Keith Lyon

Police instructing boys and cubs before search of the south Downs
Keith Lyon was found stabbed to death on a bridle path in 1967
Woodingdean Primary School
Simon Carey
A knife was found after the murder, mislaid, and later found in a box
BBC News
Detective Superintendent Jim Marshall. Brighton CID 'supercop' who solved 100 murders
The Argus
Using a magnetic mine detector in the search for the murder weapon.
Sgt Frank Morgan and Pc Ian Wilson

On a pleasant Saturday afternoon in May 1967, 12 year old Keith Lyon, the eldest son of Ken Lyon, the well known band-leader set out from his home in Ovingdean.

He had decided to walk along the path that runs from Ovingdean to Woodingdean in order to purchase something to go with his geometry set. About 45 minutes after leaving his home about 3pm he was attacked by someone and stabbed to death, his body being left close to the pathway in which he had just walked.

A little while after the stabbing a young 16-year-old girl, out walking found Keith’s body. In total fear she rushed back along the path to Woodingdean and raised the alarm. The Police were quickly on the scene and cordoned off the area, making sure that nothing was disturbed and keeping people away from the scene.

The Police set up a temporary murder headquarters in the headmaster’s study at Woodingdean Primary School. More officers were drafted in to take part in the hunt and included those from East and West Sussex as well as the Regional Crime Squad was called in to assist with the enquiries. Senior Officers knew that this was probably going to be a large enquiry and a special magnetic mine detector was rushed to the scene from Aldermaston to help with the search for the murder weapon. This detector was in the form of a roller; it had 260 magnets and was capable of pulling metal objects out of the ground.

However, it wasn’t the roller that found the alleged weapon, a steak knife with a wicked serrated edge to it. This was found by some schoolboys in a field close to the rear of Fitzherbert School.

The Brighton Dog Section

The Brighton Dog Section, of which I was a member were all involved and police dogs from the surrounding Forces were also brought in to search the nearby fields for any clues to the murder/s. The main field that was searched was the large one that runs parallel to Falmer Road between Woodingdean and Rottingdean. We spent several hours searching this particular field but it was in vain.

The police were at full stretch and made successive swoops on beatniks, tramps and anyone who was in the area and sleeping rough, lonely farm building were often searched at this time.

A day or so later a wax dummy was borrowed from a nearby boy’s outfitter and dressed in identical clothing as worn by Keith at the time of the murder, this being in a bid to jog the memory of anyone who was in the area at the time. A pilot of a light aircraft who was flying in the vicinity at the time was questioned in the hope that he may have seen something but that drew a blank. The Police inquiries even stretched down to Roedean Girls School in case they too may have seen anything.

The Police had hoped that good clues would have come to light during the first 48 hours after the crime but as time dragged on the police became more desperate to find the necessary clues to cause the break through in order to solve the murder.

New evidence

A few days after the murder it was reported that new evidence indicated that Keith had been stabbed to death by a youth or gang of youths. This led to the investigating officers to announce that they would fingerprint the local boys. They were hoping that those responsible would not allow their fingerprints to be taken thus giving some idea towards who may be guilty. The fingerprinting started and soon close on 4,000 boys had been done. The Local Education Committee fully co-operated with the police and three centres were set up for this mammoth task to be undertaken.

It wasn’t very long before letters of sympathy started to come in and within a few days more than 500 had been received, including some from as far away as Australia at the home of the murdered boy.

The giant fingerprinting exercise was extended in July to cover most areas of Brighton and the fingerprinting team worked overtime in an effort to keep pace with the job.

The inquest

The inquest was held in December and the Coroner was told at this time that 75,000 visits had been made to houses in the quest for information, just over 2,000 written statements had been taken, 17 schools had been visited by the Police investigation team and 1,900 school children were interviewed. It was also announced that more than 6,000 fingerprints and palm prints were obtained and 726 items of clothing had been examined with 361 being forwarded to the forensic science laboratory for tests to be done.

The blood on the steak knife was identified as being of the same blood type as Keith’s. The Jury returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown.

Police inquiries continued and the following year, on the anniversary of Keith’s death, his father offered £1,000 reward to anyone giving information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Sadly, no one came forward at this time but in January 1974 there was a dramatic development. Detective Superintendent Jim Marshall announced that new information had been received and opens a new line of inquiry.

Things moved quickly and a Special Squad of detectives was set up and began re-interviewing dozens of people who had made statements at the time of the murder inquiry a few years before. However, after renewed efforts it all came to nothing and the killer/s remain free to this day.

It is true that during the time of the murder investigation in 1967 a number of people were arrested and taken to the police station, ‘assisting the police in their inquiries,’ but they were later released and no charges were ever made.

In the late 1990’s the Police announced that they were re-opening their inquiries into Keith’s murder but that quietened down and nothing more was heard about it.

Now in 2005, the 21st Century, the killer/s remain free and one can only wonder if anyone will be brought to book for this heinous murder of a young innocent boy. I would love to see this crime brought to a successful conclusion. The murder of children always leaves a nasty taste. DavidRowland

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.



Comments about this page

  • I only heard about this terrible case the other day, as it was mentioned in the “Brighton Past” page, on Facebook. Shocking.

    I was born on 4th January, 1967, so I am more or less the same age as Keith Lyon. So sad for someone to lose their life and in such a terrifying, barbaric way.

    By Francis Huddy (08/12/2018)
  • Sorry. I missed this one.

    By Paul Beaken (20/10/2018)
  • “12 year old Keith Lyons” – surname still not amended.

    By Derek Boulter (17/10/2018)
  • It wasn’t only the boys who were fingerprinted.  All of us girls at Fitzherbert School had ours done too, and we were all interviewed (myself 2 or 3 times).  It seemed like weeks that the police were there in the school, and the teachers and children got used to going about their business as usual.  I remember everyone feeling so sorry for the family of the little boy, and my year were just a few months older.

    By Mary Funnell (24/10/2015)
  • Thank you for this thorough outline of my brother’s tragic case. I would point out the family name is Lyon (no S)

    By Peter Lyon (08/02/2015)

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