Grandmother Clara Kirton, 86, was found dead at her home in Southwark on Sunday 17 November 1985.

The murder remains unsolved but detectives believe she was attacked when she disturbed an intruder looking for cash.

Her body was discovered in the lounge when her 42 year-old son Brian arrived at the ground floor flat at Victoria Buildings in Great Suffolk Street at 8am.

She had suffered a number of wounds to her face and massive slash injuries to her throat and a post-mortem examination concluded she died from inhalation of blood and crush injuries to her face and neck.

Clara Kirton
Clara Kirton

The broken remnants of a beer bottle – believed to be the murder weapon – were found strewn around the room.

The attack is thought to have taken place between 4pm and 6pm the previous afternoon. There was no sign of forced entry but Clara was in the habit of leaving her flat door open.

Drawers in the lounge and bedroom had been opened and searched but the only thing stolen – despite the fact she had £700 elsewhere in her flat – was Clara’s red purse containing a small amount of cash.

Fifteen police officers were assigned to investigate Clara’s murder and seven men were arrested but despite extensive enquiries nobody was ever charged.

Police unsuccessfully tried to trace the bottle of John Courage Strong Bitter which had been brought by the killer into Clara’s house.

Clara, who was born in 1899, was a widower with four children and 26 grandchildren. She was frail, in the early stages of dementia and suffered diabetes. She was virtually housebound, leaving her flat only twice a week to visit a local community centre.

She relied heavily upon her son Brian who visited every day plus help from a meal delivery service and a district nurse.

Her son Brian and daughter Joyce were the last to see her alive around 10am on Saturday 16 November when they took her a chicken casserole for lunch.

Detective Inspector Susan Stansfield, from the Met’s Special Casework Investigation Team, said: “Detectives at the time carried out a lengthy and thorough investigation into Clara’s death but despite speaking to hundreds of people and carrying out many other enquiries, no one was brought before the courts.

“Clara’s son had the horrific shock of discovering not only his mother’s body inside her flat but also that she had clearly been the victim of a ferocious attack. That memory has, of course, been impossible to erase and the only small amount of comfort he and the rest of Clara’s family might gain is from the conviction of the person who did this.

“It was a long time ago but such an awful incident would stick in your mind if you were local to the area at the time. If you have any information, no matter how small, please come forward. Maybe you were worried about telling police at the time but now, more than 30 years on, you might feel able to approach us. We hope the reward on offer will also encourage people to contact us.”

DI Stansfield added: “We don’t know for sure what the motive was but the evidence suggests someone made their way inside Clara’s insecure flat and she disturbed them as they searched for cash to steal.

“The extreme violence used against her gave the original investigation team cause to believe the killer may have been under the influence of drink or drugs.

“Whatever the motive, Clara’s family are desperate for answers and we would ask anyone who can help to come forward.”

On 13 April 2017 the Metropolitan Police issued a new appeal and offered a £20,000 reward for information leading to a prosecution.

My mum was a wonderful lady, always friendly and happy to talk to people despite her poor health. She certainly did nothing to deserve what happened to her. Finding her like that was just awful. I still can’t believe someone could do that to my gentle loving mum. Those feelings are only made worse by the fact that no one has been caught for her murder. I would ask that anyone who has information please please come forward and tell the police what they know.

Clara’s son Brian, speaking in 2017

Officers can be contacted on 020 7230 4294, via 101 or @MetCC or you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

View this case on the London historical murder map.

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