Incredible way police caught suspects of gruesome murder

Ash Cant
·6-min read

Police have revealed the slight detail on CCTV footage which led to them to the two men responsible for a missing woman’s gruesome murder.

On November 9, Nathan Maynard-Ellis and his partner David Leesley were found guilty for their involvement in the death of Julia Rawson last year in Tipton, a town in the West Midlands in England.

Ms Rawson, 42, was “easy-going and quick to make friends with anyone she met”, her family said. She was a talented artist who lived in Dudley, close to Tipton.

Ms Rawson was last seen on May 11, 2019. She had spent the day with her friends and then ended up at a pub called the Bottle and Cork in Dudley in the evening.

Julia Rawson, 46, was last seen alive in May last year and her disappearance sparked an extensive investigation. Source: West Midland Police
Julia Rawson, 46, was last seen alive in May last year and her disappearance sparked an extensive investigation. Source: West Midland Police

She was never seen by her loved ones again and three days later, on the 14th, she was reported missing.

A video produced and released by the West Midlands Police shows how authorities ended up finding parts of Ms Rawson’s body after an exhaustive investigation.

On May 23, the locate team tasked with looking into the missing persons case spoke with Detective Inspector Jim Colclough, concerned after weeks there was no sign of life.

How tattoos led the police to the suspects

CCTV footage from the Bottle and Cork in Dudley showed Ms Rawson with a man in a pub.

“What was distinctive about him is that during the course of the evening in the pub he'd rolled up his sleeves and shown Julia some quite distinctive tattoos that he had on both arms,” Det Insp Colclough explained.

People who worked within Dudley town centre were shown the footage by a community support officer, knowing that the man seen in the pub could be the key to Ms Rawson’s missing person case.

CCTV footage of Julia Rawson (middle) at a pub in Dudley with a man with tattoos on his arms (left) proved to be crucial to the investigation. Source: West Midlands Police
CCTV footage of Julia Rawson (middle) at a pub in Dudley with a man with tattoos on his arms (left) proved to be crucial to the investigation. Source: West Midlands Police

Det Insp Colclough explained that on May 22, a member of security had contacted the community support officer to say they believed that same man from the video was shopping in Dudley.

Police approached the man on the street, explaining there was an investigation into a woman’s disappearance and a man seen with her days before matched his description.

“She’s been missing for 11 days, so obviously we need to find her,” an officer is heard saying in the police footage.

“And because you look like the person we’ve seen on CCTV we just need to get some details off you.”

Nathan Maynard-Ellis stood on the street with police, in a short sleeve shirt exposing his tattoos.

“I’d probably chop all my hair off though,” he told police.

Police approached a man on the street who looked similar to the man Julia Rawson was with at the pub, where she was last seen alive. Source: West Midlands Police
Police approached a man on the street who looked similar to the man Julia Rawson was with at the pub, where she was last seen alive. Source: West Midlands Police

Det Insp Colclough said Maynard-Ellis told police on the street he would have changed his appearance and left town if he was involved with a woman’s disappearance.

“But officers having again reviewed that CCTV looking at the man standing in front of them were confident enough, and certainly had enough suspicion at that time to think that it was Nathan that was the man in the shot,” he said.

Maynard-Ellis was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Ms Rawson, his partner David Leesley was also arrested.

Nathan Maynard-Ellis (left) and his partner David Leesley were arrested following the run-in with police on the street. Source: West Midlands Police
Nathan Maynard-Ellis (left) and his partner David Leesley were arrested following the run-in with police on the street. Source: West Midlands Police

The ‘flat of horrors’

Following the arrests, Det Insp Colclough went to the flat in which Maynard-Ellis and Leesley lived, which has been dubbed the ‘flat of horrors’ in the media.

“Clearly there were a lot of items within the flat that became a real interest to us,” he said.

“It became really clear that between them there is a real fascination with true life crime, serial killers cannibalism, and things of that nature.”

Hundreds of books found in the apartment suggested to police Maynard-Ellis was “very forensically aware”.

“I think this stems from an interest he had once taken upon doing a course around potentially forensic work,” Det Insp Colclough said.

Near the apartment where the Maynard-Ells and Leesley lived was a canal next to a wooded area.

A specialist team had already begun line searching the area.

CCTV footage shows Maynard-Ellis and Leesley had walked from the apartment to the nearby canal numerous times carrying bags.

Police noticed Nathan Maynard-Ellis had an obsession with crime and serial killers after searching his apartment. Source:  West Midlands Police
Police noticed Nathan Maynard-Ellis had an obsession with crime and serial killers after searching his apartment. Source: West Midlands Police

Det Insp Colclough explained by that point the police were aware of the locations the pair were walking to and from, and police suspected on May 12 the two were in their backyard burning items of clothing in an incinerator bin.

“Items of clothing that were examined and ultimately identified to have spots of blood on them and the DNA from that blood came back as Julia’s,” he said.

“A breakthrough came on, lifting the carpet in the living room and underneath the underlay there was a stain found, and when this stain was tested it, it tested positive for blood.”

Police knew from that moment, Ms Rawson was harmed in that apartment.

The ‘grim discovery’ after extensive search

The search lasted 47 days in various areas including canals, woods, storage units and drains.

However, on the afternoon of 12 June, Det Insp Colclough received a call from a search advisor and was told the team had made a “very grim discovery”.

“It was evident from their first viewing that we’d located body parts,” he explained.

“And those parts have been found in two separate bags, sort of separated from each other over a distance of 20 or so metres.”

The body parts were wrapped well to be preserved, so well that even on the hot summer’s day no flies were attracted to the area.

Police discovered parts of Julia Rawson's body in seperate bags after searching for more than 40 days. Source: West Midlands Police
Police discovered parts of Julia Rawson's body in seperate bags after searching for more than 40 days. Source: West Midlands Police

“Unfortunately, given the state in which Julia's body was discovered, and the time that had passed since she'd been killed, we were unable to ascertain what had actually been the cause of Julia's death,” Det Insp Colclough said.

West Midlands Police worked with Warwick University, using 3D imagery to present as evidence in court.

Maynard-Ellis and Leesley were found guilty of murder after a four week trial and will soon be sentenced.

Maynard-Ellis was also found guilty of rape, and threats to kill, in relation to another woman, police said.

“This is simply a tragic case,” Det Insp Colclough said.

“The actions of Maynard-Ellis and Leesley are incomprehensible. Julia did nothing wrong that evening. The way in which she was murdered and treated in death are despicable.”

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