A retired senior detective has severely criticised the way West Yorkshire Police has handled the investigation into the murder of Lindsay Jo Rimer who disappeared from her Hebden Bridge home 23 years ago.
Former detective sergeant John Matthews from Cleveland Police believes there is compelling evidence that a man he interviewed as part of a separate murder investigation was also involved in Lindsay’s death.
During his enquiries into two murders in Billingham, 18-year-old Tina Bell and 22-year-old mother Julie Hogg, Mr Matthews interviewed a man in Hebden Bridge who had moved down from Teesside.
He later came to understand the man, who has since died, had connections to Tina and the Bell family, to the Rimer family, to both towns, to the man who was later convicted of Julie Hogg’s murder and was reported to be one of the last two people to see Tina alive.
But the senior investigating officer (SIO) on the Rimer case, Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson has dismissed the man from the investigation.
Mr Matthews said: “Does he have any other suspects with which he can make some comparisons, like totally unconnected ‘suspects’ who have little or no association to the area or the family and [the Hebden man], who is or was directly connected, in exactly the same way he was with Tina Bell’s family when she disappeared.
“I cannot believe for one minute West Yorkshire Police have had any suspect so close to two families directly linked to two very similar murders, where both families lost their teenage girls in brutal murders.
“Both cases involving the bodies being hidden for months until decomposed and forensically devoid of all evidence.
“There are lots of big questions to be answered by the SIO, not least how or why [the Hebden man] was never classified as a serious or prime suspect.
“Particularly after I made direct and very detailed contact with their incident room.
“Had I known he had befriended the family of Lindsay Rimer in exactly the same way as he did the Bell family I would have wanted to examine every aspect of his adult life.
“I would have actioned a team to trace interview eliminate (TIE) him thoroughly and without a comprehensive sequel to eliminate him he would have to remain a prime suspect ad infinitum.”
West Yorkshire Police dismissed the Hebden man from their investigation but has not been specific about the reasons why the links suggested by Mr Matthews are not relevant.
The Courier asked senior investigating officer Det Supt Simon Atkinson whether the man was a suspect, if any of his acquaintances were investigated, if he was in the Trades Club – which was where he worked and was the second to last place Lindsay was seen alive – on the evening of the disappearance.
The force was also asked about the man’s involvement with the Rimer family, if there was any suggestion he was involved in any other crime – aside from the links to two other murders – if an investigation into “every aspect of his adult life” had been undertaken, and if a mistake could have been made in not considering him a suspect. Det Supt Atkinson refused to answer the questions, stating he would not discuss individuals in the case.
He said the matter had been addressed, that it was not an active line of inquiry, and insisted the points raised had been addressed.
He added: “Those responsible for Lindsay’s murder, or anyone who knows about it should find it within them to do the right thing. The right thing for Lindsay, the right thing for her family. Come forward and end the pain of the last 23 years. Make that call.”
Hebden Bridge girl Lindsay Jo Rimer, 13, went missing on November 7, 1994.
That night, she visited the Trades Club on Holme Street and then bought Corn Flakes from the former Spar shop on Crown Street at 10.22pm.
Her body was found on April 7 the following year in the Rochdale Canal.
A 63-year-old man arrested in November 2016 was released from police bail in July 2017 with no further action being taken.
Another man, 68, who was arrested in April this year has also been released with no further action being taken at this time. Anyone with information about the murder is asked to call detectives directly on 01924 821441.