New appeal for information and closure on Janine's murder, 30 years on

It was a cold, frosty night, and Janine Downes had been working the streets of Wolverhampton's red-light district.

Earlier in the evening, she had briefly called into The Harp pub in Walsall Street with a friend, but didn't hang around for long. She had told friends she planned to leave for London that night, but first needed to earn money for her fare.

Janine, who was just 22, never did make it to the capital. The following morning, her half-naked body was found in hedges at the side of a road in Shropshire.

Thirty years since Janine's body was found at the side of the A464 just outside Shifnal, West Mercia Police have renewed calls for information about her death.

Police search the scene close to where Janine's body was found

Janine, who was just 5ft tall, and weighed less than eight stone, had been strangled and sexually assaulted before her body was dumped near Lambert's restaurant. She left three young children behind.

Janine's murder came less than five months after her former friend Gail Whitehouse, also a Wolverhampton sex worker, had been murdered. While serial rapist David Williams was charged with Gail's murder, he was acquitted of the charge and her killing also remains unsolved.

Det Insp Lee Holehouse of West Mercia Police said he hoped that the anniversary of Janine's death could lead to people coming forward with fresh information.

An aerial shot showing where the body of murdered prostitute Janine Downes was found and the marks where her body was dragged through the frost.

Mr Holehouse, from the force's Major Investigation Unit, said: “To date, despite a continuous and full investigation and several arrests being made, nobody has been charged with her murder and I desperately want to change that.

"Janine’s body was found dumped in a lay-by on the A464 just outside of Shifnal near Hatton. She had been dragged a short distance and concealed in a hedge."

“We are still unclear as to what happened to Janine in the hours and days before her death. We are unclear as to whether it’s likely that Janine was killed by a stranger or someone known to her."

Several suspects have been linked with Janine's death. John Taylor, jailed for life for the murder of Leeds schoolgirl Leanne Tiernan in 2000, was at one point prime suspect for Janine's murder.

Police investigating Janine Downes's murder

There have been questions about whether there was a link between Janine's death and Gail's murder the previous September – Janine was reported as saying she knew the identity of Gail's killer – but nothing concrete has emerged.

Janine had previously been living on the Yew Tree Estate in West Bromwich with her three children, but returned to Wolverhampton shortly before her death.

A week before her murder, she wrote a heart-rending letter to her father John, apologising to him for what she had been doing.

She explained that she had been short of money, but had given up sex work.

Mr Holehouse appealed for anybody who was involved in any way with the trade at the time to get in touch with any information they may have.

He said: "We do know that Janine was a sex worker working in the Wolverhampton area at around the time of her death, and would appeal to anybody who was within this circle at the time, or even now and who may have information, to contact us.

"Moreover, I appeal to anybody with any information which may lead to the identity of Janine's killer to get in touch in order that we can get the justice that Janine and her family deserve.

Janine Downes as a child

“Somebody somewhere knows what happened. Janine’s family have lived without closure for far too long. If you know what happened or have any information which may help, please help us.”

To report information about Janine’s death visit the Tell Us About Section of the West Mercia Police website westmercia.police.uk.

Alternatively information can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via the Crimestoppers website.

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