Ipswich: New lead in 45-year riddle of body in Tattingstone suitcase murder

A STARTLING new lead in the 45-year-old Tattingstone Suitcase Murder inquiry is being followed up by homicide detectives today.

Robert Thurston – who was a teenager at the time, but has never made a statement before – has come forward to recall a frightening encounter with a man wearing surgeon’s gloves opposite Ipswich docks.

The 62-year-old said it occurred after he saw two suitcases in an entrance a week or so before the dissected body of 17-year-old Bernard Oliver was found in two suitcases in a hedge on January 16, 1967.

No one was ever charged with his murder, but two doctors – who died many years ago – were the prime suspects.

Mr Thurston contacted police after reading the story of Bernard Oliver’s brother Tony, who told how he hoped the case could still be solved.


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Mr Thurston, formerly of Tomline Road, Ipswich, was aged 16 at the time of the murder.

He said he and a friend were pushing a scooter sometime between 1am and 2am when they glanced to their right and saw two suitcases.

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A tall man in surgeon’s gloves then emerged from the shadows at the former R W Paul administrative building.

Mr Thurston said: “It’s a long, long while ago, but I have a very, very good memory. I was absolutely terrified, both of us were. The guy we saw was very menacing.

“I have been too frightened to come forward until now to be honest.

“We came round Key Street and as we came around the corner we heard a bang. We walked round the corner and there were a pair of main gates and a courtyard where RW Paul offices were. We were right outside the gate and looked through the iron railings.

“We stopped and looked around to see who was there. There were two suitcases which sat to the left-hand side of the archway. One was bigger than the other.

“We just looked and thought ‘why would there be two suitcases standing there?’. A guy walked from the right, his forearms towards his chest with his hands in the air. He had pink gloves on.”

Mr Thurston said he believed them to be pink gloves, worn by surgeons.

He added: “I recognised the gloves as it wasn’t long after my appendix operation. The figure was frightening.

“He had a really long, drawn face. The guy was well-dressed with a long black mac-type coat, dark trousers and polished shoes. We ran, bump started the bike, and fled. I can still see that drawn face.”

Mr Thurston, now of St Austell, Cornwall, said he first attempted to speak to police ten years after the murder, but felt he was not being taken seriously and did not make a statement.

However, after reading Tony Oliver’s story while back in Ipswich for Christmas, he went in to the town’s police station to report what he had seen.

Lisa Miller, a spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary, said: “We can confirm an appointment has been made to see Mr Thurston and the information will be followed up.”

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