Two years on, retired colonel's murder leaves police baffled

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The Independent Online

It was outside the door that Robert "Riley'' Workman, an 83-year-old retired lieutenant colonel, was shot dead at point-blank range with a gun loaded with ammunition normally used to kill deer.

He was murdered at about 8.20pm, but the body of the former antiques dealer lay undiscovered in the doorway until the next morning.

One clue to the possible killer was a 999 call made from a public telephone box in the village of Braughing, three miles from Furneux Pelham, at 4.57am on the morning of the murder asking for an ambulance to be sent to the house. Voice analysis revealed that the caller was almost certainly a local man in his fifties or sixties.

But despite a police investigation which has taken officers around the world, conducting interviews with more than 3,000 people, the question still remains - who murdered the colonel and why?

In one last push to jog people's memories, police officers will be deployed today in Furneux Pelham.

Among the motives being investigated is that the attack was the result of a grudge of a former lover, linked to Mr Workman's secret homosexuality; a burglary gone wrong; and a contract killing connected to his work in the antiques business.

Whatever the reason, the lasting distress caused by the bloody nature of the murder is part of the reason his old house is currently being transformed. Sold about a year ago for £305,000, the two-bedroom listed house is almost unrecognisable from the time of the murder. The porch and hallway where Mr Workman was shot dead have been ripped out, bricked up and replaced with a bathroom.

Danny Cox, a builder working on the house, said: "People still come to see the house and say, 'That's where it happened.' Taking the door out and covering it up seems to be part of rubbing out that memory."

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sparrow does not want to forget what has happened. He is still determined to catch the killer, but time is running out and he admits he is considering closing the case if there is no major breakthrough.

But he insists there are still some interesting active lines of inquiry. He said: "I'm confident once we get the vital piece of information which gives us a motive for Riley's murder, it will lead us directly to the door of those responsible.''

Police are still trying to fill gaps in Mr Workman's life from 1965 to 1975 when it is thought he led a double life - as an officer and an active homosexual.

Det Ch Insp Sparrow said: "He was an 83-year-old man who led an interesting but complex life. It has been difficult to discover every aspect of his life.''

Despite evidence to suggest he was gay, Mr Workman married Gladys Parker in 1968. She died just months before the murder.

One possibly significant development is that a man questioned early in the inquiry and released without charge, is awaiting trial for an unconnected murder.

Back in Furneux Pelham, two inscriptions adorn the tower of the church - one reads "Time flies'' below a picture of the Grim Reaper, while the other says "Mind your business''. These messages appear to have been taken to heart by many of those living in the well-heeled community.

One of Mr Workman's neighbours said: "I have two children and at first I was worried about their safety, but not any more. It's not like the killer is going to come back and shoot someone else.'' These sentiments were also expressed by members of Mr Workman's family in Australia, who said in a statement: "We would like to feel that Riley's home village has hopefully returned to the way it was - a very special part of England that Riley so enjoyed.''