Ipswich – Karen Hales murder, 25th anniversary appeal

Today (21st November) marks the 25th anniversary of the brutal murder of a young mother at her home in Ipswich, as police renew appeals for people to come forward with information.

Karen Hales’ body was discovered at her home address in Lavenham Road by her parents at approximately 4.40pm, on Sunday 21 November 1993.

21-year-old Karen was found in the kitchen and had received multiple stab wounds and her body had been set alight. Her 18-month-old daughter was also in the house, but was fortunately unharmed.

A post-mortem examination concluded that the cause of death was attributed to shock and haemorrhage, secondary to multiple stab wounds.

Suffolk Police immediately launched a murder inquiry, involving a dedicated team of around 50 officers. They interviewed witnesses, carried-out fingertip searches, forensically examined Karen’s home and surrounding area, conducted house to house enquiries and questioned over 400 motorists in the hope that they might have seen something.

At the time, the investigation was one of the biggest murder hunts in Suffolk’s criminal history.

Detectives involved in the investigation followed up more than 1,400 lines of enquiry and a major publicity campaign created a vast flow of information from members of the public to the incident room.

Karen had been living at her home address in Lavenham Road with her long term partner Peter and baby daughter Emily.

On the day Karen was murdered, Sunday, 21 November 1993, the day started ordinarily enough. Karen and Peter had spent the day visiting family and watching the television.

At 3pm Peter started getting ready for his afternoon shift at his place of work. Karen made him sandwiches and at 3.50pm, she and Emily waved goodbye from the window.

Ten minutes later Peter arrived at work. Soon after, Karen’s parents Geraldine and Graham Hales came to talk to him about a problem they were having with their car. When he told them Karen was alone at home they decided to visit her.

At 4.40pm they knocked on her door, but there was no answer. Graham let himself in and could immediately smell smoke coming from the kitchen and it was there he found his daughter.

25 years on from Karen’s death, detectives are renewing their appeal to the public in the hope that someone will come forward with vital information which could help solve this murder.

Detective Superintendent Andy Smith, who is now the senior investigating officer for this unsolved case, said:

“It is hard to find the right words to appropriately reflect the utterly depraved nature of this shocking murder.

“Karen was a 21-year-old mother when she was brutally murdered in her own home. She was stabbed multiple times and set fire to in the presence of her then 18-month-old daughter Emily. Tragically her parents discovered her body shortly after she had been murdered.

“25 years on Karen’s murder continues to torment her family on a daily basis.

“It is for these reasons we will not give up in our efforts to pursue the person responsible for this horrendous crime.

“Following the initial murder inquiry, there have been a number of subsequent reviews including an ongoing focused re-investigation.

“As part of our current investigation, we have conducted a range of enquiries. This includes revisiting a number of witnesses, reviewing hundreds of items seized during the original inquiry and investing heavily in targeted forensic examinations utilising modern scientific techniques which were previously unavailable.

“This 25 year anniversary presents as another significant opportunity to make a renewed appeal for information which may lead us to the person responsible. In that regard I am making specific appeals for information.

“Whilst we have interviewed numerous people who knew Karen, I want to be absolutely sure we have spoken to everyone, especially those people who had some form of interaction with her, no matter how minor, in the weeks and days leading up to her murder on Sunday 21 November 1993.

“I would also appeal to the many people whom we have spoken to previously to carefully reflect on what they have told us and ask them to contact us if they have anything new, or additional, they would now like to tell us, again no matter how minor or seemingly unimportant.

“Another aspect of my appeal is to those who may know or have known the person responsible. Whilst the motive for Karen’s murder remains unclear it is likely that someone close to the killer, a relative, friend or other acquaintance may have noticed unusual behaviour either before, or after, Sunday 21 November 1993.

“For whatever reason you may not have felt you could come forward at the time, but for the sake of Karen’s family we would ask you to please come forward now.”

Anyone who believes they may have information which could assist with the investigation into this murder should contact the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Crime Review Team: either by uploading information to the online portal https://mipp.police.uk/operation/3637020114K39-PO1; by calling 01953 423819; or by emailing unsolvedcasereviews@norfolk.pnn.police.uk

Alternatively you can contact the charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111, or online at https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously