Hilary and Michael Pritchard were a well-liked and respected couple who lived a quiet and happy life in Staffordshire, a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. To the east of the Staffordshire border is Derbyshire, an area that both Hilary and Michael were familiar with and of which they were very fond. They both worked and in the spare time they had together they enjoyed walking and climbing. Their only son, Jonathan who, having graduated from University, had secured employment and left the family home. In January 1998, Hilary and Michael would have been celebrating 32 years of a very happy and contented marriage.
But the tragic events of Wednesday, 12 November 1997 changed this family’s life forever.
On that morning, Michael left home to travel to work. He had worked for some 19 years as a delivery driver for Business Express. He was a loyal and trusted member of the company.As was usual he arrived at the depot and loaded the deliveries into his white Sherpa van, which was adorned with the company’s distinctive logo. He left to start his round at about 7.45am. He delivered in the Staffordshire and Derbyshire area.
By 3.10pm he was coming toward the end of his round and was in Quarndon, a suburb of the city of Derby, in the East Midlands region of England.
At about 3.20pm Michael arrived in a residential cul-de-sac, The Cunnery, Kirk Langley, a small hamlet just off the A52, the main road between Derby and Ashbourne. It lies about 3 miles west of Derby city. He still had around 10 parcels left to deliver. He drove to the top of The Cunnery and got out of the van, he walked to one of the houses in order to deliver the parcel. Michael left the door open and the engine running.
The Cunnery, Kirk Langley, Derbyshire.
He was suddenly aware of a young man having jumped into the driver’s seat of the van and closed the door. Michael ran back to the vehicle, calling to the thief to get out, desperately banging on the door and the sides. The vehicle reversed and turned in the road, Michael, still shouting, stood in front of the vehicle but rather than stop, the young male thief, sitting in the driver’s seat, accelerated, knocking Michael to the ground and dragging him under the van for approximately 50 yards down the road.
Clearly, he was very seriously injured and shocked residents, who had witnessed what had happened, summoned help. As Michael lay there, his Sherpa van was driven to the junction of The Cunnery and Moor Lane, it was accompanied by another vehicle, a small white van believed to be a Bedford Rascal with an E prefix containing two young males. These two vehicles overtook other traffic in their exit from the village onto the A52, Derby bound carriageway. Both vehicles were driven erratically and at high speed. Witnesses recalled the manner in which the vehicles were driven and concluded the two vans were together.
The Murder Scene in 1997
Both vehicles turned off the A52 onto Brun Lane, about a mile from The Cunnery. The Sherpa van was abandoned in the entrance to a field and the young offender got into the ‘Rascal’ van with his two accomplices. The van then turned around in the lane and headed back towards the A52.
Michael's Abandoned Van
Back at The Cunnery, as a result of the horrific head injuries he had received, Michael died there in the carriageway in that quiet street in Kirk Langley.
So started the Police investigation, many hours, days, weeks and months were spent tracing witnesses, making enquiries and following every lead possible to find those responsible. Those months led into years and to this day no one has been convicted of the murder of Michael Pritchard, a happy, thoughtful, considerate individual. Sadly, Hilary has been unable to process the events of that dreadful day that took her beloved husband from her and their family.
Michael's Commemorative Tree
In many cases, there is a conclusion, an ending, a line drawn in the sand by way of a conviction and a sentence of those responsible for the heinous crimes they have committed. But in this case, there is no peace for the family and no closure. This is the reason why True Crime Investigators UK bought this subject to the podcast. In one way it tells the story of how a man met his death in a quiet street whilst doing the job he loved and what effect that had on his family. But we can also, as part of this podcast, make an appeal to the public for your help.
The description of the driver who killed Michael with his own Sherpa van was a white, male aged 19-20 years old, medium build, blonde/fair collar length hair and described as having a ‘babyface’.
The driver of the accompanying van, believed to be a white Bedford Rascal with an E prefix, was again white, male, slim to medium build with sandy/ginger hair. He had a tooth missing on his upper left side.
Artist Impression of the murderer
Do you have any information about the death of Michael Pritchard on Wednesday 12th November 1997?
If you wish to contact the Police there are a number of ways in which this can be done:
The Derbyshire Constabulary website: Derbyshire.police.uk
Ringing 101 (only if in the UK) and ask to speak to Derbyshire Police
Or visit your local Police Station.
You can also give information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website crimestoppers-uk.org
In order for the information you give to get to Detective Chief Inspector Paul Tatlow and his team, you will need to quote ‘Operation Montera’ and Incident number 409 dated 09 11 17.
We will keep updating this webpage if we have any more updates about the case.
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