LONDON — On June 6, 1991, Penny Bell, 43, left her Bakers Wood, Denham, home at 9:40 a.m. for an appointment. She was found dead in her Jaguar XJS at 12:15 p.m. that day in the car park at Gurnell Leisure Center. She had been stabbed more than 50 times. Forensics later determined that her assailant stabbed her while sitting in the passenger seat, then got out of the car, walked around to the driver’s side, and stabbed Bell some more.
Somebody had laid out carpet samples in the backseat of the car, and the hazard lights were still flashing when her body was discovered.
Even though the crime occurred in broad daylight, not one person saw the killer leave the scene.
A delivery driver told the police he saw a woman driving a car identical to Bell’s at about 10 a.m. The woman was going about 10-15 mph along A4127 Greenford Road in West London. She tried to pull over along the curb, but a man in the passenger seat grabbed the steering wheel and redirected it back into traffic. He had dark hair with a possible beard and was around 40.
There was no apparent motive for the murder, and Bell had not been sexually assaulted or robbed. It appeared to be a crime of passion. Police believe Bell knew her killer, and he killed her out of jealousy.
In 1992, family friend John Richmond said he was with Bell on the day of her murder. Police questioned him but could not find enough evidence to make an arrest, so they released him.
Almost two years after Bell’s brutal murder, another London woman was killed, and the two cases were eerily similar.
Jean Bradley was stabbed to death around 7:30 p.m. on March 25, 1993, on Carbery Avenue, South Acton, while putting items into her car after a long day at work.
Bradley had fought her attacker, and her hands bore defensive wounds from the knife. She was stabbed about eight times, and the murder weapon was likely an 8-inch knife.
A carpenter passing in his van saw the incident and drove after the attacker. After a short distance, he stopped his vehicle and confronted the man, who ignored him and walked away. After pleading, unsuccessfully, with passers-by to call the police, he continued to follow the attacker into a housing estate, where the man disappeared into an underground car park. Detectives said this suggested he had local knowledge. (Terry Kirby, The Independent)
Like Bell, Bradley was in her 40s and successful. Both women were attacked in a car and not been sexually assaulted or robbed. South Acton is about 3 miles from Gurnell Leisure Center, where Bell was murdered. Bell’s killer possibly had a beard, and Bradley’s killer was “unshaven.”
At the time of her death, Bell resided with her husband, Alistair Bell, and their two children, Matthew and Lauren, aged 11 and 9. Alistair Bell was questioned and ruled out as a suspect by police.
A convicted murderer, Robert Napper, was considered a possible suspect. However, the police ruled him out as well.
Bell’s murder remains unsolved to this day, and it has never been established who the person she met was on the day of her murder.
Bell’s daughter continues to seek justice for her mother’s murder. She and her brother are estranged from their father.