Published: 12:11, 29 December 2011
by Joe Walker
Police have launched a fresh appeal into the unsolved murder of a woman killed at Christmas 20 years ago.
Brenda Long, 41, was found dead in her bath in Cromwell Road, Whitstable, on December 28, 1991 – eight months after her lover died in her arms after he was gunned down on their doorstep.
investigating officer's plea for information
the lead detective into both murders said it would give him "immense satisfaction" if the killers were caught.
nick biddiss, right, who retired as a detective superintendent in 1998, led the hunt for the gunmen in alan leppard's murder and developed a close bond with brenda long.
he also spearheaded the investigation into brenda's murder, describing it as a "unique situation" for an officer to know the victim.
he said: "she was a very likeable, affable, popular person. she didn't have an evil bone in her body.
"there was no reason to suggest they were involved in any criminality whatsoever. they were tragic victims. it's a mystery. we don't know why two men came to monkton and blasted away her other half.
"her death was initially thought to be suicide, but after the post mortem it was quite clear it was murder and she had died as a result of a third party."
mr biddiss says he hopes someone with information is now willing to come forward.
he said: "someone has spoken about this. someone knows what happened or was involved and we're hoping they can come forward with that little nugget.
"the reason i became a police officer was to bring people to justice. it would give me immense satisfaction if the people responsible for these murders are caught and the cases solved."
Police initially thought she had committed suicide, but tests later revealed she had been knocked out with a pad of ether and drowned.
The murder followed the fatal shooting of Brenda's partner, Alan Leppard. He died in his lover's arm after he was blasted in the chest with a 12-bore shotgun in the village of Monkton on Easter Bank Holiday.
There was no apparent motive for the suspected contract killing and the couple had no criminal ties, leaving officers describing it as a mystery.
Two men were seen leaving the scene in a distinctive Cadillac-style car and a huge Crimewatch appeal sparked 950 calls from the public, but the gunmen were never traced.
It would turn out to be the first twist in a tale of two murders, as eight months later Brenda was found dead in the bath of her home in Cromwell Road, Whitstable.
She had moved to the seaside town – where the couple had met while working at P&B Metal Components – in the August following Alan’s murder.
On December 28, she was found dead in the bath. A suicide note was by her body and an empty pot of pills was floating in the water.
It was initially thought she had committed suicide but the expertise and keen nose of pathologist Dr Alexander Gibson revealed otherwise.
At the post mortem he noticed a strange chemical smell, which tests would later show was diethal ether – a toxic substance which causes someone to black out when inhaled.
He also found bruising on either side of her nose, in keeping with the theory a pad soaked in ether had been held over her face.
He added if that she had taken her own life the pad would have been found at the scene.
He said: "Someone applied the ether to her face by means of a pad without consent. She had been drinking and it is likely that she lost consciousness very quickly, possibly in just a few seconds, when the ether was administered.
"This was a deliberate and violent assault."
Tests showed she had drowned after being knocked out by the ether, leading coroner Richard Sturt to pass a verdict of unlawful killing in what he described as "one of the strangest and most disturbing cases I have dealt with for some time".
Mr Hibbert – who had been in a relationship with Brenda for 12 years before she met Alan – had been the last person to see her alive, on Boxing Day.
Speaking at the inquest, he denied killing her or helping her with a suicide attempt.