The Unsolved Murder of Schoolboy Philip Green – Shirehampton 1970
2010 – Police launch new campaign to solve 1970 Bristol murder riddle
Police are renewing their appeal for help to solve the bloody murder of Philip Green, 40 years after the 11-year-old was found dead on Shirehampton Golf Course.
Four decades ago today, Philip’s body was found under trees, with a blood-stained oak branch broken in two, resting on his neck and by his side. His killer has never been brought to justice.
Detective Constable Clare Nelson, of Avon and Somerset’s Major Crime Review Team (MCRT), said: “For 40 years, Philip Green’s family have lived with this brutal crime and have not had closure.
“Someone out there has the information that could solve this murder and provide Philip’s family with the answer they need to move on.
“I am sure that over the last 40 years people’s priorities have changed. I would urge anyone with information to contact us. It does not matter how small that piece of information is, let us decide if it is relevant.”
At about 6.45pm on March 31, 1970, Philip left his home in Alberton Road, Seamills, to collect lost golf balls, but he never returned.
His father reported him missing later that evening.
His body, along with the blood-stained branch, have previously been examined for DNA evidence, but this proved negative. Other exhibits, including his belt and shoes, have also drawn a blank.
At the time of the murder, house-to-house inquiries were conducted and covered 54 roads, 1,754 houses and 6,524 statements were taken.
As previously reported, following a detailed review of 24 unsolved murders in the Bristol area, exhibits in the killings of Philip, Mark Yendell, Glenis Carruthers and Derek Grain will be sent off for forensic testing in the coming year or two.
For the first time, tapings of fibres from Philip’s clothes – a navy blue Gabardine raincoat, dark grey flannel trousers, blue and white striped shirt and orange knitted tie – will be examined to try to get a DNA profile of his killer.
The MCRT’s Detective Chief Inspector Mike Carter said: “It’s definitely worth doing as it was a very nasty attack on a young boy. It’s the last thing we can do in relation to this tragic case, unfortunately.
“We are hoping to see if there are any skin cells that can be examined. The chances are slim, but as with any murder case we will try to exhaust every possibility we can.
The Unsolved Murder of Schoolboy Philip Green – Shirehampton 1970
It is a sad fact of life that some murders go unsolved and that sometimes killers get away. However, nowadays new scientific techniques such as genetic finger printing offer a way of tracing the killers.
ON a spring day 35 years ago, Bristol was reeling from the news that a police tracker dog had found a 12-year-old boy battered to death.
At the bottom of a ditch on Shirehampton golf course, and spread out on a bed of beech leaves, was the body of schoolboy Philip Green.
It was April Fool’s Day 1970, and in Sea Mills a search party had been praying that Philip’s disappearance was just a schoolboy prank. He had been missing for 18 hours, but there was still a chance that he would be found alive.
A quiet but popular schoolboy, with so much of his life to look forward to, he had been battered, strangled and left for dead.
The boy had last been seen at 6.45pm the previous day, cheerfully heading out towards the golf course where he had spent the afternoon looking for lost balls.
His mother Barbara went off to bingo and when his stepfather Ivor came home from work he assumed that they were out together somewhere.
It was not until 9.30pm, when his mother returned home, that the Greens realised the boy must be out by himself in the cold and the dark.
Mr Green quickly gathered together a group of local parents to help him in his search.
After a few hours the police were drafted in, and together they scoured both the golf course and Sea Mills until the early hours of the morning. It was very cold for the time of year – a band of snow had swept across the Bristol suburb overnight hampering the search.
Then, at noon the following day, the bark of the tracker dog brought the search to a conclusion – ending any lingering hopes that the boy might be found unharmed.
The police immediately set about trying at trace Philip’s movements. On the morning of March 31, Philip had dropped in on his friends, Philip Walsh, Christine Bennett and her brother, John.
They had all then wandered down to the fields below Coombe Dingle to look at some horses. But after lunch, the series of events that led to the schoolboy being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time began to unfold. First, he had gone down to Shirehampton golf course where the enterprising boy hunted for lost balls and then sold them back to the golfers.
He returned before tea time, dropped two shillings into his money box, and told his mother that he was going out again. At 6.45pm he walked out of the house.
He was never seen alive again. Nobody knows what happened next where he went, what he was doing, who he saw or spoke to – between leaving the house and being found lying not far from the 12th green.
The murder sent shockwaves throughout the Bristol area and sparked one of the biggest inquiries ever seen in this country.
The police were determined to get their man and soon Scotland Yard detectives descended on the normally quiet suburb. On arriving from London, Chief Supt Arthur Hardy announced:
‘There is a person wandering about who has done this thing. Let us catch him. Let us leave no stone unturned.’
At half-time, during a Rovers match against Stockport County, the detective took over the public address system and 17,500 spectators listened as he pleaded for witnesses to come forward.
The seven-room operations centre at Kingsweston police HQ became so busy that it was nicknamed ‘the sardine factory’ and by the end of the year, a colossal 14,000 statements had been taken from some 12,000 people.
In Sea Mills, three housewives tramped from house to house, doing their bit for the investigation. They collected hundreds of signatures from people promising to contribute to a reward to whoever could reveal the killer’s identity.
As news spread, two local scrap merchants contributed a further £300, and a fund-raising concert, staring local group Rare Amber, was staged. Soon the potential reward reached £1,000 – a huge amount of money at a time when average wages were about £20 a week.
But despite the efforts and goodwill of so many people, all the key questions remain unanswered. Around 250 people had passed through the golf club that evening, and 1,000 had passed along the Shirehampton Road, a route Philip must have used to get to the golf course.
How could it be, the police asked, that nobody had seen him? There was no sexual assault, no theft, no evidence of a fight or even an argument.
Without witnesses, and without a known motive, murder cases are notoriously hard to solve – particularly in the days before the advent of DNA testing. It was suspected that Philip might have been attacked with a golf iron, but the weapon remains a mystery And finally, who was the scruffy-looking man seen climbing over the wall between Shirehampton Road and the golf course?
He has never come forward. After all these years, the tragic case remains unsolved.