Despite long-running police investigations, several brutal murders – some of which span back to the 1960s, have still eluded detectives in East Lancashire. SOPHIE-MAY CLARKE investigates the gruesome murders from around the county that remain unsolved to this day.

Edith Stuart, from Burnley

Lancashire Telegraph:

Burnley woman EDITH STUART was killed in her Thornton-Cleveleys care home when her bed was set on fire in 2010.

Former textile weaver Edith died in a suspicious blaze at the park home.

But despite two early arrests following the tragedy, which took place in October, the killer or killers of the 96-year-old remain at large.

In 2012 a coroner recorded an unlawful killing verdict and said it was a ‘disgrace’ that no-one had been brought to justice over the fatal fire.

The inquest also heard that someone had deliberately held a flame to the side of the bed and a green lighter was later found in the bedroom of the non-smoker.

There were discrepancies between the accounts of two care workers on duty at the time about their whereabouts when the fire alarm sounded.

The CPS later ruled that there was insufficient evidence to charge either care worker in relation to the death.

Edith’s family continue to appeal for information in the hope that one day, her killers will be brought to justice.

Leslie Jackson, from Blackburn

Lancashire Telegraph:

LESLIE JACKSON, a horse dealer from Blackburn, was found dead in the bathroom of his home in November 1990. He was 69 and his home had been ransacked.

Often referred to as Blackburn’s most infamous murder, Leslie’s battered body was found inside his Sussex Drive home several days after he was brutally killed.

His much-loved dog, who had been in the house at the time, was found cowering behind the sofa, close to where his owner’s lifeless body lay.

And although a thorough investigation involving over 100 police officers was conducted, three people thought to have been implicated in his death never appeared in court due to a lack of evidence.

In 2008 Peter Jackson, the murdered man’s son, pleaded with police to reopen the investigation into his father’s death.

The 49-year-old said: “I can’t help but think when I am watching these programmes where they solve murders from the 1970s using DNA that something more could be done for my dad.

“It is hard to believe that it can go on for this length of time and for no one to be caught.”

Brendon Lally. from Burnley

Lancashire Telegraph:

BRENDON LALLY, who was killed in October of 2012, was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Arrests were made but it could not be confirmed if the deceased had fallen or been pushed.

Blood-curdling screams were heard from the house where 51-year-old Brendan was found dead.

A neighbour also reported hearing a woman scream ‘mum, what have you done?’ at around the same time Mr Lally is thought to have been killed.

Detectives originally arrested five people as part of a murder investigation, after Mr Lally’s body was found at the bottom of the stairs at a house – later described as a ‘drinking den’ – in Burnley Wood.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Mr Lally died from serious head and neck injuries, but there was insufficient evidence to determine whether or not he had been pushed or fallen down the flight of stairs.

Speaking after his death, Brendon’s sister Mrs Hesketh said she was ‘not satisfied with how police conducted the case.’

She said: “I’m not letting it go.

“It took them two searches of the house to recover evidence and they didn’t seem bothered at all.”

And despite a police spokesman saying at the time that there was ‘no evidence found to support the theory that there had been a criminal act culminating in the death of Mr Lally, the Burnley man’s name remains on the force’s list of unsolved murder cases.

Mohammed Arif, Nelson 

Lancashire Telegraph:

MOHAMMED ARIF was attacked in the street in Nelson. He sustained serious injuries to his head and later died in the hospital. He was just 18 when he was attacked in January 1980.

The brutal murderer responsible for battering the Pakistani national to death has never been found. It is understood that the teenager was walking home from a night out when he was set upon on Southfield Street in Nelson.

The attacker then ran off towards Barkerhouse Road when a party of four people started to approach the scene – and was never seen again.

Mr Arif, a labourer at Courtaulds Valley Mills, Nelson, was beaten around the head. An eye-witness at the time said: “We saw someone hitting another person on the floor with a stick. He turned and saw us and started to move away but then he turned and went back and gave the person one more hit before running off between some flats.

“There was blood all over the pavement.”

The day after Mr Arif’s death, police launched an appeal in a bid to trace a microphone and stand that had been stolen from a Nelson punk rock concert. It was later found and ruled out of the investigation.

But fears grew after officers launched a police appeal stating that the missing killer may strike again, with Detective Superintendent John Clark saying: “It was a very vicious murder and the person responsible could do it again. We feel that it is a local person and it is up to the local people to help us catch him.”

Nobody was ever arrested for Mr Arif’s death.

Ali Ashgar, from Nelson 

Lancashire Telegraph:

ALI ASGHAR, 28, was attacked by a group of four males in the street.

A manhunt was launched in February of 1986 after the Nelson father was brutally battered to death and found in a deserted factory yard in Nelson.

Mr Asghar, who had his belongings stolen during the attack, had been walking home with his deaf and dumb brother-in-law Munir Hussain when it was understood four men appeared out of nowhere.

They launched their assault on Mr Asghar but Mr Hussain was able to get away with minor injuries, raising the alarm.

Soon after, more than 60 detectives from all over Lancashire were working on the case. House-to-house enquiries were conducted, as were searches of the area where the attack had taken place. Officers also staked out part of Nelson in a bid to track down their suspects.

Just a week after his death police pursued a new lead after a watch, suspected to have belonged to Mr Asghar, was found in Nelson bus station. A new appeal was launched to speak to anyone how had been near the terminal at the time, but ultimately, Mr Asghar’s killers were never brought to justice.

At the time, the police confirmed that they had no reason to believe that the apparently random attack was connected with the murder of Nelson man Mohammed Arif.

Darren Carley, Charnock Richard

Lancashire Telegraph:

DARREN CARLEY, was discovered in 2002. He was naked and had sustained trauma to the skull.

It took detectives 15 years to identify the skeleton that was discovered on farmland in Charnock Richard, near Chorley on July 26, 2002.

The gruesome find kick-started a murder investigation to try to establish his identity, but who it was remained a mystery – until October 2018.

Thanks to advances in DNA, police were able to confirm that the body was that of Mr Carley, who went missing from his home in Swindon in January 2002.

Mr Carley’s body had been buried in Chorley Cemetery but was exhumed after the discovery was made, so he could be returned to his family.

A fresh murder inquiry was launched by Lancashire Police to try to establish how Darren sustained his fatal injuries and who was responsible.

Detective Chief Inspector Geoff Hurst said: “First and foremost my thoughts are with Darren’s family.

“For 16 years they have been left desperately searching for answers following his disappearance and I hope that the fact that he has now finally been identified and returned to them will offer them some peace.

“We now have a renewed focus on finding who killed Darren and piecing together exactly what happened to him after he went missing and how his body came to be in Lancashire.”

Jessie Barker, Great Harwood

JESSIE BARKER, 81, was the owner of a Great Harwood sweet shop who was found dead on the floor of her living room in May of 1971.

The widow lived alone having lost her husband and was found to have been strangled.

A fruitless manhunt ensued, and officers hunting for her killer searched schools and factories while making door-to-door enquiries.

The only lead they had was the fact neighbours had seen a youth, around 15, leaving the backyard of Mrs Barker’s home before her body was found.

Police were working on the theory that robbery had been the motive of the murder.

Her body was found by two Accrington coalmen who were delivering coal to the shop when they discovered her body.

Two males were wanted by police for questioning, but never came forward. The motive for Jessie’s murder and who did it remains a mystery.

Police response to the handling of cold cases

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: "No unsolved murder or serious sexual assault is ever closed and we remain committed to delivering closure and support for the victims and their families as well as reassuring our communities, regardless of the passage of time.

“Undetected cases are regularly reviewed by a senior investigating officer who investigates any new lines of enquiry should new opportunities, such as advances in scientific techniques, or new information become available.

“It is important that those who have committed appalling crimes, however long ago, are brought to justice so that we can bring comfort to those loved ones still waiting for answers.”