Murder of Mark Tildesley
Mark Anthony Tildesley
31 August 1976
|Died||1 June 1984 (aged 7)|
Wokingham, Berkshire, England
|Cause of death||Murder by drugging, gang rape and strangulation|
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Parent(s)||John Tildesley (1932–2005)|
Lavinia Tildesley (1935–2011)
Mark Anthony Tildesley (31 August 1976 – 1 June 1984) was an English schoolboy who disappeared, at the age of seven, on 1 June 1984, whilst visiting a fair in his home town of Wokingham in Berkshire.
As part of the investigation, a national poster campaign was launched, with one displayed in every police station in the country. Tildesley's disappearance was publicised in the local Wokingham Times and also featured prominently in national newspapers. The Times, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror all covered the story, and the case appeared in ITV's Thames News. The disappearance was mentioned on the first ever episode of BBC Crimewatch UK in 1984 and a full reconstruction was aired on the same programme a year later. Despite a huge public response, however, these efforts brought little concrete evidence.
In 1989, Tildesley's disappearance was linked to the Operation Orchid investigation into missing children. As part of this operation, in 1990, it emerged that on the night he disappeared, Tildesley had been abducted, drugged, tortured, raped and murdered by a London-based paedophile gang, led by Sidney Cooke. Another man named Leslie Bailey was charged with murder in 1991 and the following year was given two life sentences. He was murdered in prison in 1993.[clarification needed]
A memorial service was held and a memorial bench was placed at the entrance to the fairground site. A headstone was also placed in a nearby burial ground.
Tildesley's body has never been found and the murder is Wokingham's most notorious unsolved crime. Thames Valley Police initially thought his body was buried within a mile of Wellington Road in Wokingham, the location of the fair from which he was abducted, but they now believe that his body was probably buried in a shallow grave on abandoned farmland.[clarification needed]
- 1 Background and disappearance
- 2 Searches and public appeals
- 3 Investigations
- 4 Legal proceedings
- 5 Body
- 6 Aftermath and memorials
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Background and disappearance
Mark Anthony Tildesley was born on 31 August 1976 in Berkshire to John Tildesley and Lavinia Rachel Gwladys Tildesley.
Tildesley had a brother, Christopher, who was born in 1963, and a sister, Christina (born 1959), who had moved out of the family home to live in nearby Finchampstead with her husband, Ted, and their daughter, Mary, who was born in 1981.
The Tildesleys lived at 1 Rose Court, off Rose Street, in Wokingham town centre. It was a combination of a small semi-detached cottage and an adjoining bungalow annexe (the bungalow annexe has since been demolished and re-built as a separate house called 1a Rose Court as of 2010[update], leaving the original cottage as a mid-terrace).
Tildesley was a Year 3 pupil of the Palmer C of E Junior School (renamed All Saints CE (Aided) Primary School in 2009) in Norreys Avenue in Wokingham.
On 25 May 1984, the Palmer Junior School had broken up for its summer half-term holiday.
The Frank Ayers Fun Fair, which came to the Carnival Field off Wellington Road in Wokingham four times a year (now the site of the indoor swimming pool which opened in 1992 and now forms part of the Carnival Leisure Park), had come again during that holiday week.[clarification needed]
Tildesley was desperate to go but he did not have enough money to do so. His pocket money was only 30p a week, so he supplemented this by putting trolleys from Tesco in Denmark Street (now an Argos and a Cleaver restaurant) back to where they belonged, thus collecting their customers' abandoned 10p deposits.
Frank Ayers Fun Fair
At the end of the week, on the afternoon of 1 June 1984, Tildesley had met a man outside the Candy Shop in Denmark Street (which has also since closed and which was located 20 yards up from the then Tesco site) who gave him a 50p coin to buy some sweets with. The shop assistant who had served Tildesley many times before, Margaret Hickman, thought it was odd as he usually only paid in 10p pieces. The man said that he was going to the fair later that day and that he would pay for him to go on the dodgems that evening.
After eating dinner, at just after 5:30 pm, Tildesley left his home at Number 1 Rose Court, off Rose Street, on his most treasured possession, a second-hand gold Raleigh Tomahawk bike, to make the half-a-mile journey to the fair, which would open at 6pm that evening. He promised to be back home by 7:30 pm, saying "Don't worry mum, I won't be late". On his way to the fair, he met with two of his friends who were in the town at the time. However, they wanted to go back home first and then go to the fair later so Tildesley decided to go to the fair alone immediately. This was the last time anyone who knew Tildesley well saw him alive.
At 7:30 pm, the time at which Tildesley had promised to return home, he had still not arrived. At 8:00 pm, his parents went down to the fair to find him. However, all they could find was his bike chained to railings near to the entrance of the Carnival Field where the fair was being held.
Having spent an hour searching around the fairground site to no avail, Tildesley's parents returned home with his bike, to find his brother Christopher watching television but no trace of their missing son.
At 10:00 pm, Lavinia Tildesley phoned the local police, to report Tildesley missing and to ask if they had heard anything, but they had not and they recommended she phone back in an hour. In the meantime, she phoned his sister Christina in Finchampstead, and Christina's husband Ted also went over to the Carnival Field to search for him without any success.
Searches and public appeals
This included using a helicopter, searching the Carnival Field site with loud hailer appeals, as well as searching nearby rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Heat seeking equipment was also borrowed from the Metropolitan Police, which could detect dead bodies.
Every worker and stall holder at the Frank Ayers Fun Fair was questioned the day after Tildesley went missing.
Wokingham town centre's 29 streets, consisting of 960 shops, businesses and houses, had to be covered by officers on a door-to-door basis.
On the following weekend of 9–10 June 1984, 15 policemen and two tracker dogs teamed up with 100 soldiers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers training battalion in Arborfield Garrison to search the south side of Wokingham, from Barkham Road through to Amen Corner, which proved unproductive.
Two weeks after the disappearance, Detective Superintendent Roger Nicklin had to concede that the police still had "absolutely no idea about Mark's disappearance".
In addition to a national poster campaign being launched, with every police station in the country displaying one, Tildesley's disappearance not only appeared in the regional Wokingham Times, but it was also featured heavily in national news coverage at the time. The Times, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror all wrote about the story, and the case was also covered in ITV's Thames News.
On 7 June 1984, Tildesley's disappearance was mentioned on the first ever episode of the newly launched BBC television series Crimewatch UK, a programme which reconstructs major unsolved crimes with a view to gaining information from members of the public.
These first appeals resulted in 400 calls being made to the police by members of the general public.
Shortly after Tildesley's disappearance, several witnesses reported seeing a boy who fitted his description being dragged away forcefully against his will away from the fairground site by a Stooping Man between 7pm and 8pm that evening. Further sightings were at the nearby Cockpit Footpath on the corner of Denmark Street and Langborough Road as well as at Number 9 and Number 51 Langborough Road.
There were also a number of conflicting sightings. A witness reported seeing a boy who looked like Tildesley sitting on the wall of the Waitrose car park in Rose Street with a bike similar to his at his side at 8:10pm on the evening of his disappearance. However, Tildesley's bike was actually found chained to railings at the entrance to the fairground site in Wellington Road half a mile away by his parents at exactly the same time.
The day after the first Crimewatch UK broadcast, the police shot their first video reconstruction. A seven-year-old local boy dressed in clothes similar to those worn by Tildesley and was filmed around Rose Street including sitting on the wall of the Waitrose car park, and also at the fairground site as well. Whilst only a partial reconstruction, it did get a positive response.
Two days before the first anniversary of Tildesley's disappearance, and with the Frank Ayers Fun Fair back on the Carnival Field in Wokingham, a second police reconstruction was filmed. These included shots in Rose Court, Rose Street, Broad Street, Denmark Street, the Carnival Field off Wellington Road and Langborough Road. Ten-year-old Paul Little played the part of Tildesley, whilst Peter Russell played the part of the Stooping Man. In the case's second appearance on the programme in just over a year, the footage was aired at 9:25pm on 13 June 1985 on the BBC television series Crimewatch UK. A full reconstruction of his last known moments was broadcast, in which Mrs Tildesley took part. Over 1,000 people called in with information, one of the highest volumes in Crimewatch UK history.
Success of appeals
Overall, the police received a huge public response with over 1,200 different individuals phoning in, who gave 2,500 potential leads, but little concrete evidence emerged. Crucially, Thames Valley Police never received any breakthroughs that would lead them to either Tildesley being found safe and well, or in the worst-case scenario, to the identity of the perpetrator(s) and/or the recovery of his body.
The initial investigation was led by Detective Constable Geoff Gilbert. Coincidentally, Gilbert knew Tildesley personally through his mother's job at the local Wokingham Police Station.
From the start, Wokingham police were unprepared for such a major task. Only four officers were assigned to the case, as Thames Valley Police were short-staffed with many colleagues sorting out the 1984–1985 miners' strike. As Wokingham Police Station was too small, the attic storeroom was used as the incident office. The police also promptly set up a mobile office on the fairground site.
By the first Sunday following his disappearance, 3 June 1984, they had to use the Wokingham Baptist Church on Milton Road in Wokingham (immediately behind the police station) as a meeting room.
The police had to check that given the age difference between Tildesley and his brother and sister, that he was in fact Mrs Tildesley's son and not Christina's. DC Gilbert was summoned to do this task, which Mrs Tildesley described as "ridiculous".
Tildesley's brother, Christopher, who had had an argument with him earlier on the day of his disappearance, was initially the prime suspect. However, it soon became clear that this could not be the case.
On 7 June 1984, the day of the first Crimewatch UK appeal, two anonymous calls came in to say that they suspected a fairground worker called Martin Earley was responsible for Tildesley's disappearance. He had worked for Frank Ayers for eleven years and was at the Wokingham Fun Fair on the night Tildesley went missing. He was arrested and confessed to Tildesley's abduction, saying that he had raped and murdered him at his caravan nearby, which fitted in with what a hypnotist had said was likely to have happened to Tildesley. However, he changed his story so many times that it became unreliable and detectives worked out that they had in fact got the wrong man.
On 16 August 1984, the Metropolitan Police called on another fairground worker, Sidney Cooke, at his home in London. One of his colleagues had alerted detectives at the Tildesley incident office about his suspicious behaviour towards young boys in the past. The police asked Cooke whether he was in Wokingham on the night Tildesley had vanished. He denied this and had an alibi. He claimed that he was working at a fair opposite West Hendon Police Station in London that night, and the fair owner, Rosie Gray, confirmed that Cooke was her employee. Cooke therefore remained on file but was eliminated as a suspect.
Two-and-a-half years after this, on 29 April 1987, it emerged that there had been a number of attempted abductions of young children over the past six months in the Wokingham area. The police investigated whether these could be linked to Tildesley's disappearance, but this was eventually dismissed.[clarification needed]
In 1989, the Metropolitan Police established Operation Orchid, an enquiry into the disappearance of missing children. This was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Stoodley. As part of this operation, in December 1990, they interviewed a convicted East London-based paedophile gang member called Leslie "Catweazle" Bailey, who had already been charged with two other murders, that of 14-year-old Jason Swift and six-year-old Barry Lewis, both of which occurred after Tildesley's disappearance.
The police had obtained a hand-drawn paper map and a hand-written paper letter which had been given by Bailey to a fellow inmate at Wandsworth Prison. The map showed where Tildesley had been killed, and the letter, which had been written by a cell-mate, was addressed to Sidney Cooke, who was also another gang member, and who also knew about his murder.
At this point, Bailey, who suffered from a mild learning disability which meant that he had limited understanding, confessed that his paedophile gang, whom the police had nicknamed the "Dirty Dozen", led by Cooke, from the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney, had abducted, drugged, tortured, raped and murdered Tildesley on the night he disappeared. It was at this point that the police realised that the Stooping Man who had been frequently described in connection with his disappearance was in fact Cooke.
On the night of Tildesley's disappearance, Bailey had been asked by another member of the gang, his lover Lennie Smith, to drive him from Hackney to Wokingham, as there would be a party (of child sex abuse) in a caravan owned by Cooke located near to a fair.
Upon arriving in Wokingham, Smith went into the fair to find Cooke and they came back to Bailey's white Triumph 2000 car in Langborough Road, near to the fairground, with a young boy who was "dragging back", despite being enticed away from the fairground on the promise of a 50p bag of sweets. The young boy, Tildesley, had to be physically picked up and forced into the back of the car to get him in. With Bailey driving, Smith was in the front passenger seat, whilst Cooke was holding Tildesley back in the rear of the car. They then met a fourth man, a relative of Bailey's known as "Odd Bod", (who had a mental age of an eight-year-old), at Cooke's blue and white caravan, which had lace curtains. This was located a short drive away past the relocated Tesco in Finchampstead Road (which had opened in 1998), on a field called "The Moors" on Evendons Lane, which is located in between Finchampstead and Barkham. After Cooke gave Tildesley a glass of milk laced with muscle relaxant, of which he only drank half of it as he said it "tastes funny", the four men raped Tildesley, starting with Cooke and ending with Smith. After more muscle relaxant was applied directly down the boy's throat, the gang rape started again. Smith then forced a tablet into Tildesley's mouth before grabbing him by the throat. The party, referred to as "Mark's party" by Bailey, had already lasted for half an hour and Bailey stated he knew at this point that Tildesley was dead as he could not feel a pulse, but that Cooke had told him that he was fine and that he would take the boy home. This meant that it was likely that Tildesley was already dead before his parents even knew that he was missing.
After the murder of Tildesley, Bailey drove Smith back to Hackney, arriving there after midnight. Before Bailey dropped Smith off at marshes, Smith said to Bailey that he would leave the disposal of the body to Cooke.
The police received a Judge's Commendation for pursuing an honourable and sustained investigation which led to the eventual solving of the Tildesley case. However, the police admitted in public that the case had not been finished as Tildesley's body had not been found.
In 2007, Thames Valley Police set up the Dedicated Review Team to re-investigate unsolved murders and serious sexual assaults over the previous 50 years, which included Tildesley's murder, but nothing has come of it.
Tildesley is the "Dirty Dozen" ring's first known murder victim. However, in 2015, following media and political pressure, the police re-opened the case of 29 July 1981 murder of seven-year-old Vishal Mehrotra near East Putney tube station in London. The "Dirty Dozen" gang are being investigated in relation to this killing, which was more than three years earlier than the murder of Tildesley.
Also in 2015, former Chief Superintendent Roger Stoodley said he feared a "cover up" by the Metropolitan Police over the Tildesley murder case itself. He maintained that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Cooke over Tildesley's killing.
Sidney Charles Cooke was born on 18 April 1927. In 1984 his occupation was that of a fairground worker.
Cooke has never admitted playing any role in Tildesley's murder, despite a tiger key ring identical to the one owned by the boy being found in his repossessed dark coloured Jaguar XJ car in 1985, a year after Tildesley's disappearance.
No charges were therefore brought against him as the Crown Prosecution Service felt that Bailey's confession was insufficient evidence for his case to result in a successful conviction. In addition, the Crown Prosecution Service also declined to prosecute Cooke for Tildesley's murder as he was already in prison for the manslaughter of Jason Swift.
Leslie Patrick Bailey seemed to be the only one of the gang who would admit to the murder of Tildesley.
Bailey suffered from a mild learning disability which meant that he had limited understanding.
When he was sent to trial for Tildesley's killing, he was already in prison for the 1985 killing of Jason Swift.
On 7 October 1993, Bailey was murdered by strangulation with a ligature in Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire. The death was welcomed by the boy's parents. Mr Tildesley said he would like to shake the murderer's hand, whilst Mrs Tildesley opened a bottle of wine to celebrate. It later emerged that Bailey had been murdered by two other inmates.
Leonard William Gilchrist Smith was born on 23 August 1954.
A fourth man, mentioned by Bailey as part of the Operation Orchid investigation as being partly responsible for Tildesley's murder, was a relative of him. He was referred to as "Odd Bod" throughout the investigation.
However, as "Odd Bod" had a mental age of an eight-year-old, he could not have his name disclosed or be charged, put on trial or sentenced in connection with Tildesley's killing. No charges were therefore brought against him as the Crown Prosecution Service considered him to be too young for his case to result in a successful conviction.
On 18 October 1991, Bailey, "along with persons unknown", was charged with the murder of Tildesley.
The Tildesley family kept away from the majority of the trial at Reading Crown Court. Bailey stood alone in connection with Tildesley's killing. It was very unusual in that the judge not only named Cooke and Smith, but also described in court what he believed they had done to Tildesley, despite neither of them having ever been charged in relation to the case. Equally unusual was Bailey's instructions to his defence barrister to seek the maximum sentence possible, saying that he was "surprised and disappointed" and could not understand why Cooke and Smith were not in the dock with him.
On 22 October 1992, Bailey pleaded guilty at Reading Crown Court to the lesser charge of manslaughter and one charge of "buggery" and received two life sentences on 9 December 1992. On hearing the verdict, Mrs Tildesley responded by calling for the re-introduction of the death penalty, saying "He should have been hanged".
Bailey claimed he did not know where Cooke had buried the body. Cooke has indicated he knows where the body is buried, but refuses to tell the police, or the boy's family, the exact location. Following the confession by Bailey to the murder, the police dug up "The Moors" field in Evendons Lane in March 1991, but they did not find anything.
In May 1998, the police refused to re-question Cooke, in relation to Tildesley's murder, and also refused to dig up a nearby golf course to search for his remains.
In 2008, Cooke's former lover and cell-mate, on-the-run convicted paedophile David Patrick, claimed to know where Cooke had buried the boy, which he would reveal for the sum of £3,000. Police later dismissed the claim as false and an attempt to extort money from Tildelsey's mother.
In 2012, a fragment of human skull, discovered near Evendons Lane, was found not to be Tildesley's.
Tildesley's body has never been found and the murder is among Wokingham's most notorious crimes. Thames Valley Police initially thought his body was buried within a mile of Wellington Road in Wokingham, the location of the fair from which he was abducted, but they now believe that his body is buried in a shallow grave on abandoned farmland.[clarification needed]
Aftermath and memorials
The boy's parents kept his bedroom exactly how it was the day he went missing, until Mrs Tildesley moved to nearby Langley Common Road in Barkham (further away than Evendons Lane), shortly after Mr Tildesley's death in 2005.
Shortly after the boy's disappearance, a public memorial, that of a jade-coloured bench, was erected exactly at the very spot where he was seen leaving the fairground by the general public. This can be seen directly to the right of the entrance to the Carnival Leisure Park on Wellington Road in Wokingham. A name plate on a plank of wood at the top of the bench reads "In Memory of MARK TILDESLEY".
When Mrs Tildesley died in 2011, a second name plate was put on the bench, with her name on it, on the plank of wood directly beneath the one with the boy's name plate on, in remembrance of her.
A memorial service was held on 30 January 1993 at the Rose Street Methodist Church (now the Wokingham Methodist Church) in Rose Street in Wokingham (next to what is now the small Marks & Spencer store which was a Waitrose at the time of both Tildesley's disappearance and murder in 1984 and the memorial service in 1993 and which is located on the other side of the road to the Tildesleys home in Rose Court).
A headstone to Tildesley was erected, on 30 January 1993, at the Free Church Burial Ground on Reading Road in Wokingham. It reads "IN LOVING MEMORY OF MARK ANTHONY TILDESLEY BORN 31 AUGUST 1976".
In popular culture
- Tildesley's murder was featured in the 1993 book "Lambs to the Slaughter" by Ted Oliver and Ramsay Smith. Oliver and Smith were actually editors of the Daily Mirror at the time of Tildesley's disappearance.
- Tildesley's murder was mentioned in the 2003 book "Catching Monsters" by David Bright.
- Tildesley's murder appeared in the BBC Crimewatch episodes on both 7 June 1984 and 13 June 1985
- Tildesley's murder was documented in the BBC Crimewatch File "The Lost Boys" episode in 1994
- Tildesley's murder was featured in an episode of the Channel 4 programme Dispatches in the late 1990s
- Tildesley's murder was featured in the episode of BBC Panorama on 11 May 1998
- Tildesley's murder was the inspiration of Simon Kernick's book The Bone Field in CBS TV's Written in Blood series in 2017
- "Paedophile in jail rape allegation". The Herald. Glasgow. 7 January 2002. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
- "Police fear boy is dead". The Times. London. 4 June 1984. p. 2.
- "Missing Mark: Police are baffled". Wokingham Times. Wokingham. 14 June 1984. p. 1.
- Ted Oliver (25 March 1993). Lambs to the Slaughter. Sphere. ISBN 978-0751-50-337-1.
- "Paedophile gets life for killing boy, 7, at orgy: Homosexual ring abducted children and drugged them for group sex". The Independent. London. 23 October 1992. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
- Operation Orchid (Aug '89 – Oct '92)
- Cook, Caroline (21 January 2011). "Brave mum dies without finding murdered son Mark Tildesley". Reading Post. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Paedophile's confession opens missing Mark file (19.12.90)
- CARNIVAL POOL LEISURE Wokingham RG40 2AF
- How can they call this justice? (9.3.98)
- Former Tesco Denmark Street Wokingham site
- Death at the fair (23.10.92)
- "Police seek stooping man". The Times. London. 7 August 1984. p. 2.
- Dear, Peter; Davalle, Peter (13 June 1985). "Today's television and radio programmes". The Times. London. p. 27.
- Evans, Peter (15 June 1985). "TV crime watch gets results". The Times. London. p. 3.
- Crimewatch UK BBC One London, 13 June 1985 21.25 Synopsis
- Please don't harm our little boy Daily Express 4 June 1984
- "Case reopened". The Times. London. 19 December 1990. p. 2.
- Horsnell, Michael (30 November 1994). "Freed child abuser linked to paedophile 'Catweazle'". The Times. London. p. 4.
- "Police end hunt and disband team that tracked killers". The Times. London. 23 October 1992. p. 3.
- BBC Crimewatch File – The Lost Boys – 1994
- Police to reopen unsolved murders and other crimes Wokingham Times 21 March 2007]
- Paedophile Sidney Cooke's potential links to murder of boy, 8, ignored by police Daily Express 30 May 2015
- Corke, Jonathan. "Former cop fears 'cover-up' as he alleges link between sex beast Sidney Cooke and young boy's murder – Mirror Online". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
- Claims of police cover-up over NINE unsolved murders of young boys linked to evil paedophile Sidney Cooke are to be investigated Daily Mail 20 September 2015
- Paul Kelso "Cooke admits years of child abuse", theguardian.com 6 October 1999
- David Hudson (2006). "NEXT STOP HELL; EXCLUSIVE Worst paedophile in Britain dies of AIDS in jail's secret wing". The Sunday Mirror.
- "Victims snared at funfairs". BBC News. 5 October 1999. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
- Tendler, Stewart; Ford, Richard (9 October 1993). "Killer paedophile found strangled in his prison cell". The Times. London. p. 3.
- "Child killer murdered". The Times. London. 20 October 1993. p. 2.
- Panorama Defend the Children TX 11.05.98
- Inquiry as 'inhuman' child killer is found strangled in cell
- PLEA: 'TELL ME WHERE MARK'S BODY IS' Wokingham Times 5 July 2006
- "Paedophile gets life for killing boy, 7, at orgy: Homosexual ring". The Independent. 23 October 1992. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
- Frost, Bill (23 October 1992). "Convicted paedophile jailed for raping and killing boy of 7". The Times. London. p. 3.
- Final tribute to murdered schoolboy Mark Tildesley
- Coles, John (19 March 1991). "Police dig field in new hunt for Mark". Daily Express. London.
- "Hunt for boy". The Times. London. 19 March 1991. p. 6.
- Cooke 'link' to unsolved death quashed
- Nick Parker (28 April 2008). "Perv cashes in on child murder". The Sun. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Human skull found in Wokingham is not Mark Tildesley
- Thames Valley Police Letter 6th August 1998