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Call for new probe into Rita murder; `GOOD MAN'... Knollys Daley with father Halford.

Byline: Amardeep Bassey

BY the time police closed the book on Rita Sawyer's brutal murder, more than 11,000 people had been interviewed and eliminated from their inquiries.

Those men included Knollys Daley, a petty criminal who knew Rita as a regular drinker at the Commonwealth Club in Leamington Spa.

He helped run the bar and is the man who, police are convinced, carried out her murder.

The couple were known to have had a physical relationship even though Daley was married.

In the summer of 1970, Rita Sawyer left her family home in Dudley Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, after arguing with her father about her lifestyle.

He thought she was mixing with the wrong crowd and wasn't surprised to hear she was sleeping rough and living on benefits after she packed her bags and left.

The 18-year-old was last seen on the night of Friday September 4. Early next morning her body was found in a field, known as a lovers' haunt, close to Hasbury Lane in the village of Chesterton Hill, Warwickshire.

Inquiries revealed a woman matching her description had been seen getting into a car on Friday night. A similar model had been spotted racing away from the murder scene.

Rita had been stabbed with what police believed to be a half-inch bladed sheath knife but the weapon was never found.

A jury at an inquest into her death in February 1971 returned a verdict of murder and cause of death was said to be strangulation.

Months of investigations by the 100-strong team of detectives proved fruitless and the inquiry was wound down shortly after the inquest.

But in May this year, advances in DNA testing prompted Warwickshire CID to re-examine the case. Four months later they said it was solved.

At a press conference, police would only say a well-preserved piece of chewing gum had led them to the killer who they refused to name.

At the time Detective Superintendent Steve Hussey, of Warwickshire CID, said: "It would be unfair to denounce the man publicly so many years later."

Even though it is now clear the man police are refusing to name is Daley, DS Hussey defended his decision to retain the anonymity.

And he would not disclose details of how the killer had been linked with evidence from the scene - saying only that a 30-year-old semen sample found on Rita's body had been matched to DNA extracted from the gum.

"I can tell you that sexual activity took place between the victim and her killer," DS Hussey told the Sunday Mercury. "But we cannot say if it amounted to an assault or if it was consensual.

"We are not confirming the identity of the killer and as far as we are concerned the case is now solved and closed."

What seems crucial to police's evidence is whether or not tests were carried out on Daley's body since he died nearly two years ago.

His son, Andrew, is concerned about the lack of communication between his family and the police and that so many questions remain unanswered.

"I cannot believe my father was the killer," said the 27-year-old from Leamington Spa.

"If police gave me categoric evidence to say otherwise I would have to accept it.

"But they haven't and I just find the whole case disturbing. It took them 30 years to make the connection and then they refuse to go into any detail concerning their investigation.

"I find it surprising that four months after re-opening the case, they solve it just like that. Surely they had forensics before 1999 that would have led them to the killer. I want them to re-open the case or make all their findings public.

"They were very vague when they told us about the evidence that linked my father to the murder. I'm not saying he definitely did not kill Rita but I don't think a piece of chewing gum is enough, particularly as he is now dead and unable to defend himself."

Daley's father Halford, 86, added: "My son was generally a good man. He looked after me and doted on his children.

"I don't think he was capable of murdering anybody and I want the police to look at the case again.

"My son has no chance of clearing his name now he is dead. I want to know what the police have been doing for all those years before suddenly pinning the blame on Knollys?"

In fact, a motive was never really ascertained for the killing. Speculation among some of Daley's former acquaintances is that Rita, who was nearly four months pregnant when killed, was carrying his baby.

One said: "Everyone thought the baby was Knollys's. He was married at the time and was well known in Leamington Spa and wouldn't have wanted Rita mouthing off to everyone.

"He certainly wouldn't have wanted Rita to have the baby and chances are they argued about it while sitting in his car and he just flipped.

"He had an extremely volatile temper and was quite a physical man. He used to be a boxer."

DS Hussey said no tests on Rita's foetus had been carried out at the time as officers were led to believe the baby was from a former boyfriend.

He also said police had no plans to dig up a garden in Lyttleton Road in Warwick where it has been suggested Daley buried his and Rita's bloodstained clothing.

The house belonged to Daley's friend Alex Louis. A relative of Mr Louis's told the Sunday Mercury Alex had helped Daley get rid of the incriminating evidence.

The man, who refused to be named, said: "Alex died last year but told me years ago that he had helped Knollys bury some bloodstained clothes in his back garden.

"He obviously never told the police and nor did I."

But again DS Hussey refused to speculate on the claims uncovered by the Sunday Mercury.

"It is highly improbable the murderer would have told somebody what he had done," he said.

"We have no plans to dig up any gardens. We are satisfied we have the right man."

Rita's brother Stuart Sawyer, 37, of Kenilworth, said he had "complete confidence" in Warwickshire detectives.

"As far as I'm concerned the case is now closed and I am confident they got the right man," he said.

CAPTION(S):

TRAGIC CASE... a well-preserved piece of chewing gum (below) convicted the murderer of Rita Sawyer whose body was found at a beauty spot near Leamington Spa (above) in 1970. But police are refusing to name the man killer as Knollys Daley (left) MURDERED... Rita Sawyer FAMILY GRIEF... Rita Sawyer's brother Stuart with her aunt Violet Bayliss
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 21, 1999
Words:1112
Previous Article:It's not just the ball that bounces at kids' soccer day.
Next Article:New twist to Rita Sawyer murder conviction My dad did not kill Rita Sawyer (front piece).


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