Lying in a pool of blood after being stabbed 19 times, Michaela Hague managed to whisper a brief description of her attacker to the first police officer on the scene after she was found slumped on the ground following a knife attack.
But despite the clues and help from an eyewitness who saw the attacker driving away in a old-style blue Ford Sierra, Michaela’s killer has never been found.
The mum-of-one, who had a five-year-old son when she died, was working as a prostitute to fund her heroin use, when she was picked up by a punter in Bower Street in the city centre and driven to an isolated car park on nearby Spitalfields, off Nursery Street.
Michaela, aged 25, from Pitsmoor, was left for dead after being stabbed 19 times in her neck and back on Bonfire Night 2001.
Before taking her final breaths, she told PC Richard Twigg that her attacker was white, clean-shaven, wore a wedding ring and where he picked her up from.
She said he was around 38, about 6ft and was wearing a blue fleece and glasses.
Another sex worker described the car she saw driving away from Michaela as she lay slumped on the ground after the frenzied knife attack.
The murder investigation which followed was one of the biggest ever mounted by South Yorkshire Police, with more than 10,000 people interviewed to date.
In the first few months it led officers up and down the country as they traced the owners of all the registered blue Ford Sierras in circulation at that time, hoping to find the killer.
Officers also produced an E-fit of Michaela’s killer, which was circulated nationally and screened on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme.
For years, detectives re-appealed for information to help them crack the case on the anniversary of the murder, but the killer has so far managed to evade justice.
In 2006, detectives revealed that they had followed up 10,500 lines of inquiry, interviewed 7,400 people and eliminated 3,662 owners or drivers of Ford Sierras.
Michaela’s heartbroken parents Jackie and Mick Hague, from Parson Cross, only found out that Michaela had been working as a prostitute for three months when police broke the news that she had died.
Weeping at a press conference, they said their daughter was a loving child from a caring family.
“She was a lovely, beautiful daughter,” said Mrs Hague, who said the murder had ripped their family apart.
On the 10th anniversary of the murder, Michaela’s partner, Mick Holmes, urged anyone with information to come forward fearing the killer could strike again.
“There can be no bigger sin than taking a mother away from her child. He has caused a huge amount of damage to me, our son and Michaela’s family,” he said.
“What he did to Michaela, something so savage, is not the kind of thing somebody just does once – I am convinced he has either done it before or will do it again, although I pray he doesn’t so that no other family has to go through what we have.
“I just want him locked up – I would rest a lot easier knowing he wasn’t out there able to do this again. My one fear is he will do it again.”
In addition to conducting a painstaking search of the area where Michaela was attacked and sending items off for forensic examination in the hope that technology could help them identify the killer, detectives in the first few hours of the murder set about piecing together how Michaela lived her life.
It led them to identifying and investigating her regular customers and speaking to other sex workers and men known to visit Sheffield’s red light district at that time.
In a bid to encourage men who knew her to come forward to eliminate themselves from the investigation, detectives threatened to track them down and visit them at home.
They also liaised with police forces across the country looking for possible links with other prostitute murders.
South Yorkshire Police looked into Stephen Griffiths, known as the ‘Crossbow Cannibal’ for murdering three prostitutes in Bradford in 2009 and 2010, after he hinted that he had visited Sheffield.
Griffiths told detectives: “Peter Sutcliffe came a cropper in Sheffield. So did I, but at least I got out of the city.”
No link was ever found.
It is hoped that advances in technology may eventually help nail Michaela’s killer.
Detectives who have worked on the murder investigation over the years have regularly suggested that advances in DNA could be the key to solving the case.
They have some forensic evidence stored away.
During the inquest into Michaela’s death, Sheffield Coroner Chris Dorries said he too hoped advances in technology would help police snare the killer and that he was confident the killer would be found.
Recording a verdict that Michaela was unlawfully killed, Mr Dorries said: “As science and technology improves every day the evidence to identify Ms Hague’s killer will very likely become apparent – her killer will be found, it may be soon, it may be in five years” he said.