North East Wales

Janet Commins: Stephen Hough guilty of 1976 rape and killing

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Media captionStephen Hough guilty of Janet Commins Flint manslaughter

A man has been convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old girl in 1976.

Janet Commins' body was found on a school field in Flint, north Wales, by three children playing hide and seek.

Stephen Hough, 58, from Flint, was convicted of manslaughter, rape and sexual assault at Mold Crown Court on Thursday. He was cleared of murder.

Janet went missing after leaving her home to go swimming on 7 January 1976 and another man has already served six years for her manslaughter.

Noel Jones, who was aged 18 at the time, admitted killing Janet and served half of 12-year prison sentence.

However, he told the trial he was made a scapegoat by police because he was a Gypsy who could barely read or write.

Speaking after the case, Janet's uncle Derek Ierston said it was "galling" to think the man responsible for her death had been "living in our community for all these years".

Image copyright Andrew Price
Image caption Stephen Hough (right) was convicted 41 years after he sexually assaulted and killed Janet Commins
Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Janet Commins left her house to go swimming with a friend and her parents Eileen and Ted never saw her alive again

Janet made plans to go swimming on 7 January, but her mother said she did not look well so could not go.

She left her house without her parents knowing and left them a note saying she would be back by 20:30.

She left the pool just after 19:30 and told a friend she was heading straight home - but she was spotted with two boys at about 20:10.

A boy who reported seeing them said one of the boys with her was thin and fair-haired, while the other was an older-looking, about 17, and they were laughing and joking with Janet.

Edward Commins reported his daughter missing at about 23:00 that night and her body was found four days later.

Mr Hough was questioned at the time as his grandparents' house overlooked the area where Janet's body was concealed.

He said he was stealing petrol from a vehicle in Flint that night and was subsequently fined for the offence.

Image copyright Andrew Price

In 2006, a review of the scientific evidence in the case was carried out and DNA from a man was identified from samples taken from Janet's body.

In 2016, Mr Hough's DNA was taken by police in an unrelated matter and a match was found, prompting his arrest.

DNA matching Hough's was found on samples stored from the crime scene at the time and the jury heard it was a billion times more likely to belong to Hough than anyone else.

The court heard Janet was killed during a sexual assault and there were signs her body had been left lying face down "for some time" before being moved to where it was found.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said Janet died "as a result of her neck and her external airway being compressed and blocked during that sexual assault".

Hough, who was 16 years old when he raped and killed Janet, will be sentenced at a later date.

Image caption Janet's uncle, Derek Ierston, read a statement on behalf of the family after the court case

Janet's father Ted died many years ago after suffering with a long illness - her mother Eileen was hit with what the family described as "a bombshell" when she found out about the new suspect.

In a family statement read outside the court, Mr Ierston said: "It's so galling to think that the person who so maliciously and violently took Janet's life has been living in our community for all these years.

"The difficulty for the family is that he has had a life, been married and had children. But he stole Janet's future and took away the opportunity for Eileen, Ted and the rest of the family to see Janet grow up, get married and have her own children.

"Today's verdict cannot bring Janet back to us, but hopefully the weeks and months to come will provide us with some closure."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating how North Wales Police handled the original investigation.

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