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Doctors were murder probe chief suspects

PUBLISHED: 23:00 29 October 2004 | UPDATED: 05:22 02 March 2010

TWO doctors wanted for the death and homosexual assault of another boy were the prime suspects in the Tattingstone suitcase murder, it can be revealed today.

TWO doctors wanted for the death and homosexual assault of another boy were the prime suspects in the Tattingstone suitcase murder, it can be revealed today.

Martin Reddington and John Byles both denied any involvement in the strangling and mutilation of mentally disabled teenager Bernard Oliver in January, 1967.

But detectives investigating one of the most horrific crimes Suffolk has ever known, pinpointed the pair as suspects from an early stage in their inquiries.

And when the case was reopened, in 1977, their links were again closely scrutinised. By this time, the case against them had grown even stronger.

But, in a remarkable hole in the investigation, Dr Reddington was never interviewed in connection with the offence.

It was decided there was insufficient evidence to extradite him from Australia, where he was living in 1977.

Original documents from the massive murder probe reveal they were jointly wanted for a string of sickening crimes, including gross indecency and buggery.

And one involved the murder of a boy in London in 1973, after an apparent homosexual relationship.

The previously unrevealed evidence is able to be published today due to the new Freedom of Information Act which will become law at the beginning of next year.

However Suffolk police granted permission for the file to be opened two months early after a request by The Evening Star.

The death of the boy in London in 1973 was a crime which had striking parallels with the gruesome death of Mr Oliver, whose severed body was discovered packed into two suitcases.

Tests on the remains revealed Mr Oliver had taken part in homosexual acts prior to his death, although his friends insisted he was not gay.

Two years before Mr Oliver's death, a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Dr Reddington for the buggery and indecent assault of males, in 1965.

But before police inquiries could be completed, he fled the country for South Africa. Despite several attempts, the warrant was never executed and his guilt neither proved nor disproved.

It was known he made a number of return visits to the United Kingdom since leaving, although no evidence was ever found to place him in Suffolk or North London in January 1967.

The strong lack of leads to back up suspicions against the pair hindered the investigation from day one.

Yet, at the same time a great deal of other circumstantial evidence was building up.

One clue was the location of Dr Reddington's surgery in Muswell Hill, North London, which was in the direction of the street Mr Oliver was last seen walking down.

Despite every address in the area being searched, the crime scene was never established - nor was any link with Suffolk.

The only possible clue was the local knowledge of Colchester-born Dr Reddington, although Dr Byles denied any knowledge of the county when interviewed.

A private investigator in Muswell Hill provided one of the fascinating pieces of evidence in the entire investigation.

She claimed to recognise the suitcase used to discard the body parts of Mr Oliver, pointing to the distinctive P.V.A initials on its side.

She told detectives she spoke to a man in a launderette on numerous occasions and vividly remembered the suitcase being brought in containing his dirty washing.

It was her description that to an artist's impression of the killer being released.

And when the inquiry was reopened in 1977, she picked out a photograph of Dr Reddington as one of three men she recognised as owning the suitcase.

Another other clue that caused suspicion to fall on the two doctors was the expert way in which the body was cut up.

Neatly severed into eight parts, the precise and deliberate nature of the operation meant only an expert could have carried it out.

A consultant surgeon at the then Ipswich and East Suffolk Hospital decided the crime was most likely to have been committed by a doctor, surgeon or medical student.

It was someone with "knowledge of anatomy with previous experience of dismemberment". The gory task had been "expertly accomplished", with the exception of one joint.

The consultant explained: "One would expect the person dissecting the body, irrespective of how calm and deliberate he may have been, to show some sign of nerves, anxiety or excitement towards the end of the dissection.

"This could well be the reason for the bad workmanship on the left knee joint."

But despite this growing weight of evidence by the late 1970s, Dr Reddington went to his grave without ever answering any questions relating to the crime. He died in May 1995, aged 63.

By now, Dr Byles had committed suicide in 1975, after being arrested and charged for an indecent assault in London, while in Australia.

He jumped bail and committed suicide before the full facts of the matter could be determined.

The 38-year-old left two suicide notes beside his body, one to Reddington, and another to Scotland Yard.

The note to police contained an apology for what he had done, but there was no direct reference to the Tattingstone murder. He was thought to have been responsible for the death of a cabin boy.

Eric Shields, a former detective sergeant with Suffolk police, was one of the officers who worked on infamous crime nearly 40 years ago.

Today he said: "The investigation was carried out in minute detail. As far as I'm concerned, it was dealt with in a highly professional manner."

"I'm sure all the officers who worked on the Tattingstone murder are disappointed nobody has been brought to book."

Anna Woolnough, a spokeswoman for Suffolk police today said although it was almost 40 years on from the murder, the file remains open.

Mrs Woolnough said: "We never close cases. Even after all this time, if anyone has any new information which could help officers, we would urge them to get in contact with us on 01473 613500."

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