Evidence in unsolved high-profile murders have been binned by West Midlands Police, a former senior detective claims.
And the list includes the death of 15-year-old Mark Billington, found hanged 36 years ago. The boy’s bicycle was nearby.
The blunder has, the retired officer believes, prevented the murderer from being caught.
And he believes the killer is depraved Solihull child killer Brian Field, a monster whose name has been linked to a number of cases.
Mark’s death was originally treated as suicide. However, in 2001 a senior detective told the press he believed Mark had not taken his own life.
The case was re-visited a year later following pressure from the ex officer who approached us. A murder inquiry was ignited.
The former detective sergeant had no doubt from the off that Mark, discovered in Meriden woodland nine weeks after going missing on September 1, 1984, was murdered.
“We in uniform – Plods if you like – didn’t believe for one minute we were dealing with a missing person,” he said.
“There was no reason for Mark to take his own life, he wasn’t being bullied.
“And 15-year-olds do not have a support network. Where are they going to go, where are they going to stay?
“A happy 15-year-old sets off on his bike to kill himself? It doesn’t happen.”
The 2002 cold case review was wrecked by the loss of vital evidence. That is a documented fact.
Murder squad detectives publicly admitted a number of items had been disposed of, preventing DNA analysis.
It is also a fact that West Midlands Police lost items taken from the body of Barbara Forrest, found raped and murdered in Birmingham parkland 46 years ago.
That question was put to the force in 2012.
The 20-year-old’s killer has never been caught.
The long serving detective, who has asked to remain anonymous, believes many other vital pieces of evidence stored at the force’s Bournville Lane base were slung out during a sweeping, mid-90s re-organisation of the force.
Among them, he fears, are items relating to:
*The December, 1992, murders of 72-year-old Harold Smith, wife Mary and wheelchair-bound son Harold, butchered in a bedroom of their Northfields bungalow.
*The December, 1987, murder of elderly sisters Edna and Alice Rowley whose bodies were discovered in their Sparkhill shop.
The ex detective said: “We have a triple murder and a double murder that remain unsolved – I find that hard to comprehend.
“If exhibits – and for these crimes, they should be kept indefinitely – have been lost, it is beyond an own-goal. It is a case for real concern. You can’t go back and look at things that aren’t there.
“If I hadn’t served in the force, I’d be the first to send a Freedom of Information request simply asking, ‘do you still have the exhibits – yes or no?'”
He stressed: “I have no axe to grind. I simply believe this is an issue that should be in the public domain.”
The detective alleges he speaks from bitter experience.
He claims the trial of an armed robber he caught in the mid 90s was scuppered because vital “scene of crime” evidence had been thrown away.
He recalled: “I couldn’t believe it. I just asked, ‘was that a policy decision?'”
It is, however, the brick wall officers faced in attempting to unravel the mystery of Mark Billington’s death that rankles most.
The detective sergeant strongly believes the teenager was murdered by monster Brian Field. The body was found near Field’s home.
Field, a roaming farm labourer, abducted and strangled, using rope, 14-year-old Roy Tutill as he hitch-hiked to his Surrey home. Roy had been sexually assaulted.
He committed the beastial crime in 1968 and got away with it for 33 year.
He was eventually snared in Birmingham by DNA, taken after he was arrested for drink-driving in 1999.
Two years later, the then 64-year-old was sentenced to life at the Old Bailey.
He has been linked to a number of cases by the media, including the Boxing Day, 1984, disappearance of 13-year-old David Spencer and Patrick Warren, 11, dubbed “The Milk Carton” kids.
Their homes in Chelmsley Wood were five minutes from the killer’s address.
Our source knew Field better than most. The pervert worked at his local during the late ’80s.
That detail has never before surfaced.
Neither has the fact Field’s boss at the Old Colonial, Solihull, was Ralph Newnes, sentenced to two years and three months, in 2008, for 27 child sex offences.
He was back behind bars in 2010 for breaching the conditions of his licence.
In a strange twist, the landlord’s historic crimes surfaced when in an interview with the Birmingham Mail he urged child killer Field to help police if he knew anything about the Milk Carton Kids’ disappearance.
“Field was a gardener and handyman,” said the ex detective. “He lived in a caravan at the back, which I always thought was weird.
“He has been painted as some genial punter, a man who enjoyed playing chess, which was not my recollection. I saw him regularly, he was a loner. He didn’t talk to anyone. I only saw him talk to Newnes and the barmaid.
“He was there – 24/7 – at a time when a paedophile ran the place.
“Newnes was congratulated for publicly saying, ‘if you did anything to those boys, put your hands up’.
“But that’s what paedophiles do, they turn the attention on themselves.”
He added: “I believe Field murdered Mark Billington because of the similarities in the Roy Tutill case, there are striking similarities in the modus operandi.”
Police have in the past stated, however, they do not believe the death was “the result of paedophile activity”.
WHAT WEST MIDLANDS POLICE SAID
A West Midlands Police spokesperson said yesterday: “Regarding Barbara Forrest, the items weren’t found.
“We informed the Sunday Mercury of this on December 6, 2012, after an officer spoke to her family the day before.
“Regarding Mark Billington, in 2003 we said, ‘Mark Billington ‘s death was originally treated as non suspicious for 18 years. Some items which would have been retained for a suspicious death inquiry were not retained in this case’.
“Clearly there is a finite amount of exhibits we are able to retain.
“The last review was carried out in 2018 and no further lines of enquiry were identified. It remains an unsolved case and subject to periodic review or review upon new intelligence or information.”
THE three decades of freedom enjoyed by Field following the murder of Roy Tutill proved costly, very costly, to the public.
They were years pitted by violence and abuse.
Field, born Brian Lull and raised in a Lincolnshire children’s home, emerged as a drifting, violent paedophile.
*On November 12, 1969, at Wrexham Magistrates, he was fined for gross indecency after handing obscene notes to undercover police in a public lavatory.
*In November, 1972, he was jailed for two years at Aberdeen Sheriff’s Court for indecently assaulting a 14-year-old boy. Field spotted his victim walking along a country lane and pounced.
*In April, 1982, he was fined for gross indecency at Oswestry Magistrates Court after fondling a 17-year-old boy.
*In September, 1983, at Shrewsbury Crown Court, Field was jailed for four years after being convicted of two counts of sexual assault.
*In June, 1986, he received four years for falsely imprisoning two boys, aged 13 and 16. He gave them a lift, threatened them with a wheelbrace and forced them to remove their clothing. The teenagers escaped by jumping from the moving car.
THE TRIPLE AND DOUBLE MURDERS THAT REMAIN UNSOLVED
Officer who entered the Smiths’ neat bungalow in Overbury Close, Northfield, walked into a house of horrors.
Harry Smith, his wife Mary and their disabled son Harold had been bound, gagged, battered and stabbed to death. They lay in a cramped bedroom.
The property had been ransacked, yet there were no signs of forced entry and no obvious motive.
The bodies were found on December 2, 1992, but the killing spree had taken place two days earlier, police believed.
Mr Smith, a 72-year-old former car worker, had his hands bound with a tie. He’d been stabbed about 100 times, some of the wounds possibly inflicted as he tried to protect his family.
His 73-year-old wife, was found lying on her back on the bed. Their 47-year-old son Harold Jnr – paralysed in a road accident – was slumped in his wheelchair, gagged with a sock and bound with a dressing gown belt.
They had both suffered stab wounds to their head, chest and neck. They had also been beaten around the head. A post-mortem revealed the murder weapons were most likely a small kitchen knife with a 5in long blade and a wooden stave or club.
*ELDERLY sisters Alice and Edna Rowley, aged 87 and 77, were killed for a mere two boxes of chocolates, bottle of Tia Maria and radio cassette player.
They were murdered inside the Greswolde Road, Sparkhill, corner shop they had owned for half-a-century.
Regarded as pillars of the community, their bodies were discovered on December 23, 1987.
Officers forced their way into their home and found the body of Alice in the small downstairs living room and Edna in her bedroom.
Alice had ligature marks around her neck and there was heavy bruising around the eyes of her sister.
Post-mortems revealed Alice had been strangled by a scarf or towel, which was never found, and Edna had been smothered.
An untouched meal was found laid out on the table.