On the 16th of January 1967, a man by the name of Mr. Frederick Burggy made a grisly discovery behind a hedge in Tattingstone, Suffolk, just 200 yards away from the nearby A137.
Burggy, a farm worker from Folly farm (some reports state “willows Grove”) Bentley, Ipswich, discovered two suitcases in the grass while harrowing the field on his tractor. At first he passed them by thinking nothing of it, possibly grumbling about how people always discarded their trash there, but the second time he passed them, curiosity got the better of him and he got down to take a look.
Inside the cases were the decapitated remains of a partially clothed teenage boy split between the two.
The boy was estimated to be between ages of 15 – 20 and was thought to have been killed around two days before he was found. It was determined that he had died of asphyxiation as a result of strangulation (articles do not state if the strangulation was ligature or manual). The boy was also found to have been sexually assaulted.
Many years later in an interview with the Ipswich Star, Oliver’s younger brother had this to say:
“Bernard’s nails were manicured and he had a ten Guinea haircut. Obviously he had been looked after by whoever he was with. The police didn’t find his trousers, shoes, or underwear. All they found was his sports jacket in two suitcases. There’s just so many things that seemed wrong. I always believed Bernard was set up (to be killed).”
After having no luck in identifying the John Doe, police took a step unusual in England and released an image of the teenagers severed head to the media in an attempt to identify him.
He was eventually identified as missing 17 year old Bernard Michael Oliver, who had neglected to return to his Muswell hill home in North London after going out with friends ten days earlier on the 6th.
The boy was employed as a warehouse worker at a factory in Crouch end.
Oliver’s killer was never caught and who did this to him and why remains a mystery to this day, but what information do we have to go on?
Let’s look at the suitcases first.
As you can see in this photograph from the ITV website, the initials “P.V.A” are painted on the side of the case. What does PVA mean in this instance? Are they initials?
In this photograph of the suitcases from the Suffolk Police website we can see 3 suitcases (why 3 am I being dumb here? is one of them stripped or something?).
One of them clearly has “P.V.A” painted on it and all of them look pretty flimsy.
Next there’s the matter of a small towel that was found in one of the cases along with parts of Bernard Oliver’s body. There was a laundry mark on the tag that read “QL42”.
A laundry mark (as I’m sure you know, but anyways) is just an identifying mark to link the possession back to the owner when they send their clothing to be cleaned. As an investigator you could visit Laundromats in the area at the time of the crime and ask to see their records and maybe obtain some more information (a name, address, description of the customer etc.) from there in order to move on, or in the case of a ship or whatever (there’s a dock in Ipswich not so far from the crime scene) board whatever vessels landed that day and search the register for any crew onboard with whatever initials were written on the tag (in this case QL maybe?)
So for example if you find a Quentin Lennon on board the towel probably belonged to him, and was either borrowed or stolen from him or he’s suspect no.1 (or could at least provide the next clue in cracking the case.)
This website explains it very well.
This goes in depth about old techniques used by police in US around the late fifties. Pretty interesting if you have a spare 20 minutes. This is worth a read too.
(US air force manual)
The above example of a laundry code from a US air force website it uses the first letter of the surname and the last four letters of their social security number as an identification.
So the “QL 42” and “P.V.A” are the best physical pieces of evidence left at the scene that we have to go on for this case really. But what do they stand for?
One more thing that was found was a box of matches described as “marketed in Israel” but I couldn’t find an image or a brand name. Maybe police were withholding that information in case anyone came forward to claim responsibility?
So what about witnesses and sightings?
Did anyone see Bernard Oliver between the 6th and 16th of January 1967?
Well apparently “some people” did see him around the area he lived in, and also in Tattingstone. One witness said he saw a man wearing latex gloves as he walked by the docks in Ipswich. A woman said she saw a man walking alone in the direction of the discovery site on the night Oliver’s remains were found. She said he was clad in a trilby and a long trench coat and that he even had a suitcase in his hand.
Strangely, concerning the witness who saw a man oddly wearing latex medical gloves by the docks, two of the main suspects in the case were actually doctors (namely Martin Reddington and John Byles) with a history of abuse.
It turned out that Reddington even owned a practice in the area that the victim was from and he even relocated multiple times to escape warrants out for his arrest. It turned out that Reddington couldn’t stop committing crimes against young males either and was even arrested on similar charges in the country he fled to.
Byles also couldn’t keep his nose clean and eventually committed suicide, unable to live with the things he had done. The notes he left behind in the hotel room where he killed himself were general and did not take responsibility for any specific crime but apologized for "what he had done".
Yet another suspect (Producer and song writer Joe Meek) committed suicide with a shotgun(less than a month after the suitcases were found) and it is thought that he was a previous employer of Brian Oliver, although I don’t think it’s been confirmed. He killed his land lady before killing himself.
Apparently the date was significant because he was obsessed with Buddy Holly (who died on the 3rd of February in 1959)
Notorious London gangster Reggie Kray also made the list of suspects, but never specifically admitted to killing Bernard Oliver.
So who really killed the teenage boy and why?
The case remains unsolved.