Appeal Over 25-Year-Old Murder

The elderly parents of a young woman, found battered to death in Kent 25 years ago have joined with police to make a new appeal for help to find her killer.

The body of 25 year old shop manager Wendy Knell was found at her bedsit in Guildford Road, Tunbridge Wells in June 1987 after failing to turn up for work. She had also been sexually assaulted.

Her mother Pam Knell, 75, said: "We don't want to die not knowing what happened.''

Cold case detectives believe the same killer was responsible five months later for murdering a second young woman - 20-year-old Caroline Pierce - who was from the same town.

A senior officer said his team was "one step away'' from finding the murderer who has evaded capture despite it being one of Kent Police's largest murder investigations.

Ms Pierce, who lived in Grosvenor Park, was last seen at about midnight on November 24, 1987 when she was dropped off by a taxi at her home. Screams were heard outside the house and days later her body was found by a farm worker in a drainage ditch 40 miles away on Romney Marsh on December 15 that year.

Advances in forensic science led police in 2007 to reveal they had a full DNA profile of the suspected killer but it does not match anyone on the national database. Now police are using further technological breakthroughs by turning to advances in familial DNA to try to identify the murderer.

Speaking to reporters to mark the 25th anniversary of their daughter's death, Mrs Knell and her husband Bill told of the impact the murder had on their lives.

Mr Knell, who turns 78 on Saturday, revealed how he refused to celebrate his birthday for several years after the killing because it fell on the day his daughter died.

Mrs Knell said her life finished the same day her daughter's did. She said: "I had just turned 50 when we lost Wendy and everybody told me my life was going to begin - but it ended.''

Mrs Knell said last September was particularly poignant because her daughter, who harboured hopes of getting married and having children, would have turned 50 herself.

Mr Knell, who has five grandchildren and three great-grandsons, admitted the turmoil had caused cracks in their marriage.

He said: "It's driven us apart as man and wife. My wife can't bear me near her. She's afraid of anything physical. If I put my arm round her, she'll say, 'Don't do that'. We live together apart as brother and sister, but we still love each other.''

He added: "Life as such stopped on that day. Before that we had the perfect life but from that day it's just a stressful life. You just go from day to day and cope.''

Inquiries showed no clear signs of a forced entry to Ms Knell's property and no one at any of the neighbouring bedsits heard anything unusual.

Her distinctive keyring and diary containing her mother's personal details were missing, which her father suggested could have been taken as a "prize''.

The keyring, a souvenir from Austria, had a small brass cow bell attached to a multi-coloured key fob, a brass plate with "Woman of the Year'' engraved on it, and two keys, which have never been found. Items had also been taken from Ms Pierce, including clothing, keys and a distinctive keyring.

A footprint from a Clarks trainer was found on a blouse at Ms Knell's home. Police said such a trainer would have been relatively rare at the time and may belong to the murderer.

Reports of peeping Toms and burglaries were investigated in the area by the original investigation team but no culprit was found.

Ms Knell's family were given a bottle of champagne after the murder and told to ``celebrate when he's caught''.

But Mrs Knell said she threw it away years ago amid frustration that the police investigation had stalled. Her husband admitted they had "lost confidence'' but now feel renewed hope that the killer will be caught.

He said: "It would give us a new lease of life. Things wouldn't get a lot easier but we could sleep easy in our bed because of where he is, hopefully locked up for life.''

Appealing for the public's help, Mr Knell went on: "Please bring closure in our lives so that things can be a little bit better. We are on tenterhooks and nothing will ever change until he's caught.''