Humberside Police can today reveal they have identified Melvyn Christopher READ as the killer of nine-year-old Hull schoolboy, Christopher LAVERACK.
Many local people will remember the tragic events of March 9 to 11 1984.
During the evening of Friday March 9, Christopher had been left alone to babysit at a house in Harpham Grove, Hull. He went missing from the house and his body was found two days later in Beverley Beck.
Christopher had sustained savage injuries. His clothing had been disturbed giving rise to the possibility that he might have been sexually assaulted and his body had been placed inside a plastic carpet underlay bag weighted down by an ornamental brick.
Despite the considerable efforts of the original investigation team, Christopher’s killer eluded justice.
In March 2002, Christopher LAVERACK’s uncle, Melvyn Christopher READ, was arrested for sexually assaulting four young boys who were known to him. These events took place after Christopher’s murder but in some cases occurred as far back as the mid 1980s. Humberside Police conducted a major investigation into READ’s offending and in April 2003, he was given a seven and a half year prison sentence. On 25 February 2008, READ died whilst still serving his sentence.
Melvyn READ’s offending and conviction caused Humberside Police to reassess him in the context of his nephew, Christopher LAVERACK’s murder. It was quickly recognised that in 1984 he lived in Grantley Grove, Hull, just a 10 minute walk from Harpham Grove. Amongst other evidence, READ owned a car that fitted the description of a vehicle seen outside Harpham Grove the night Christopher disappeared. READ did not have a meaningful alibi for the night in question, he had previous knowledge of the body deposition site at Beverly Beck having worked at a factory on the Beck side and importantly, when interviewed by the police in 2002, was shown to have lied about issues pivotal to the case.
The case initially frustrated detectives, Read was a clear suspect having now been identified as a predatory paedophile and although the case was tantalisingly close to being solved there lacked the final piece of a very complex jigsaw. By 2003, Humberside Police believed they had a developing case against READ, he had the means and motive to commit the crime and his conviction showed that he had a propensity to harm young and adolescent boys.
Under successive Senior Investigating Officers advances in forensic investigative techniques were applied to the LAVERACK case, including the recovery of historical DNA evidence, all to no avail.
In 2007, SIO Detective Superintendent Ray HIGGINS instigated a full, detailed and comprehensive review of the forensic evidence. As part of this review Det Supt HIGGINS asked eminent Palynologist Dr Patricia WILTSHIRE to ascertain whether her specific niche scientific discipline could add anything to the forensic investigation. Dr WILTSHIRE’S work had previously made meaningful contributions to a number of high profile criminal cases.
In layman’s terms, Dr WILTSHIRE concluded there was enough unusual pollen and other plant matter on the clothing Christopher had been wearing that night to link him with the garden at Grantley Grove, Melvyn READ’s house. As importantly, the brick found with Christopher’s body could also be forensically linked to Melvyn READ’S garden. This was particularly important for the investigation team, firstly because it appeared the brick had been part of a water feature in READ’s garden, something that READ had lied about to the police and secondly because, for the first time it gave the investigation team some tangible scientific evidence to link READ to Christopher’s murder.
At the conclusion of Dr WILTSHIRE’s work in 2011, it was apparent that an already good circumstantial and bad character case against READ had now a third strand added to it. There was now scientific evidence to show that Christopher had been in close contact with Melvyn READ’S garden the night he went missing, it also underlined the fact that the brick found with Christopher came from READ’s garden.
In early 2012 Humberside Police sought an independent assessment of the strength of the case against Melvyn READ. In simple terms QC Paul WATSON was asked to decide whether, had READ been alive, there would have been enough evidence to charge him with Christopher’s murder and if so would there have been a realistic chance of a conviction in court.
In May 2012, QC Paul WATSON provided Humberside Police with a detailed and incisive written review of the case against READ. QC WATSON described the weight of evidence against Melvyn READ as “conclusive”.
Humberside Police have been in close contact with Christopher’s mother, who has expressed her relief that some unanswered questions have now been answered, not least the identity of the person who killed her son. Christopher’s mother still finds the subject of her young son’s tragic murder too painful to talk about in public. Humberside Police request that her privacy is respected at this time.
Det Supt Ray Higgins said: “This has been a very complex case to solve but there can be little more important to relentlessly pursue than the murder of a child.
“Melvyn Read died in prison convicted of a number of serious child sex abuse offences. None of that sexual offending was known to the investigation team in the years immediately following the murder. Had Read not died in prison he would have been arrested for this murder following his release.
“Read was an evil man and a man wholly without remorse. I am satisfied that Christopher’s family can have some sense of closure and understanding of what happened.
“This case has taken many years to resolve. We would all wish the evidence to convict were available sooner and whilst Read was still alive to face trial, however that was not to be. The few officers still working on this case, between their other duties, have been determined to do all possible to solve the case and have simply refused to give up.”