The painstaking

work of the police

over the years

is reviewed by

Raymond Duncan.

IT WAS a most poignant sight and one seen by millions of television

viewers the length and breadth of the country.

A videotape showing a pretty schoolgirl reading poetry to her

classmates should have been an occasion for enjoyment. Its purpose,

however, was never intended to delight.

The police were pinning their hopes on jogging the public's memory,

believing that someone somewhere could hold a vital clue to the

whereabouts of the missing child.

It was to no avail. Susan Maxwell was some days later found brutally

murdered and more than likely the little Girl Guide was dead when she

was seen and heard on the nation's television screens. The police now

made a new plea to the viewers: ''Help us find her killer.''

That appeal signalled the start of a murder investigation that was to

become the biggest manhunt ever by police in Britain. It was to last

nine years, have unparalleled manpower resources, and cost an estimated

#5m to mount.

Eleven year-old Susan, who lived with her parents in the Northumbria

village of Cornhill-on-Tweed a few hundred yards from the

Scotland-England Border crossing, had vanished in the summer of 1982.

That July day she had been playing tennis in the Borders village of

Coldstream. After the game and dressed in a distinctive yellow T-shirt

and tennis shorts she headed back to her farm home, her route along the

A697 taking her across the Coldstream Bridge.

It was the first time that her parents had allowed their daughter, who

had been carrying a tennis racquet, a plastic vacuum flask, and a tennis

ball, to walk home alone. She was never seen alive again.

Two weeks later on August 12 her body was found 200 miles away in

Staffordshire in the undergrowth of a copse adjacent to the A518 road

from Uttoxeter to Stafford at Loxley Wood.

The murder investigation that was launched in the wake of the

discovery involved one Scottish and two English forces.

Officers from Lothian and Borders teamed up with colleagues from the

Staffordshire and Northumbria forces to track down her killer.

Hundreds of people including those who were attending an agricultural

show in Kelso and a dog show in Stafford during the weekend she

disappeared were interviewed.

Despite the intense efforts of the investigating team the killer

remained at large. Twelve months or so after the murder of Susan Maxwell

he struck again.

Caroline Hogg, from the Portobello area of Edinburgh, was snatched

from a local funfair only hours after attending a friend's birthday

party. She had left her home about 7pm on July 8 to play nearby.

Like the Maxwell case it happened on a balmy Friday night in July at

the height of the tourist season and like the 11-year-old's abduction it

happened in a public place.

The striking similarities, as it sadly turned out, did not end there.

Eleven days after her abduction from the promenade along the Firth of

Forth, Caroline's badly decomposed body was discovered in a lay-by in

the Midlands.

Her identity finally confirmed by dental records, Caroline had been

dumped in the countryside between the villages of Twycross and Sibson in

Leicestershire, about 30 miles from where Susan was found.

Both girls' bodies had been found, unclothed and partially hidden by

undergrowth, within easy access of main trunk routes to the South and

the Midlands of England. Both Caroline and Susan had been seen by

witnesses in the company of strangers just before they disappeared.

Liaison between the Leicestershire force and the officers working on

the Maxwell investigation was immediate and other swift action followed.

Shortly after the discovery of Caroline's body one of the country's most

experienced police officers was appointed to co-ordinate what was now

Britain's biggest ever manhunt.

Hector Clark, who had risen through the ranks to the post of assistant

chief constable of Northumbria, had the reputation of always getting his


At a news conference after his appointment he called the deaths of the

two schoolgirls ''the vicious, nasty, despicable acts of unnecessary

violence against two children incapable of properly protecting


Three years later the Hogg-Maxwell investigation was to be widened

even further. In March 1986 10 year-old Salvation Army choirgirl Sarah

Harper was making her way to her home at Morley near Leeds after going

to a corner shop for a loaf of bread and some crisps.

Like the other girls Sarah never saw her home again. Her body was

found almost four weeks later in the river Trent about 70 miles from the

house. She, too, had been sexually assaulted.

Within days of her body being discovered 15 police forces attended a

Scotland Yard summit into a series of child murders and abductions

including the Maxwell and Hogg cases.

Unable to rule out the possibility of the river death being linked to

these two incidents, officers from the Nottingham force joined what was

to become the largest computerised murder hunt ever in the UK.

In 1987 a Child Murder Bureau was set up and this led to to West

Yorkshire becoming the sixth police force directly involved in the


Already at the disposal of Mr Clark had been computer equipment

installed by Lothians and Borders Police two years earlier. He and his

colleagues now began using a new computer system to crosscheck the

evidence from each inquiry.

Holmes -- Home Office Large Major Enquiry System -- was housed at

police headquarters in Bradford and linked the investigations by the six


With the mountain of paperwork which had gathered since the Maxwell

murder this facility was an invaluable asset for references and cross

references to documents.

By early 1988 in the Caroline and Susan inquiries alone 48,000

vehicles had been traced, 33,000 people interviewed, and 19,000

statements taken.

In the Ripper investigation there had been criticism that officers had

got bogged down in paperwork. The capabilities of Holmes freed

detectives on the child murders inquiry to spend more time on the


At one point in the Hogg murder investigation detectives looked

towards Australia for a possible breakthrough.

A video taken by an Australian tourist while in the Portobello area

was flown to Britain where officers, armed with witnesses accounts of a

figure seen sitting on a sea wall and a description of a man seen with

Caroline, hoped by a stroke of luck that it might have captured a vital


As well as relaying an appeal in buses fitted with audio systems in 14

towns and cities throughout Britain police also sought the help of the

Asian community.

An Asian family had been seen in a swing park near Caroline's home and

announcements were made in the city's Sikh temple and mosque. The

national Urdu and Punjabi newspapers printed in London but circulated

widely throughout the UK were contacted to carry a description of the

family group.

An appeal also went out to people from the West of Scotland who had

spent their holidays in and around the area of Portobello's Fun City at

the time of Caroline's disappearance. As in the Maxwell investigation,

police organised a reconstruction. A policeman's daughter retraced the

girl's known steps.

Detectives also turned for help to the FBI where a team of crime

investigators at their base in Virginia worked on a psychological

profile of Caroline's killer.

Hypnosis, too, was used in the Hogg investigation after a lorry driver

who was returning from holiday with his wife reported that he had almost

collided with a Ford Cortina being driven at speed north of Coldstream

about two hours after Caroline's disappearance.

In a bid to recall the sighting of the car in which he said a girl

answering her description was in the rear seat, the driver volunteered

to undergo hypnosis.

After providing details of the car, experts from Ford travelled to

Edinburgh from Dagenham to help the police identify the model and year

in what was the largest vehicle search ever mounted at the time in the


Within eight weeks of Caroline being found police had logged more than

56,000 entries in its vehicle and nominal index. In the case of Susan

Maxwell the figure had exceeded 200,000.

Despite the countless hours of work put into solving the murders and

the huge manpower employed on the task the investigation drew a blank

although on at least one occasion police believed they were close to

identifying the murderer.

In May 1987 a Northumbria man, questioned for more than two days, was

eliminated and the relentless pursuit was on again.

While the file stayed open and the investigation remained live, its

scale at that point -- a murder squad in excess of 40 detectives -- had

to be, not surprisingly, reduced the following year as lead after lead

went cold.

However Mr Clark, who had made a public appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch

programme, regularly brought together representatives of the forces

involved for conferences and briefings to update progress.

In 1990 they got the breakthrough they were looking for and as in the

Maxwell and Hogg cases the month of July figured prominently.

A six-year-old girl walking to her friend's house in a Borders village

was pulled into a van and sexually assaulted. Her hands had been tied

behind her back, two pieces of plaster were stuck over her face and a

bag had been placed over her head.

Her escape was due to the vigilance of a villager who had spotted her

being bundled into the vehicle. The incident had been over in seconds

but just one glance had been enough for the unemployed potter to note

the registration and alert the police who intercepted the van.

Robert Black was arrested and less than two months later appeared at

the High Court in Edinburgh. He was jailed for life for abduction and

sexual assault.

The packed courtroom listened as Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the Lord

Advocate, accused Black of acting ''with chilling, cold calculation and

cunning with no regard to the little girl or her life.'' The killer of

Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg, and Sarah Jane Harper had shown the same

sickening characteristics. Hector Clark sat only feet from the dock.