Idyllic picture of village life

ON the weekend of December 15 and 16, a frail, elderly woman was stabbed to death in what should have been her safe haven – her home.Three weeks later the person or persons who took the life of Joan Albert is still at large – so how is the community, in which she lived, coping.

ON the weekend of December 15 and 16, a frail, elderly woman was stabbed to death in what should have been her safe haven – her home.

Three weeks later the person or persons who took the life of Joan Albert is still at large – so how is the community, in which she lived, coping.

Evening Star reporters JO MACDONALD, JESSICA NICHOLLS and GEORGINA JAMES look back on the murder which rocked Capel St Mary and find out how the crime has affected the lives of those who live there.

TO a stranger to Suffolk, Capel St Mary would have seemed like any rural village on a cold Sunday morning.

Occasional cars driving through the village and a few people popping in and out of the Co-op were the only signs of life.

The people of the village seemed happy to stay inside, out of the cold temperatures, and enjoy the weekend of the new year.

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There are signs, however, that continue to belie this otherwise idyllic picture.

At a house in the quiet Boydlands cul-de-sac two bunches of flowers rest beside the front door. The curtains remain closed and two windows are blacked out.

Three weeks ago residents of the village woke to news of a horrific murder at this address.

The house had been broken into and its resident, pensioner Joan Albert, had been stabbed several times and left to bleed to death in the hallway.

The village was a frenzy of activity as police and media converged on the street as the hunt for her killer began.

Capel St Mary is quiet again but shock still rings round its streets and reminders of the sickening murder remain.

Posters in shop windows ask people to come forward with any scrap of information they have which will lead detectives to her killer.

And a mobile police pod is still situated by the village library encouraging residents to help the murder investigation in any way they can.

Christmas Day has been and gone. So has New Year. People were told to continue their celebrations as normal but they were undoubtedly tinged with sadness that one of their neighbours had been so cruelly and viciously robbed of the chance to share in the festivities.

With the dawn of a new year now here, residents of the village are still in shock. There is hope that 2002 will see the successful capture of the person or people who took 79-year-old Mrs Albert's life and a return to relative normality for the people of Capel St Mary.

Until then the hunt for the murderer continues. Detectives are working round the clock to piece together the brutal events of that weekend.

They are trawling through the material gathered in the village from house to house inquiries and from questioning people around Mrs Albert's home.

Every little bit of information they have received is being followed up.

Those living in the village are desperate for Mrs Albert's murderer to be found as quickly as possible.

Many have come forward to add money to the reward fund set up for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for this brutal crime.

However, quickly this person or people are found, life in Capel St Mary will take a long time to return to normal.

MOST older members of the Capel community would not talk about their feelings, some did not open their doors fully, preferring to use the safety chain to keep themselves at a distance.

A nervousness seemed to prevail and caution was the byword.

Other people who were happy to share their feelings about how their lives are continuing in the light of Mrs Albert's murder, did so providing they maintained anonymity.

One man in his 50's was hoping that the perpetrator was not local. He did not want it to "undermine the fabric of the community".

From his home in a neighbouring road to Boydlands, the man said: "I expect the feeling to be the same everywhere. We are all deeply shocked and stunned that something so horrific could happen in our village.

"It has been very quite here over Christmas and people have tended to stay at home.

"My one sentiment is that the person who did this is not local as it would undermine the fabric of the community here."

The man who lives with his wife, said that he was not so much worried about her walking round the village on her own.

"I am more concerned about leaving her alone in the house."

A middle-aged woman who has lived in the village for 30 years said she was shocked like everybody else and never thought something like this would happen so close to her home.

When asked whether she feels her personal safety is more at risk now, she said: "I haven't really given it a second thought. I still go out and about whether it be day or night.

"You have to be realistic and get on with your life and hope that, God forbid, it never happens to you."

One pensioner who lives in the nearby village of Copdock but goes in to Capel every day to do shopping, said he and his wife had been badly affected by the murder of Mrs Albert, who he knew well enough to pass the time of day to.

"Me and my wife are devastated that something like this has happened only an arm's length from where we live.

"It took our breath away and we were very shocked and upset when we first heard about the murder.

"We live in a very different world today compared to when I was a youngster. There are so many angry and disgruntled people around," said the 74-year-old.

He believed that a lack of respect is missing from society today and added: "I believe that National Service should be reintroduced. It would pull the young people of today in to line and make them more respectful and disciplined.

"It takes something as serious as this to realise just how dangerous our world is becoming. Although it is very tragic you can't stop living yourself and must not let your mind work overtime.

"I do get a little nervous at night time and I think it will last until the culprit is found.

"My wife sent me to Martin and Newby to get another chain for the door, so we have stepped up our security in the light of the murder.

THE search is continuing for the person who brutally murdered Capel pensioner Joan Albert.

More than 150 calls have been received by a murder hotline set up by Suffolk Police following the discovery of the 79-year-olds body in her Boydlands home.

But three weeks on since the horrific discovery by a neighbour, police are still reluctant to release any more details of their findings.

Despite forensic experts descending upon the house and fingertip searches being carried out, police are still refusing to reveal how many times Mrs Albert was stabbed or even what they believe she was stabbed with.

A police spokeswoman said today that they are still sifting through the information that has been collected from the many calls that they have received but are refusing to speculate any further on the attack.

Detective Superintendent Roy Lambert, who is leading the case said that they would be contacting other forces across the country with regard to the attack.

Meanwhile police in Coventry are investigating the death of a woman, believed to be in her 80's who was discovered in the lounge of her home.

Although her death is still being treated as suspicious and forensic tests are being carried out at the house, a post-mortem to establish how the woman died proved inconclusive.

Detectives did say however that there was evidence that the house had been burgled and were still trying to establish whether her death was connected to the burglary.

In Mrs Albert's case, signs of a break-in to her home at 15 Boydlands indicated that she could have been murdered in a bungled burglary.

She was found with multiple stab wounds, still in her nightclothes, by a friend who became worried when she could not get in contact with her.

Mrs Albert had previously been plagued by youngsters and had taken extra security measures at her home including installing cameras by her front door.

Police are still hoping that all members of a line dancing club who were using the village hall near to Mrs Albert's home on the night of her murder may have seen or heard something vital to the investigation.

People in the village have been left shocked by the tragedy and shopkeepers in the area have joined the hunt for clues about the murder of the well-known hairdresser.

n In a bid to help catch the killer, the community and The Evening Star has put up a reward of £5,000 for any information that can directly lead to the arrest and conviction of the murderer.

n Anyone with information should contact the murder incident room on 01473 613777 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.