The mother of a murder victim whose case has gone unsolved since 1987 said a new arrest has ‘given us hope’.
Kent Police today revealed they detained a 66-year-old man on suspicion of killing Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce.
The victims, both in their 20s, were sexually assaulted before being beaten and strangled just months apart in what became known as the Bedsit murders.
Wendy’s mother Pam, 83, today said from her home in Tonbridge, Kent, that the force’s latest breakthrough is ‘such a shock’.
Pam Knell – the mother of murder victim Wendy Knell (right) whose case has gone unsolved since 1987 – said a new arrest has ‘given us hope’. Wendy’s father Bill (left, pictured in 2017), who died from cancer in 2018, said his dying wish was for the murderer to be found
Wendy, 25, was found dead in June in her flat in Tunbridge Wells five months before Caroline, 20, was found dead in a remote field on Romney Marsh.
Both women were found naked and their keys were missing.
Despite a huge investigation at the time their killer has evaded justice for more than three decades.
Wendy Knell (pictured), 25, was found dead in June in her flat in Tunbridge Wells five months before Caroline, 20, was found dead in a remote field on Romney Marsh
Mrs Knell said today: ‘It has given us hope. I can’t even think about it to believe it.
‘Wendy was murdered such a long time ago that I came to live with the idea I would die not knowing who did it.
‘But I thought the police had a lead before so I am trying not to get my hopes up too much just yet.
‘Wendy would have been 59 this year and not a day goes by where I don’t think about her. It’s still just as hard 33 and a half years later. The pain just gets more embedded.
‘It would be so nice to be able to put it to bed because we have so many unanswered questions. All I want to know is why.’
After she was told about the arrest, Mrs Knell phoned her son Phillip, 61, and daughter Jane, 55, to tell Wendy’s siblings the news.
But sadly her husband Bill never saw justice done. He died from cancer in 2018 and said his dying wish was for the murderer to be found.
Mrs Knell continued: ‘Phillip couldn’t believe it. He just couldn’t believe it after all this time. Jane just couldn’t stop crying.
‘Wendy was found dead on Bill’s birthday and all he wanted was to know what happened to her. It’s such a shame.
‘It was a waste of a life. Wendy did no harm to anybody. She never hurt anyone.
‘She had only been in Tunbridge Wells for a few months and I thought she was safe in her own place.’
Kent Police revealed they detained a 66-year-old man on suspicion of killing Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce (pictured) in 1987
The suspect, who would have been 23 at the time of the killings, was arrested today in Heathfield, East Sussex, and is due to be questioned about the two murders.
Police said in a statement: ‘Cold case detectives have arrested a man on suspicion of murdering two women from Tunbridge Wells more than 30 years ago.
‘The suspect, aged 66, from Heathfield, East Sussex, was detained on Thursday December 3, in connection with the deaths of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in 1987 and taken into custody.’
The families of both victims have been informed of the arrest and are being kept updated.
The young women were living a mile apart in Tunbridge Wells at the time when they were targeted and murdered and linked by police due to their similarities.
Wendy was found dead in her bedsit on June 23, 1987, after being sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled. She was left naked on her bed covered by a duvet.
Officers believed her killer broke in through a faulty back window as there were no signs of forced entry.
Wendy’s diary and keys with a distinctive Austrian keyring were missing and have never been found.
A footprint from a rare Clarks trainer was also left on a blouse at her home.
She had left work at about 5pm the previous day and went home after going to the bank.
After spending the evening at her boyfriend’s house, he dropped her home at 11pm and kissed her goodbye on the doorstep.
Alerted by her boss that she hadn’t turned up work the next morning, he went round to find her battered body.
Officers believe Caroline was killed on November 24, 1987, after she was also sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.
Her naked body was found three weeks later by a farm worker in the dyke of a remote field on the Romney Marsh – some 40 miles away from her home.
She was last seen at about midnight being taken home by a taxi after a night out with friends.
It is believed she was attacked outside her bedsit after neighbours reported hearing screams but she was never seen alive again.
Caroline’s keys with the Buster Browns restaurant fob where she worked were also never recovered.
Wendy (pictured) was found dead in her bedsit on June 23, 1987, after being sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled
Advances in forensic science allowed detectives to build a full DNA profile of the suspected killer in both cases in 2012.
The suspect earned his chilling nickname the ‘trophy hunter’ for snatching intimate items from his victims.
Wendy and Caroline lived around a mile apart and did not know one another despite both working in the same busy town centre street.
Police had received reports of a Peeping Tom in the area prior to the murder – but nothing ever came of that line of inquiry.
Tragically Wendy’s heartbroken dad never saw his dying wish for justice granted as he died from liver cancer in 2018.
Officers believed Wendy’s killer broke in through a faulty back window as there were no signs of forced entry. Wendy is pictured
Retired minibus driver Mr Knell said the daily heartache of not knowing who killed his shop manager daughter was incomparable to the pain of chemotherapy.
Mr Knell, whose birthday was the day his daughter died, said in 2015: ‘It’s always on my mind.
‘I think about her almost every day, you never forget. I do get tearful. We need to know why he did it. I know rape is a terrible thing but why did he have to kill her?’
He added: ‘Every time we see a report of a murder on TV then it all brings it flooding back.’
Mother Pam said: ‘Our lives have been ruined since. I’d just had my 50th birthday when Wendy was murdered. They say life begins at 50 – it didn’t, it finished.’
She said she has never been the same since the tragedy, adding: ‘I still have panic attacks if someone is close behind me.’