‘We want justice’ – appeal for suspects decades after unsolved murder of Stevenage teen Rita Ellis

PUBLISHED: 14:59 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:36 09 September 2020

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

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An appeal has been launched for information into the murder of a 19-year-old woman from Stevenage, who was killed at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire more than 50 years ago.

A newspaper article printed after the murder of Rita Ellis. Picture: Herts Police.A newspaper article printed after the murder of Rita Ellis. Picture: Herts Police.

At 10.30am on Sunday, November 12, 1967, 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. Her 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.

The appeal has been launched by Thames Valley Police ahead of a Crimewatch re-appeal for information regarding Rita’s murder.

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.

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.

Head of the Thames Valley Police Major Crime Review Team, Peter Beirne, said: “There will be people out there who have suspicions about who murdered Rita Ellis and we want to hear from them.

“Just give us the name of who you suspect, we don’t need any of your personal details. Call 101 or email helprita@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk with the name of the person or persons you suspect.

“The person responsible for Rita’s murder will have had this horrific act on their conscience for 53 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.“

Rita Ellis who was murdered in 1967.Rita Ellis who was murdered in 1967.

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.

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

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

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.

Rita lived in building 314 of block 7 in the Women’s Royal Airforce accommodation.

Three years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the murder, Rita’s sister, Tina said: “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 painfully 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 10-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 November 11 in 1994.

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

“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.”

The Crimewatch reappeal will air on BBC One on Monday, September 14 at 9.15am.


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