When Scott Pritchard was rushed to the hospital more than a decade ago, hospital staff did what they could to save his young life. But when his head injuries were too severe to be treated, Scott tragically died that night.
After Scott’s father was accused of the murder but then acquitted, the police were left with no leads, and the case went cold. Bizarrely, 14 years later and the guilt of what one woman had done was simply too much to handle.
It was a chilly January evening back in 2004 when Pritchard was found right outside his home bleeding profusely from his head. First responders were quick to arrive at the scene, and they immediately rushed the lad to the nearest hospital for treatment. On arrival, doctors knew the injuries were very serious and did what they could to save the victim.
Pritchard was on crutches at the time he was attacked outside his home in Lindsay Close, Sunderland, due to a broken foot. Moreover, his injuries were consistent with a surprise attack. His broken foot and cast made him even more vulnerable at the time, and there was a complete lack of defensive injuries, suggesting that the teen was taken by surprise by his attackers.
The attack on Prichard had been a brutal and merciless one that night. Doctors did what they could to stem the bleeding from various head wounds but to no avail. Those head wounds were so brutally administered that medical staff could do nothing to save his life. Now, it was time for the police to do their magic and find out who killed Pritchard.
Soon after Pritchard tragically passed away, aged just 19, police threw 300 officers at the case, collecting more than 1,600 statements and producing 4,000 documents. But at the time, despite all the hard police work, no clues were found, and all leads went nowhere. At the time, everyone was baffled by the murder, and even Pritchard’s father was questioned as a prime suspect
Pritchard’s father suffered a lot over the years, having been falsely accused of his son’s murder. A year after the murder, the victim’s father, Robert Stacey, was questioned by police and accused of the murder, spending 16 weeks on remand at the time. However, the Crown Prosecution Service then decided that they had no “realistic chance” of a conviction, so all charges were dropped.
Despite being acquitted of any suspicion against him, Stacey became scared to walk around his town center due to abuse. The story of Pritchard’s murder was a high-profile one at the time, and everyone in the small town knew about it. Despite being cleared by police, Stacey feared for his safety and refused to go out in public “for fear of being accused of a crime I did not commit,” he said according to a BBC report.
The victim’s mother, Kathleen Pritchard, was understandably distraught by her son’s death at the time and it came as a complete shock to her. “Losing your son is hard enough, but not knowing the reason why made coming to terms with Scott’s death so much more difficult.” She said. But the lack of closure is what hurt the family the most all those years ago.
Kathleen Pritchard continued, “Every night for more than ten years I went to sleep knowing his killer was out there, who was refusing to come forward and allow the family closure.” But 14 years later and the guilt grew to be too much for the person who had murdered Pritchard. That person decided to come clean of her own volition and turned herself into the police.
The police were shocked when a woman walked into the station one Tuesday evening and confessed to a brutal murder which took place 14 years ago. But why had this woman, Karen Tunmore, come forward and was she Pritchard’s murderer? Police had their work cut out for them for the next few weeks as they tried to get to the bottom of things.
Soon after Tunmore walked into the Middle Engine Lane police station in Wallsend, North Tyneside, Chief Inspector John Bent was contacted by the front desk. He was dubious at first about the random confession and questioned Tunmore himself there and then at the station.
As Chief Inspector, Bent explained to reporters, “It’s 11 o’clock at night, and you get a call saying somebody’s come in to confess to a murder that’s 14 years ago,” he said. “Your initial thoughts are: ‘really?’” But it didn’t take long for the truth to come out as the level of detail Tunmore provided tied her to the crime scene beyond any doubt.
As DCI Bent went onto explain, “The chilling level of detail she told us gave us reason to believe she was responsible,” he said. “She said she disposed of the bat that was used, washed the car mats and sold the car she used, which was blood-stained from the weapon.” But Bent also noted that Tunmore seemed to be genuinely remorseful for what she had done, even if 14 years later.
As the police explained, “The interviewing officer said she was very upset, and in the early stages she seemed contrite and genuinely remorseful for her actions.” The DCI added, “There’s nothing that we’ve been able to unearth that says it wasn’t her.” But why had Tunmore chosen to brutally murder this young lad right outside his home that night?
Tunmore filled the cops in on the details of what led to the murder of Scott Pritchard that night. She explained that he owed some money to a member of a local gang called the Hendon Mad Dogs. Tunmore explained that, in turn, the gang owed money to her and at the time she needed that money badly; so badly that she took a young man’s life after she “saw red” and went into a fit of rage.
Tunmore explained that on that fateful night all those years ago, she and an associate from the gang drove to Sunderland to get the money Pritchard owed them. She explained that she took a baseball bat for protection but had no intention of using it. As Bent explained, “When Scott appeared not to have money to pay to her associate, she says she saw red, and she lashed out with the baseball bat.”
One of the factors that compounded matters at the time was the fact that Tunmore had already been in trouble with the police and had several convictions for disorder and drunkenness. But her reasons for coming forward all these years later were still unclear to investigators, who doubted her account of things until she was questioned further. Eventually, the reasons for her delayed confession became clear.
For whatever reason, the guilt of what she had done grew on Tunmore and became heavier over the years. She told police that her reason for coming forward was due to not being able to live with what she had done. “Karen Tunmore had to live with her horrifying secret for 14 years and was finally overcome by guilt. She clearly could not live another day with the needless death of a teenager on her conscience,” said Bent.
According to Bent, this was the first time during his career that a person had clean walked into his police station to turn themselves in. “It’s so unusual; I don’t remember in my 24 years somebody walking into a police station and [confessing] to a murder,” he said. But he also noted that there was no actual trigger other than guilt. “There was no real trigger. She just said she couldn’t live with it any longer. She said it had been replaying in her mind and she couldn’t deal with it anymore,” Bent told reporters.
While Tunmore was tried and ordered to spend 17 years behind bars for what she did, Bent explained how this was the most unusual case he ever recalls working. “It’s a strange job, it’s been detected, but not solved, and it wasn’t as a result of our work,” he said. But the fact that justice had been served was the best part about this horrific case for the police.
Justice may have been served many years after the murder, but at least it was something. “The satisfaction for ourselves is from the family’s perspective. They have had some kind of justice. They have been very supportive, and we are very thankful for that,” Bent said. At the same time, Pritchard’s parents were also pleased for some closure. “Now, with his killer behind bars, we finally have some kind of justice for Scott and hope he can rest in peace knowing the person who did this is no longer walking the streets.” Said the victim’s mother.