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19 years and still unsolved: Who killed police mechanic tied up and left to die?

05 January, 2015

JANUARY 5. It's always a sombre day for Camden police, the grim anniversary of a crime that remains unsolved nearly two decades later.

For 19 years to the day, Alan Holmes, a mechanic who worked on the panda cars and squad vans at Kentish Town police station in Holmes Road, passed away.

He suffered a horrific death, partly from dehydration, having been left tied to his own bed by intruders at his Camden Town flat for more than a week. Unable to free himself, he died from the lack of food and water, and a blood clot. The mystery of what happened to one of their own still haunts the capital's police service. His name is remembered above the door of one of the offices at the police station where he had worked for 17 years. But nobody has ever been brought to trial over the killing.

There was no new official appeal for help this week but detectives would leap on the chance of re-opening the 'cold case' if new information came to light. 

Mr Holmes, 53, had been reading in bed on Boxing Day 1995 when a thief broke into his flat in Parkway.

The raider left Mr Holmes bound and gagged. He was stripped of his credit cards and tortured into revealing his pin numbers.  The last tenant in a condemned block, now refurbished into the shops where GAP and Starbuck's now do business, nobody could hear his cries for help.

It was only when he did not report to work after Christmas that colleagues realised something was horribly wrong. After 10 days strapped to the bed, Mr Holmes was discovered and rushed for emergency treatment at the University College Hospital in Bloomsbury. 

Weak and struggling to form sentences, he somehow managed to relay his horrific ordeal to detectives.

But, tragically, he died the next day on January 5 1996. A post-mortem found the car expert had died of a blood clot caused by immobilisation and dehydration.

The bank cards were never recovered, nor were his passport and driving licence. Missing too were two silver photo frames which contained pictures of his nieces.

Mavis Yule, his sister, said in the days after his death: "He was a friendly, gentle person. He loved poetry and should have been a writer. He was very kind and would have given you the shirt off his back. Living in London, he saw people begging and sleeping in doorways. He felt very sorry for these people. He may have given them money for soup or given them a blanket – but he would never have let anybody he did not know into his flat."

At the ten year anniversary, Detective Anthony McKeown said Mr Holmes' bedding had been analysed and re-analysed with new forensic techniuques. He insisted the search for the killer, thought to be a homeless man, would go on.

Murder squad insiders have suggested in the past that if the killer re-offends and is arrested, DNA samples will automatically be taken and matched against national crime databases.

Mr Holmes suffered injuries later described by police as “horrendous” as his killer demanded PIN codes to bank cards. 

Detectives have not ruled out the possibility that the killer returned to the flat on more than one occasion, or the line of enquiry that there was more than one suspect involved in the raid.

More than £1,000 had been withdrawn Mr Holmes’s NatWest bank accounts before police arrived at his flat.

Five men were arrested between January and March 1996 but all were later released without charge. Launching an appeal in 2000 and offering a £5,000 reward, which still stands, Detective Inspector Nigel Counsell said: “It was a brutal killing, a terrible way to die. The killer was cold and ruthless. He gave no consideration to Alan when he tied him up and stole his cards.  Someone in the homeless community came into a lot of money suddenly – and someone must have noticed it.”

Five men were arrested in 1996, but no one was charged.



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