Why Has No Arrest Ever Been Made For This Cult Members’ Murder

51-Year-old Esther Soper was a dedicated member of The Exclusive Brethren, she was found murdered with her own tights on New Years' Day 1976

Updated 06/08/2022

Okay, following on from my recent blogs investigating the Exclusive Brethren aka The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, this is a story I came across that I feel just makes me ask so many questions.

The murder of Esther Soper remains unsolved with no fresh clues decades on, but why?

Esther Soper was a much-loved mother and grandmother with apparently no enemies, yet she was killed in cold blood in her own home on New year’s day 1976.

This is a far more interesting and complex case than it first appears and I am absolutely satisfied that we can dismiss any theory of a robbery that went wrong. So let’s take a look at what we know just from media reports then I will try to take things further.

The brutal murder of 51-year-old Esther Soper really shocked the people of the City of Plymouth in Devon UK as there just seemed to be no reason for such a dreadful killing. A major manhunt was initiated but very unusually no one was ever questioned in connection with this killing, just pause and let that sink in a moment. Yes very unusually nobody was ever questioned about this dreadful murder, no arrests, no charges, doesn’t make sense.

Esther was a very quiet lady who lived alone in a terraced house at 9 Trematon Terrace, Mutley Plain, Plymouth. She didn’t really socialise outside of her incomparable and somewhat reclusive community. This lady had moved to Mutley Plain after the death of her husband where she had joined The Exclusive Brethren, the strictest order of The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether Mrs Soper was already a member of The Plymouth Brethren before she moved to Mutley or not, but it seems likely as it is not the kind of church that welcomes outsiders. The church or ‘cult’ (as is a more appropriate description) is very exclusive and the kind of organisation whose members are born into it, rather than joining later. Whichever way I am of the opinion that there is almost certainly a definite link between the “church” and Esther Soper’s murder.

Esther Soper was found by two of her fellow Exclusive Brethren after she failed to turn up for a church meeting early in the morning. She was a very dedicated and regular attendee to the church so obviously, her absence was noticed. The two fellow Christians made their way to Esther’s home and found the front door unlocked, the scene that greeted them was not a pleasant one

The 51-year-old had suffered what was described by police as a “frenzied attack”, she had been bludgeoned to death with a glass Cider bottle and had been strangled with her own tights, she had been wrapped in curtains and left on the floor. I’m not at all sure why the tights were used as it seems the vicious blows to her head were more than enough to kill her, maybe some kind of sexual deviancy.

I have researched cases whereby a particular form of sexual deviancy means that a person gets ‘a kick’, massive arousal from seeing a person strangled particularly underwear or hosiery such as tights or stockings. There is a particular sexual perversion known as Hypoxyphilia associated with multiple paraphilias, with many cases of murder and manslaughter resulting from acts such as strangulation. I am not going to labour on this point as it may not bear any connection but it is worth noting in this and other similar cases.

Coming back to the matter in hand I have several questions which just don’t seem to have answers but nonetheless, I feel are very relevant to this murder that has remained unsolved for over 42 years. First off I find it most interesting that of the few articles I have been able to find it interests me that pretty much from the outset of each one the stories talk a lot of Esther Soper’s connections to The Exclusive Brethren.

Now whilst I accept it may be quite important to mention within an article a little of the victim’s connection to a specific religion it is by no means necessary to mention it in maybe eight or nine times in a single small news story. Were the news reporters trying to tell the readers something without actually making an allegation perhaps?

I do understand that all of us have to take great care when publishing articles in order not to risk facing a claim for defamation so I do wonder whether the journalists were trying to highlight their feelings by overcompensating with the number of mentions of Esther’s religious life in their articles.

Now it seems that Mrs Soper lived alone as she was a widow and had lived that way since her husband’s sudden death, but the rules of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, particularly the Exclusive brethren of which she was a member do not permit anyone to live alone. I am a little confused by this, although there may be a simple explanation and the rule may not apply to widows and widowers, so far I am unable to find a definitive answer to that. Perhaps if anyone reading this article is able to clarify this point I would love to hear from you.

Esther Soper was actually trying to sell her house in Mutley Plain when the murder took place and it was thought that the killer may have been someone that came under the guise of viewing the property. I know that in the early days of the murder enquiry police were led to believe that a man known as ‘Clifford Sparks’ had been to view the house just a few days prior to the murder and had arranged to do a second viewing on New Year’s Day.

Mysteriously ‘Clifford Sparks’ was never found and no connection was ever established between Esther Soper and a person of that name. The media say that in the 1970s it was a common practice of estate agents to make up names for potential buyers, though I fail to see why. The only possible reason for such behaviour that comes to mind is making sellers believe that more potential buyers were interested in the property than actually were. Whichever way Mr Sparks was never found and despite a great deal of investigation on the police’s part, there was little or no information to assist the murder investigation.

Did someone from Esther Soper’s church maybe take umbrage at the fact she was moving away? Was she trying to leave the Exclusive Brethren perhaps? Many people have done so when they found that they couldn’t take the controlling ways, the draconian rules set down in the church’s doctrine. I am not convinced that there is no connection. During a case, review in 2004even a retired detective told a local paper “Esther Soper was part of the Plymouth Brethren and so didn’t socialise with the rest of the community much”.

That statement suggests to me that he was hinting that Esther Soper’s church and religious beliefs held a connection to the investigation. Why else would he make such a point? There had after all been suggestions that the murder had simply been a burglary that went wrong but why was a burglar carrying a large glass cider bottle with him?

The killer clearly brought the murder weapon with him as no other alcohol was found in the house and although members of the Exclusive Brethren do drink alcohol in small amounts, so far as I can ascertain Esther Soper did not use alcohol at all.

So, the house was found in a messed-up kind of state, described as “appearing ransacked” but I am of the opinion that things may well have been set up that way deliberately. I feel it is important to keep in mind that this murder happened sometime during New Year’s Day, things would have been pretty quiet in Plymouth and the houses were terraced so any noise would have very much been audible through the party walls.

It is very likely that Esther would have let her killer in as there is no record of any sign of forced entry on 9 Trematon Terrace, which obviously indicates she either knew the person or thought he or she was a potential buyer for the house, This takes us back to the reasoning that this lady was a devoted Exclusive Brethren and therefore would not have invited any visitor to her home that was not also from the same religious denomination as the doctrine of the Exclusive Brethren is that people that are not from their church are deemed ‘unclean’ and by inviting an ‘unclean’ person into her home that would have deemed Eather Soper’s home ‘unclean’ and she would have been punished by the cult. She would also not have invited any lone male into her home, not even to view it as she knew this would break the rules in a big way.

So let’s get this clear, a person or persons unknown goes to a terraced house in a fairly quiet street, where neighbours from both sides could have seen and heard anyone visiting. There is a hefty glass or stoneware Cider bottle carried with the visitor(s), which is used as a weapon to bludgeon this 51-year-old Christian to death. No noise or argument is heard, no sign of anyone breaking in or forcing their way in and that killer then leaves again unseen and makes a clean getaway on New Year's Day?

Police apparently carry out a thorough murder investigation with some 80 officers working on the case but no clues are unearthed, no suspects are found and there are no reasonable explanations as to why Esther Soper was murdered.

The case has been reviewed several times and more recently Mrs Soper’s clothing was sent for forensic analysis to try to trace the possible DNA of the killer but apparently, the laboratory reported that the only DNA found on the clothing was that of Esther Soper. Now, this seems even more curious this must indicate that the killer may be had also worn gloves or other hand covering as he or she obviously tied the tights used to strangle the victim and wielded the Cider bottle weapon. The heavy weapon was left at the scene and I would assume also retained as an exhibit in the murder enquiry.

So, who killed Esther Soper and why? Well, my submission is that based on limited evidence I would suggest that there was almost definitely a link to someone from the Exclusive Brethren, sadly I have no idea who.

The evidence that I have presented here certainly seems clear, Esther would not have let anyone in her house that was not known to her, except possibly a potential buyer and even that seems unlikely and if she had been wanting to sell up and move away then that suggests that she may well have been looking to escape the bonds of the Exclusive Brethren.

I will be bringing some more revelations about this very “unusual” religious cult very soon including looking into the involvement of certain parliamentary ministers in crime that have been seen to assist in re-establishing the charity status of this organisation, but that is for another day and another blog.

Let’s just say I believe that those that needed to know who was responsible for the murder of Esther Soper know and have known for many years, but something or someone stops that from becoming public knowledge

I will see you all again very soon, until then, please do keep following and subscribing, it means a great deal to me.

I am always happy to hear from any of you so please get in touch:

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Updates

It was my great pleasure to establish contact with a former Exclusive Brethren with some awesome insider knowledge. I am delighted to be able to bring these updates to my research:

There could possibly be a simple enough explanation for the cider bottle being present in Esther Soper’s home as it turns out that in fact EB/PBCC are actually heavy drinkers and many are allegedly alcohol-dependent. The 1970s was a peak era with alcohol being something of a novelty, many people were new to drinking at home as it wasn’t sold half as freely as it is now. The cult uses alcohol as a social bonding tool, particularly with fellow members.

According to my informant, by the 1970s it was expected that all Exclusive Brethren must live in detached properties in order that a party wall was not shared with a non-believer /unclean, so it seems somewhat confusing that Esther Soper was living in a terraced house. This could explain her desire to move house, in order the get a detached property.

The other possible reason for Mrs Soper seeking to sell her house could have followed the rules that whilst widows are accepted within the Exclusive Brethren, they are definitely not encouraged to be alone for any length of time and therefore Esther could well have been preparing to move in order to go to a new suitor.

The cult would have been ‘helping her to find a new husband, most likely a widower from within but if none were available she may have been steered to seek a new relationship with a ‘brother’ from another church. My reasoning for saying that the male would most likely be a widower is that males are actively encouraged to marry quite young, divorce is absolutely forbidden, therefore it is not likely there would have been a man, other than a widower available within the Exclusive Brethren.

I am still unclear as to when Esther Soper was actually murdered as the two Exclusive Brethren apparently went to Trematon Terrace because Esther had failed to show up for a meeting but there is no indication as to when that meeting would have taken place.

The Exclusive Brethren meet at least once a day on weekdays and as the previous day would have been a Wednesday the meeting that the two claimed Esther had missed would have either been held on Wednesday morning early or Wednesday evening but I think there is a somewhat foggy area surrounding this information and the communication between the police and the media is somewhat incoherent, but I will try to establish this as fact and update accordingly.

Listen to this case discussed on The Jury Room Podcast Here it is featured in the second part of this particular podcast

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Lolly True crime

Lolly True crime

Lolly’s True Crime World cold case review specialists, researchers, and Unsolved crime investigation is our passion. Buy me a coffee https://www.buymeacoffee.co