A letter sent to the family of a murdered Northampton boy may lead to his killer being identified, police say.
The anonymous letter was written years after the murder of 15-year-old Sean McGann, whose body was found in an alleyway in Abington 40 years ago this Thursday.
Detectives still believe someone out there knows what happened to Sean and have been buoyed by the emergence of the letter, which appears to have been penned in 1991.
Detective Chief Inspector Ally White said: “Forensic science and investigative techniques have improved immensely in the four decades since Sean was killed and we are carrying out a full forensic review of the original evidence which may identify new lines of inquiry.
“We also have a significant piece of new information – a letter addressed to Sean’s family from someone claiming to have important information about who killed Sean. We want to find out who wrote this letter."
DCI White hopes that the fresh appeal may prompt someone to recall a forgotten piece of information, or see the significance of something they had previously dismissed.
“There could have been many reasons why they didn’t come forward at the time," he said, "but, 40 years on, old allegiances may have changed or they may simply want to clear their conscience. This is their opportunity to do that.
“The letter is also important. As well as forensic opportunities, the envelope was hand-written – do you recognise the writing? Did you send this letter or know who did? Please get in touch, we need to talk to you.”
Sean had left his grandparents’ home in Victoria Gardens, Northampton, on Tuesday, April 17 between 5.30pm and 6pm - the Tuesday after Easter - to visit the funfair at Midsummer Meadow. He would have passed the old cattle market and walked across Becket’s Park to get to the fair.
But he failed to return home that evening and the teenager's body was found by a passerby at 8.10am the following day, in a service road that runs behind a group of houses in Birchfield Road East. He had been strangled.
DCI White said their picture of what happened in the missing 14 hours is still hazy.
He said: “We don’t know for sure whether or not he got to the fair. We have differing uncorroborated sightings of Sean at the fair. It may be the case that if he did arrive at the fair he was only there for a short time.
“We believe he was killed elsewhere [away from the alley] and taken to this location sometime between 6.45am and 8.10am. His jacket and glasses were missing and have never been found, and his shoes and belt had been left a short distance from his body."
Sean’s parents and his younger sister and brother have spent 40 years not knowing what led to their son and brother’s death or who was responsible.
Today, they have paid tribute to Sean and have used a statement to urge anyone with information to contact police.
They say: “Sean was a much-loved son, brother, grandson and nephew and is greatly missed.
“He was a gentle, loving boy only just past his fifteenth birthday. He enjoyed spending time with his family, loved horses and horse riding and had recently begun volunteering at Favell House. He was always so helpful and thoughtful and his friendship was appreciated by many.
“His death has affected the whole family and forty years on we still think of him every day. If anyone has any information about what happened to Sean, please contact the police. He is much missed and always remembered.”
Anyone with information should call Northamptonshire Police on 101 or if they prefer to remain anonymous, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
DCI White said the case would never be closed until Sean's murderer is identified.
He said: “The murder of a loved one has a devastating lifetime impact on those left behind and we do all we can to find those responsible. Forty years on, this murder is no less shocking and the case has always remained open.
“Forty years is a long time, and the person or people involved may or may not still be alive. But it’s very possible that someone knows who murdered Sean, or has information they didn’t share at the time which may provide that all-important missing piece of the jigsaw.
“We never forget those people who have had their lives taken away at the hand of another and I hope this anniversary appeal will help us find out what happened in April 1979 and bring some comfort and closure for Sean’s family.”