Middlesborough — Sex worker Murders

I have been asked to look again at the cases of at least three young women who vanished from an area of Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire between 1998 and 2002.

My investigation starts at a pub that has now been closed down and demolished to make way for student accommodation, The pub was known as The Shipmate, situated in Union Street, Middlesbrough.

The pub had a very bad reputation for illegal drugs being used and sold there, prostitutes working from there and violence. It was rebranded as The Junction but eventually closed down.

I am now aware that at least three young women who disappeared were all regulars at The Shipmate. The three females were, Donna Keogh then aged 17 who disappeared in 1998, Vicky Glass then aged 21 who was reported missing in 2000 and Rachel Wilson then aged 19 who vanished in 2002.

Donna Keogh was reported missing from Middlesbrough in May 1998, she has never been located and it is sadly assumed that she was murdered soon after her disappearance.

Donna was last seen at a house in Bow Street in the Union Street area of Middlesbrough on April 19th 1998 and was reported missing to Cleveland Police in May.

The most recent appeal for information with regard to Donna’s disappearance was launched earlier this year (2022) and seems to have been met with some success.

It is said that some new information has been brought to light, but Donna’s parents, Brian & Shirley have been advised not to make any new information public yet.

In a statement to the press, Brian said

The response to this year’s appeal was very encouraging, they said. “Myself and Shirley want to say a big thank-you for all the kind messages of support and the well-wishes. The public of Middlesbrough have been fantastic.”

“The response has been overwhelming and new information has come through. We can’t share the details at the moment for operational reasons as the investigation is ongoing but the information has been passed on to the police.

“It’s so encouraging for us that people are still coming forward and we just want to say a big thank-you to the public, the Gazette and Mr Simon Walker our solicitor, who has been a diamond.”

Donna’s family lodged an official complaint against Cleveland Police in 2006. The force has previously admitted that “mistakes had been made” in relation to the enquiry of missing Donna Keogh

A special website has been set up to help share the story of Donna Keogh and to find out what happened to her, you can view it by clicking the link https://www.finddonna.co.uk/

Vicky Glass

Vicky Glass was 21 when she went missing from Middlesbrough. She had unfortunately been led into the dark world of drug addiction and became a victim of sexual exploitation at the age of 18.

Vicky had a hearing impediment but was always determined not to let that affect her life, sadly having become addicted to drugs and being a vulnerable person she was pressured into prostitution in order to support her habit.

It is thought that Vicky was drawn ever deeper into the murky world of vice and drugs which led to her disappearance and murder.

Vicky was dropped off by a taxi at around 4 am on September 24th 2000 at the junction of Eshwood Square and Union Street Middlesbrough. She was believed to have had no money but was looking to score drugs. It is believed that she may well have been picked up soon after that taxi journey in the red-light district and ultimately murdered.

Vicky’s body was found on the North Yorkshire Moors some six weeks after the taxi journey, she had been dumped in a stream in the village of Danby, North Yorkshire.

Four people were arrested as a result of the murder investigation, but no one has ever been charged with the killing and sadly Vicky’s mother, Deborah died without knowing who killed her beloved daughter.

The family told Teeside Live:

“We feel the loss of Vicky every day, she deserves justice, and hope that this reinvestigation puts those responsible behind bars,” they said.

“She did not deserve to have her life taken, no one had the right to do that.”

“Vicky was loved deeply by us, and as a family we have been through turmoil especially as mam Deborah passed away without any answers, knowing Vicky’s killer is out there and people have information that they are not coming forward with”.

A historical investigations team named ‘Operation Ardent’ reviewed the Vicky Glass case recently and discovered 300 potential lines of enquiry. As a result, a team led by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Carr, will now actively investigate new leads using up-to-date forensic methods. The team also has the arduous task of reviewing over 2000 hours of CCTV footage.

DCI Peter Carr said “Much work has been carried out over the last 12 months on Vicky’s case, including a detailed review of the original investigation.

“This review identified over 300 recommendations, with the main one being that a reinvestigation should be undertaken.

“We believe that there are a number of lines of enquiry which can be pursued and by using modern investigative and forensic techniques, we hope to get justice for Vicky and her family.”

He urged anyone who can help to come forward.

“There are people who know what happened to Vicky, or maybe have information or things that they know are linked to her death but have not come forward,” he said.

“It’s possible that whoever was responsible may have confided in somebody, whether that be a friend or partner.”

He added, even after the passage of time, those who exploited Vicky may also still face arrest.

And it continues to be a line of enquiry for police to establish who she may have been with when she died.

“Vicky was a vulnerable woman who was exploited by men,” he said.

“She was not a sex worker by choice but forced by circumstance as a young adult.

“She had her whole life ahead of her, was loved by her family, she did not deserve to die and we will continue to seek justice for her murder.”

A special website has been set up to help the public follow the progress in the case, click the link here: https://www.vickyglass.co.uk/

Rachel Wilson

19-year-old Rachel Wilson was last seen on May 31st 2002, she was spotted on CCTV walking into the Southfield Road area of Middlesbrough

Rachel was heavily addicted to class A drugs and was forced to work the streets of Middlesbrough plying her trade as a prostitute in order to fund her habit. Her favourite spot to pick up punters was at the junction of Woodlands Road and Southfield Road in Middlesbrough.

Despite regular appeals by Rachel’s family to try to locate her after she disappeared, no one came forward and the case rendered no results for some 10 years.

On June 27th 2012, Rachel’s remains were found in a shallow grave in farmland close to Coulby Newham. Following the discovery of Rachel a murder investigation was launched with some 20 police officers forming a team and working exclusively on the case.

It was not possible to establish the cause of death in this case as the remains were skeletal and nothing in the way of forensic evidence to build upon. Despite the discovery of the body, there was little or no new evidence that Cleveland Police hoped they would get to further the enquiry.

Following the discovery of Rachel’s body, detectives went to see approximately 500 people with connections to the young woman.

Officers used a “scoring system” to help them decide which people were most heavily linked to the case. The people with the highest scores were investigated further.

I feel it worth mentioning here that the body of Vicky Glass was found on Moorland at Danby, just 18 miles away from the deposition site of Rachel’s body.

It took nearly twenty years from the last time that Rachel was seen alive to discover who was responsible for her murder.

As a teenager 14 to 16 years old the vulnerable teenager had met Keith Hall, he managed to discreetly and deliberately encourage Rachel to distance herself from her family so that she was completely reliant upon him.

Hall had been the father of Rachel’s boyfriend and was married, he worked hard to split the couple up so that she was left at her most vulnerable for him to target.

By the time Rachel reached age 17, she was a full-blown crack cocaine addict and during the year 2000, she began to work the streets of Middlesbrough as a prostitute.

Rachel knew that she was being exploited and made many attempts to escape from Hall but he was violent and very controlling of her, using her vulnerability and addiction to control her every move.

In May 2002 Hall had moved into a bedsit on Southfield Road, Middlesbrough close to where Rachel worked as a street prostitute and where he could monitor her movements, by the end of May she had vanished, never to be seen alive again.

Detectives believe that Rachel had begun to try to heal the rift between herself and her family. This may have led to her untimely death, she had spent the day prior to her disappearance with her family at Crow’s fair on Clairville Common. It is quite feasible that Hall was very angry about the meeting and therefore killed Rachel.

When the police eventually managed to build their case against Hall they raided his home and discovered items including a lock of Rachel’s hair in his wallet along with a note that she had written and dropped off at his flat.

Detectives were able to identify a purple Vauxhall Combo van and link it to Hall and his movements via CCTV both on May 31st and again on June 2nd when it is believed he dumped the body.

Det Supt Dewell said: “A lot of witnesses we spoke to were in the sex industry and didn’t want to go back and relive some of the worst periods of their life, so it was very difficult but thankfully, some very brave people came forward and told their story.”

Eventually, in December 2019, Hall was charged with murder, living off immoral earnings and perverting the course of justice.

After almost 20 years he finally accepted responsibility for killing Rachel and pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the day his trial was due to start.

Det Supt Dewell said: “It is difficult to feel any sense of happiness with this result when at the heart of this enquiry is a 19-year-old vulnerable girl who lost her life in extremely tragic circumstances.

I have to say I can't help but wonder whether the three murders were connected to Hall in some way, although the police seem to think otherwise.

All three victims were addicts forced to work as street prostitutes and all were very vulnerable. There is a definitive space of time between each disappearance and since Hall was locked up there seems to have been no more killings. The only thing that sways me away from that theory is that Hall was at large a long time after Rachel vanished.

A specialist team was set up in 2018 to review the three murders discussed here. Funding was provided by The Home Office and a review of the grant application to the Home Office noted “poor quality” investigations at the times of the murders/disappearances and failings by the force in relation to the three tragic victims whose cases are not thought by the police to be linked.

I have to say that from the research I have done so far I disagree with this, at least in part, as I believe that at least two of the cases are possibly linked, but that cannot be proven at this stage.

I will leave this one there, although I could go on and on. There are so many of these cases, where young and vulnerable females are bullied and groomed into a life of addiction and prostitution, ultimately leading them into a whole dark world of sexual exploitation. It really does anger me, even more, when I see that such cases have not been solved, not been properly investigated and families have been left without answers.

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