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MURDER IN THE CHURCHYARD

 


Glenda Potter was 32 years old when she was found dead. She was stripped from the waist down and left on the grounds of Vine Church, Rochester, Kent. 

The killer was never found and the case remains open. 

Glenda was killed by strangulation, with sexual assault evident at the time of the killing. 

Glenda left behind four children and her murder left little evidence, leaving the family unresolved to obtaining justice. 

Shortly after the murder, a man was arrested over the disposal of her body but he was ruled out in 2011 - 20 years after the murder. The man stopped and the accused was just 16 at the time of the murder. His name was Malcolm Shipley, a man with a troubled future after Glenda’s death. 

Glenda was a vulnerable target. She worked as a prostitute at the time of her murder. She had a drug and drink addiction and was a bit of a loner around Rochester. 

This was an era before CCTV and surveillance. So, the crux of the investigation went on eyewitnesses and contemporaneous reports. 

The show was profiled on Crimewatch, a popular British TV show (similar to America’s Most Wanted). 

A gardener working in the church had arrived at about 9.30am and before that schoolboys had been at the church, a popular place to hang around and smoke before school, until about 8.30am.

Neither the boys nor the gardener noticed anything suspicious while they were there and police concluded Glenda's body had been brought to the churchyard in daylight between 8.30am and 9.30am.

Police believe Glenda died two days before her body was found in the churchyard that Tuesday morning.

Friends reported seeing Glenda on Friday, May 11, in The Kings Arms pub in Rochester, which was one of her regular spots.

Glenda was spotted at about 9.45pm in Rochester outside St Bartholomew's Chapel on the corner of the high street and Gundolph Street.

Police were extremely keen to establish who Glenda had spent the nights during that weekend after neighbours at the bedsit where she lived reported hearing her TV had been on continuously over the weekend but she had not answered the door.

Officers believed she had not returned home all that weekend.

But she was seen again just after 10am on a Sunday morning by a friend leaving a shop.

It is thought this is the last time she was seen alive and police later concluded she had died by the Sunday night.

Two incidents reported to police in the churchyard in the days before Glenda's body was found failed to yield any significant findings.

"It is important to remember no case is ever truly closed and should any new information become available it will be investigated..."

A boy trying to find his friends said he thought he had seen a leg sticking out but as he could not see his friends, left the church.

It was described as wearing a white training shoe with a black pattern on it and white socks with a coloured band at the top.

Police ruled this out as being Glenda who was last seen wearing white socks and black ankle boots.

A couple of hours after the schoolboy's visit, two people were spotted in a car at the church by a man returning home from a day out.

The woman in the car was described as having short dark hair – a possible match for Glenda.

The man was said to have sandy-coloured hair.

Police were highly interested in speaking to either of these two people to rule them out of inquiries.

The man in the Kings Arms the previous Friday night and seen by the taxi driver was also hunted for by police as a person of interest.

It was reported the man – who matched both descriptions – had been driving a red estate car which might have been a Volvo.

This detail was never confirmed.

"This case centred on prostitution but I felt the motive was actually the thieving that the girl used to do to satisfy her habit for drugs..."

But the unknown man was described as having balding grey hair, aged in his 60s and about 6ft tall. He was also wearing a suit, collared shirt and tie.

Police later said they did not believe robbery had been a motive in Glenda's murder.

But this was a theory not shared by Mr Tappenden, who joined the investigation eight weeks after Glenda's body was found to lead a review of the case.

In the 2010 interview with the Medway Messenger, he said he did not believe Glenda had been killed in the churchyard and that robbery could well have been a motive in the killing.

"This case centred on prostitution but I felt the motive was actually the thieving that the girl used to do to satisfy her habit of drugs," he said.

"Kent Police’s Cold Case team carries out periodic reviews into unsolved murders, rapes and other serious offences, however, there is no new update for this particular investigation..."

"She had been living a life of stealing and the motivation was probably caused by that ancillary part of her career."

The case has been revisited numerous times by police in the past three decades.

THE SUSPECT

MALCOLM SHIPLEY 

Malcolm was arrested for Glenda’s murder at just 16 years of age but was later released. 

Malcolm had a litany of offences post-Potter. He pled guilty in 2019 to targeting a woman working in a charity shop. Making her fall for him and then robbing the safe (while asking her to make a false burglary claim). And then came back weeks later to rob the woman at knifepoint for £600.00. 

Prosecutor Mary Jacobson said Shipley had befriended the mum-of-four in 2016 while she was working at the shop and “then deliberately manipulated things to take advantage”.

And before that case, he was placed on the sex offender’s register for molesting a teenager at a concert in 2009. The girl he attacked was aged 19 and was found ‘drunk and depressed’ because her boyfriend had recently died. 

Malcolm molested her and then stole her bracelet before fleeing - for this crime he was put on the sex offender’s register and given a 14-month jail sentence. 

But despite his transgressions and legal issues and a long investigation, Malcolm was formally cleared as a suspect in 2011. 

“Even my own mum had this tiny part of her that believed it was me, but when I got the letter I told her how relieved I felt,” he said.

Although, we have no conclusive proof that ties Malcolm to Glenda’s murder. He clearly has a troubling legal history and a criminal history with women.

Sources;

https://youtu.be/8nUQfEftjCs

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/30-years-on-and-no-closer-to-finding-womans-killer-247183/

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/twenty-years-of-suspicion-over-g-a78296/

http://www.unsolved-murders.co.uk/murder-content.php?key=724&termRef=Glenda%20Potter

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