Student arrested after lecturer found stabbed

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The Independent Online
POLICE HAVE launched a murder inquiry after an Open University lecturer was found stabbed to death in a bedroom at York


The body of Dr Elizabeth Howe, 34, was discovered early on Saturday evening in the university's Wentworth College only hours after she arrived to teach a summer school course.

An Open University student, who also arrived on Saturday, was arrested in the early hours of yesterday and taken for questioning at York police station.

Dr Howe's first book, The First English Actresses, which focuses on the debauched behaviour of chauvinist playwrights and aristocrats towards women acting in Restoration plays, was published earlier this summer.

Dr Howe was married, with two daughters aged four and six, and lived in Oxford. She was a graduate of Oxford University.

Roger Day, director of her course, said: 'She was a sweet woman, modest and capable. All of us on the course and at the summer school are greatly shocked and saddened.'

Dr Howe had been teaching Open University arts foundation and Shakespeare courses in the Oxford area for several years.

Her husband, Jeremy, travelled from their home yesterday to identify the body. Detective Superintendent Ian Peacock, who is leading the investigation, said: 'All the signs are at the moment that this is a two-person incident confined to the university itself.'

Police have not yet found the murder weapon and are looking for a six-inch knife, possibly with a single-sided blade.

Les Holloway, a spokesman for the Open University, said: 'Dr Howe arrived on Saturday morning but failed to turn up for an afternoon briefing meeting.'

He said 800 students and 100 tutors had arrived for the York summer school. The Open University is holding 13 such summer courses around the country for a total of 41,000 students.

The university caters for mature students, many of whom are making up for not having gone

on to further education in their teens.

Roger McMeeking, York University's Bursar, said there was a total of 2,000 students and delegates on campus and that the university was careful about security.

Dr Howe's book was said by a colleague to have 'filled an important gap in our knowledge of the Restoration period'.

It argues that when women first appeared on stage during the Restoration, playwrights often deliberately wrote debauched scenes requiring actresses to simulate being raped or act in a state of semi- undress.

Some performers such as Elizabeth Barry and Nell Gwyn acquired reputations as women of easy virtue. This often attracted the attentions of aristocrats with ulterior motives.

Dr Howe argued that despite these attempts to exploit them, the actresses managed to exert their own influence and helped to inspire some, such as Congreve, Etherege and Vanbrugh, to write more honest plays about the antagonism between the sexes.

(Photograph omitted)