Leading investigative journalist Bob Woffinden examines the bizarre case of a man sentenced to life for a murder that never happened
This murder case is so implausible that, had it been suggested as a television crime drama, it would never have got made.
Glyn Razzell met Linda Davies on a train in 1979, when he was embarking on a career in insurance and she was reading French at Reading University. They were married, lived just outside Swindon and had four children.
Their marital difficulties began in 1998. Needing to accommodate their growing family, Razzell designed an extension to their home and builders came in to do the work. Linda, who had suffered recurring mental health problems, embarked on a torrid affair with one of them. According to one of her friends, “She had sex with him in the house, she would go upstairs with him while the children were downstairs … she was crazy about him”.
Glyn found out and moved out. He formed a new relationship; Linda, the builder having soon tired of her, also found a new partner. Their divorce arrangements became bitter and protracted. Linda twice made allegations that Glyn had physically assaulted her. These led to criminal charges, though each time the jury acquitted Glyn.
On Friday 15 March 2002 Linda, who by now worked as a student support assistant at Swindon College, went to court and got an order freezing all of Glyn’s finances. Glyn couldn’t contact his solicitor over the weekend but on Monday morning he was advised to be ready to get back into court at a moment’s notice. So Glyn had to pull out of a day trip to France planned for the following day; a few friends were going to stock up on wine and cheese. As Glyn’s people-carrier was the most spacious of their vehicles, he agreed to exchange cars just for 24 hours.
That day, Tuesday 19 March, Linda dropped off the children at school and then went missing. About 16 hours later, just after one o’clock in the morning, Wiltshire police knocked up Razzell to ask him a few questions. They also searched his car, which had just been returned to him. He helpfully told the officers that he’d been using a different car, his friend’s Renault Laguna, during the day.
So the next afternoon, the police searched the Laguna. They didn’t find anything suspicious.
With Linda still missing, they then took the Laguna into police garages and kept it for four days while they carried out a thorough examination. Again, there was no evidence whatever to connect that car with Linda’s disappearance.
The Laguna was returned to its owner in a filthy condition with, for example, fingerprint powder everywhere. The owner cleaned it thoroughly inside and out. A week later, the police took the car in again. Now, they immediately found spots of blood that DNA testing subsequently showed to be Linda’s. Glyn was charged with her murder. At Bristol Crown Court in November 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Yet there was no evidence that Glyn – or indeed anyone – had abducted Linda. He took a telephone call at home at 8.24; Linda would have needed to park her car for work at about 8.45. It would have taken him about 15 minutes to reach that part of Swindon from his home. Had he been planning anything, then he would not still have been at home to take that call.
In any case, we know that he hadn’t driven to the theoretical abduction site. The police examined traffic cameras at 25 sites to find evidence of his drive across town; but Glyn’s car (the one he was borrowing) wasn’t on any of them.
That morning, he had walked through the local park. He quickly realised that he could prove the alibi.
“Look”, he told police, “on my walk I went past Westlea police station. There are CCTV cameras outside, so you will be able to verify what I am saying”.
The police responded that the cameras outside the station were not working. Razzell, of course, cannot possibly have known that.
At trial, the prosecution described Glyn as “a methodical man who planned everything in advance”. If that was true, then he obviously did not commit this crime. He would have abandoned any abduction-and-murder plan as soon as he had to switch cars at less than 24 hours’ notice. Any forensic traces of Linda in his own car could have been easily explained; any traces of her in someone else’s certainly couldn’t have been.
In fact, although Glyn has been convicted of Linda’s murder, there is no evidence at all that she is dead. Moreover, he can only have carried out the crime on 19 March; and she was seen alive the next day.
The witness knew her well and waved. “She didn’t wave back”, she said, “and I thought she looked cross and wasn’t happy to see me.
“Even knowing what I know now, I am sure it was Linda.”
Wiltshire police examined about 200 sites in an exhaustive search for a body; they did very little to ascertain whether Linda had disappeared of her own volition. Yet there are clear indications that Linda may have been about to fake a disappearance. She did have problems: she had defaulted on her mortgage repayments; and she also had emotional difficulties at work. One internal e-mail makes it clear that her position as a member of the student support staff had become anomalous, since it was she who appeared to need support from the students.
On the kitchen calendar at home, there was a question-mark against the very date, the 19th, on which she disappeared. She had to wear a college identity badge to work; that day, she left it at home. She actually had two mobile phones, one of which was an emergency number, reserved solely for contact with the children. She left that at home, too. She had drawn up a to-do list for a trip the previous day to the town centre. One of the items on this list was: ‘Collect travel tickets’. During that visit to the town centre, she went to three banks.
No one has ever been able to explain how those original police searches of the car could have missed the bloodspots – and these were visible-to-the-naked-eye bloodspots – unless, of course, the answer is that they hadn’t been there then.
The Nicci French crime novel, Secret Smile (which became a television drama starring Kate Ashfield and David Tennant) may well have been suggested by this case. The story (by the successful writing partnership of Sean French and Nicci Gerrard) concerned a woman faking her own disappearance in order to gain revenge on her partner and, indeed, send him to prison for life for her murder – a murder that never happened.
Of course, the authors made sure that their fictional scenario had substantially more credibility than the real-life case put forward by the Crown Prosecution Service at Bristol Crown Court.
* Bob Woffinden has taken up and helped to rectify a number of high-profile cases of miscarriage of justice and has written books on miscarriages of justice and the case of James Hanratty, whose innocence he still hopes, one day, to be able to prove.
Unfortunately, neither Bob Woffinden nor Inside Time are able to enter into any individual correspondence regarding this column.