'Linda must still be alive'
In November last year, Glyn Razzell was convicted of killing his wife, Linda. Yet her body was never found - and several witnesses said they had seen her after her disappearance. So was she murdered, or did she simply decide to leave? Bob Woffinden unravels the evidence
Tuesday May 4, 2004
Glyn Razzell may well be the first person in this country to be convicted of murdering someone who isn't dead. A former insurance investment manager in Swindon, he was found guilty last November of the murder of his wife. Yet there are many who believe she is still alive.
Linda Razzell, then 41, officially went missing on Tuesday March 19 2002. A learning support assistant, she left home at 8.40am, parked her car, but never arrived at work.
In such cases, the police have an initial investigative strategy: they check the money. If a woman has disappeared and her savings are untouched, then murder may be suspected.
Linda, however, had seemingly withdrawn cash from three banks or building societies the day before she went missing.
Moreover, her 14-year-old daughter remarked that on the morning of her disappearance her mother had been "in a good mood, more cheerful than usual. Normally, she'd say, 'See you at six', but that day she didn't, which I thought was a bit odd."
However, police found bloodstains that were DNA-matched to Linda in a car that Razzell had used, and he was arrested in May 2002.
Prosecution lawyers believed he had abducted and murdered her as she arrived for work.
Her mobile phone was found in the small roadway she normally walked through. At the trial in Bristol, they described him as "a methodical man who planned everything in advance and was a good chess player". Despite the fact that no body was found and, indeed, there was no information about what had happened to his wife, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Razzell, now 44, met Linda Davies on a train in 1979. He was 20, she was a 19-year-old student reading French. They married in 1984 but the marriage was not a happy one. Linda had mental health problems and never embarked on a career. As Razzell's life became more successful, hers may have seemed more empty.
With four growing children to accommodate, Razzell designed an extension to their home and builders started work. Linda began a relationship with one of them. Belatedly she learned that he had a reputation for bedding other women, but by then the marriage was over.
In August 2000 Razzell moved out.
While Linda started a relationship with Greg Worrall, the husband of one of her friends, Razzell found a new partner in Rachel Smith, a work colleague who was 20 years younger than him. The custody battles became increasingly acrimonious. Linda twice alleged that Razzell had assaulted her; both times he was charged and acquitted.
In 2000, Linda started work part-time at Swindon college. Then, at the end of 2001, Razzell was made redundant by his company, Zurich Financial Services. His maintenance payments to Linda stopped and, on Friday March 15, she got a court order freezing his bank accounts. On Monday he phoned his solicitor, who advised him to get back into court as soon as possible.
Accordingly, he pulled out of a day-trip to France he had planned with friends for the following day. They were going to stock up on wine and cheese, and since Razzell's Ford Galaxy was the largest of their vehicles he agreed to swap it for a friend's silver Renault Laguna. (As these were company cars, there were no insurance problems.) This was to become an immensely significant factor in the case.
At 6.24pm that Tuesday, the Razzells' oldest child telephoned Worrall to say that the two younger children had not been picked up from school.
He rang the police and reported Linda as missing, while the daughter arranged for someone to collect the others.
When they were all at home, the children began texting their mother. One message read: "All we want is for you to come home but if you feel you can't that's fine."
That evening, Razzell met his friends on their return from France. They shared out the wine and took back their own vehicles. Razzell had only had the Renault from Monday afternoon until Tuesday evening.
The next day, police officers spent about 40 minutes searching it.
Nothing of significance was found.
At midday on the Thursday, March 21, the car was taken in for a thorough examination, and retained for four days. Again, nothing was found, nor were there any signs of recent cleaning. But a week later, the police took the vehicle in again.
This time they found the incriminating bloodspots on the underside of the parcel shelf and on the sides of the boot, and faint stains on the top of the rear seats and on the front passenger footmat.
This appeared to be compelling evidence, but how had the spots been missed in previous examinations?
The police said they had used a different technique this time, although this does not satisfactorily explain why the standard techniques had not worked.
Certainly, there was no other evidence - no hairs or fibres, for example, nor were there bloodspots on Razzell's clothing or in his house, nor any signs that he might have washed blood away. (The police removed the waste-traps from his bath and sinks.) Razzell says that on the morning of Linda's disappearance he had gone for a walk.
This became the subject of bitter disagreement with the police.
He told them that he had walked past Westlea police station and "there are CCTV cameras outside, so you will be able to verify what I am saying".
However, the police said the cameras were not working. Razzell, of course, could not possibly have known that. "At trial, I produced photographs showing those cameras outside the police station," says Robbie Ross, Razzell's solicitor. "They were pointing straight at where Razzell would have walked past. I don't think anyone in their right mind would have claimed they'd walked past if they hadn't." What is not disputed is that at 8.24 that morning, Razzell took a call at home on his landline; it was Smith telling him that she had arrived at work.
Linda usually parked her car at about 8.50am in order to reach work at nine.
It would have taken Razzell at least 15 minutes to reach Alvescot Road (where Linda parked her car) so, had he been planning an abduction, he would scarcely have had time to be in position for her arrival.
Nor was there any evidence that Razzell had travelled from his home across town that morning. The tapes of traffic cameras from 25 sites were analysed and Razzell's borrowed car was on none of them.
Nor was there evidence of an abduction in the small roadway.
Linda's abandoned mobile phone may have seemed to suggest otherwise but, had there been a struggle, other items would probably have been dropped.
Also, the phone was not broken or damaged and was under a piece of wood. The first impressions of police who found it were that it had been "placed" there. At that time in the morning, the area is reasonably busy as commuters park their cars, and no one saw anything suspicious.
One witness saw a woman whom she thought was Linda, and described her as "walking fast and looking flustered - I got the impression she was nervous". If this witness was correct, then Linda had by then walked safely through the roadway.
As an insurance manager, Razzell would have understood perfectly that he would not benefit financially from his wife's death.
Moreover, if he had been as scheming and methodical as the prosecution asserted, and if he had planned an abduction and murder, he would have abandoned the idea as soon as he had to swap vehicles.
After all, any of Linda's DNA in his own car would have been evidentially valueless, she had been in it so often.
Nor did Razzell have the opportunity to dispose of a body. "We accounted for every mile that the Laguna was driven," says Ross. "He was also constrained by time - we know exactly where he was at certain times."
But could Linda have arranged her own disappearance to escape besetting problems?
There were certainly signs that something strange may have been going on. She actually had two mobiles. The second was only used to contact the children. That Tuesday, she left it at home. She also left behind her college identity badge. On the calendar at home, there was a question mark against the 19th, the day of the disappearance. The previous day in Swindon town centre, when she visited the three banks, she had a list of things she needed to do. One item on the list was "collect travel tickets". This issue was not pursued at trial. In this astonishing case, it may not even be true to assert that Linda did disappear on the 19th.
She was seen the following day by a woman who knew her well. "I saw her most days", explained the witness, "usually to just say hello but sometimes we had a longer chat." She says that on Wednesday, at 11.15am (she could be certain of the time because of her work schedule), she saw a silver Ford Fiesta. "I thought, 'Oh, it's Linda, good for her, she's got a new car'. I made eye contact, she didn't need to turn her head to see me. I thought that she looked cross and wasn't happy to see me. Even knowing what I know now, I am sure it was Linda."
The prosecution maintained that the witness was mistaken.
Five other sightings of Linda either at Weston-super-Mare or Pendine Sands in south Wales are particularly important. "There were six eyewitnesses, all of whom thought they had seen her and contacted police as a result," says Ross. "The Crown couldn't knock them. None had an axe to grind, they were all very, very credible." Wiltshire police says: "The judicial process ran its full course and the jury reached its verdict."
It might seem almost impossible to believe that a mother would abandon her four children.
However, Vicky George, Razzell's sister, believes Linda was finding it hard to cope and could have walked out. "Linda lost her own mother when she was just eight, and was brought up by relatives," she says, "and I know from conversations she had with my mother that she didn't believe it unusual for children to be brought up by other relatives. It may seem a bit odd, but that's the way she thought."
Despite the Big Brother aspects of daily life, disappearing is much easier than it seems. (There were about a million people unaccounted for in the last census.)
A fluent French speaker, Linda could have ordered a new passport in her maiden name and slipped out of the country. Amazingly, the police couldn't check whether she had flown out of the country: getting such information out of the major airlines was, apparently, "not a viable proposition".
Moreover, the checks that were made were for Linda Razzell, but her maiden name was Davies - a name so common that standard checks are futile. For example, when police did try to check her maiden name with the utility companies, NPower responded that it had 1,200 LJ Davies's on its database.
It is, of course, even easier to disappear if no one is looking for you because there is a presumption that you have been murdered. "I believe my 'sightings' witnesses," says Ross, "therefore Linda must still be alive. It's easy to disappear, and I think she is still in this country. She may well have had a breakdown. I think an injustice has been done."
Regina v Glynn Razzell