APPEALS – MURDER FILES
In April 1979, a 15-year old schoolboy left his grandparent’s home to visit the travelling fair. His body was found in an alleyway the following morning. Forty years on from his murder, police are once again asking for help in solving who killed Sean McGann?
Sean was born on 14th January 1964. Sean was described as a shy, gentle, loving boy, who loved horses and horse riding, and he had not long celebrated his 15th birthday when he was murdered.
TUESDAY 17th APRIL 1979
It was the Tuesday after the Easter bank holiday weekend and Sean had visited his grandparents at their home in Victoria Gardens, Northampton. They gave Sean £1 before he left at around 5:30pm-6:00pm to visit John Scarrott‘s Easter funfair (Scarrott’s fair visited Northampton six times at year) at Midsummer Meadow. He would have passed the old cattle market and walked across Becket’s Park to reach Midsummer Meadow. Sean failed to return home that evening.
Sean’s body was found two miles away in an alleyway at the back of Birchfield Road East, Abington, at 8:10am the next morning. His glasses, jacket and underwear were missing and his shoes and belt had been left near his body. He had been strangled. Police launched a murder investigation, but the case has never been solved.
Although there was no apparent sign of a sexual assault, police now believe there was a sexual motive behind his killing and that Sean had been murdered elsewhere before his body was dumped in the alley some time between 6:45am and 8:10am that morning – the time his body was found by a passer-by.
Police are unable to say whether Sean ever arrived at the fair, but they had been given differing uncorroborated sightings of Sean at the fair, so it may be he did arrive but was only there for a short time.
Within days the police were trying to trace the owner of a yellow car – possibly a Cortina – that was parked in Beech Avenue near the alley where Sean’s body was found. Two people were seen leaving the car at 12:30am on Wednesday 18th.
A post mortem also concluded that Sean had eaten a meal at some point after leaving his grandparent’s house.
Violence had erupted at the local football match between Northampton and Crewe on the evening of Sean’s disappearance, and initially police felt that Sean had somehow managed to get caught up in fracas.
On 8th August 1979, Terry Lloyd reported on the investigation for ATV which can be seen here.
Det Ch Supt Arthur Crawley, head of Northamptonshire CID, was in charge of the murder investigation
Sean had been wearing a Campari orange and black jacket, size 32″ which was missing. Similar was used in the reconstruction at the time of his disappearance.
According to recent police information, the toilets at Midsummer Meadows was a well known meeting place for the ‘cruising community’ at the time that Sean was killed. (See the May 2019 further information below for further details.)
On 8 June 1979, The Guardian newspaper published claims that the chief constable had been asked by the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL) to investigate claims that homosexuals were being harassed by detectives investigating the murder of Sean. The NCCL claimed that detectives were ‘going beyond the bounds of legitimate police activities’ in their search for Sean’s murderer. The tactics used are described in a video which is linked in ‘Further References’ below.
THE DEATH OF JOHN CONDON
Just six months after Sean’s death, his best friend, John Christopher Condon, took his own life. He was also just 15-years old. (23/3/1964-10/1979)
April 2019: Letter
In April 2019, on the 40th anniversary of Sean’s death, police issued a brand new appeal for information in regards to the unsolved case. They also revealed that in 1991, Sean’s family had been sent a letter which contained important information about his killer, and they issued a picture of the envelope in the hope someone might recognise the writing. Police also announced that they were undertaking a forensic review of the original evidence.
Det Insp Ally White issued a video appeal for information in relation to Sean’s murder, and also followed this up by attending the Northampton Borough Council meeting in May 2019 to speak about the investigation into Sean’s death. The minutes state:
15-year old Sean McGann went missing from Midsummer Meadows at around 6pm. At the time, Midsummer Meadows toilets were known to be used by the ‘cruising community’. Sean’s body was found in an alleyway two miles away. He had not been robbed or assaulted but was found strangled. His body was not hidden and police suspected an element of regret.
DCI White explained that the police at the time were heavy handed and prejudiced which was also reflected in the media reporting but that attitudes today have come a long way. DCI White informed the forum that some funding recently became available to conduct a full forensic review of the case. Forensics have come a long way and DNA has now been found from a letter with information on the death received by police in 1991.
The Forum were reminded that men who might have been witnesses would have also been committing a crime and could have had a lot to lose by giving information at the time. Police are asking the community if you know anyone who might have been using the toilets at the time please come forward with information. All information will be treated sensitively. This is possibly the last change to receive any information.
The park had a reputation and a transient community. Additionally, a fair and football match were taking place on the day of Sean’s death, which would have brought people from other areas into the town.
September 2019: Graffiti
In September 2019, police issued a new appeal on BBC1’s ‘Crimewatch Roadshow‘. Det Ch Insp Joe Banfield said that following a review of evidence, police realised that on a wall just above where Sean had been left, there were two pieces of scrawled writing. Unsure whether it bears any relevance to the case, Ch Insp Banfield felt it an avenue worth exploring and appealed to the public for any information they could offer. One said ‘VERY SORRY’ and ‘NO I’M NOT’.
If you can offer any information that may assist police with their inquiries, you can contact them, by:
- Call Northamptonshire Police on 101, ext 341078
- Anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111