When Blackburn Rovers went on to lift the Premier League title in dramatic circumstances on the 14th May 1995, it would be the culmination of 5 years’ worth of investments by a local man named Jack Walker, a lifelong supporter who would eventually change the fortunes of one of the former founders of the football league.
Former Liverpool player and manager, Kenny Dalglish was appointed in October 1991, and as Rovers secured promotion to the FA Premier League at the end of the 1991-92 season as play-off winners, in 1992 they would make all the headlines by paying an English record fee of £3.5million for 22 year-old Southampton center forward, Alan Shearer.
But behind the scenes, talks had begun on transforming the stadium and bringing it more UpToDate and to compete with the so called ‘big boys’ of the Premier League.
The biggest stand at Ewood Park, and the home of Blackburn Rovers Football Club is named after its former owner, Jack Walker – who had sadly passed away in 2000. It is just one of three stands that were built during the Ewood Park’s ground redevelopment in the early part of the 1900s.
But it was during its construction, a sinister secret would be unearthed that would rock the entire town of Blackburn and bring to an end a ten-year search.
On July 19th 1994, a workman called John Griffiths had been busy digging a boundary trench where a row of terraced houses that had been demolished along Nuttall Street had once stood. The morning had gone as normal, but he would soon be stopped in his tracks when the sight of a human head peered from under the rubble he was removing.
Alarmed by such a discover, Griffiths immediately went in search of help and within minutes, all work on the site had come to a standstill and it wouldn’t take long for the police to arrive at the scene.
The area was completely sealed off so to give the police and detectives time to inspect the area and it was quickly established that this could well be a murder scene.
Whilst information on the deceased would initially be scarce, a Lancashire police spokeswoman said that the body could have been underground for as long as 15 years, and added: “At this stage it looks as though he could have been murdered.”
Information describing the body would eventually be revealed, with another spokeswoman saying it was that of a male aged between 15 and 25, 5ft 10ins tall with a full head of fair hair. He was dressed in jeans and a red and green vertical lined striped Ben Sherman shirt.
The torso, with its head removed, had been wrapped in a plastic sheet and dumped in a water pipe. The area where the torso had been discovered had once been the backyard of number 84 Nuttall Street.
A nationwide appeal was soon launched to identify the victim and it would take just four days before the police had a name – that of 19 year-old, Julian Brookfield, a native of nearby Darwen and who had been missing since August 1984.
A slice of luck and a chance viewing of a story that had appeared on TV detailing the gruesome find at Ewood Park would soon make a breakthrough.
Anthony Rogerson had sat down and caught a glimpse of the publicity surrounding the news of a body being discovered and his thoughts quickly turned to a friend of his who went missing in the early 1980s. With this, he contacted the police and they quickly matched up dental and health records which soon confirmed the identity, bringing an end to uncertainty and ten years of searching by Julian’s mother, Annette.
But the search was now on for the person or persons responsible for the possible murder of Julian and the concealing of his body, and it wouldn’t take long before the police had a suspect.
50 year-old, Brian Blakemore was a relatively well-known personality over in Accrington, having, along with his friend, Chris Lazenby, penned the lyrics of the Centenary song for Accrington Stanley FC’s 100th birthday celebrations in 1993. From all accounts, he would also write jokes, often sending them off to cabaret stars such as Norman Collier and Keith Harris.
Married for 29 years to Hilary, Blakemore had suffered for many years with ill-health. In the mid-1970’s, he had lost part of a finger in a serious accident when he fell through a window while window cleaning. And in the 1980’s he was involved in a head-on collision while working as a taxi driver for Super B Taxis in Blackburn.
The injuries he sustained in that accident led to him having a metal bolt inserted in on ankle, forcing him to walk with a limp. He also developed issues with his spine and arthritis in his hip. Blakemore was also blind in his left eye.
People often say things happen for a reason, and it was the compensation from the road accident, a sum of around £4,000, that would enable him to buy number 84 Nuttall Street.
Whilst he may have come across as a hardworking, devoted family man – with one instance coming in the 1980s when he battled to have a complaint upheld against two local doctors after they failed to spot a serious condition which had made his granddaughter, Emily, ill – Blakemore, it seems, had a more secretive side.
I guess, in today’s society, pornographic and exotic material may not be as frowned upon as it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago, but in the case of Blakemore, he had participated in taking adult photographs in a bid to make money after being told he may not be able to work again due to his injuries.
He had once ordered a bondage catalogue from a company in Nelson and bought adult videos from one local shop. He had also answered adverts for erotic material in the adult section of Exchange and Mart as well as recruiting a model from an agency in Manchester – asking her to pose bondage-style whilst taking photographs.
All this doesn’t make Blakemore a murderer, so what is it the police had that would make him a suspect?
The only link so far was a piece of card that Julian’s mother had found whilst looking for a clue on his whereabout. The card bore Brian Blakemore’s name and a telephone number.
A massive police operation had been instigated, with detectives being drafted in from other areas to help with the investigation, and within days, officers had managed to trace more than a dozen witnesses who had an involvement with the house ten years earlier. Pathologists, scientists and doctors were all called in to help.
But at 4.02pm on Saturday July 23rd, and after 11 interviews lasting over eight hours and with 700 pages of written notes, Blakemore was charged with murder.
When asked if had anything to say, he would reply with, “I wish to deny the charge.”
On Monday, 25th July 1994, Blakemore appeared before the Blackburn magistrates charged with the murder of Julian Brookfield and the Accrington Observer would be the first local newspaper to show of picture of the accused man.
However, the trial of Blakemore wouldn’t take place until April 1996, almost 18-months after the discovery of Julian’s body.
At Preston Crown Court, Blakemore denied charges of murdering Julian, perverting the course of justice and obstructing the Coroner.
Mr. Richard Henriques QC, told the jury that the link between the two men was that Julian had worked in a sex shop in Accrington where Blakemore was a customer. But, the motive for murder was not known.
He would also reveal that Julian’s body had been unearthed during building work on a new stand in 1994 and that the body had been wrapped in two sheets of plastic and buried in a 32-inch deep trench. However, decomposition meant that a pathologist could not determine a cause of death.
It was also revealed that Blakemore had purchased the house back in 1982 and had told a former tenant whom had rented the house, Donna Stewart, not to undertake any renovation work without his permission.
During the three week trial, many details of Blakemore’s past would be told, especially his interest in “soft porn” photographs that he had taken.
Whilst he would admit to taking photograph’s, he would also maintain they “were very tasteful, no clinical stuff.”
But he would also tell the jury that he had given up taking the pictures after his wife found out what he was up to.
The court would hear tapes of lengthy police interviews over the course of five days and during one of these, detectives had claimed to know that Blakemore had bought the materials in which Julian’s body had been wrapped.
Amazingly, Blakemore’s sister, had also told the police during initial questioning that her brother had discussed with her how easy it would be to murder someone and dispose of the body.
“She is telling bloody lies. I can’t conceive of anyone saying that, never mind my sister!
“I do realise that I am the owner of the house and I’m a prime suspect but I didn’t kill anyone.”
“I couldn’t do that to anyone. I have never killed a thing in my life, not even an insect.”
The press as well as prosecutors whilst in court would seemingly brand Blakemore as some kind of sexual deviant who liked to cross-dress and who may have had homosexual tendancies. They would use the fact that he had admitted to taking photographs of women in bondage positions and had paid for their services in doing so. Everything about Blakemore, it would appear, was based purely on a sexual motive.
During initial investigations into the identity of the body when it was first discovered, one theory was that it was the remains of a man simply known as “Gay Geoff,” after a telephone call into the incident had tipped them off. This one call may have led to the police and many others to put two-and-two together and forming the ‘wrong’ opinions on Blakemore during his trial.
Blakemore would testify to have met a man named Julian, telling the court that he had only met him once and the man (Julian) had tried to sell him some wallpaper.
He would also tell the court that he had also spoken with Julian’s mother, Annette, after she had found a piece of card with his number on it, but he denied knowing anything of her son’s whereabouts.
As the case entered into its final week, it was alleged that Blakemore had a consuming interest in pornography as he had tried to buy ropes and a gun to use in bondage photographs to feed his obsession.
The court would also hear that before his disappeance in 1984, Julian had spent time working at a sex shop on Darwen Street in Blackburn, a job he started shortly after his 19th birthday on February 23.
The job had brought him into contact with Brian Blakemore, who tried to sell him his erotic stories and pictures.
In his closing address, Mr. Richard Henriques QC, prosecuting, said Blakemore was the only person who could have carried out the crime.
He said: “It is possible he did this with the assistance of others but this still means he is responsible.”
He added: “It is inconcievable that if Julian Brookfield had died of natural causes or committed suicide anybody would have taken the action buring his body.”
However, Blakemore’s defence barrister, Mr. Roderick Carus QC said that Blakemore had no reason to kill Julian and there was an absence of genuine evidence in the case against him.
He would tell the jury that the pathologist had been unable to come up with a cause of death and there were no signs of violence on the body.
Carus would also ask the jury what the motive would have been for Blakemore in killing Julian? He would also bring up the many health issues Blakemore was sufferering from, telling the jury that it was highly unlikely he would have been fit enough to engage in an act of “violent murder.”
The trial would last for just over two weeks and on Thursday, 2nd May 1996, Brian Blakemore would be found guilty of the murder of Julian Brookfield and for perverting the course of justice.
Mr. Justice Kay, sentencing, said the circumstances remained largely a mystery because of Blakemore’s actions once he had killed his 19-year-old victim and said that he had told lie after lie about his involvement.
He would also say that there were a number of possibilities why Blakemore had killed Julian, mentioning that they were engaged in some sort of simulated hanging during the taking of pornographic pictures or there was a falling out between the two men in connection with pornographic pictures.
He said: “He was still a young man and you were old enough to know better.”
Continuing, Mr. Justice Kay would slam Blakemore for hindering what should have been a formal investigation into the discovery of the body.
He said: “Your actions have frustrated any proper inquiry into the death of this young man.
“It is the most awful thing to do from the point of view of this man’s family.
“For them not to know what happened to him must have been awful. His mother telephoned you twice but that did nothing to shame you into revealing what happened.”
The judge added that this was the “evil of Blakemore’s act.”
Brian Blakemore was sentenced to serve seven years for manslaughter and a further five years for perverting the course of justice with both charges to run consecutively.
The sentence sent huge shockwaves through Blakemore’s family, with his wife, Hilary telling press reporters, “It still has not sunk in yet.”
The two-and-a-half week trial had taken it’s toll, but it appears that the family of Blakemore had been convinced he would be found not guilty of the charges put before him.
Convinced of his innocence, Mrs. Blakemore said: “It was such a disappointing verdict based on speculation with no evidence or facts to support it. We are going to appeal when hopefully evidence which was not heard at the trial will be taken into consideration.”
She added: “A picture of Brian was shown around the court implying he was some sort of pervert. It was of him in fancy dress during a spoof ‘Mr and Mrs’ night at the Globe Bowling Club. It was muck-raking and there was no need for it.”
But as for the mother of Julian Brookfield, the end of the trial and the conviction of Brian Blakemore, things couldnt have been much different.
Mrs. Annette Anthony said: “I suppose that I am reasonably relieved at the verdict, but the hwole case has been very difficult to sort out because it happened so long ago.”
“On the other hand I do feel a degree of sympathy for Blakemore’s family who have had the ordeal of sitting in court during the trial.”
Julian’s body was finally laid to rest on October 11 1994, at Pleasington Cemetery with over 70 close friends and family members paying their last respects during a service at Sacred Heart and St Edward’s RC Church, Darwen.
During the service, the church the words of a Gerard Markland hymn where read out: “While you dwell in the exile of a stranger, remember you are precious in my eyes.”
On the 26th May 1996, Julian’s mother wrote to the Lancashire Telegraph, not just on behalf of her son, but also on behalf of all defenceless victims of crime.
“I FEEL that I must speak concerning the recent murder trial at Preston Crown Court, in which the victim was my son, Julian Brookfield.
“Because of the nature of the case, the length of time between his death and the discovery of his body and the necessity to discover the truth, it led to him being very much ‘on trial’ too.
“All the tragedy and sadness of the past was dragged before the eyes of the public causing more pain to many people.
“But he was the victim!
“Whether the victim is a child killed by a drunken driver, an old person dying as the result of a mugging, or an intended victim of a violent death, they can bear no witness.
“They have no defence, no voice. They cannot tell their story. They cannot speak the truth, nor can they lie. They have all received a death sentence and they have no voice, no finger to point, they have nothing at all.
“They are the victims, the dead.”
Annette Anthony, Blackburn Road, Darwen.
Just over one year later, Blakemore would see his sentence reduced to just eight years after a successful appeal was made. Serving his time within the grounds of the Frankland high security prision in Durham, he would serve five years for manslaughter and three years for perverting the course of justice.
His solicitor, Tony Wood said: “I think the public should be aware of this reduction in sentence.
“The family were very disappointed at the outcome of the original hearing, so this represents some consolation for them.”
It’s interesting to hear Mr. Wood using the word ‘consolation’ and we can perhaps assume that this would have been something very hard for Julian’s mother, Annette to accept.
Sources used in this story;
Dundee Courier – Wednesday 20 July 1994
Accrington Observer and Times – Friday 29 July 1994
Accrington Observer and Times – Friday 28 July 1995
Accrington Observer and Times – Friday 26 April 1996
Staffordshire Sentinel – Wednesday 20 July 1994
+ many more courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive – www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk and www.ancestry.co.uk
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