Unsolved in Suffolk: The murder of Linda Smith
It’s nearly 60 years since 12-year-old schoolgirl Linda Smith went to buy a magazine for her great-grandmother at a newsagent’s in the quiet Essex village of Earls Colne. She would never been seen alive again.
It was an errand she had ran most days and her warm personality led to many knowing her as ‘Little Miss Friendly’ around the village.
On Monday, January 16, 1961, Linda, the eldest of six children, returned from school at Halstead Secondary Modern before going to her great-grandmother’s home in Earls Colne.
Some time after 4.30pm, she left with a 10-shilling note to head to Hughes’, the village’s High Street newsagent, which was around a five-minute walk away.
MORE: We live in hope that Linda’s murderer will be caught
There were four confirmed sightings of Linda around that time - up to about 5.10pm – but she never went into the newsagent’s despite being seen looking into the shop’s window.
When Linda did not return, the police were called and over the days which followed several hundred people joined search parties all over the village in an effort to find her.
But around 3pm on Friday, January 20, a retired labourer found Linda’s clothed body in a field beside Stackwood Road, a narrow lane at Polstead, near Hadleigh, in Suffolk – around 18 miles away.
She had been strangled with her school scarf.
Linda’s overcoat still contained her purse with the 10-shilling note inside. Experts believed she died on the Monday of her disappearence or the following day.
MORE: Murdered Linda Smith was known as Little Miss Friendly
The Metropolitan Police were brought in to assist Suffolk and Essex detectives with the hunt for her killer but despite a wide-reaching investigation, no-one was ever arrested or charged with Linda’s murder.
A subsequent inquest heard a red substance, believed to be paint, and traces of flour were found on Linda.
These were matched to the clothing of a man spoken to during the inquiry, but he was never arrested and police only ever described him as a potential witness.
Over the years, Linda’s family have remained hopeful that, with forensic advancements, her killer can be brought to justice.
Suffolk police say the case, which is one of their oldest unsolved investigations, is actively reviewed by cold case detectives.
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