The brutal park murder so mysterious even England’s top cop couldn’t solve it

The murder of a man who had been brutally stabbed 44 times, robbed and dumped in a flowerbed shocked and stunned an entire close-knit community – and even saw the top cop in the country drafted in to try and find the killer.

Ever since he'd arrived in Aberdare, South Wales from Poland just after WWII, the 33-year-old victim had been known by everyone in the town as George – no doubt because it was easier to pronounce than his real name of Jerzy Strzadala.

Well-liked, he'd found work at the local colliery and had been lodging at a miners' hostel when, on the evening of Monday, April 19, 1948, he made the fateful decision to go for a walk in the park.

That no-one living in the houses opposite heard him scream is likely because the first strike of the killer's blade had been to his throat.

The brutal slaying saw local police foxed and Scotland Yard's top man drafted in to crack the case.

Chief inspector Robert Honey Fabian (or RH for short), was dispatched to the Valleys to solve the case, setting up HQ in the town's Market Street.

He'd recently found fame as the man who'd cracked a notorious murder in the swanky area of Fitzrovia in London – a crime which ultimately led to the abolition of the death penalty.

In it a man called Alec de Antiquis – a former Home Guard corporal turned motorbike repair shop owner – was shot dead after trying to intervene in a botched jewellery heist.

The controversy arose from the fact that, despite no-one knowing which of the three would-be robbers pulled the trigger, two were hanged while the third was spared death and sent to jail.

So the bristle of excitement at Fabian's arrival was palpable – with local newspaper reports even documenting what he wore each day, detailing his 'grey soft hat and grey suit' topped off with 'a white handkerchief in his breast pocket'.

It's also worth noting that such was his profile a long-running TV series based on his own memoirs in the force – entitled Fabian of the Yard – would later be made about him, running on the BBC between 1954 and 1956.

However, back in Aberdare hundreds of door-to-door inquiries by plain-clothed and uniformed police officers were being carried out in an attempt to piece together the identity of the killer. But progress proved painfully slow.

Not even the description of a "short and thick-set man aged in his late 20s," who'd initially been spotted in the park on the night in question, led to any positive IDs.

Indeed no-one could understand how someone, who'd most definitely have been covered in Strzadala's blood, could have left the area without being spotted.

Had he waited until dark before making his escape? Or had someone close by provided him with a place to hide?

One thing was for sure though – he was still out there somewhere.

In the meantime, Strzadala – "a quiet man with a smile for everyone" who'd send money and clothes parcels back home to his elderly mother in Poland – was laid to rest at the nearby church, with many lining the streets to pay their last respects.

Afterwards, a mine detector was used on the park's flower beds, only to turn up a clasp knife so old and rusted that everyone discounted it from having had anything to do with the stabbing.

Officers also searched the lake for the discarded murder weapon, but nothing was retrieved.

Even the best shot at some tangible evidence – some blood-stained banknotes – was dismissed as money which had simply passed through the unwashed hands of staff at the local butcher shop.

Even the normally cool and calm Fabian seemed flummoxed, expressing his frustrations about the slowness of the investigation to local reporters.

In the end he'd return to London without having caught the culprit and would retire from the force the following year.

That said, he'd eventually capitalise on his celebrity status by appearing on TV and radio several times – as a guest on the US quiz show To Tell The Truth, for example.

But, of all the questions he'd ever face, one would forever hang over him unanswered.

Namely: "Who killed Jerzy Strzadala?"

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