Leeds & West Yorkshire

Elsie Frost murder: Wakefield 1965 case left 'in limbo', inquest hears

Elsie Frost Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Elsie Frost was walking home after an event at the Snapethorpe School's sailing club on Horbury Lagoon when she was killed

The sister of a 14-year-old girl who was murdered in 1965 in West Yorkshire has told an inquest the case had been left "in limbo".

Elsie Frost was killed in Wakefield as she walked home. No-one was convicted.

Wakefield Coroner's Court heard Peter Pickering was a "likely suspect" days after the murder, but he died before charges were brought and the inquiry was halted for nearly 50 years.

Anne Cleave said she was "very angry that nothing happened".

The new inquest on Monday is being held after Elsie's family successfully campaigned for a review following fresh information by West Yorkshire Police that Pickering, a convicted child murderer dubbed the "Beast of Wombwell", was close to being charged with the schoolgirl's murder at the time of his death in March 2018.

On 13 October 1965, four days after Elsie was stabbed to death, Scotland Yard sent a file on Pickering to police in Wakefield but it was returned as the force could not trace him. But the officers asked the Metropolitan Police to inform them if Pickering was apprehended, the court heard.

Image copyright West Yorkshire Police
Image caption Elsie's body was found on 9 October 1965 beneath a railway line in Wakefield

A coroner at the original inquest, in December 1965, formally accused railway fireman Ian Spencer of murdering Elsie.

Mr Spencer was charged two months after Elsie's death but eventually cleared in March 1966.

Mrs Cleave told the inquest nothing happened until she and her brother, Colin Frost, had "got things going again after dad died".

"After March 1966, after Mr Spencer was released and exonerated, that's when things stopped."

Pickering went on to murder 14-year-old Shirley Boldy and kidnap and rape an 18-year-old woman in Barnsley in 1972.

"If things had gone as they should have done in 1965, those events may not have happened and maybe then my sister's case would have come to full fruition," Mrs Cleave said in the inquest.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Elsie Frost was described at the inquest as a "model child"

Mr Spencer's son, Ian Lee, told the inquest his father was repeatedly questioned by police in relation to other crimes despite being formally acquitted of Elsie's murder,

Mr Frost, who was aged five when Elsie died, told the inquest his sister's death had "split the family wide open" and left his parents feeling guilty.

He agreed with coroner Kevin McLoughlin that Elsie's murder had a "truly devastating impact" on the family and no-one being convicted added to the distress.

"We have so many questions going on around, going through our heads. And it's still happening today. Still many questions out there we feel have not been answered."

In court, Elsie was described in statements as a "model child" who was expected to become head girl at school.

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