Victim of the Motorway Monster? The unsolved murder of Barbara Mayo

Over fifty years have passed since the killings of Jacci Ansell-Lamb, and Barbara Mayo, and yet both remain unsolved. Here, in the second in a series of special reports, the first of which looked at Jacci’s murder, Manchester Evening News chief reporter Neal Keeling looks back on a case which shocked Britain. Seven months after the murder of Jacci Ansell-Lamb, 18, killed as she hitchhiked from London to Manchester, another young woman hitchhiker was brutally killed.

It triggered one of the largest police investigations Britain had ever seen at the time. Barbara Janet Mayo was a seasoned traveller. The English graduate had hitched her way around Europe after completing her studies.

A trainee teacher, she made money on the side dealing in cars. : The cries in the night that haunt the team with 200 mysterious murders to solve On the morning of October 12th 1970, a month before George Harrison would release his sprawling and brilliant All Things Must Pass triple album, and the haunting single, My Sweet Lord, Barbara left her home at 40 Rockley Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London, at 8am.

The reason for her early start from the home she shared with her boyfriend was to collect a vehicle some 240 miles away. She caught the tube to Hendon. From there she intended to hitchhike to Catterick in North Yorkshire.

Her plan was to collect her boyfriend’s car from a garage near Catterick. They had left it there after it had broken down as they headed south from a trip to County Durham to buy four new wheels. Both then hitched back to London.

Barbara began thumbing a lift near the same location where Jacci Ansell-Lamb had started her ill-fated journey.

She was trying to go north via the M1 and A1. She did not make it to the garage. At lunchtime the next day, on October 13th, the Catterick garage was contacted and they confirmed that Barbara had never arrived to collect the repaired vehicle.

She was reported missing and her boyfriend and a private detective undertook a search of the motorway network to try and trace her. On Sunday October 18th 1970, Barbara was found dead in a lonely wood some 20 yards down a track off Hodmire Lane, Ault Hucknall, near Glapwell, Chesterfield, Derbyshire. She was face down and fully clothed, but her garments were in disarray, with her jacket spread over her.

The location was just off junction 29 of the M1. Barbara, just like, Jacci, had been raped and strangled. She was found by a newly wed couple who were out for a walk with members of their family.

One of the party found Barbara under freshly fallen leaves. The group also reported seeing a light cream Vauxhall Viva Estate car backed up into the lane near where she was found. There was no sign of the yellow bag with a red elephant motif which she had been carrying when she set off.

The precise location in woods near Chesterfield where the body of Barbara Mayo was found on October 18th 1970.

She had been strangled and raped

Ten months after her death, Scotland Yard announced they were investigating the possibility that Jacqueline’s murder, plus that of Barbara Mayo, could be linked to two others – Susan Long, aged 18, who was found strangled in a lane in Norfolk on March 10th 1970; and Rita Sawyer, 18, who was stabbed to death and found in a cornfield near Harbury, Warwickshire, between the M1 and M5 on September 5th, 1970. It was suspected the killer of all four could have used the motorway system as a rapid escape route. The investigation which Barbara’s murder triggered was unprecedented.

Chief Supt Charlie Palmer from Scotland Yard was dispatched to lead the murder hunt. In a bold move he brought the entire M1 to a standstill. For an entire day every vehicle at every junction along a 150-mile length of the motorway was stopped and checked.

Victim of the Motorway Monster? The unsolved murder of Barbara MayoPolice briefing and canvassing Trowell Northbound Services M1 Motorway near Nottingham for information into the disappearance and murder of student teacher Barbara Mayo

A reconstruction was then staged for the media.

A woman police officer, wearing Barbara’s actual clothes when she had set off on her journey, was filmed leaving her home in Rockley Road. When asked if there was any appeal he would like to make regarding young women hitchhiking up the M1, Detective Palmer gave a terse one word reply: “Don’t”. The publicity resulted in 700 reported sightings of Barbara.

One would be given huge significance but, retrospectively, may have led police down the wrong line of inquiry.

Victim of the Motorway Monster? The unsolved murder of Barbara MayoA police officer dressed in the clothes Barbara Mayo was wearing, takes part in a reconstruction. The officer is pictured leaving Barbara’s home in Shepherd’s Bush, London

She was said to have been spotted by a lorry driver in Kimberley in Nottinghamshire. He and a colleague were returning home from work when they drove by a Morris Traveller at crossroads.

The truck driver saw “a nice looking girl, thumbing a lift”. Looking through his rear view mirror he saw the Morris Traveller pick her up. It followed his vehicle to the M1 then he lost sight of it.

The truck driver said he was sure the woman in the Morris Traveller was Barbara Mayo. At the time there were 100,000 Morris Travellers on the roads in Britain, and police tried to trace every one of them.

Victim of the Motorway Monster? The unsolved murder of Barbara MayoBarbara Mayo, murdered on October 12th, 1970. Her body was found in woods near Junction 29 of the M1 in Derbyshire

A huge incident room in Chesterfield was run for a year.

About 126,000 people were interviewed by the police, officers took 47,000 statements and carried out checks on 28,000 criminals. The killer was dubbed “The Motorway Monster” by the press. And he may well have taunted police, who received a letter saying Barbara’s murder who not be the last.

Then, for a BBC Crimewatch programme in January 1991 the murder was compared to that of Jacci Ansell-Lamb, with Cheshire and Derbyshire Police said to have “combined forces” in their investigations of the cases, and senior officers from both appearing side by side on the episode. It was stressed in the programme that police were not sure they were looking for the same man, but conceded there were “striking similarities” between their cases. Detective Supt David Doxley of Derbyshire Police, who took part in the original investigation, first as a detective constable, and later, in charge of the cold case inquiry, said in 1991: “I lived only a stone’s throw from the woods where Barbara Mayo was killed.

So, being so familiar, these woods, the killing of Barbara was never far away, even on a daily basis. “Her body was found a short way into the wood, by some local people who were out chestnutting on the Sunday afternoon. She had been brutally assaulted.

“She had been raped, and she had been strangled to death. It was a dreadful crime. The murder of Barbara Mayo was an infamous crime and is well and truly engrained into local folk lore in these parts.

“I am absolutely convinced that people still hold information that could take our inquiry forward. I know some people chose to mislead us years ago, especially in relation to alibis. “I am not interested in pursuing legal action against people who for one reason or another chose to mislead us all those years ago.

Our main aim is to catch the killer. I don’t believe that only the killer has the identity of the person responsible for Barbara’s death.”

Barbara’s boyfriend, Dave Pollard, in correspondence with retired former police intelligence officer, and real crime author, Chris Clarke, wrote in 2014: “As you know, the most concerning aspect of Barbara’s murder is the massive hunt for the Morris Traveller and its driver, which, as best it is possible to see, was entirely misdirected. This skewed the whole of the investigation and perhaps a number of others.

“Where there is evidence is in the presumed sighting with the Morris Travellers in Kimberley. If there is a plausible scenario for this, I haven’t been able to find it. “Setting off at maybe 8.30 in the morning, it doesn’t take a pretty young woman hitching on a busy motorway in bright daylight until after four o’clock in the afternoon to travel 120 miles.

“Even if there were to be some explanation for this, how would she have reached Catterick from Kimberley before the garage closed?” There was a reported sighting of Barbara visiting a butcher’s shop in Kimberley to buy faggots. But Mr Pollard wrote: “Why would she have taken a detour to buy a couple of faggots?

It is well-nigh impossible that the Kimberley sighting was Barbara. There were no faggots in her stomach contents, only the breakfast she had before leaving home. “But this supposed and highly publicised sighting certainly gave the murderer a clear run.

Public attention was directed to the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong vehicle and the wrong photofit.”

Victim of the Motorway Monster? The unsolved murder of Barbara MayoReport of how Derbyshire Police announced a DNA breakthrough in the Barbara Mayo murder inquiry in 1997, 27 years after she was strangled and raped in a wood near the M1.

In 1997 Derbyshire police announced that advances in technology had given them a breakthrough. A sample of human material recovered from a garment Barbara was wearing was said to have given them a DNA ‘fingerprint’. Assistant Chief Constable, Don Dovaston, said at the time: “I am satisfied the DNA sample will lead us to the identity of the person responsible for this murder.”

As he spoke, 200,000 DNA profiles kept on a national database had already been eliminated in the previous three weeks. Men previously questioned during the inquiry were considered for testing. In the event, no match has ever been found.

In a statement issued to the Manchester Evening News Derbyshire Police said: “No evidence has been found to link the deaths of Barbara Mayo and Jacqueline Ansell-Lamb, which is an investigation by Cheshire Police. There have been extensive reviews and forensic work as part of the Barbara Mayo investigation, and no suspect has been identified to date. “Although now scaled down, the investigation is still open and any new information will always be considered and reviewed by officers.”

You can contact Derbyshire police in the following ways: You can also anonymously contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111 or by visiting One former police officer is convinced the nature in which both died bear the hallmarks of an infamous serial killer.

The third in our series of special reports looks at the theory that both Barbara, and Jacci Ansell-Lamb, the teenager whose story we told in the first of our series, were victims of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.

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