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Unsolved in Suffolk: The murder of Linda Smith

Linda Smith, who was murdered aged 12 in 1961 Picture: FAMILY

Linda Smith, who was murdered aged 12 in 1961 Picture: FAMILY

Archant

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.

The Evening Star headlines from the time Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVEThe Evening Star headlines from the time Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

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.

Where Linda's body was found in Polstead in 1961 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVEWhere Linda's body was found in Polstead in 1961 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

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.

The Evening Star from January 18, 1961 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVEThe Evening Star from January 18, 1961 Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

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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