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January 2021
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Appeal following murder of RAF Aircraftswoman


Rita Ellis

Reporter: Stuart Littleford

19-year-old Rita Ellis was murdered at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire on Saturday 11 November 1967.

At 10.30am on Sunday 12 November Rita’s body was found on the camp by a dog walker near a disused railway at the old coal yard about 250 yards from the main road from Wendover to Tring.

The body had been covered by leaves and foliage.

Rita, who was stationed at the camp, had been sexually assaulted and strangled by a ligature made out of her underwear.

At the time of the murder Thames Valley Police did not exist, the local police force was Buckinghamshire Constabulary, however it was New Scotland Yard that led the investigation.

On 28 April 1967 Rita joined the RAF, initially training at Spittlegate RAF in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and was then drafted to RAF Halton on 21 June of the same year.

She was a trade assistant and was obtaining extra qualifications as part of her training with the RAF.

Rita was the eldest of four siblings. Rita’s sister, Tina, was 10-years-old at the time of the murder.  Rita’s two younger brothers were 17 and 13-years-old at the time.

Rita’s parents, who have since died, lived in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

On the 50th anniversary of the murder, Rita’s sister, Tina, now aged 60 and working as a nurse in Sussex, made this emotional appeal: “Rita was wonderful. She was so kind, so caring, and so supportive but she seemed to be frightened of certain situations and used to scare quite easily. She was painful shy so going into the RAF was great for Rita because it broadened her horizons and gave her the confidence which she didn’t have.

“After Rita died I used to read the newspaper cuttings and it used to give me nightmares. I tried to understand it but I just kept thinking about whether she suffered – those things went through my head even as a ten-year-old.

“Rita’s murder has had a huge impact on me and my family. My mother and Rita were incredibly close, they were like sisters. My mother was never the same after Rita died, my mother had a number of illnesses and incidentally she died on the same day as Rita on 11th November in 1994.

“It’s been a long time coming but we want justice for Rita. Someone, somewhere must have some information. I urge them to please come forward to the police and give us closure and allow Rita to be at peace.”

Head of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review Team, Peter Beirne

Head of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review Team, Peter Beirne said: “I am making a new appeal on the 50th anniversary of the brutal murder of Rita Ellis. Rita’s family has waited too long for justice and I now hope the public can help us find her killer.

“Thanks to re-examination of evidence found at the scene we have now obtained a full DNA profile of the offender and almost 200 potential suspects have been ruled out.

“I believe the offender would have been a young man, possibly aged in his teens to mid-twenties at the time, so it is likely he will now be aged in his sixties to eighties.

“A number of arrests were made during the initial investigation but no-one has ever been charged with Rita’s murder.

“It was arranged by the RAF that Rita would babysit for a Wing Commander and his wife on the evening of Saturday 11 November 1967 and she was to be collected from her living quarters at about 7.30pm, however according to the initial police investigation there was some confusion regarding the agreed collection time.

“The Wing Commander arrived at Rita’s accommodation at about 7.40pm and waited for Rita for about 15 minutes before leaving. About 10 minutes later the Wing Commander returned to the accommodation with his wife because she would have been allowed to enter the servicewomen’s accommodation, however Rita was not there.

“We know Rita had been working at the camp’s kitchens from 11am to 7pm on the day she was murdered. The last time she was seen alive was in her accommodation at about 8pm.

“On the night Rita was murdered there were two events being held at the camp, bingo and a disco, therefore there would have been hundreds of people in the vicinity of where Rita was waiting for her lift.

“It was common that entertainment was provided at the camp for civilians as well as servicemen and servicewomen. This included discos held at the Naafi, a Junior Ranks Club, The Tavern Bar, the Astra Cinema and a bar called Portakabin.

“On the night she was murdered Rita was wearing a coat, cardigan, skirt, underwear and shoes. She was also carrying two handbags. All of these items were recovered at the scene.

“The person responsible for Rita’s murder will have had this horrific act on their conscience for 50 years, and there has to be a possibility that they have confided in someone during this time. If you have any information, even if you think the information is insignificant, please come forward.

“In the time that has passed allegiances may have changed or perhaps you couldn’t come forward at the time for whatever reason but now you can.

“Please do the right thing and contact us either by calling 101, visiting your nearest police station or emailing and quoting reference 604 (7/11).

“If you do not want to speak directly to the police you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.”

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