John’s killer is still at large 20 years later

The family of a bookmaker stabbed to death 20 years ago today (Wednesday) say they are “hopeful” that his killer will be brought to justice as police re-open the investigation into his murder.

John Sheppard, 66, of Leighton Buzzard, was stabbed 20 times with an eight inch kitchen knife during a robbery at John Horwood Bookmakers in Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, on Saturday, December 3, 1994.

At around 5pm closing time, other staff had left for the day and branch manager Mr Sheppard was alone in the bookmakers.

The shop was robbed shortly after 5.15pm and Mr Sheppard was struck on the head with a blunt instrument before being viciously stabbed with a knife later found in nearby Norfolk Terrace.

A few hundred pounds was stolen from the shop but a large amount of cash was left in Mr Sheppard’s pockets.

The father-of-one was due to collect a friend on his way home to Steppingstone Place in Leighton, where he lived with his wife Mary, but when he failed to arrive the alarm was raised.

An off-duty police officer visiting the Chinese takeaway next door to the bookmakers forced entry into the shop – now an Asian grocers – and discovered Mr Sheppard’s body shortly after 6.30pm.

Police at the time were shocked by the ferocity of the attack and said the offender’s clothing would have been heavily bloodstained.

But despite a high-profile appeal and several suspects and leads, no-one has ever been convicted for the brutal crime and the trail went cold.

Now 20 years on, police and Crimestoppers are offering a £20,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest of Mr Sheppard’s killer.

Investigator Peter Beirne said: “Mr Sheppard was subject to a horrific attack.

“Over the years, many officers have spent many hours attempting to solve this case. Despite a very thorough and professional investigation, the offence remains undetected.”

But developments in forensic science over the past two decades means that new DNA evidence is available from the crime scene. Mr Beirne said this could be used to implicate or eliminate people, but they have not been able to find a match on the police database.

This new development means it would be very easy to match the DNA to the suspect.

He said: “I urge anyone who has knowledge or suspicions of who the offender may be to appeal to your conscience and get in touch. The reason why you have not already come forward with information may be long gone.”

Mr Sheppard was laid to rest in Vandyke Road cemetery and even though his wife and daughter now live in Australia, there is still family in the Leighton area that regularly tend his grave to lay flowers on special dates.

Mr Sheppard’s daughter Emma Meir was 23 at time of her father’s death and had just emigrated to Australia.

Now 43, and living in Cairns, she said: “Everyone always talks about closure, but it’s also the clarity. We have the what and the when, but not the why. We still have so many questions that have gone unanswered. It’s disturbing to think this person is walking around living a normal life, but surely they won’t be able to sleep easily at night?”

If you have any information, contact the major crime investigation review team on 101. The police are offering a £10,000 reward for information which leads to the conviction of the offender.

Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £10,000 to anyone providing information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible. Call 0800 555 111 or go to www.crimestoppers-uk.org.