Orders of the Day — Miss Hilda Murrell

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:35 am on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Derek Conway Derek Conway , Shrewsbury and Atcham 1:35 am, 26th June 1985

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for agreeing that I should take part in this debate on a tragic subject. The tragic death of Miss Hilda Murrell on Shrewsbury on 24 March 1984 has been turned by the media not merely into a tragic event but into an establishment scandal. Smoke is easy to blow around, but many people in Shrewsbury are reaching the stage when they would like to see a little more body to the accusations that are constantly being levelled at the conduct of the inquiry carried out by the West Mercia police in my area. They allocated more than 100 officers to this serious investigation and even at this late stage 19 officers continue to work on it full time. If there was an establishment cover-up, the West Mercia police would certainly not still be undertaking such a massive investigation.

There was considerable pressure because of the hon. Gentleman's questions, which he was right to raise in the House. As a result of the considerable pressure from the media, Mr. Peter Smith, an assistant chief constable from Northumbria, was appointed to conduct an outside review of the conduct of the case. When my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies, he may well go into the details of that report and, therefore, I shall not take up the time of the House in doing so. It is known that Mr. Smith was asked to carry out an independent review into the conduct of the West Mercia police inquiry and to assess the use of technical and scientific equipment, and the theories and speculation.

There has been no substantiation to the theories and speculation. They make good copy in the newspapers, and might make good reading in a book or two. However, the fact remains that the murderer of Miss Hilda Murrell still goes free. I care not whether the murderer was a by-chance burglar, a secret service agent or whoever. We want to see Miss Murrell's assassin brought to justice. I doubt whether that will be aided by the publication of Mr. Smith's report on the conduct of the inquiry. My hon. Friend may say whether the publication of the report, as requested by the hon. Gentleman, at this stage in the continuing investigation will jeopardise the character and quality of the evidence before it is tested in court. I cannot say because I am not a lawyer. But we know that the full publication of that report would be widely reported in the media and, therefore, could be easily read and assessed by Miss Murrell's murderer.

A considerable amount of effort has been made to link the murder to the secret service and great things have been said of the telephone. I am happy to accept that the hon. Gentleman may have spoken to a neighbour about the telephone, but I have spoken to British Telecom engineers and they tell me that a disconnection may appear a professional job or, as some would like to insinuate, a secret service job, but that need not necessarily be the case. The disconnection of a telephone is not a unique act in the committing of a crime. Apparently, if a telephone wire is yanked from its socket, it is done by means of the sheath, within which are contained the connecting wires. It is not unkown for those British Telecom engineers to see that at a burglary. The sheath is pulled. One wire remains connected and the other does not. An amateur, a neighbour or anyone interested in fuelling speculation about the secret service might like to read into that some James Bond technique, but it is not unique and can be easily and accidentally done.

I can draw no conclusions from that act, which is given a great deal of credence, and it is not proof that anything has been done by the British security agencies. It is without doubt that not all murders are solved, but the solution of many may be hindered. I respect the determination of the hon. Member for Linlithgow to bring before the nation the details of that murder and its inquiry. He has claimed in the House and on the media that he has information which associates the British secret service with the murder. I should not suggest to such a distinguished Member that he put up or shut up. I should never seek to limit free speech, but it is time that the hon. Gentleman put up the information that he has that can bring to justice the murderer of my late constituent Miss Murrell.