A quarter of a century has passed since twenty year old student Janet Murgatroyd, from Penwortham, Lancs, was barbarically killed and her battered, naked body was discovered floating along the River Ribble.
Janet had taken a part time position as a clerk with Lancashire Police to supplement her income as she studied at The University of Central Lancashire. Blonde, bubbly and beautiful, Miss Murgatroyd seemingly had the world at her feet, her future prospects were looking good and along with her friends she had plans to engage in interesting and exhilarating adventures.
On the afternoon of 15th of June 1996, the city of Preston was buzzing with excitement. The Euro ‘96 football tournament was well underway and at 3pm that day England were due to face Scotland in a match which would determine who would gain a coveted place in the quarter finals.
Rather than watch the event Janet and her friend decided to hit the shops before later heading to the student bars to spend the evening drinking and partying with fellow undergraduates.
The last establishment they visited was The Adelphi, where towards the end of the night Janet was seen leaving in the company of an unknown male. She appeared to be having some trouble walking, which was most probably due to intoxication, rather than anything more sinister. She and her companion parted company close to Boltons Court and she was later picked up on CCTV close to the Fishergate Shopping Center.
A short time afterwards Police spotted a woman asleep by the entrance of Preston Railway Station: this is believed to have been Janet.
By the early hours of Sunday the 16th she is thought to have been on her way again, reported sightings include a couple who exchanged pleasantries with a girl dressed in a white T-shirt and a pair of wrangler jeans, and a cab driver who described a similar female being pursued by a man along Penwortham Bridge, heading away from the town center.
Witnesses later came forward to testify having observed a man looming over the prone body of a female in the Priory Road car park, close by the River Ribble. This is the spot where Janet’s clothing (apart from her jeans) were subsequently discovered.
A man taking his dog for their lunchtime constitutional spotted a what he presumed to be a person with long blonde hair afloat in the Ribble.
From the bank he alerted the driver of a passing speedboat who dragged the naked corpse aboard his craft. The body was taken ashore at the slipway used by the local Sea Cadets.
It is believed that as Janet crossed over Penwortham Bridge she was brutally attacked, being kicked about the head with such force her nose and jaw were broken. The backs of her legs were covered in lacerations consistent with having been dragged through dense brambles. She endured 59 separate injuries, there was evidence the killer had clasped his hand roughly over her mouth to stop her from screaming.
When Janet was cast into the river she was unconscious but still alive, it has been estimated she would have taken around four hours to die.
This poor young woman, under the influence of alcohol, walking home alone on a dark night was completely vulnerable.
Her murder was said to have been sexually motivated, the police believing she had also been victim to a serious forcible violation.
The cause of death recorded at post mortem was drowning and head injuries.
It was to be over three years before police investigations resulted in a 22 year old man being charged with Janet’s murder. But the jury at Liverpool Crown Court failed to deliver a unanimous verdict and the case went to retrial.
At the subsequent trial, after 15 hours of deliberation, Andrew Greenwood was eventually found to be guilty of manslaughter.
However, in spite of an apparent confession (that he later retracted) Greenwood’s guilty sentence was later nullified at the Court of Appeal.
The investigation into this tragic unsolved murder remains open, Janet’s killer is thought to be still at large.