Durham Constabulary criticised for failings in brutal murder of Ann Heron, 30 years ago.
The step-daughter of a woman found brutally murdered in 1990, and who’s Father subsequently found himself charged on suspicion of his wife’s murder 15 years later, has lodged a 6-page official complaint to Durham Constabulary highlighting the failings of the original investigation.
On 3 August 1990 at 6pm, Debbie Simpson’s step-mum Ann Heron from Middleton St George near Darlington, was discovered in the living room of her house by her husband Peter Heron, her throat had been cut.
In October 1990 Ann’s murder featured on BBC Crimewatch where Durham Constabulary’s appeal centred on a dark- haired suntanned man, driving a blue car which was seen leaving Ann’s home at high speed at the time of the murder. The following month on Crimewatch, Hampshire Police appealed for the recapture of a violent escaped prisoner, Michael Benson who had absconded from prison in 1989, who drove a blue car, in connection with Ann’s murder. Michael Benson was never traced, and with no-one charged with Ann’s murder, the case is Durham Constabulary’s only ever unsolved murder.
In 2005, Ann’s husband, Peter Heron, who was then living in Scotland, suddenly found himself arrested, and charged with Ann’s murder based upon weak evidence found in his own home. Peter’s family have since criticised Durham Constabulary for having ignored other critical evidence and for only focusing on evidence which could convict their father Peter, to the detriment of a full and proper investigation.
In late 2020 after working with a local Private Death Investigator, Jen Jarvie, and engaging local law firm Watson Woodhouse, the family lodged an official complaint detailing the failure to fully investigate and analyse numerous evidence and lines of enquiry which had been ignored, including critical alibis and documents from three independent witnesses, who all were able to place Peter at the offices of Cleveland Bridge over a mile away from the crime scene.
The six page letter sent to Durham Constabulary, details neglect and a failure to investigate Ann’s murder fully and openly, it also asks for clarification on several important unanswered questions including how in 1990, a forensic scientist and pathologist statedthe murderer would have physically restrained Ann and that her wounds would have bled heavily. Peter’s clothes were not consistent with someone who had committed such a violent assault. Witnesses stated that Peter Heron had been wearing the same light-coloured trousers and white shirt all day. Denim fibres from jeans were also found at the scene, clothing which Peter had never owned.
The complaint letter to Durham Constabulary further details how a wealth of evidence around a suspect and known criminal Michael Benson was never investigated. Michael Benson matched the profile and age described by numerous witnesses, and also drove a blue car, matching the vehicle seen racing out of the victim’s gravel drive. No other investigations into the denim fibres were made, no comparison of his handwriting or content of a letter, confessing the murder were ever investigated. A further witness statement from an inmate in Holme House Prison in 2001, stated Michael Benson had confessed to “murdering a woman in the Darlington area”; all never pursued and despite clarity of descriptions Durham Constabulary never produced a photo fit of the dark haired driver who was aged 30-40, when in fact Peter Heron, the husband charged, was 55 years old at the time with grey hair.
Debbie Simpson, step-daughter of Ann, who is leading the action against the police to clear her fathers’ name, said “Durham Constabulary’s investigation into Ann’s murder failed to identify her killer and after 30 long years, we are still seeking the answers and closure that we desperately need. In our opinion, Durham Constabulary failed to meet their own high professional standards which compromised the quality of their investigation, resulting in the situation we find ourselves in today. As a family, we ask for nothing more than Ann deserved in August 1990; a police investigation conducted with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality at its core. Ann’s murder and the subsequent actions of Durham Constabulary have had damaging and lifelong effects on Peter and his family which continue to this day and we will continue our fight for truth and justice”
Jen Jarvie, local Private Death Investigator who has been assisting the family and Watson Woodhouse in this case, adds “Michael Benson is a viable alternative who needed to be investigated; when you look at the circumstantial evidence, he’s more of a person of interest than Peter Heron ever was.”
Alistair Smith, from Watson Woodhouse Solicitors in Middlesbrough, representing the family, concludes “this complaint begs the question why did Durham Constabulary not want to investigate Michael Benson further? There has been new evidence and old evidence that could have been re-examined with a more open mind and they have failed to do so. The difficulty now is that Michael Benson died in 2011 so he couldn’t be charged, but Peter Heron’s name could be cleared. Durham Constabulary’s fixation with Peter Heron being Ann Heron’s murderer has been to the detriment of a full and proper investigation. Their 5-paragraph response to Debbie Simpson’s complaint has been wholly inadequate. Durham Constabulary have failed to deal with any of the points made across numerous themes, including post-mortem, possible suspects, further incidents, alibis, ignored evidence, the arrest of Peter Heron, and a host of recent developments. We therefore would like Durham Constabulary to publically announce that they have asked another force to re-investigate this terrible crime and for the Independent Office of Police Conduct to review Durham Constabulary’s involvement and for Peter and Ann Heron to finally receive the justice they and their family deserve”.
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