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Karen Hales: Murdered In Front Of Daughter

Karen Hales was assassinated.

Karen Hales lived in Lavenham Road in Ipswich, a significant town in the east of England, with her fiancé (Peter Ruffles) and their 18-month-old daughter. She worked part-time at Boots (a chain of pharmacy). Karen and Peter had been together for about 6 years, having met in high school. Since the birth of their daughter, Emily, they had been residing at the Lavenham Road address. Karen died when she was 21 years old.

Peter Ruffles (also 21) had spent the evening/night before the murder with several work friends at a local pub. Karen informed him that she had heard noises and that when she went to check the door, the handle was twisting as if someone was trying to get in.

Peter left the house at 3.50 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, 1993, for a shift at a bus depot that began at 4 p.m. Karen’s parents arrived at 4.40 p.m. to see their daughter. They discovered the door to be unlocked and were met by smoke and fire. They entered the house to find Karen, who had been set on fire in the kitchen. They were able to get their granddaughter out of the house unhurt. Karen’s body has been stabbed several times. Karen’s purse, as well as two kitchen knives, had vanished. One or both of these knives were thought to be murder weapons by police (s).

Pic: Suffolk

Two Men

Two men were strolling down an alleyway nearby at 4.30 p.m. when they came across a man wearing a Parka coat with a grey fur-lined hood who appeared to be in a hurry. The alleyway joined Lavenham Road to another street, and the fast-walking man was approaching from that direction. The sun had set around 4 p.m. that day, so it would have been dark at this time.

A couple in their automobile saw what they thought was the same man heading out onto London Road (at the other end of the alley). He’s also wearing a Parka coat with a grey fur-lined hood, according to the description. At a set of traffic lights, the man crossed to the middle of the road and ran across in front of the couple’s car. He was described by the pair as being of lean frame, 20-25 years old, with short dark hair, and anxious.

Suffolk police investigated the murder, which was one of the largest investigations the force has ever undertaken, with 50 officers involved at the outset. Years later, Detective Superintendent Andy Smith stated that “I’m at a loss for words to express how heinous this act was. It’s without a doubt one of the most heinous things I’ve ever witnessed in my 25 years on the planet.”

Known To Karen

Karen’s killer was most likely known to Karen, according to police. This is due to a number of factors. There was at least 2 inches of snow on the ground that afternoon, but no footprints in the back of the home, indicating that the killer entered (and exited) through the front door.

When Karen’s parents arrived, the front door was unlocked, and there was no indication of forced entry, implying that Karen had either opened the door to her killer or they had a key. There has never been any evidence of a motivation. Karen’s purse was missing, but it was thought to contain only a little quantity of cash. Karen had not been sexually assaulted, according to later reports.

Two arrests were made shortly after the murder. The first was a 20-year-old male who was released two days later without charge, and the second was a 30-year-old man who was freed the same day he was arrested. I’m not sure why these two individuals were caught — whether they matched the Parka man description, were merely passing through the neighborhood at the time, or were known to the victim.


“In particular, I want to make sure that we have established as much detail as possible about Karen’s life and personal circumstances, so would like to hear from people who knew her in whatever form, whether they were her friends, work colleagues, or other acquaintances,” the case’s lead officer said during the 25th Anniversary appeal. We want to know everything we can about her, including where she was going and who she was hanging out with, especially in the days and weeks preceding up to her terrible murder on November 21, 1993. Although I am entirely open-minded regarding who killed Karen, I believe there is a good probability that her assailant knew her, which is why it is critical that we learn everything we can about her.”

Most people reading about the case, I believe, have one question: were there any other males in her life, whether an affair or someone who was rebuffed or stalking her? I don’t believe the police had this knowledge since if they did, other people would have been questioned. But I believe this is what the preceding sentence is alluding to. We know that the vast majority of women are killed by someone they know, and that person is usually a current or former partner, or if not, someone who is pursuing them.

Initially, authorities believed that all DNA evidence had been destroyed when Karen Hales was set on fire, but during a case review in 2003/4, they were able to retrieve a little bit of vomit on her body. This turned out to have a partial DNA profile that matched Karen, but authorities believe that the DNA in the vomit might have come from traces of her blood, and that breakthroughs in testing could yet provide a profile of her killer.

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