Detectives are renewing their appeal for information as the anniversary of the death of a mother approaches.
Tracey Mertens, 31, was doused in petrol and set alight in Eaton churchyard near Congleton on 23 December 1994 − she sustained horrific burns to her body and died shortly after.
This week, as Tracey’s family prepares to spend another Christmas without her, officers are urging anyone who may have information in relation to her death to come forward.
Detective Inspector Kate Tomlinson said: “This week marks the 23rd anniversary of Tracey’s death – I joined the force in October 1994 and remember this happening whilst in my training and thinking how appalling it was. To now be the lead officer in this case after all these years provides me with a new determination to get justice for Tracey and her family.”
The mother-of-two, who was living in Rochdale at the time, had travelled down to Birmingham on 22 December 1994 to collect a benefits book from her former home in Cattells Grove, Nechells.
It is believed 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 midday on 23 December 1994 she answered a knock at the door of the house in Cattells Grove. She was confronted by two men. Police believe Tracey was abducted and bundled into the back of a yellow Ford Escort, which was parked outside the address. Tracey was then driven to Eaton churchyard in Cheshire where she was set on fire and left to die.
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. She had sustained 95% burns to her body and bravely clung to life for a further 12 hours before she sadly died.
An investigation was launched and, despite extensive and exhaustive enquiries over the years, no-one has ever been convicted in connection with her death.
DI Tomlinson added: “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 enquiry were pursued.
“Over the years we have renewed our appeal and a number of people have come forward with information – I would like to thank them for their assistance. I would appeal to anyone who has any information about Tracey’s death to get in touch – even the smallest amount of information can be crucial when piecing together a case.
“I appreciate that it is a long time ago but I am sure that if you witnessed something you would still remember this now and I would urge anyone with any information to come forward and help us with our investigation.”
A £30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Tracey’s death still stands.
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.