The Murder of Janice Weston
"no unsolved murder investigation is ever closed"
Described by her employer as “one of the most brilliant corporate lawyers I have ever known,” Janice Watson was young, pretty and charming. She had recently married her lover of several years, and was employed at one of the top law firms in London where she excelled in specialised computer law, and seemingly had her whole life ahead of her. However, it was brutally cut short on the evening of September 10/11, 1983, when her lifeless body was found in a ditch next to a lay-by on the A1. She had been beaten repeatedly around the head with a blunt instrument, later determined to be the tire iron from her own car, which was nowhere to be found. Her vehicle was later discovered abandoned in the Camden Town area, with bloodstains across the window and dashboard. Investigators were perplexed about the circumstances of Janice Weston’s death and apparent lack of motive as to why anyone would want to kill her. Her husband Anthony Weston had a solid alibi, he was in France at the time of her death, and was ruled out as a suspect in his wife’s murder. Despite several theories, there has remained many unanswered questions surrounding the case, which has remained unsolved.
On the morning of September 11, 1983, cyclist David Hurst had stopped to rest in a lay-by of the A1 on the northbound section of the road near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. It was there he noticed the body of a young woman, brutally battered to death and lifeless, dumped into a water-filled ditch. First on the scene that morning was Detective Chief Superintendent Len Bradley, head of Cambridgeshire’s CID. It was evident the young woman had been savagely beaten around the head with a blunt instrument, and a search of the nearby field which bordered the road recovered a car jack with traces of hair and blood, which was, according to a Home Office pathologist, the likely murder weapon. However, it was a mystery how the victim came to be at the spot she was found along the side of a busy road.
The body remained unidentified for a further 48 hours, due to the extent of the injuries, when detectives learned the victim was 36-year-old corporate lawyer Janice Weston. The young and professional woman had been at the height of her career and DCS Bradley now had to determine who would want to her dead. Mrs. Weston, who was a black belt in Judo, was still wearing her gold watch and wedding ring, and it appeared that neither robbery nor sexual assault was the primary motive. Her husband, property developer Anthony Weston, was abroad in France at the time of her murder, and he was notified of her death and the subsequent police investigation. Detectives soon began to look into the history of Janice Weston’s life, to find the reason why she ended up beaten to death in a ditch alongside the A1 Great North Road.
Janice had grown up in an affluent family, receiving a convent school education and later attaining her law degree from Manchester University. She was well pretty, charming and well liked by her peers. When she graduated in her mid-twenties, she quickly landed a job at the select London law firm of Oppenheimer, Nathan and Vandyk, where she met her future husband. Anthony Weston was a successful property developer, who dealt in property in both England and Europe. She also met Heinz Isner, who was born in Nurnburg, Bavaria and had emigrated to Britain from Germany to escape the Nazis before the outbreak of World War II. He had made his fortune in merchant banking and was Chairman of the Mettoy Company, that manufactured children’s Corgi toy cars. Although he was forty-one years her senior, the elderly Isner soon became enamoured with the young woman, and after the death of his wife Claire in 1975, he even made a proposal of marriage to her, which she respectfully declined.
Whilst she still remained fond of Isner, who would often accompany her as her escort to the ballet and London’s West End theatres, her affections were for Anthony Weston, the ambitious property developer, despite him still being married and with two children. In 1976, she was employed by the top practice of Charles Russell and Company and offered a partnership position. There she specialised in computer law, just when the microchip revolution was a thrusting business, with word processors soon to be in every office, and the vast network of computers and usage that would require new laws to implement. Janice excelled in her field, and was recognised for her talents, dealing with the highest levels within management and her clients.
A year after he appointment, 72-year-old Heinz Isner passed away on July 3, 1977. In his will, Isner left Janice a legacy of £180,000 worth of paintings, money, stocks and shares and antiques from his vast estate. His will was challenged by his remaining family members who disputed the amount, which was reduced to £145,000. Janice Weston was now financially secure, due in part to the legacy from Isner but also her own work which earned her lucrative promotion and the significant monetary rewards that went with it. Her boss Lord Nathan would later remark that she was “one of the most brilliant corporate lawyers I have ever known.” In 1982, Tony Weston and his wife divorced, and he and Janice were now free to marry. Upon his suggestion, she invested her money in London apartments and a mansion called Clopton Manor in Northamptonshire, which her property dealer husband suggested would be a good investment. The couple would use one of the apartments as a weekend retreat when away from their home in London’s Holland Park. When together at Clopton Manor, they were often seen drinking at the local pubs and the couple were well liked by everyone for their quiet and relaxed manner.
Around 1983, Janice had began a writing project and was researching for a book on computer law which focused on the latest safeguards for business and commerce in using new technology. In September 1983, Mr. Weston had travelled to France to negotiate the purchase of a Loire Valley chateau. On the September 10, the day of her death, Janice was at home in Holland Park doing research on her book. Later that day at 4:15pm, she arrived at the law offices at Lincoln’s Inn Fields where she worked, which police learned when they interviewed one of her colleagues. She told friends she was planning to spend the weekend in London.
Detectives were only able to offer conjecture and speculation as to her movements between then and the time her body was found fourteen miles from Clopton Manor, and the reason for her travelling northwards would prove to be a complete mystery. Four days after her murder, an alert policeman spotted her missing car, a silver Alfa Romeo Alfetta, which had been left abandoned on Redhill Street, in the Camden Town area of London. Inside forensic officers found bloodstains on the windows and dashboard, as well as her driving license and purse along with a bottle of wine. The vehicle had remained untouched and situated there long enough to receive a parking ticket, however no fingerprints were found inside. Inside were found her set of keys for Clopton Manor, which was being re-developed into luxury apartments at the time.
The spare tyre was found on the car, but the tyre it replaced could not be found. Another witness came forward to report seeing what they described as a scruffy-looking man getting out of the car, but police were never able to identify this individual. Oil residue on her fingers suggested it was Janice who had attempted to change the tyre on her car, but police could not rule out that another person had accompanied her on that fateful journey, and then drove her car away from the crime scene, or that she had picked up a possible hitchhiker who bludgeoned her to death and dumped her body in the water-filled ditch.
Another mystery which has never been cleared up was the bizarre incident surrounding Janice’s number plates. Roughly forty-eight hours before her murder was revealed to the press, a man walked into the Auto Spares shop in Royston, Herdfordshire, and ordered two spare KMR 769X number plates, which was the same registration as Janice Weston’s Alfa Romeo car. The unknown man has never been traced. As police stepped up their investigation, they learned that on the Saturday morning before he ill-fated journey, she had collected a repaired tyre which had her husband’s name and telephone number scrawled on the side in yellow water resistant chalk. The tyre was placed into the boot by the repairman, leaving the spare on the car. However, when the missing vehicle was found by police in London, the repaired tyre was back on the car and the spare was missing. When detectives had gone to her Holland Park address, they found a half-eaten meal and a single glass of wine, which indicated she had dined alone.
From the appearance of the house police suspected she had left in a hurry, as the normally fastidious Mrs. Weston had left the washing up untouched and left behind her handbag. Detectives surmised she might have received a telephone call or some other message that required her to drive up the A1 towards Clopton Manor. There was the very real possibility that she was abducted or held against her will and driven there by her killer. However, a witness came forward who claimed to have spotted Janice near the Brampton Hut Roundabout at around 9:00pm, where she was seen in the company of a man who was changing her tyre. When Anthony Weston returned from France, he pleaded with the British public for information and help about his wife’s murder. Detectives initially suspected he might have had some hand in her death, and as a routine precaution officers were sent to the Loire Valley to investigate his movements on the weekend that his wife was murdered.
In December 1983, he was held in custody for fifty-five hours and a report was prepared bfor the Director of Public Prosecutions, but there were never any charges and the investigation re-focused on the possibility she was killed either by someone else she knew, or by a complete stranger. The disgruntled family of Heinz Isner, who bequeathed Janice a significant amount of money in his will, were also investigated and ruled out when no link could be found. It was suspected she might have had a blow-out on the A1 and stopped to change her wheel in the lay-by when she was attacked from behind by someone who then inexplicably stole her car. However this theory is not supported by the fact that at time, the A1 was a dual carriageway, with no pedestrian access along the road and no public footpaths over the adjoining farmland.
DCS Bradley set about trying to discover why a professional 36-year-old woman was coldbloodedly murdered along a dimly lit lay-by on one of Britain’s busiest trunk roads. There were numerous unanswered questions, such as why the killer evidently stole her car and drove it to London, and why she was driving northbound in the first place. The motive for the crime was as equally elusive, because no sign of robbery or sexual assault had taken place. Then there was the mystery of the whereabouts of the missing spare tyre and the mystery man who ordered spare number plates. The fact that her car was driven away from the area means that either the killer had driven along the A1 with Janice in her car, then murdered her and drove away, or she was intercepted along the road and killed. However this would mean more than one person was involved, with one to drive Weston’s car away from the scene and another to drive the car that brought the killer. None of the news reports made any mention of a second car, so the first theory would be more possible and the man seen by witnesses in the lay-by was a passenger in her own car.
Police were never able to identify the man see with Janice on the side of the road the evening of her death. Investigators did not believe she was travelling to meet someone else for an elicit liaison, and there was no evidence she had picked up a crazed hitchhiker. It was entirely plausible that a homicidal madman had been lurking in that particular lay-by on the freezing cold night, however the act would have been a brazen crime of opportunity, but in the face of so many questions and few answers, the police had little evidence to come to any rational conclusion. One theory posits that due to the nature of her professional work, she may have been killed as part of some high-tech corporate espionage entanglement, because she knew too much and was murdered to ensure her silence. She left over £300,000 in her will, which bequeathed her husband an annual income from two-thirds of the residue, but did not provide a lump sum.
In October 1984, the British television show Crimewatch UK televised a reconstruction of the events of Janice Weston’s death in an attempt to gain information from the public that might be pertinent to the case. The reconstruction began with the events of Saturday September 10, 1983, when Janice picked up the spare tyre at 11:20am, and she was then seen shopping near her home at Holland Park around midday. She then went to her place of work during the afternoon, where a colleagues reported seeing Janice repeatedly looking out of the window, as though she was expecting someone. It was known she was still in the office at 4:45pm because she took a phone call for a colleague.
It’s believed she then returned to her basement flat in Addison Avenue and made herself a meal, and at some point, contrary to telling friends she was staying in London that weekend, she decided to leave for Clopton Manor. She then left with an overnight bag, her purse which contained £37 and a partly empty bottle of wine, but left behind her handbag, which contained her chequebook and all her credit cards. The reconstruction shows her pulling into a lay-by on the A1, and then the cyclist finding her body, before finally showing the mystery individual requesting the replacement number platers for Janice’s car from the Auto Spares shop in Royston and the discovery of the silver Alfa Romeo Alfetta.
Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit conducted a review of the case, on September 11, 2018, and police made a fresh appeal for information after 35 years. Assistant Investigator Kelly Knibbs, or the Major Crime Unit said, “We’re now 35 years on from Janice’s death, but no unsolved murder investigation is ever closed. We’ve been conducting a review of the case and are keen to hear from anyone who may have information about what happened.” Knibbs also added, “In addition to any new information, we’re also keen to speak to people who came forward during the original investigation but maybe did not tell us everything they knew, or those who spoke to Crimewatch but not directly to police.” There has never been any suspects in the murder of Janice Weston and the case remains officially unsolved.