Wendover cold case murder of young RAF servicewoman Rita Ellis set to be the subject of BBC Crimewatch programme

53 year-old murder back in the spotlight as cold case detective issues re-appeal
Rita EllisRita Ellis
Rita Ellis

The 1967 murder of young aircraftswoman Rita Ellis shocked the Aylesbury Vale, and police have not stopped working on trying to solve the crime to gain closure and justice for Rita's family.

And on September 14, a special episode of BBC Crimewatch will feature Thames Valley Police's head of cold case investigations Peter Beirne, as he makes a re-appeal for information which could lead to the capture of her killer once and for all.

19-year-old Rita Ellis, who was from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was murdered at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire on Saturday 11 November 1967.

At 10.30am on Sunday 12 November 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.

Rita’s 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.

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.

Rita EllisRita Ellis
Rita Ellis

Mr 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 [email protected] 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 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, Hertfordshire.

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

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

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

For nearly two years Bucks Herald editor Hayley O'Keeffe has also been investigating the murder, and gathering information in a bid to sensitively and confidentially assist the police investigation in any way that we can.

Speaking to The Bucks Herald Rita's sister Tina Streeter spoke about the aftermath of her beloved older sister's death, and why is is still just as important to hold her killer to account.

Tina said: “I will always remember that day. “Someone came to the door on that morning, it must have been a detective and I was ushered out of the way. I didn’t see my mum again for ages.

“Then I was told that she wasn’t coming home, my brothers were the second eldest so they were saying things to me to try and lessen it, I was the youngest.

“My school were told but I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral.”

She added: "She was trusting, but she was always a very strong person and she was tall. “I’ve always thought how could one person overpower her? She really wasn’t a mouse.” And understandably for the Ellis family it was very hard to move on with their lives, particularly for Rita’s mother who suffered from a number of disabilities, and died on November 11 1994, the anniversary of Rita’s death.

“It was almost like we had to lose her on that day for her to join Rita, I’ve always thought of it like that.” And losing her sister had a lasting and profound impact on TIna’s life too.

Speaking about reaching the same age as Rita, Tina said: “When I was 19 I was nursing and it was really weird. “I was always looking over my back, but my dad said that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.

“It was a nervous time, my brothers and dad didn’t really want to talk about it, but my mum and Rita were so close. “I never had any children, but Rita would have had a shed load and my mum always used to say ‘ I would have been a grandma by now’.

“I was going to go into the forces and I was going to go and do nursing in the army, it was what I wanted to do but my mum got so upset about it.”

“I would like to thank everyone who has thought about Rita and cared about Rita for all of this time. I would also like to thank Thames Valley Police’s cold case team.

“I look forward to the perpetrator being caught and paying penance for what he has done. He didn’t just take Rita’s life, he wrecked a whole family’s lives and he robbed us all.

“Please do get in touch if you know anything, no matter how insignificant you think it may be.”

She added: “I’m hoping that Rita and Mum will be watching.”

The Crimewatch episode will air at 9.15am on September 14.