Skip to content

The Unsolved Murder of Muriel Drinkwater

Click here to hear the Audio File of this case. And please do not forget to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review. Positive reviews really help others find our show.

 Case File Overview

On June 27, 1946, twelve-year-old Muriel Drinkwater made her way home from school in Penllergaer, Swansea. Muriel was seen at 2:30PM, singing as she exited the school bus. Her route to her family’s home − Tyle-Du Farm − entailed a mile-long journey that wove in and out of the woods.

Sometime later that afternoon, Muriel’s mother Margaret glanced out of her kitchen window and noticed Muriel approaching their property from approximately 400 yards away. Margaret went out into the yard and her and Muriel exchanged waves. A moment later, Muriel’s path wound into a thickly wooded area, and her mother returned to her chores in the kitchen.

Muriel never made it home.

Muriel (centre) with her sisters

Murder victim Muriel Drinkwater with her sisters
Source: Daily Mail

A village-wide search was swiftly underway, and at 4:30PM the following day Muriel’s body was located in a Japanese larch plantation near her home.

An autopsy later determined that Muriel had been bludgeoned, raped, and shot twice in the chest.

The police found the murder weapon in the undergrowth near where Muriel’s body had been discovered. The gun was described as a “Colt 45 American army issue automatic pistol, first issued for World War I but probably also used in World War II, which significantly had the original wooden stocks next to the grip modernised with perspex.”

Murder weapon

Weapon Used in Muriel Drinkwater Murder
Source: BBC News

Although an extensive investigation was conducted that involved the police visiting “every farmhouse and cottage within 150 square miles” and interviewing “20,000 men in Swansea, Aberdare and Carmarthenshire,” the case that has become known as the Little Red Riding Hood Murder remains unsolved.

Police searching for evidence

Police searching for evidence in the Muriel Drinkwater case
Source: Daily Mail

Case File Theories

Hubert Hoyles

For decades, a key person of interest in Muriel’s murder has been Hubert Hoyles. On the afternoon of Muriel’s murder, thirteen-year-old Hoyles purchased eggs from Muriel’s mother at their family farm. On his way home, he passed Muriel as she walked along the path. Given that Hoyles was the last person to see Muriel alive, he quickly fell under a thick veil of suspicion.

In 2008, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Bethell located Muriel’s blue coat, underwear, and school uniform in police storage. Bethell was thrilled to discover that “on the back of the coat, a no-longer visible dried semen stain was circled with yellow crayon.” Bethell sent the coat to Dr. Colin Dark, and over the course of three years (MUCH longer than depicted on television and in the movies) Bethell analyzed the material and was able to extract enough fragments of DNA to successfully create a Y-STR profile from the semen stain. This will enable the police to identify Muriel’s murderer by taking and testing swabs from the perpetrator’s sons, grandsons, or even great-grandsons.

Although the profile was loaded into the UK National DNA Database, it failed to match any of the approximately five million DNA records held there. Importantly, though, the DNA results cleared Hoyles of any involvement in Muriel’s murder.

Killer Lying in Wait

There is little doubt that Muriel’s murderer was lying in wait, just counting the minutes until he could commit his heinous crime. The perpetrator left cigarette stubs, sweet wrappers, and pieces of bread at the scene of the crime, which the authorities have said indicates that he was waiting in the dense woods for his chance to strike. The unanswered question, however, is whether or not the killer was specifically waiting for Muriel or if any girl or woman who happened by would have made a suitable target. Was a local stalking Muriel? Or was she just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

The police think that Hoyles, who as mentioned above passed Muriel on her way home, encountered Muriel’s killer weeks before her death. After a previous visit to the Drinkwater family farm, Hoyles was surprised when a man in his thirties with “thick fluffy hair and wearing brown corduroy trousers and a light brown sports jacket” stepped from the bushes at exactly the same location where Muriel was later ambushed. Hoyles told police that the man looked “terribly stern” and “had a local accent.” Although this person of interest could have just been out for hike or involved in some other unrelated nefarious activity, the authorities believe that he may have been in involved in Muriel’s murder.

There are, of course, other theories regarding who was lying in wait on that fateful day. Two other specific persons of interest have been put forward. Welsh author Neil Milkins argues that Harold Jones, a convicted murderer who killed two girls in Abertillery in 1921 when he was just 15 years old, was Muriel’s killer. Jones was released from prison in December of 1941, so he was a free man when Muriel was killed. Even though Jones died in 1971, his male descendants’ DNA could be tested to determine if he was the culprit responsible for Muriel’s murder. The Welsh police have also examined connections between Muriel’s case and a second murder that occurred a mere ten days after she was killed. On July 7, 1946, eleven-year-old Sheila Martin “was raped and strangled in woods near her home in Dartford.” This seems like a dubious connection because there is roughly 230 miles (370 kilometres) between Dartford and Penllergaer, but on the day of Sheila’s murder a large race meeting was held at Brands Hatch with over 9,000 attendees, one of whom could have been both Muriel and Shiela’s killer.

Some people turn to the murder weapon for answers and suggest that the killer was either an American serviceman who had previously been stationed at Penllergaer or that an American soldier may have sold the gun to the perpetrator in the village. The authorities went as far as to suggest that someone in the Penllergaer region knows about the murder weapon but is protecting the owner by withholding information. Nevertheless, the FBI was called in to assist with determining the ownership of the murder weapon, but nothing seems to have ever transpired from this lead.

Taking into consideration all of the above information and the decades that have passed since Muriel was killed, I think that the only way this case will be closed is through a familial DNA match. This forensic approach is becoming more common. In fact, it was recently used to identify Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer who is thought to be responsible for at least a dozen murders and 50 rapes in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States.

Who do you think killed Muriel?

Oftentimes the public wonders why resources should be allocated to cold cases such as Muriel’s, cases in which most of victim’s immediate family, and even the perpetrator, are likely dead. Chief Inspector Bethell aptly explains, “Re-opening the case is as much about proving who didn’t do it, as who did.” Remember that Hoyles was suspected of Muriel’s murder for decades and lived under a cloud suspicion that followed him everywhere he travelled in his small village. Hoyles lamented, “For years, I’ve lived with the knowledge that some people in the community suspected me. I could never hurt anyone or anything, but in a small, close-knit community, people talk − and I knew that in the eyes of some people I was the murderer. It blighted my life.” For Hoyles, and no doubt numerous other people in Penllergaer, every dollar spent bringing Muriel’s killer one step closer to justice has been a dollar well spent.

A village mourns

Muriel Drinkwater funeral
Source: Daily Mail

If you have any information about Muriel’s murder, please contact the South Wales Police via email at

Related Reading

“Mystery of 1946 murder in woods”BBC News article

“The real waking the dead: This schoolgirl’s savage murder has mystified police for 62 years. Now cutting-edge forensics to rival any TV thriller have identified her killer’s DNA”Daily Mail article

“Unsolved: The Little Red Riding Hood murder” – Sword and Scale article

“Muriel Drinkwater murder file is declared secret at request of police”The Sunday Times article

Interested in unsolved murders? Check out the heartbreaking murder of Lisa Leckie and the mysterious slaying of Caroline Glachan.

Liked it? Take a second to support Christine on Patreon!
Published inTrue CrimeUnsolved Murder Files



  1. Grace Patterson Grace Patterson

    If the perpetrator was lying in wait as I believe he was, why select that certain spot? Her mother seen her approaching 400 yards away, so perhaps she was a “selected” victim. I wonder if there was a sketch done when Hoyles confronted a man weeks earlier. There must be other victims of this person as I can’t see him stopping. I guess a DNA test of Sheila Martin must have been taken to see if it was the same person. Interesting case Christine.

    • Christine Christine

      Great questions! I am leaning towards it being a targeted attack, in part because of the positioning of the perpetrator as you mentioned. And I also think there are likely more victims. Fingers crossed that one day a DNA match can give us the breakthrough needed to solve this case. Have a great week!

  2. Hi. I am awaiting D.N.A tests to be carried out on Harold Jones’ family members. This will conclude a 10 year wait to see if Jones was indeed Muriel’s killer.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Neil. Thank you for the update. What a big moment in this case! Please let us know how it goes. And if you want to write a guest post that covers the update for distribution on the website, let us know.

  3. Will do Christine. I think it will be at least 3 months before anything definite will be announced. Regards. Neil Milkins.

  4. Hi Christine. Are you able to help please? The police have a Y-STR profile from Muriel’s coat. As you know it is not possible to prove whether Harold Jones was Muriel’s killer by D.N.A testing Jones’ daughter. Is it possible that scientists could examine Muriel’s coat and find another profile that could be compared to Jones’ daughter’s D.N.A.? Regards. Neil Milkins.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Neil. I am not a DNA scientist so sadly I cannot answer this question for you. I suggest reaching out to a DNA expert and seeing what insight they might be able to provide. You can Google ones in your area or check out Twitter (but I recommend checking their credentials). All the best with pursuing answers in this case, and please keep us updated. ~ Christine

  5. Thank you Christine. will do what you suggest. Regards. Neil.

    • james Camron james Camron

      Hi Neil. You will need a male dna profile from a decendent on harold jones’s family tree. Some companies will provide you with upto 6 generations. A brother, nephew, grandson. Does his daughter have a son.?

  6. Nicola Nicola

    Hi Neil
    I live on the land of penllergaer woods and I have some information that I think u would like to hear.. how can I get in contact with u to chat.?

  7. Fana Fana

    Jones was ruled out at the beginning of May, 2019. An amazing campaign by Neil Milkins, but unfortunately, no breakthrough for Muriel.

  8. The police statement that Jones was ruled out is a misleading statement. Jones’ D.N.A was not compared to the D.N.A left on Muriel’s coat by the killer. The D.N.A. left on the coat was compared to D.N.A. taken from Jones’ one and only child, a daughter. She may or may NOT have been Jones’ biological daughter. Her parents Harold and Muriel Jones/Stevens kept a lot of secrets from this daughter one of which may be that she wasn’t Harold’s daughter. Only by comparing D.N.A. found on Muriel’s coat and D.N.A. taken from Jones’ exhumed body can the police honestly say catergorically that Jones was or was not Muriel’s killer.

  9. Hi Nicola,

    We are hoping to make a BBC documentary (follow on from Dark Son) to see if we can shed any new light on the case. If you have any new information I would be extremely interested to hear it! If you can contact I’d really appreciate it.

    Best wishes,

  10. Hard to work out the logic of your comment Charlotte? Can you explain please.

  11. The new B.B.C. Wales documentary screened at 10.30pm on Sunday 8 November 2020 spent a full 5 minutes suggesting that 2 books found in a Carmarthen bookshop recently had been taken from Muriel’s schoolbag in 1946 as trophies by the killer. They visited the Carmarthen bookshop to identify if the killer’s family had taken the books there. Well here is the TRUTH. Muriel’s niece’s family took the books to the bookshop after Muriel’s brother-in-law died last year. Colin Dark suggested the possibillity of using D.N.A to identify who took the books into the shop with the hope of identifying the killer. I have informed South Wales Police regarding this information to save them a fortune on a wild goose chase trying to extract D.N.A. Muriel’s niece Margaret is desperate to get the books back. They have a suspect in the murder case and a cousin of the suspect has given D.N.A to prove whether or not the cousin Ron Harries was the killer. Another wait and see. I have spoken to former D.C.I Paul Bethel and given him this information. It is frustrating that the Wales Online story of Saturday 7 November states the police have D.N.A. from Ron Harries and his cousin and from Muriel’s coat and yet are not releasing the results of the tests. Muriel’s niece is in a dreadful state. She was hoping in her lifetime to find out who killed her aunt. To see documentary google Dark Lands – Muriel Drinkwater iplayer.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Neil. Thank you so much for this detailed update. I really appreciate how you’re helping keep the true crime community informed on what’s going on behind the scenes in this frustrating and heartbreaking case. I hope Margaret gets the answers she deserves sooner rather than later. It’s amazing the documentary could screw things up so much. Thanks again and take care.

  12. Sorry I doubled up on some of the above but can’t edit it.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Neil. I was able to edit the comment for you before it went live. Thanks again for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2021 The True Crime Files. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t miss a case! Subscribe to The TCF Newsletter to receive an article roundup, true crime news, and special offers.


Pin It on Pinterest