Former reporter Michael Cole recalls covering notorious unsolved case
Suffolk resident and former journalist Michael Cole has recounted his experience of reporting on one of the county’s most notorious unsolved crimes.
Last week, this paper looked back at the case of murdered London teenager Bernard Oliver, whose dismembered body was found inside two suitcases in a field in Tattingstone, near Ipswich, on January 16, 1967.
Mr Cole covered the story as a reporter for Anglia TV the year before his move to the BBC, where he went on to be Royal Correspondent until taking up a role as director of public affairs for Harrods.
The EADT columnist recalled his time in the company of Detective Superintendent Tom Tarling and the lengths police went to in their efforts to identify the 17-year-old’s killer.
With no idea of the boy’s identity when his body was discovered, police made the decision to photograph the head and send it to the media.
Mr Cole said that, despite the “unnatural, if not peculiar” appearance of the photograph, some did not realise it depicted the victim after death.
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He added: “It was a very difficult call for the police, but when the investigation was getting nowhere, they decided to take a picture of the head of the corpse, showing his face.
“I am certain that when the picture was released to the media, it was not made plain by the police that this was a photograph taken after death.
“It was only by releasing this gruesome picture that Suffolk police were able to establish the true identity and nationality and antecedents of Bernard Oliver.”
Identification dispelled an initial theory that the victim had been a mixed-race crew member from a ship entering the Haven Ports of Felixstowe, Harwich or Ipswich, according to Mr Cole, who said police thought the boy had been murdered on board before being dumped onshore.
The case since referred to as the ‘Tattingstone suitcase murder’ has never been solved – but Suffolk police continue to review lines of inquiry in a bid to solve the mystery.
Mr Cole said Det Supt Tarling had been determined to find the killer, with the full backing of his Chief Constable, Peter Matthews, who went on to lead Surrey Police.
“I know it was to the last regret of Tom Tarling that he was never able to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice,” he added.
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