Manchester Evening News
December 24, 2014
Police have launched a renewed appeal for information ahead of the 20th anniversary of the horrific murder of a woman who was set alight in a churchyard.
Mother-of-two Tracey Mertens, 31, from Rochdale, sustained 95 per cent burns to her body after she was doused in petrol in Eaton churchyard near Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994.
A member of the public came to her aid and she was taken to hospital where she was able to tell detectives what had happened to her before she died, 12 hours after the attack.
Ms Mertens, who was living in Kirkholt at the time, had travelled to Birmingham the day before her death to collect a benefits book from her former home in Cattells Grove, Nechells.
Cheshire police believe she initially intended to return the same day but instead ended up staying overnight at her sister-in-law’s and visited her former home the next morning.
Shortly before noon on December 23, 1994, she answered a knock at the door of the house in Cattells Grove and was confronted by two black men, who are believed to have spoken with a Jamaican accent.
Police believe she was abducted and bundled into the back of a yellow Ford Escort which was parked outside the address.
Ms Mertens was then driven to Eaton churchyard in Cheshire where she was set on fire and left to die.
An investigation was launched but no-one has ever been convicted in connection with her death.
A £30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her death still stands.
Det Insp Gary McIntyre said: “Tracey met a violent and horrific death at the hands of her killers. She was so brave and told detectives as much as she could before she died.
“That information was vital for the investigation team at the time and numerous lines of inquiry were pursued. Over the years a number of people have come forward with information and I would like to thank them for their assistance.
“I do believe that there are still other people out there who may have witnessed what happened either in Birmingham, where Tracey was taken from, or Cheshire, where she was killed, and I would specifically appeal to them to come forward. I would also appeal to anyone who was living in the Rochdale area at the time and may have information significant to our inquiries to also get in touch.
“By refreshing people’s memories with a renewed appeal it is hoped that further information could be gained, which could finally help to bring Tracey’s killers to justice.
“I appreciate that it is a long time ago but I am sure that if you witnessed something you would still remember this now. I would urge anyone with any information to come forward and help us with our investigation.”
Over the years Cheshire Police has renewed its appeal for information, making two appearances on BBC1’s Crimewatch – in 2009, and again in 2012.
Mr McIntyre added: “Someone must know who is responsible for Tracey’s murder and I would personally appeal to them to come forward and speak to us.”
Anyone with any information should contact the Operation Eaton investigation team on 101. Information can also be passed on anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.