Police file on high-profile child murder will remain secret for another 18 years

Police files on the murder of Welsh schoolgirl Joyce Cox will remain under lock and key until more than a century after her death. The four-year-old was found dead in Cardiff in 1939 after being strangled and sexually assaulted.

The murder took place a few weeks after the start of World War II and a few days before Joyce’s fifth birthday. She was last seen alive by her seven-year-old brother Dennis on September 28 as they walked home from school, but he lost her.

Hundreds of searchers took to the streets of Whitchurch, where Joyce lived and was last seen, to look for her. But his body was found in an embankment near Coryton station on September 29. You can read the full story of his murder here.

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A newspaper clipping from the time

Despite an investigation launched by Glamorgan Constabulary which saw more than 1,000 people questioned, no one was ever charged with Joyce’s murder. A 2017 review of the cold case by South Wales Police found the main suspect in the case was likely to have died in the 1950s.

At the time of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police in London often assisted other forces in the investigation of serious crimes. Joyce’s cousin, Terry Phillips, who was not alive at the time of her death, has established that the Met has documents relating to Joyce’s murder.

When requesting access, a force official decided to stick an order on the file, saying it was to be kept secret for 100 years after the relevant events – until January 2040. A decision letter sent to Mr. Subject who was a suspect is portrayed in a pejorative manner and should not be associated with these matters. As an unsolved murder, with potential for reinvestigation at any undetermined stage, the practice of shutting down for 100 years is invoked.

“As unlikely – even remote – as it is possible that this case will be reopened, we must allow ourselves this possibility. Putting information in the public domain will involve naming specific people who can still be identified. These persons who may be alive may have been witnesses and/or interviewees and who have not been prosecuted and who must therefore be considered as innocent parties. People will have given witness statements in the hope that their information would not become public.

Speaking in 2015, Mr Phillips said: “‘I don’t accept the reason for refusing to release the documents. Sounds like a cover-up to me. Following this decision, which I am appealing, I would not want to have access to the file until I am 96, even though I have lived that long.”

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The unsolved murder of Joyce Cox