Detective in 'no doubt' schoolgirl was killed by Beast of Wombwell

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A detective who carried out a cold case review of the murder of schoolgirl Elsie Frost has told an inquest he is in "no doubt" that she was killed by a convicted rapist and murderer known as the Beast of Wombwell.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police, was giving evidence at a new inquest being held into Elsie's death after her brother and sister successfully campaigned for a fresh review.

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No-one has ever been prosecuted for the murder of the 14-year-old in 1965 but the West Yorkshire force revealed that they were close to charging convicted rapist and murderer Peter Pickering at the time of his death in March last year.

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Peter Pickering.Peter Pickering.
Peter Pickering. | PA (Press Association)

The inquest, at Wakefield Coroner's Court, heard on Monday that Pickering was quickly identified as a person of interest when the case was reopened in 2015 as he had been flagged up as a "likely suspect" just days after the murder.

Mr Wallen said: "I am in no doubt that Peter Pickering is responsible for Elsie's murder."

The detective told the inquest that Pickering repeatedly denied murdering the schoolgirl - including sending them a letter which said: "I was not there, it was not me" - but he believed the evidence against him was compelling.

Elsie Frost.Elsie Frost.
Elsie Frost. | Other 3rd Party

Mr Wallen told the inquest that Pickering initially claimed to be in France or Brighton at the time of Elsie's murder, but later changed his story to say that he was ill in bed with pneumonia - an alibi that the detective said he had used before.

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He said the force interviewed Pickering at the secure hospital where he had been held since pleading guilty to murdering 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in Barnsley in 1972 and afterwards he re-enacted a murder to a hospital worker.

Mr Wallen said Pickering - who also raped an 18-year-old girl - told the worker: "Do you understand how difficult it is to stab somebody in the head?"

Pickering then went on to describe placing the victim's head on a hard surface and standing over them as he stabbed them, the inquest heard.

Mr Wallen told the inquest: "She was firmly of the view that Mr Pickering was re-enacting to her the murder of Elsie Frost."

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The detective said the force discovered "an Aladdin's Cave of interesting evidence" in storage units in Liverpool and Sheffield, where Pickering - who suffered from schizophrenia - had kept records of nearly everything he had done during his life.

He told the inquest: "He wrote things down that, in my view, tended to suggest he was responsible for her death."

Mr Wallen said one document read: "Who attacked that girl in 1965? I was Wilson. Pickering was gone but he, the opposite factor, did it. I could be wrong. All I know is I can't believe I killed but something in me comes to the surface saying 'but you did'. I cry and cry, my heart screams. I never wanted or intended to go out and do what I did. A child."

Earlier, Elsie's brother and sister, Colin Frost and Anne Cleave, spoke of their anger about how the case was left "in limbo" for nearly 50 years after an innocent man was cleared of Elsie's murder.

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The court heard that Ian Spencer was accused of murdering the teenager at the original inquest in December 1965 but was later cleared.

Mr Wallen said the police at the time believed Mr Spencer was responsible so did not continue their investigations after he was formally acquitted.