"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
-Kevin Spacey as Roger Kint in The Usual Suspects
It was the 14th of September 1995. 15 year old Naomi Smith was at home with her parents, Brian and Catherine, in their home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, United Kingdom. Naomi was the youngest of four children and the only girl.
That day, the 14th of September, Naomi went to rehearsals for the marching band. She went with her friend Emma Jones and got a lift home afterwards. Naomi loved to do things with the Church and loved spending time with people she knew well. She stayed out of trouble and when she was home from school, she enjoyed playing outside.
The area where Naomi lived was a quiet estate , Bretts Hall Estate, and people who lived there at the time knew each other very well. They were a close community and it was normal for the children to stay out late and even sometimes after dark as all of the friends lived so close to each other. That night, Naomi went to the post box for her mother to post one of her letters. It was after 9pm, probably closer to 9.30pm when she left the house.
Bretts Hall Estate
The post box was at the end of the street, beside the local shop, and was no more than 100 yards from the house. The trip there and back should have just taken a few minutes but when Naomi wasn't back at 10pm, her parents were not too worried as they presumed she either met up with a friend or called to one of their houses. However, when another hour passed, they thought it was quite unusual for her to be out so late. Just after 11pm, Brian got into his car and said he would drive around to see where she was.
Brian's first stop was her friend Emma's house. Naomi wasn't there but Emma said she would go out looking with Brian in the car. She could show him where they would normally be. As Brian turned his headlights on to face Ansley Commons in Nuneaton Park, he made a shocking discovery. In the playground, just under a slide, he saw his daughter slumped on the ground.
When Brian reached Naomi, he knew she was dead. Her body had been savagely mutilated. Naomi had been sexually assaulted and her throat was slashed with such violence and force that the slash was almost from ear to ear. When Brian found Naomi , it was around two hours since she had left the house to go to the post box. She had reached the post box as the letter was found inside the post box. So what had happened to her on her way home and so close to her home?
Police were able to pinpoint their search and investigation to a specific area and time as they knew where Naomi went , what time she left her house and when and where her body was found. Witnesses also saw Naomi at the post box and near the alleyway. The alleyway led to the playground where she was found. They carried out door to door enquiries and interviewed a large number of men in particular in the area.
Brian and Catherine Smith
Police knew they needed to find whoever killed Naomi fast. Her death was violent and brutal. The huge wound to her throat was caused by at least four or five blows from a sharp instrument. Her genitalia was so severely damaged that it appeared that a weapon or instrument had been used to inflict those injuries. Anybody who could inflict such brutal injuries on a fifteen year old girl was very much a high risk offender and whoever it was needed to be found urgently.
During the investigation, a number of men were arrested but released. Police decided to do mass DNA testing. Saliva was found on Naomi's body that was a mix of Naomi's DNA and the DNA from an unidentified party. Police tested men aged between 18-25 years old who lived in the area and they found a match. Edwin Hopkins.
Edwin Hopkins was 19 years old. He denied any involvement in Naomi's murder. Edwin said that he was at home that night playing board games with his parents and sister. Edwin went to the off licence to buy some alcohol around 9.44pm. The off licence was close to the post box. Edwin's sister noted that he was out longer than she expected, so much so that she was worried about him but he told her a man stopped him to tell him off for having no lights on his bicycle.
Brian and Catherine Smith
There was a bite mark on Naomi's left breast. This was compared to Edwin's teeth. He lost a tooth in a cycling accident and his front teeth moved together to fill up the space which made an unusual shape. It was a match to the bite mark on Naomi. Edwin was charged with her murder.
Edwin was convicted of the murder of Naomi Smith and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of eighteen years. During the investigation, it transpired that Edwin enjoyed causing harm to animals and in particular liked skinning rabbits and wanted to move on to skinning bigger animals. He had a stash of knives in his bedroom and seemed to have a fascination with cutting things. When Naomi went out that night to post a letter for her mother, she planned to be no more than a few minutes. But on the way home, she encountered evil. She would have known Edwin to see as he lived in the area but like others in the area, would not have been aware of the horror and brutality he was capable of.
Edwin is still in prison but is currently seeking parole. Sadly, Naomi's mother died after a battle with cancer and Brian could no longer live in the family home and moved out.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
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- Sandra Pupatello
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