marie wilks m50 murder

M50 murder – Timeline
The key events in the murder of Marie Wilks, and the subsequent Police investigation.

Saturday 18 June 1988
Marie Wilks drives her 13 month old son, to her parent’s house, where she picks up her youngest sister, Georgina, who was 11 years old.

The Marina car Marie was driving

Marie had only passed her driving test two months earlier, and this was her first big trip.
She was driving the family’s Morris Marina Coupe.
She drove to Symonds Yat, using country roads, to meet her husband Adrian, was instructing 43 boys from the Hereford and Worcester Army Cadet Force.
6.40pm: Last confirmed sighting of Eddie Browning – in Pontypridd. Agreed by defence and prosecution in the subsequent trial.

Police search the embankment

She left at 7pm, and didn’t mean to use the M50 motorway, but got lost on her way back to Worcester.
The car broke down on the eastbound carriageway, 700 yards from emergency phone 2076B.
Marie left the two children in the car, and walked to the emergency phone:
A Police Operator tries to speak to Marie Wilks >
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7.37pm: Marie calls the Police from the motorway, and asks them to contact her parents, and ask them to pick up her and the children.
7.40pm: The Police call her parents, but her Dad is out fishing, and has the family car.
7.41pm: The Police operator tries to relay the message back to Marie, but can’t contact her – he can only hear the background traffic.
7.44pm: Another attempt to contact Marie.
7.49pm: A squad car from Strensham Services finds Georgina walking up the hard shoulder, carrying the baby.
7.51pm: The Police Operator calls a breakdown vehicle, asking them to get to the broken down car as quickly as possible, because Marie is pregnant.
7.59pm: The Police issue a radio message that Marie is missing.
8.01pm: Marie’s mother gives the Police a description of what her daughter was wearing that day. Four squad cars go to the scene. A foot search starts. The emergency phone is found hanging down by its cord.
8.10pm: The Police helicopter is sent to scene, and uses a thermal imager, but sees nothing due to the hot weather, and the fact that Marie had only recently been murdered.
8.20pm: The Police make another call to Marie’s family, but they haven’t heard from her. Tracker dogs are sent to the scene. The search involves 50 officers
Sunday 19 June
Dawn – blood found around the emergency call box.
Marie Wilks’ eleven year old sister >
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The murder scene

Monday 20 June
6.00pm: Marie’s body found, three miles away from where her car broke down. She had been left down the embankment, on the eastbound carriageway. She’d been stabbed in the left hand side of her throat, cutting the carotid artery. She also had been hit or kicked on the left side of her head. Her jaw was broken. There was evidence that a car had driven onto the hard shoulder, then reversed behind the crash barrier.
News report of the murder of Marie Wilks. >
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Tuesday 21 June
7.30pm: Memorial service held at St George’s Church in Barbourne, where Marie had been baptised and confirmed a month before. The service was taken by the Rev. Sam Lowe.

Artist’s impression of the suspect

Wednesday 22 June
Marie Wilks Family Appeal fund launched by the Worcester Evening News and the Hereford and Worcester Army Cadet Force. It would have been the couple’s 3rd wedding anniversary.
Friday 24 June
The Police release an artist’s impression of a man seen at the scene. The description they released at the time said they were looking for a man who was “white, with thin, sharp features, a pronounced chin and a long nose, in his 20’s, of a youngish appearance. His hair was cut in the modern style, blonde, short and spiky, with possible yellow or orange highlights. He was of smart casual appearance, as if on his way to a night out. He was wearing a blue/white striped shirt, dark or royal blue trousers.”
Police reaction to the murder of Marie Wilks >
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Police begin the search

Saturday 25 June
The police stage a reconstruction.
7.00pm: Eddie Browning arrested at a social club in Pentre – about the same time the reconstruction was taking place.
Tuesday 28 June.
Eddie Browning appears in an identity parade in Worcester.

Eddie Browning

Wednesday 29 June
Edward Owen Browning charged with murder at Worcester magistrates court.
Wednesday 14 July
The inquest into Marie’s death opens.
Wednesday 20 July
Marie’s funeral in Worcester – Mourners sang the hymns, Abide With Me, and The Lord’s My Shepherd.
Saturday 6 August
A memorial service is held at Worcester cathedral.
Monday 22 August
The Marie Wilks Family Appeal fund, launched in June, tops £16,000. Sylvia, Marie’s mother says: “It is fantastic that this money has been donated, and the family are very grateful. Money cannot bring Marie back, but it will be a help to Adrian, and for (their son) later on.”
Thursday 15 December
The Marie Wilks Family Appeal fund tops £26,000.
3 October 1989
Trial of Eddie Browning starts at Shrewsbury Crown Court.
Friday 10 November
Eddie Browning found guilty of the murder of Marie Wilks.
May 1991
First appeal by Eddie Browning fails.
May 14 1994
Eddie Browning released by Appeal Court, who decided his conviction was unsafe, because evidence was kept from his trial by the Police.
Judges ruled that the jurors might have changed their mind if they had known of Police evidence about the murderer’s car, that was not disclosed at the trial.

Inspector Peter Clarke

The Police had not disclosed a video in which Peter Clarke, an off-duty West Mercia officer, was filmed four days before Mr Browning’s arrest. He was filmed, supposedly partly under hypnosis. He described a sliver-grey non-metallic non-hatchback Renault car, with chrome bumpers and the registration number C856 HFK. Mr Browning’s car was a hatchback Renault, with plastic bumpers, and the registration number C754 VAD.
The Police also failed to disclose two messages provided earlier in the enquiry by Mr Clarke, and another witness, of what they had seen on the M50. Neither message contained any reference to a C registration, although both witnesses later provided evidence referring to this letter.
Disciplinary proceedings began against Superintendent Anthony Stanley, who was accused of neglect of duty.
Eddie Browning was later awarded damages, believed to be in excess of £600,000.


Eddie Browning cleared of illegally carrying a knife in public.

A former soldier wrongly jailed for a violent murder, was cleared yesterday of unlawfully carrying an illegal knife in a public place. Eddie Browning, 52, of The Muse, Ffynon Wen, Llanon, West Wales, served six years in jail for the 1988 M50 murder of Marie Wilks, before being released in 1994.

The pregnant housewife, 22, was found with her throat cut beside an emergency telephone on the M50 in Herefordshire, after her car had broken down.

Browning later received a substantial pay-out as compensation for the time he spent in prison.

Yesterday he successfully fought a charge of possessing an illegal lock knife in a public place despite admitting he had it on his person when he was arrested.

Magistrates in Aberystwyth accepted he had a good reason for having it at the time of his arrest on December 23 last year. He told the court he used the three-inch blade on his cattle farm to cut bails of hay and had forgotten it was in his pocket when he went out.


4 Responses to “marie wilks m50 murder”

  1. Artist’s impression is spot on.

  2. Song dedicated to marie wilks family.

  3. A song from Wales for Marie Wilkes.

  4. The passage of twenty years has done nothing to diminish the horror of the murder of Marie Wilks on that June day in 1988.

    Forensic team at work at M50 murder scen

    The images from the case are still too strong and too shocking:
    the heavily pregnant mother being abducted and stabbed as she made an emergency call from the side of the M50 motorway;
    the chilling recording of the Police operative who took that call, forlornly repeating “Mrs Wilks” over and over again, with only the sound of motorway traffic coming in reply, after he’d put Marie on hold to speak to her mother;
    the knowledge that the murdered woman’s eleven year old sister, who’d been left in the broken down car, walked up the motorway hard-shoulder, cradling Marie’s year-old baby in her arms, and that none of the estimated 200 cars that passed her stopped to help. She was eventually picked up by a Police car from the nearby Strensham Services.
    “A totally opportunistic incident”
    The crime remains as random now as it did when Marie’s father, Terry, spoke to the press before his daughter’s body was found: “I can’t imagine what happened.” he told reporters, “It baffles me, the Police and everybody.”
    Police reaction to the murder of Marie Wilks >
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    Police cars at the M50 murder scene

    The same sentiments were expressed two days later, by Detective Chief Superintendent David Cole, who led the investigation, when Marie’s body had been discovered on embankment on the M50: “It appears to be a totally opportunistic incident.”
    The question of why someone would abduct and kill a seven and a half month pregnant woman remains unanswered.
    The crime could scarcely have happened in a more public place – a busy motorway early on a Saturday evening.
    Straightway the Police appealed to the hundreds of motorists who drove past the scene, asking them to get in touch with them.

    M50 murder scene

    They must have been very confident that they would be able to piece together an accurate picture of what happened, and uncover vital clues that would help them catch the killer.
    Marie’s eleven year old sister had even spoken to a man who had approached the broken down Marina on the hard shoulder.
    Marie Wilks’ eleven year old sister >
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    As it turned out, there were crucial flaws and contradictions in the evidence they collected from witnesses.
    Different times
    The case also shows how quickly the world we live in changes.
    “I can’t imagine what happened. It baffles me, the Police and everybody.”
    Terry Gough – Marie’s father
    These days we take for granted things like mobile phones and sat navs.
    Marie didn’t have a sat nav to tell her which way to turn when she made the trip to Symonds Yat on that hot summer day, and so had got lost on her way home, and strayed onto the motorway.
    In 1988 mobile phones were the size of house bricks, and were an expensive luxury, so Marie had to walk more than half a mile to use a roadside emergency phone.
    A Police Operator tries to speak to Marie Wilks >
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    In the wake of the murder, the emergency services and others began to think about the safety of women who’d broken down on the side of the road.
    It was in response to the case that the AA developed its Callsafe service – a low-cost mobile phone (for the time), linked to a control centre, that could summon appropriate help to an emergency.
    The system was phased out as more and more people got their own mobile phones.
    New technology and old methods
    Science has also radically changed the way criminal investigations are conducted.
    “A detective following his nose, and the kind of work we have been doing for 150 years, leads us to the person who commits these grave offences.”
    Detective Chief Superintendant David Cole
    These days we take it for granted that DNA evidence will play a key part in any investigation – back in 1988, what was then called genetic fingerprinting was still in its infancy.
    Images from CCTV cameras did play some part in the Marie Wilks murder investigation, but there were nowhere near the number of cameras available back in 1988 as there are now.
    New technology (for the time) was used on the case, notably the Holmes computer, developed in the wake of the Yorkshire Ripper killings. But the system, which cost £300,000 in 1988, was described by Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Stanley, the head of Worcester CID, as “not user friendly”.
    DCS David Cole, profiled in the Worcester Evening News early in the investigation, put his faith in a more traditional style of policing: “No matter how sophisticated our equipment, a detective following his nose, and the kind of work we have been doing for 150 years, leads us to the person who commits these grave offences.”
    Ultimately that was not to be the case with the murder of Marie Wilks.
    Twenty four years on, there are still many more questions than answers surrounding her murder, but one thing is still glaringly obvious:
    No-one has yet been brought to justice – no-one has yet paid the price for this brutal killing.

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