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Cold case: Retired primary school teacher sexually assaulted and murdered in her own home

The 52-year-old woman lived her life “totally at odds” with how she died, according to her sister Penny Barnes.

PastedImage-74607 Joy raising money for a charity raffle

JOY HEWER LIVED a quiet and peaceful life in London.

A primary school teacher, she adored her nieces and nephews and was fantastic with children.

She was a regular churchgoer and mucked in with charity events whenever she was asked. On her retirement in 1990, she continued with voluntary work and was devoted to her religious beliefs.

The 52-year-old woman lived her life “totally at odds” with how she died, according to her sister Penny Barnes.

Joy was murdered in her own home 20 years ago today.

In a terrifying ordeal, she was sexually assaulted and then stabbed in her Walthamstow flat on 17 October 1995.

Her killer has never been found.

“Joy was our loving sister who was absolutely no harm to anyone. We couldn’t think of a person less likely to be attacked in this way,” Penny said this week in a fresh, emotional appeal.

We’ve never forgotten the moment we were told she’d been murdered. It will never make any sense to us. Joy was someone who would go out of her way to help others. She lived a quiet and peaceful life which was totally at odds with her last terrifying moments.

“We need to see closure and can’t face another 20 years of unanswered questions.”

The fateful day and night

That Thursday in October started normally for Joy. In the afternoon, she visited the London Healing Mission in Notting Hill where she carried out voluntary work.

She was seen by a colleague leave the centre at about 3.30pm. Just before 6pm, she headed towards Pembridge Road and went into a chemist near her home address.

There is a long gap before police know what happened next. At about 10.30pm, a neighbour heard loud noises or banging coming from her home.


Then at 11.18pm, a call was made from a public phone box. The caller – a man – asked for the fire brigade, stating he saw smoke coming from Joy’s flat. During that call, he can be heard speaking to someone, asking what road they are standing on. It is now understood the person – it is not know if they were male or female – was standing in a queue for a bus.

About fifteen minutes before midnight, London Fire Brigade staff called police out to a blaze at the sixth-floor apartment.

Firemen had broken into the property and found Joy’s injured body in the bedroom. They then had to set about putting out two fires – which had been started deliberately – in the bedroom and sitting room.

A post mortem showed that Joy had been stabbed, as well as suffering multiple other injuries. A pathologist also confirmed she was sexually assaulted.


The man who made the initial emergency call has never been identified, despite a number of appeals and the release of the 999 call. He is still being sought by police who believe he holds vital clues to the investigation. The person at the bus stop is yet to be found too.

As well as these two people, Scotland Yard want to talk to a man who was captured on CCTV in the area at that time. He is white, aged between 30 and 40 years old and was wearing a light-coloured jacket. Although the images appear grainy, officers believe that those close to the man would still be able to recognise him.

PastedImage-85010 Enhanced CCTV of a man seen entering Joy’s flats in St David’s Court, Wood Street, Walthamstow

Detectives on the cold case believe Joy would have been “cautious” about letting someone into her flat late at night.

“There were no signs of a forced entry and it may be that she knew the person her entered her flat that night. Our forensic teams also found two used coffee cups within the address,” revealed Detective Inspector Susan Stansfield.

“After two decades we realise a lot of time has passed and someone who may have not been able to speak in 1995 may feel they can come forward now, 20 years on.

Joy’s parents have sadly passed away but her brother, sister and nieces and nephews still very much hope to see someone brought to justice.

“We hope that this latest appeal will see someone with the final piece to the jigsaw to speak out.”

More: The mystery of 43 trainee teachers who disappeared without trace

Read: Two men charged over brutal murder of teen babysitter, after 31-year investigation

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