Police reopen inquiries into string of sex crimes as pensioner is jailed for murdering boy in 1968

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The Independent Online

A pensioner thought to be one of Britain's most dangerous paedophiles was jailed for life yesterday after pleading guilty to murdering a schoolboy 33 years ago.

After the conviction of Brian Field, 65, the police plan to re-examine dozens of cases of missing children and unsolved sex attacks.

Field, a former farm labourer from Solihull, near Birmingham, admitted at the Old Bailey yesterday that he abducted, raped and strangled Roy Tutill, 14, in 1968. The boy had been hitchhiking home from school in Surrey so he could save his bus fare towards a new bicycle.

Field, a loner with a series of previous convictions for attacking boys, is believed to have been one of Britain's most active paedophiles. He was only caught after being stopped by police for drink-driving and his DNA was put on file, allowing detectives reviewing the Tutill case to link him to the murder.

Sentencing Field, Judge Gordon said: "Advances in modern science techniques have led to your conviction, and stand as a warning that there are few, if any, hiding places for sexual and violent criminals from modern techniques."

The conviction has led West Midlands Police to reopen an inquiry into the death of 15-year-old Mark Billington, who was found hanged from a tree seven miles from his home in Meriden, near Solihull, in 1984. His parents have always maintained that he was murdered. Detectives are also examining the disappearances of David Spencer, 13, and Patrick Warren, 11, who were last seen in Chelmsley Wood, near Field's home, on Boxing Day 1996. It had been thought that they had run away.

Roy Tutill went missing shortly after leaving school on 23 April 1968 at 3.30pm. He boarded a bus with friends for the start of his 15-mile journey home, but got off to hitchhike. He was last seen trying to get a ride at Chessington, close to his home in the village of Brockham Green, near Dorking. His body was discovered nearby in a copse at Mickleham, Surrey, three days later.

Some 2,000 witness statements were taken and a number of suspects interviewed in an extensive murder hunt, but it seemed the case would remain unsolved. Roy's father died two years after the murder, and his mother died in 1996.

In 1991, Roy's clothes were tested by forensic scientists but it was not until earlier this year that advanced techniques produced a DNA sample.

Field was arrested on 22 February this year after the routine sample he provided in 1999 for a drink-driving offence was fed into the national DNA database and found to match the sample taken from Roy's clothing. After his arrest, Field confessed to killing Roy with a rope and keeping the body in the boot of his car, a white Mini, before dumping it.

Roy's aunt, Monique Guerin, said: "Justice has been done at last. It is a shame Roy's parents had to go to their graves not knowing justice has been done."

Detectives are waiting to interview Field about what are thought to be scores of unsolved cases involving sex attacks and dozens of children who went missing.

Field, who travelled the country as an agricultural machinery mechanic, was interviewed about Roy's murder in 1972 but could not be linked to the crime. In the same year he was jailed in Aberdeenshire for attacking a 14-year-old boy and indecently assaulting him.

After Field's marriage failed a few years later, he moved to Birmingham. In 1986, he was jailed for four years for abducting two boys aged 13 and 16.

Field was questioned by police this year about two unsolved crimes – an assault on a seven-year-old boy on the M4 in 1998 and an attempted assault on a 14-year-old boy in Surrey in 1999.

Det Ch Supt David Cook said: "When you take into account his previous criminal history, it leaves you in no doubt what a danger he poses ... It gives me a great sense of relief to know that Field will never be released and, because of his age, will surely die in prison."