Rita Ellis appeal: Bid to solve the mystery of murdered RAF servicewoman from Stevenage 50 years after her death

A newspaper article printed at the time. Picture: Herts Police.

A newspaper article printed at the time. Picture: Herts Police. - Credit: Archant

Fifty years ago, the body of a 19-year-old RAF servicewoman was found by a dog walker near a disused railway at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire.

The location where Rita's body was found. Picture: Herts Police.

The location where Rita's body was found. Picture: Herts Police. - Credit: Archant

The body had been covered by leaves and foliage.

Rita Ellis, who was just 19 years old and from Stevenage, had been sexually assaulted and strangled by a ligature made out of her underwear.

Now 50 years on, police have relaunched an appeal for information to finally try to solve the mystery of who killed Rita and why.

On April 28, 1967, Rita had joined the RAF – initially training at Spittlegate RAF in Grantham, Lincolnshire – before being drafted to RAF Halton near Aylesbury on June 21 of the same year.

RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire where Rita was posted at the time of her death. Picture: Herts Police.

RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire where Rita was posted at the time of her death. Picture: Herts Police. - Credit: Archant


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On the night of her murder on November 11, 1967, Rita had been working in the kitchens on the base and was due to babysit for a wing commander and his wife.

However when the commander turned up to collect her from her accommodation, she was not there.

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Servicemen and civilians were attending bingo and disco events at the base on the night in question, so there would have been hundreds of people milling about.

Peter Beirne, head of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review Team, 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.”

A newspaper article printed at the time. Picture: Herts Police.

A newspaper article printed at the time. Picture: Herts Police. - Credit: Archant

Thanks to improvements in technology, police have now put together a full DNA profile of the murderer and have so far ruled out about 200 suspects. A number of arrests were made at the time of the murder but no-one was ever charged.

The offender would have been a young man at the time, but police believe he would now be in his 60s to 80s.

Rita’s sister, Tina, now aged 60 and working as a nurse in Sussex, said: “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.”

Anyone with information should contact Thames Valley Police by calling 101, visiting your nearest police station or emailing helprita@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk and quoting reference 604 (7/11). Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Rita Ellis was serving in the RAF at the time she was murdered. Picture: Herts Police.

Rita Ellis was serving in the RAF at the time she was murdered. Picture: Herts Police. - Credit: Archant

Rita Ellis who was murdered in 1967.

Rita Ellis who was murdered in 1967. - Credit: Archant

The investigation into the murder of Rita Ellis has been re-launched. Pictures: Herts Police

The investigation into the murder of Rita Ellis has been re-launched. Pictures: Herts Police - Credit: Archant

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