I just don't want my nine-year-old murdered sister to ever be forgotten about

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A man is trying to create a lasting tribute to his sister who was brutally murdered as a child.

A man is trying to create a lasting tribute to his sister who was brutally murdered as a child.

Dave Wade, 33, was not even born when his older sister Annette was mercilessly attacked and killed as she walked home through a field near her home, back in July 1989.

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Annette, who loved animals and was particularly fond of seals, was only nine years old and still at primary school.

She was found raped and stabbed to death, so close to the safety of her own home.

Now as Annette’s brother tries to raise money for a memorial park sign in tribute to his sister, the Blackpool Gazette takes a look back at the case that shocked the Fylde coast to its core.

Dave, who still lives in Carleton, said: “It’s sad that I never got to know her because I wasn’t even born until two years after she died.

“She would have been 44 now, if she had lived.

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“It was obviouly a terrible thing to happen - I just don’t want her to be forgotten about.”

To donate to the campaign, visit here

Dave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, AnnetteDave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, Annette
Dave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, Annette | Third party

Looking back

Annette Wade was excited. It was the last few days of term and ahead lay six long weeks of summer holidays. Brian and Mary Wade moved to a semi-detached house in Blackpool Old Road, Poulton, seven months earlier so their only daughter would be safer. Concerned about bringing up a child in a flat on a busy main road they did not like letting Annette out to play unsupervised. The move to Carleton with its views across open fields eased their fears and in the hot sunny evenings after school the popular nine-year-old would head out to play with her pals. Her parents bought their daughter a watch which beeped on the hour so Annette would not lose track of time as she played out. Known as a bit of a tomboy, whatever the weather she loved the new found freedom of playing outdoors on her beloved BMX bicycle and racing around the playground on neighbouring Cottam Hall playing fields. A friendly and brave little girl - she once had six teeth removed in one sitting without crying – she was something of a chatterbox.

Dave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, AnnetteDave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, Annette
Dave Wade is trying to raise funds for a park sign in memory of his murdered sister, Annette | Third party

Annette was playing on the swings with her bike lying on the floor beside her when she first met John Heeley. Dressed all in black and drinking from a bottle, he sat down on the grass about 10 yards away and starting talking to the youngster. Before long she jumped down from the swing and went to sit with Heeley and The two chatted away as he boasted of his Red Indian ancestry and royal blood until two of her friends arrived and she went back to playing on the swings. In those few minutes they had spent talking he had already tricked his way into the little girl’s confidence and, over the space of a few days, they would meet up after school. Heeley even gave her three 20p coins which she later told her mother Mary had been given to her by a friend. It was her little secret. The trusting youngster returned the favour giving her new friend a present of her own, the gold coloured cloth bag in which she kept her recorder. Word of Heeley’s den and the strange looking man who lived there with the feather in his headband had quickly spread among local children. Curious to get a look at this mysterious figure who looked like a Red Indian and lived like Huckleberry Finn, they would sneak into the field to spy on him. It was not just the children who took notice of the newcomer living in the fields. With his strange outlaw clothes, scruffy appearance and wild staring eyes he stood out in the quiet Carleton community. But to Annette the outwardly friendly hobo Heeley was her secret friend and she did not breathe a word about him to her classmates at Breck Primary School.

Cottam Hall playing fields in PoultonCottam Hall playing fields in Poulton
Cottam Hall playing fields in Poulton | nw

Murder

On Tuesday, July 18, the night before school broke up for the summer, Brian and Mary picked up their daughter from the school gates at 3.15pm. When they arrived home, Annette raced into her bedroom and changed out of her school uniform into a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts and white socks. Proudly pinned on her T-shirt was a badge with ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ emblazoned across it. A few minutes later she left the house, telling her parents she was off to play with her friend who lived opposite. Instead of going to his house, Annette cycled to Cottam Hall playing fields to keep a pre-arranged meeting in the summer sunshine with John Heeley. Earlier in the day her pals asked her out to play after tea but Annette said she had a ‘special meeting’ and gave nothing else away. That afternoon Heeley had offered to show the schoolgirl his den and the temptation was too much. If Annette was excited about her secret meeting, then Heeley also spent the day preparing for their rendezvous. At lunchtime he walked into Poulton to get his hair cut at Peter J’s salon. Next he posed for photographs in a photo machine before heading to the village Post Office, where he bought a temporary passport for £7.50 telling the post mistress he was planning a trip to France. Preparations made, he picked up some fizzy pop, beer and chocolate and strolled back to the playing fields where he spent the rest of the afternoon lazing in the sunshine. Cottam Hall playing fields was linked to Woodhouse Farm by a tunnel, formed where a dyke passed beneath the Blackpool to Preston railway line. When Annette caught up with Heeley at the swings they chatted for a while then walked together from the playground and off through the tunnel towards the farmer’s fields, the youngster wheeling her red BMX by her side. Shortly after 5pm two anglers arrived at a pond behind Woodhouse Farm to spend the evening fishing, but were distracted by smoke rising from the far side of the field known locally as Goose Meadow. With Lancashire in the grip of a warm, dry spell the men were concerned the flames could spread and went over to investigate. By the time they arrived at the fire, all the anglers could see through the thick smoke was what appeared to be a pile of burning clothes and a bicycle. They alerted the farmer, Bob Aspden, and he quickly arrived, carrying water in a milk churn on his tractor, which he used to put out the fire. filled a milk churn with water, loaded it on to his tractor and started up the vehicle for the 300 yards journey to the remote corner of his land.He filled a bucket from the milk churn and extinguished the fire. Once the smoke cleared, Mr Aspden removed the bicycle from the top of the remains and saw a large pile of twigs and leaves. Underneath lay the charred and mutilated body of a child. Annette Ward had been raped and then stabbed three times in the neck and once in the chest.

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Police cordon - Police cordon -
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Getaway

After killing the youngster, Heeley wrapped her lifeless body in a makeshift funeral shroud made from a piece of blue curtain. In Heeley's warped mind he was carrying out the traditional Red Indian funeral by cremating his dead on a burning pyre. Then the next stage of his evil plan kicked in. Two nights earlier, as pensioner Grace May slept in her bungalow in Thirlmere Avenue, Poulton, Heeley forced his way in through a window and stole cash, jewellery and the keys to her Mini Metro City. He pushed the car off the driveway and out of the cul-de-sac before starting up the engine. A short while later he left the metallic green car in a residents’ car park a few hundred yards away in Sherbourne Court, Carleton. The innocuous Metro was to be his getaway car. But at the very time he was disposing of Annette’s lifeless body, an elderly resident from the flats in Sherbourne Court, Joan Bennetts, called the police, concerned at the strange car which had been parked outside their home for two days. It was 5.15pm and two officers arrived to check out the Metro. They confirmed it was stolen and locked its doors before leaving it for a fingerprint expert to return to. Having discovered who the car belonged to, Mrs Bennetts went to telephone Mrs May to let her know her vehicle was safe.

Prime Minister John Major meets staff as he visited the Lancashire Evening Post Offices. He was then taken on a tour of the building where he saw how the newspaper was put together, before being presented with his own newspaper, hot off the press, at Broughton PrintersPrime Minister John Major meets staff as he visited the Lancashire Evening Post Offices. He was then taken on a tour of the building where he saw how the newspaper was put together, before being presented with his own newspaper, hot off the press, at Broughton Printers
Prime Minister John Major meets staff as he visited the Lancashire Evening Post Offices. He was then taken on a tour of the building where he saw how the newspaper was put together, before being presented with his own newspaper, hot off the press, at Broughton Printers

As she put down the telephone Mrs Bennetts looked out of the window and saw an unkempt figure unlock the car boot and put a bedroll and two rucksacks inside. She rushed outside and up to the car window and bravely shouted: “Get out, that is not your car.” Heeley stared back and replied, “Yes it is. See I have the keys,” before driving off. He headed for the M6 and at 10pm picked up hitchhiker David Turner in the stolen Metro at Keele service station. Carrying on his journey south he stopped at Toddington services to fill up the car with fuel but instead of using petrol he filled up the tank with diesel. The car carried on for a few more miles before inevitably breaking down in Swiss Cottage, north London. Heeley abandoned the Metro, bade farewell to Turner and melted into the night.

Liverpool Crown CourtLiverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

Justice

By teatime Heeley’s face was on all of the national television bulletins and the front pages of the region’s newspapers. After dumping the Metro, Heeley made his way into central London and on to Victoria Station where he caught a direct train to Dover. Once at the coastal port he gave his own name, paid £12 for a day ticket to Boulogne and boarded the 12.30pm ferry bound for France. After he crossed the Channel the killer hitched a lift to Marseilles with a lorry driver. But detectives were already on to him. His idle small talk with the postmistress Doreen Thompson as he paid for his temporary passport was quickly identified as a crucial lead. An all ports warning was issued across all cross-Channel ferry terminals.Checks were made on passenger lists and Heeley's name was confirmed as a traveller. Two Special Branch officers from Kent Police were monitoring passengers returning to Dover, looking for suspected drug runners, when they spotted Heeley stepping off P&O Ferries’ Pride of Hythe after it docked from Boulogne. He was arrested, stripped and his clothes sent away for forensic examination. Items in his possession were linked to the murder scene, including Annette’s gold coloured recorder bag. On April 25, 1990 John Heeley went on trial at Liverpool Crown Court. At the end of a three-week trial the jury took less than two hours to find John Heeley guilty of murder. As he sat impassively in the dock with his arms folded Mr Justice Kennedy told him, “You have been convicted on overwhelming evidence of murdering a nine-year-old child. Even if it were not compulsory for me to do so I would have no hesitation in sentencing you to imprisonment for life.”