26th March 1966

Man sentenced to death for murder

“I sat next to a killer today as a red-robed judge sentenced him to death,” wrote Alan Gordon in The Mirror. This was remarkable for the fact that Alan Norton, the 23-year-old convict in question, had become the first man sentenced to death in the British Isles since hanging had been outlawed the previous year.

Although he’d maintained his innocence, Norton had been found guilty of killing his 11-year-old sister, Joy, who had been stabbed 35 times and strangled. Her body had been found in a meadow two miles from her home. The judge had no choice but to pass a sentence of death, which was the only possible punishment under Jersey law at the time, well aware that the home secretary would almost certainly commute it to imprisonment. In the event, that’s exactly what happened.

A larger investigation

Initially, the murder had been linked to a string of attacks on young girls, which was being investigated by detectives from Scotland Yard alongside Jersey Police. It had been of considerable interest far beyond the island, not only because of its ferocity, but because it had taken place in a location more often associated with holidays, low crime rates, and on the night of a full moon which some were speculating had “affected” a maniac. The BBC had produced a documentary within three weeks of the killing but decided against showing it following a request from the Metropolitan Police.

A £1000 reward was offered for information leading to the capture of whoever had carried out the murder, and all school children in Jersey were given a special lesson, which explained what had happened to Joy and warned them to stay away from strangers. The reservoir was drained in an effort to find the knife that had been used to kill her and the names and addresses of all holiday makers who had been on the island at the time of her murder were sent to mainland police so they could perform follow-up enquiries.

Eventually, though, police started to focus closer to home. Norton was a butcher and it became clear that the murder weapon could be a butcher’s boning knife. Moreover, while he had an alibi, having visited several betting shops on the afternoon Joy had died, and even won money on some of the horses he’d backed, police found a 20 minute gap in his movements, that they surmised would have given him the opportunity to kill her.

Charged and tried

He was charged with the murder on 2 October 1965 – a Saturday – but it look until the following year for his case to be heard in court. Following his conviction and the commuting of his death sentence to life in prison, he spent 30 years in jail and was released in 1996.

In 2012, he called for police to track down the dress Joy had been wearing when she was killed in the hope that if a DNA test was performed on it, it would prove the innocence he had always maintained. However, police said that the dress had not been retained. Norton said that he believed Joy had been killed by the same unknown assailant who had murdered Tuula Hoeoek in 1966 and left her body in a field. In 2013, Jersey Police made an appeal for further information relating to Hoeoek’s murder and received more than 50 calls – enough for them to pursue new leads.


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