I was browsing some unsolved murders like I sometimes do when I have a spare half hour and read about the unsolved murder of Vera Holland. I started writing the article and assumed it was going to be a short one until I found out about a suspected serial killer named Christopher Halliwell who could potentially be responsible for the death of not only Holland but an array of missing women in and around the area over the years since the eighties.
I was actually pretty shocked at the amount of missing woman and unsolved murders of women there were and Halliwell is a real piece of work. I would like to flesh out the details and go all in with these cases at a later date- so expect this post to get an overhaul in the near future.
On the 16th of November 1996, the body of a murdered woman, later identified as 47 year old Shinfield Rise resident Vera Holland, was found burning in a mound of illegally dumped waste which had been set ablaze by her killer.
Firefighters recovered her remains as they battled the fire at a fly tip known to locals as “two bridges”, just off the A327 motorway- a stones-throw away from the victim’s home. It was later revealed that she had been asphyxiated.
Holland had been missing since the 14th November 1996 after she went out with the intention of picking up take-out food from KFC. Her husband reported her missing when she failed to return, and was later informed of the devastating news.
The crime still remains unsolved 20 years later.
With no suspects or persons of interest, attention turned to a remorseless, suspected serial killer and former taxi driver, Christopher Halliwell, who is currently spending life in prison for the murders of 20 year old Becky Godden in Swindon in 2003 and 22 year old Sian O’Callaghan in Wiltshire in 2011.
Both the locations of the bodies of Godden and O’Callaghan were under a 50 minute drive from Shinfield and there is an eight year gap between the two murders. Both victims had also been strangled.
In fact, there is a string of missing people’s cases and unsolved murders in the south-west of England from 1995 onwards that could possibly be the handy work of Christopher Halliwell.
Officer Steve Fulcher (who lost his position while working on the case due to gross misconduct) highlighted what he considered an important detail: Three women went missing or were possibly murdered in the south-west on the same date, March 19th, of different years- Sian O’Callaghan (A confirmed victim) Linda Razzell (although her husband was arrested) and yet another missing woman, Claudia Lawrence (also unsolved). He expressed his disappointment with the local police for not further exploring the connection after he was relieved from his position.
This article in the Sun newspaper contains a statement made a friend of the killers ex-wife stating "The date was “special” to the killer, 52, as it was the one on which he was dumped by a girlfriend in the Eighties."
(Pic source: dailymail)
According to an article in the Guardian from this year, Halliwell was inquiring how many victims it would take to be officially classed as a serial killer while he was incarcerated for an unrelated crime. An old cell mate of Halliwell's, an armed robber by the name of Ernest Springer, told interviewers that the suspected serial killer would constantly talk about serial killers and was particularly interested in Myra Hindley, whom was something of an idol to him. The twisted taxi driver’s internet search history exposed an interest in an array of exploitative pornography.
Investigators do not believe that Callaghan and Godden were Halliwell’s first victims, and believe that there are probably more unsolved murders of woman that could be the work of Halliwell- including Linda Razzell whose remains were found in Swindon in 2002. He is not as of yet forensically tied to any of the cases but they say that does not rule him out as the potential perpetrator.
A woman named Sally Ann John, who went missing in Swindon in 1995, and lived very close to Halliwell at the time, is also thought of as a possible potential victim. She worked as a call girl, and Halliwell was known for requiring the services of those working in the sex industry and would cruise around the red light district in his taxi (a green Toyota Avensis )- which is where he met Godden. [X]
Halliwell also had a collection of pencil drawings in his home, with rural or isolated locations as the subject. These were thought to be indications of the burial sites of other victims.[X]
If you have any information of the murder of Vera Holland, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant authorities.