length coat and dark trousers.
The woman with him was slim, had dark hair just below ear length, and was wearing a beige or fawn three-quarter length coat and dark trousers.
Despite the appeal and an immense amount of work it appears the couple were never found.
The infant was buried on March 30 at Bramford Parish Church.
By this time he was known simply as ‘Innocent’.
To prevent the child being buried without any mourners in a pauper’s grave, women of all ages turned up at the church.
Some came bringing simple posies of flowers cut from their gardens to lay on the grave. Canon Ronald Christian, then vicar of Bramford, presided over the service.
The flowers left by the unmarked grave included a wreath from Suffolk police, as well as others from families in the area, and a bunch from one of the boys who found the child.
Thirty-two years on the mystery behind the little boy’s death is unlikely to be solved.
However, it is still subject to unsolved homicide case review by Suffolk police.
Anne-Marie Breach, a spokeswoman for Suffolk Constabulary said: “Like all cold cases, this is subject to regular review and remains an open inquiry.”