Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Two decades after brutal strangling of mum-of-four, a man faces questioning from police

Tina Wardlow funeral
Tina Wardlow funeral

Police in Londonderry have arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the horrific murder of a Belfast woman 20 years ago.

Detectives from the Serious Crime Branch made the arrest after they renewed the investigation into the killing of Tina Wardlow (32) who was found strangled in south Belfast on January 29, 1993.

The man was taken in for questioning at Limavady police station yesterday morning.

The mother-of-four's body was found under a stairwell at Majestic Place in Sandy Row just hours after she was last spotted leaving a pizza parlour on the city's Golden Mile.

An inquest into her death revealed that Tina had been drinking with her husband Billy Millar and a friend, Mark Whittley on the night she was murdered.

It also emerged that she had suffered horrific injuries to parts of her body and had been strangled.

At the time of her murder, then State Pathologist Jack Crane told the inquest that although she had not been raped there was a "sadistic" element in the killing.

"It was discovered that her pubic hair had been singed – probably with a lighter and almost certainly after she had been strangled," he said.

"There were other abrasions on her chest and right breast which could have been inflicted with a fairly sharp object, like a disposable cigarette lighter."

Her family have never given up hope that those responsible would be found and in the years following her death both Tina's brother and husband claimed they knew who murdered her.

A number of years ago her son Ernie, who was just 10 years old when she was killed, made a desperate plea for clues to her killer.

"I was in shock when she died, I couldn't go to the funeral, but there was always the thought that someone would be caught for her murder," he said.

In 2004 Philip Smith, a notorious serial killer from England, was questioned over the murder after it emerged that at the time of the killing he had been travelling with a fun fair from England.

However, no charges were brought against him.

The case has since lain dormant until yesterday's arrest.

Tina's family was blighted with tragedy in the years prior to her death.

Her father Norman Winchester was stabbed to death in 1976 at the family's home close to where Tina's body was found. Both Tina and her sister Noreen were charged with the killing and it emerged that their father had been sexually abusing Noreen for a number of years.

The charge against Tina was dropped but Noreen was given seven years' imprisonment for manslaughter.

She was released after 18 months following a campaign by women's groups.

The inquest into her death also revealed that Tina was heavily intoxicated at the time of her murder and was "incapable of offering much resistance to her attacker".

One of the last people to see Tina alive was her friend Mark Whittley when she walked out behind him from the Golden Mile pizza restaurant on the night of her death.

He was a crucial witness in the investigation but refused to attend the inquest, saying that her death "terrorised him" and was later admitted to a mental institution.

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