Julia Rawson: How a hidden bloodstain in an apartment of horrors brought twisted killers to justice

Nathan Maynard-Ellis, top, and David Leesley, bottom, have both been jailed for life

It was late in the afternoon when Det Inspector. Jim Colclough got a call to go to a quiet stretch of canal between a school and a business park.

But even for an experienced and hardened detective, nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to discover.

“The discovery that was made on the other side of the canal and the waste area came as a shock to the investigation team,” he said. “I think we all feared the worst was coming around the corner.”

Indeed, what was about to unfold was one of the most gruesome cases West Midlands Police have ever had to deal with.

The ‘Flat of Horrors’ murder of 42-year-old Dudley market trader Julia Rawson is the subject of a documentary TV program directed by Dermot Murnaghan on the Crime + Investigation channel at 9pm Monday.

The first installment of the Killer Britain series will look at how Julia’s dismembered body was found in neatly wrapped bags near a canal on the outskirts of Tipton.

Julia Rawson was 42

Knives, saws, axes and other bladed items were also found piled up next to horror memorabilia in the small apartment on Mission Drive, a quiet, leafy cul-de-sac in Dudley Port.

Recalling the call to where Julia’s body was found, Mr Colclough said: ‘I received a call from search investigators to be advised they had done what turned out to be a very dark discovery.

“From the first visit, it was obvious that we had located body parts and that these parts had been found in two separate bags, sort of spread apart for a distance of about 20 meters.”

Inside the “Apartment of Horrors”
CCTV footage showed Maynard-Ellis and David Leesley walking along the canal with carrier bags

The body parts were wrapped in black cloth and were “very very well” wrapped and preserved, with the discovery being due to an exposed body part – the scent of which was picked up by a search dog.

CCTV footage showed Maynard-Ellis and Leesley walking away from the flat several times, nonchalantly walking along the towpath with carrier bags.

But the killers made a major mistake – they hadn’t replaced the underlay, and when officers removed the newly laid carpet, they discovered a stain that turned out to be Julia’s blood.

“What is evident is that after she was killed Julia was taken to the bathroom and for the rest of the evening she was dismembered,” Mr Colclough said.

Det Inspector Jim Colclough

“All of the murders are obviously very tragic events, especially for the families of the victims involved, but what is particularly harrowing about this investigation is that the two men made a concerted effort to dispose of Julia’s body parts. .

“There was no consideration given to his family.”

Julia was last seen by her friends when she spent the day with them on May 11, 2019, before ending the evening at the Bottle and Cork pub in Dudley town centre. She was reported missing to police on May 14, after family and friends raised concerns that they had not heard from her and had not been to work.

A search for missing persons was carried out and as part of these inquiries police were able to determine that Julia had been lucky enough to meet a man – and they were seen leaving the pub in a taxi at around 2am on the 15th may.

Nathan Maynard-Ellis and David Leesley caught by police body camera during their first interrogation

CCTV footage of her talking to an unidentified man was played on West Midlands Police information systems and a breakthrough came when a local security officer in Dudley town center contacted police to say he thought he saw the man. Police arrested Maynard-Ellis in downtown Dudley on May 22 and asked him what he knew about Julia’s disappearance.

He denied meeting Julia and said the man in the footage was not him. However, officers were convinced it was him as he showed Julia distinctive tattoos on his arms. He was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping.

The next day, the missing persons investigation was handed over to the force’s homicide team as there was no evidence that Julia was still alive.

Footage had also shown Maynard-Ellis, who was 30 at the time, denied having anything to do with Julia’s disappearance when questioned by officers during the missing persons case.

A forensic search of the apartment provided police with enough evidence to charge Maynard-Ellis and Leesley, 25, with murder, although at this stage no bodies have been found.

Police searched for 47 days using a range of specialist equipment, including search dogs from other parts of the country.

The police search for Julia’s body.

On the afternoon of June 12, a search dog found a bag containing human body parts, and another bag was found about 20 meters away. The body parts had been wrapped tightly in plastic bags, one was slightly torn which allowed the dog to pick up the scent.

Following a specialist forensic analysis, West Midlands Police officers were able to confirm that they had discovered Julia’s body.

Julia’s family described her as “easy-going and quick to befriend everyone she met”.

They said: “She was a talented artist and musician, able to play by ear. Her drawings were exhibited at local art shows.

David Leesley, left, and Nathan Maynard-Ellis during their trial at Coventry Crown Court

“His death had a devastating impact on us, the mutilation of his body and the callous manner in which his remains were scattered revolted us. We can only pray that Julia knows nothing of these heinous acts.

“We are a close and loving family, clinging to each other in an attempt to support each other through this heartbreaking ordeal, but we will remain deeply affected and troubled by these events for the rest of our lives as the loss of Julia is felt as keenly today as when we first learned that she was missing.”

Maynard-Ellis was also found guilty of four counts of rape, one of attempted rape, and death threats relating to historical allegations made by a woman after her arrest.

The two defendants, from Mission Drive to Tipton, admitted to perverting the course of justice and concealing a body.

They were both sentenced to life in prison at Warwick Crown Court in December 2020, with Maynard-Ellis said he would serve at least 30 years and Leesley at least 19.

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