10 British Crimes Stranger Than Fiction
10: Marie Wilks
In June 1988, Marie Wilks was 22 and pregnant with her second child when she took a road trip with her baby son and 11-year-old sister. They had been to visit her husband at an army training camp.
As an inexperienced driver, Marie soon became lost and ended up on the busy M50 motorway. Disaster struck when her car broke down. Marie was forced to leave the two children in the car and walk along the busy road to find an emergency phone. She made it to the phone and spoke to an operator who tried to contact relatives for her.
Suddenly, the only sound the operator could hear was the distant roar of traffic. Marie had simply vanished. Later, a police car spotted her young sister wandering along the dark road with a baby in her arms. The girl was desperately searching for Marie.
The roadside phone was found splashed with blood, the receiver dangling by its cord. Marie’s body was found in a nearby woodland. She had been beaten and stabbed to death.
Former soldier Edward Browning had been driving in the area following a row with his pregnant wife. Browning was arrested and found guilty of the murder. Five years later, he was freed after lawyers claimed at trial that police had hidden evidence. He received £600,000 in compensation.
In May 2018, Browning was found dead at his home. The murder of Marie Wilks remains unsolved.
9: Stephanie Slater
In 1992, estate agent Stephanie Slater went to show client Michael Sams around a remote property. She was kidnapped and taken to an empty warehouse. Stephanie was handcuffed, gagged, blindfolded, and put in a coffin inside a bin with electrodes placed on her leg. Too terrified to move, she was held for eight days until her employer paid a ransom of £175,000.
Sams was caught when his third wife recognized his voice from a recording on a TV appeal. He was convicted of the kidnapping and also the 1991 murder of Julie Dart. Julie had also been kidnapped and held in a coffin before he brutally killed her.
Sams spent his time in jail trying to sue the prison after they lost his artificial leg and gave him a bed that he found too hard.
Stephanie wrote a book, Beyond Fear: My Will to Survive, and worked with police and charities to help victims. She died in 2017 at age 50, and tributes were paid to her courage and compassion.