'My life was ripped apart': Daughter who survived aged 4 after mum murdered in front of her

ANGLIA 310123 Amanda Wright and mum
Amanda Wright with her mum Susan who was murdered in 1980 Credit: Family picture

A woman whose mother was murdered in front of her when she was just four years old has met the detectives who helped put the killer behind bars.

Amanda Wright, from Stevenage, woke one morning in March 1980 to see her mother Susan Lowson being strangled in bed next to her by family friend John Dickinson.

He then tried to cover his tracks by strangling the little girl and setting the house on fire, but Mrs Wright - now 46 - was saved by a passerby.

"I had a very loving mother, a very nice start to my childhood and then that was all just taken away from me, ripped apart.

"I never went back to my home again, never saw my Mum again, never saw my toys or anything and it just had such an impact on my childhood, it was really hard for me," she said.

Forty-two years later, she has welcomed the three now-retired detectives into her home to thank them for getting justice for her mother.

"It was fantastic to finally meet them, because it happened a long time ago so a lot of my memories are sketchy, except for the memory of being in the hospital and being given photos of different men to pick if it was him or not.

"It was just amazing the job they did, and the determination and it just gives you that little bit of hope that when you're going through a really painful situation in your life...that there's people out there who are on your side and trying to get you justice."

Amanda Wright thanks the detectives who helped to bring her mother's murderer to justice in the 1980s Credit: ITV Anglia

Mrs Wright said it was important for her to know that Dickinson was behind bars and could not hurt her or anyone else.

Scenes of crime officer Peter Harpur, then a detective constable, was the first to suspect murder rather than a house fire and secured vital forensic evidence. He remembers interviewing Amanda when she was four.

Mr Harper, who retired in 1998, said: "It was being treated as an ordinary domestic fire and death. I went to examine the scene but when I took a closer look certain aspects of it didn't look right."

He was suspicious that the fire in bedroom seemed to have started under the bed rather than on top of it.

Police initially suspected that smoking in bed was the cause, but Mr Harper secured the crime scene so further investigations could be carried out.

"It was horrendous to think the child was locked within the bedroom and the room was set on fire. It was terrible," he said. "It was good that my intuition was right."

Mr Harper said he had seen many murders but this was one of the most upsetting because it involved a small child.

The house in Stevenage was first thought to be the scene of a routine house fire Credit: ITV Anglia

For the other two retired detectives, it was an emotional reunion with the woman who was at the centre of a case that haunted them for years.

Brian Todd was a detective sergeant at the time but rose to be a detective superintendent.

He remembers how a stray fingerprint found in the burned out sitting room turned out to belong to the suspect who was on bail for a burglary.

"He was a real monster, an horrific criminal. It was one of the worst crimes and worst offenders we had to deal with," he said.

Jimmy McQueen was a detective sergeant at the time and said the case had stayed with him over the years.

"Over the years I've wondered how the little girl got on and it's been really good to see her."As a child, Mrs Wright said it meant so much to know that the man who killed her mother was behind bars.She herself is partly responsible for ensuring her mother's killer is still in prison - a book she wrote about her life in 2016 inspired victims of his earlier crimes to come forward, and he is now back behind bars again.

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