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Unsolved murder of Glenda Potter found in Rochester churchyard still mystery after 30 years

For three decades a killer has walked free.

No suspects have ever been charged for the murder of Glenda Potter who was found dumped half naked in a churchyard in Rochester exactly 30 years ago today.

Nobody has ever been caught for the murder of Glenda Potter
Nobody has ever been caught for the murder of Glenda Potter

The case has baffled detectives since the start of the investigation on May 14, 1991, and it remains an open file for the cold case team at Kent Police.

But while it is classed as an active investigation, a lack of evidence or new information is likely to leave the case unsolved forever.

Police continue to appeal for anyone to help inquiries and hope the vital line of inquiry will aid them in cracking what happened to 32-year-old Glenda and who did it.

On the 30th anniversary of the mother-of-four's death the likelihood of finding out the truth behind her murder is as elusive as it ever has been.

Glenda was found in the grounds of the Vines Church – then the United Reform Church – in Crow Lane, Rochester.

The scene where murdered Glenda Potter was found in the churchyard at Crow Lane, Rochester on May 14, 1991
The scene where murdered Glenda Potter was found in the churchyard at Crow Lane, Rochester on May 14, 1991

She had been sexually assaulted and strangled and her clothing removed from the waist down.

She was working as a prostitute at the time of her murder making her an extremely vulnerable person.

Sadly, it was this fact of how she earned her living which made the case particularly difficult to investigate.

As police commander for north Kent at the time, Ken Tappenden, recalled in 2010 it was a frustrating case with very few leads from the outset.

"The main difficulties were that the girls did not want to talk and Glenda was a bit of a loner," he said.

"They all knew her but didn't want to tell you too much, they all clam up, it is the same with the men who use them, it's like a cloud over the top of everything."

The investigation did not have the benefit of the wide network of CCTV cameras and surveillance footage now at the disposal of law enforcement.

Glenda's body, covered by a blanket, is taken away from the United Reform Church in Crow Lane, Rochester
Glenda's body, covered by a blanket, is taken away from the United Reform Church in Crow Lane, Rochester

And while someone somewhere knows exactly who was responsible for Glenda's death, it is the lack of information which has been the Achilles heel for detectives.

Even today, with advances in forensic science to review hard evidence, if police do not know where to look or what to test, there is virtually no chance of the case ever being solved.

Only three people have ever been arrested in connection with the crime but none suspected of actually carrying out the murder.

One suspect Malcolm Shipley, who was just 16 at the time, was officially ruled out by police in 2011 after 20 years of being a suspect.

He had been arrested and regarded a person of interest regarding the disposal of Glenda's body.

Glenda was born and raised in Chatham and was a well-known woman in the town.

Mother of four Glenda was just 32 when she was brutally killed and her half naked body found in a Rochester churchyard
Mother of four Glenda was just 32 when she was brutally killed and her half naked body found in a Rochester churchyard

But she was somewhat of a loner and had been living in the area of Chatham known as 'bedsit land' at the time of her death.

She was found shortly after midday by a woman visiting the church.

A gardener working in the church had arrived at about 9.30am and before that schoolboys had been at the church, a popular place to hang around and smoke before school, until about 8.30am.

Neither the boys or the gardener noticed anything suspicious while they were there and police concluded Glenda's body had been brought to the churchyard in daylight between 8.30am and 9.30am.

Police believe Glenda died two days before her body was found in the churchyard on that Tuesday morning.

Friends reported seeing Glenda on Friday, May 11, in The Kings Arms pub in Rochester, which was one of her regular spots.

The Vines church in Rochester
The Vines church in Rochester

Another called at her flat earlier that day to see if she wanted to go camping for the weekend in Cornwall.

A friend who saw Glenda in the pub on that Friday night said she had noticed an older man with grey hair wearing a wedding ring paying a lot of attention to her.

The man left at the same time as Glenda – shortly after 9.45pm – which Glenda's friend had said was strange.

But she was seen on the Saturday night soliciting in the usual places she tried to find customers and was also spotted in Rochester High Street.

A taxi driver parked outside Rochester railway station recalled seeing Glenda get into a car driven by a man matching the description of the man in the pub on the Friday night.

The driver said he could not be sure if this was on the Friday or Saturday night.

The Vines Church, Crow Lane, Rochester was a crime scene 30 years ago when Glenda Potter's half-naked body was found dumped there. Picture: Peter Still
The Vines Church, Crow Lane, Rochester was a crime scene 30 years ago when Glenda Potter's half-naked body was found dumped there. Picture: Peter Still

Glenda was spotted at about 9.45pm in Rochester outside St Bartholomew's Chapel on the corner of the high street and Gundolph Street.

Police were extremely keen to establish who Glenda had spent the nights during that weekend after neighbours at the bedsit where she lived reported hearing her TV had been on continuously over the weekend but she had not answered the door.

Officers believed she had not returned home all that weekend.

But she was seen again just after 10am on the Sunday morning by a friend leaving a shop.

It is thought this is the last time she was seen alive and police later concluded she had died by the Sunday night.

Two incidents reported to police in the churchyard in the days before Glenda's body was found failed to yield any significant findings.

"It is important to remember no case is ever truly closed and should any new information become available it will be investigated..."

A boy trying to find his friends said he thought he had seen a leg sticking out but as he could not see his friends, left the church.

It was described as wearing a white training shoe with a black pattern on it and white sock with coloured band at the top.

Police ruled this out as being Glenda who was last seen wearing white socks and black ankle boots.

A couple of hours after the schoolboy's visit, two people were spotted in a car at the church by a man returning home from a day out.

The woman in the car was described as having short dark hair – a possible match for Glenda.

The man was said to have sandy-coloured hair.

Police were extremely interested in speaking to either of these two people to rule them out of inquiries.

The man in the Kings Arms the previous Friday night and seen by the taxi driver was also hunted for by police as a person of interest.

It was reported the man – who matched both descriptions – had been driving a red estate car which might have been a Volvo.

This detail was never confirmed.

"This case centred on prostitution but I felt the motive was actually the thieving that the girl used to do to satisfy her habit for drugs..."

But the unknown man was described as having balding grey hair, aged in his 60s and about 6ft tall. He was also wearing a suit, collared shirt and tie.

Police later said they did not believe robbery had been a motive in Glenda's murder.

But this was a theory not shared by Mr Tappenden, who joined the investigation eight weeks after Glenda's body was found to lead a review of the case.

In the 2010 interview with the Medway Messenger, he said he did not believe Glenda had been killed in the churchyard and that robbery could well have been a motive in the killing.

"This case centred on prostitution but I felt the motive was actually the thieving that the girl used to do to satisfy her habit for drugs," he said.

"Kent Police’s Cold Case team carries out periodic reviews into unsolved murders, rapes and other serious offences, however there is no new update for this particular investigation..."

"She had been living a life of stealing and the motivation was probably caused by that ancillary part of her career."

The case has been revisited numerous times by police in the past three decades.

But each review has failed to unearth significant new evidence despite officers receiving more than 1,000 calls from the public following appeals.

Even advances in DNA testing have not been able to turn up a profile which could match evidence relating to the crime.

Additional forensic work has been carried out by police over the years in attempts to establish gaps in the investigation which new technology can assist.

Det Ch Insp Neil Kimber, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, says: "The death of Glenda Potter, who was found deceased in Rochester in May 1991, remains unsolved.

"Kent Police’s Cold Case team carries out periodic reviews into unsolved murders, rapes and other serious offences, however there is no new update for this particular investigation.

"It is important to remember no case is ever truly closed and should any new information become available it will be investigated.

"We continue to appeal for information that may help us identify new lines of enquiry, and urge anyone who can help to call us on 01622 654863.

"Alternatively you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or complete the online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org."

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