Man held over murder of Hilda Murrell in 1984

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The Independent Online

A man suspected of murdering the elderly peace campaigner Hilda Murrell almost 20 years ago was arrested yesterday.

A spokesman for the West Mercia Constabulary said that the arrest was part of an investigation spanning nearly two decades, including a fresh "cold case review", which began last year. The murder of a spinster best known for prize-winning displays at flower shows has also been the subject of television documentaries, books and plays.

Ms Murrell was 78 when she was found dead in March 1984 in a coppice at Hunkington, Shropshire, six miles from Shrewsbury, where she lived alone. She had disappeared a few days previously.

Her death mystified the police, who decided that she had been a victim of a bungled burglary. However, the circumstances surrounding her death led to speculation that she may have been killed by the security services because she was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and in protests against nuclear power. She had been expected to give evidence at the public inquiry into the proposed Sizewell B nuclear reactor in Suffolk.

Ms Murrell was partly clothed and her body showed signs of being battered. She had been repeatedly stabbed but a pathologist concluded that she had died from hypothermia. At the time of her murder, her house had been broken into and it was suggested that intruders may have been looking for classified information that her nephew, a naval intelligence officer during the Falklands War, may have left there.

Ms Murrell was the aunt of Commander Robert Green, who passed on the order for the sinking of the Belgrano in May 1982, and there were suggestions she might have hidden documents for him. He claimed she had been killed on the orders of organisations connected with the nuclear industry.

However, the Labour MP Tam Dalyell claimed that she had been killed by "men of British intelligence" looking for documents on the Belgrano.

The murder investigation is being led by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Brunger, who said that relatives of Ms Murrell had been kept fully informed of the developments.

Police investigating the incident in 1984 and again in 1994 ruled out any security service involvement in the murder and said they were convinced Ms Murrell was killed after disturbing an intruder at home.

When the review of the evidence began last year, it was hoped that fresh forensic analysis of material found on Ms Murrell's clothes, plus fingerprints and casts of a footprint, would lead to the killer.