Northampton

Northamptonshire 1930 'blazing car murder': Nine families shortlisted

A police picture of Alfred Rouse Image copyright Daily Mirror (1931)
Image caption Alfred Rouse said he chose an unknown victim who would not be reported missing by loved ones

Scientists trying to identify an unknown murder victim from 1930 say they are down to nine strong leads.

The man was hit over the head and set alight in a Morris Minor in what was known as the Northamptonshire "blazing car murder". His killer was hanged.

Nine families whose missing relatives match the circumstances surrounding the case are due to be DNA tested.

Dr John Bond, forensic science expert at the University of Leicester, said he was "really excited" by the progress.

"Philanderer" Alfred Rouse, who may not have known the victim's identity, was having money problems and wanted to fake his own death.

He hit the man over the head, placed him in his Morris Minor and set it alight in the village of Hardingstone.

Image copyright university of leicester
Image caption Slides containing tissues samples from the victim were kept in an archive

He fled to Cardiff but was later convicted of murder and hanged at Bedford Jail.

Last year, scientists at the University of Northumbria managed to extract a single, uncontaminated DNA profile from the victim.

It was thought the man could have been 23-year-old factory worker William Briggs, but the DNA of his family failed to match.

Following appeals including on BBC's The One Show, 15 cases have since been whittled down to nine strong leads.

Alfred Rouse

Image copyright University of Leicester

Newspaper reports from the time said Rouse had suffered a head wound in World War One, which left him with a personality disorder.

He was described as "a promiscuous rake with an enormous sexual appetite" and it is understood he fathered at least two illegitimate children.

He had child support orders imposed on him, leaving him with severe financial problems.

At the time, police believed he had probably picked up a homeless tramp, who would not be missed if he disappeared, and wanted the car fire to look as if he had died in a crash.

He placed the body in the driver's seat and left some of his own possessions inside before setting it on fire.

Rouse hoped the fire would go unnoticed in the early hours of the morning after Bonfire Night but two young men saw the flames and went to investigate.

The car's registration plate was still intact, identifying its owner Rouse, who had fled to Cardiff but was arrested and eventually tried for murder.

Dr Bond, who is involved in the identification, said: "I am really excited about the prospect of at last giving a name to the victim of the 'blazing car murder'.

"It is quite a sobering thought that many people went missing in the 1930s never to be seen again by their families, and to now be able to give some closure to those families makes this investigation worthwhile.

"The families we will now be profiling have both an unbroken maternal line to their missing relative and good circumstantial evidence to the crime scene or Rouse, the offender."

DNA sampling kits are being sent to the nine families and it is hoped experts can start comparing profiles later this year.

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