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Inquest Into Death of Elsie Frost To Commence 18 November

View profile for Gemma Vine
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Before HM Senior Coroner for West Yorkshire (Eastern Division) Mr Kevin McLoughlin

Wakefield Coroner’s Court

Opening Monday 18 November 2019 – Expected to last two days

The Inquest into the death of 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost will commence on Monday 18 November 2019 at Wakefield Coroner’s Court before HM Senior Coroner Kevin McLoughlin.

14-year-old Elsie’s body was found at the bottom of the ABC steps in Wakefield, West Yorkshire on 9 October 1965. On 11 January 1966 Ian Spencer was named in the Jury’s verdict at the original inquest touching on her death. He was later exonerated for the death of Elsie, both by Wakefield Magistrates Court and the Leeds Assizes however, he remained named on the record of inquisition.

In 2015 Elsie’s brother and sister Colin Frost and Anne Cleave recorded Elsie’s story as they knew it for BBC Radio 4’s PM programme. Later that year West Yorkshire Police agreed to reopen the investigation into Elsie’s death.  Over the years that followed their investigation made a number of discoveries which led to them identifying a new suspect in Elsie’s death. Tragically for the family before the police had the opportunity to charge this suspect they died, and they believed that the facts surrounding Elsie’s death would remain undiscovered.

On the anniversary of Elsie’s death last year, the family applied to the Attorney General for permission to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquisition and to open a fresh inquest into Elsie’s death. This was granted on 20 December 2018 and an application was lodged in the High Court soon after.

On 16 April 2019 the application was heard before Mr Justice Jay and Lord Justice Irving.  In ordering that a fresh inquest be held, the High Court noted that;

“The further Inquest will be receiving a considerable body of new evidence, which has already been obtained, bearing on the circumstances of and surrounding Elsie’s death, and it is important that this evidence is heard, if appropriate tested and then evaluated in the public interest and the interests of the families. This exploration will cover facts – here, new facts – which bear on criminal liability and correct the former record, even if a formal pronouncement akin to that given in 1966 cannot now be made. We were told that the claimant and his family understand the limitations imposed by s.10(2), but the point pressed on us by Ms Morris, which we accept, is that the process of public examination of the available evidence will achieve a sufficient resolution for them after so many years.

The death of Messrs Spencer and Pickering does not render this process futile, unnecessary or undesirable. Had the latter survived, any Inquest would have had to await the conclusion of any criminal proceedings. These, had they taken place, may well have been sufficient to obviate the need for a further Inquest ordered pursuant to s.13 of the Coroners Act 1998. But in the circumstances which have obtained the need for such an Inquest remains established.”

The Senior Coroner through this process has disclosed to the family documentation to help them understand as much as possible what happened to Elsie that fateful day. They now hope that this evidence will be explored in the public domain so that they can finally put Elsie to rest. They also hope that this process will assist others in the future by asking exploratory questions about how the failures that occurred in the original investigation into Elsie’s death can be avoided by Police forces investigating homicides in the future and whether there is a wider systemic failure to properly review “cold-cases” or unsolved murders considering the various issues that then arose in the cold case reviews into Elsie’s death.

Anne and Colin have been represented by Gemma Vine of Leeds based Minton Morrill Solicitors and Counsel Anna Morris of Garden Court Chambers, London since 2018.