In January 1968, around 5 pm, Sandra Djan (then Sandra Jackson) was making her five-month-old daughter Kimberley a bottle and running her a bath. She resided in a ground-floor flat in Carmel Gardens, Norton, County Durham. Kimberley was just outside the back door, in the rear garden. The pram had wooden rattles, which made a sound in the wind that kept Kimberley entertained.
Sandra Was Standing
Sandra was standing at the window when she saw a teenage boy in an anorak pushing a pram (baby carriage). She thought nothing of it initially, though she did notice that the pram was white and looked like Kimberley’s. When Sandra came back to the back door moments later, she realized her pram was missing and her daughter was along with it. The boy she saw had taken her baby. Sandra raced down the alley and found the pram rattles abandoned. She then ran to fetch a police officer.
The pram, white with painted roses, was dumped in a parking area in Amble View, a quick distance away (map)*. A worried neighbor called the police to report it. Officers found Kimberley an hour and a half after she went missing. The baby was face down in a pool of shallow water close to Billingham Bottoms: a famous place for fishing and catching tadpoles. She was fully dressed. There are no further details about the spectacle but the reason for death was drowning.
“I had seen a teenager outside the window and saw he was dragging a pram that looked like mine but it didn’t register that it was mine. I didn’t think any more of it until she was gone. This boy had taken her, carried her across some wasteland, and drowned her and I never realized who he was.” — Sandra, 2004
From what I can gather, the back garden area connected to the adjacent alley where Sandra discovered the rattles. There is no mention of a boundary or a gate so it must have been publicly available. The suspect was portrayed as 12-14 years old, between 4’6″ and 5’0″, average build, with a pleasant ‘full’ face, a clear complexion, and dark hair that may have been busy at the front. He was wearing a hooded dark green anorak with a white shirt or t-shirt underneath. This boy was noticed by many of Sandra’s neighbors. Two saw the boy pushing the pram. One saw him pushing the pram towards the region where Kimberley was discovered. None of these sightings explicitly mention seeing a baby, nonetheless. One observer states that the pram was vacant.
The earliest observer saw the boy standing on the “veranda” above Sandra’s flat. This woman had a short conversation with him in which he claimed to be looking for the number 36. She told him it was across the road. He disagreed, replying that it was upstairs. Based on context, I think by veranda they mean a walkway through which the upper floor flats were accessed, something like this.
A photo of the boy was produced (top comment, below). Door-to-door investigations were carried out. Sandra toured 19 regional schools hoping to recognize him. Police interviewed 6,000 people and took 600 written statements. ETA – from a comment in the thread linked above: “One of the articles where the identikit photo was released says that the police were inquiring for anyone on the 72 bus from Stockton to Billingham to get in touch. So the kid may have traveled by bus to or from the area.” Despite this, no suspects have ever been publicly recognized. Police thought it was an impulsive murder by a stranger. The removal of the rattles was likely done so the sound wouldn’t draw attention to him. The victim was selected at random.
Unless you think that Sandra hired the boy or convinced numerous observers to lie for her about a dead baby, it’s tough to see how she is involved in any way. She left her daughter unattended outside the back door near a public alley but in the 1960s, this was a common practice (see discussion below) and people generally had a greater level of trust in their neighbors. Sandra says she’s spent her whole life blaming herself. “Knowing that I saw him take my baby away is killing me and I have suffered for it all my life with depression.” Sandra has also pushed for the case to be reopened on many occasions.
One news report says police were also looking for a disheveled woman noticed pushing a pram (color not identified) near Carmel Gardens around the time Kimberley was taken. This sighting is possibly unrelated. The area was highly populated. But the boy was more of an accessory to the crime. Perhaps he wasn’t involved in the killing but was charged with kidnaping her and disposing of the empty pram. Yet he was never noticed with anyone else and he was alone when seen heading towards Billingham Bottoms, at which time Kimberley was probably in the pram.
It’s tough to imagine a child committing such a horrible crime. 12-14 is old enough to know right from wrong unless the boy was mentally disabled in some way. If he was, he might not have kidnaped her for malicious reasons. Perhaps the boy saw Kimberley and decided to take her for a walk to Billingham Bottoms. He dropped her or she fell in. He panicked and left with the empty pram. Nonetheless, the neighbor who spoke to him didn’t note any clue of impairment and the rattles being dumped suggest that he knew what he was doing.
Another angle is that the boy was furious at the world and wanted to hurt someone more susceptible than him. He might’ve had a history of taking out his wrath on animals before escalating. I think the chances are high that this suspect would’ve reoffended. He either grew up in the Teesside area or expended a lot of time there. I think he’d been to Billingham Bottoms before but I don’t think he knew Sandra. He wasn’t identified by any of the neighbors but someone may have related him to the (admittedly not very helpful) photofit that was published at the time, even if they didn’t act on it.
In 2004, Sandra called for the investigation to be reopened by Cleveland Police. Then aged 57, she was residing in Leeds and working as a nurse. “His fingerprints should have been all over the pram,” she said. “I want to know if any were kept and if the case can be looked at again. I was young at the time and so innocent and didn’t understand investigations, but things have come on so far since then. The individual who did this may have been apprehended for something and their records are on file. Or the guilt they are feeling could make them hand themselves in.”
Sandra says she never got over Kimberley’s demise. Tragically, her 26-year-old son Aaron also passed away in 2004. A former drug addict who had been clean for 18 months, his cause of death was heroin, methadone, and alcohol poisoning.
Anyone with information should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111