Carol Ann Stephens murder: The detective working to find his childhood friend's killer from 1959

Detective Gerry Blake was at Sunday school with Carol Ann Stephens days before she went missing. Credit: Cold Case Detectives

It's almost 64 years since Carol Ann Stephens disappeared off the streets of Cardiff.

The schoolgirl, aged six at the time, was abducted in April 1959 and her body found two weeks later more than 50 miles away in a remote spot in Carmarthenshire.

Forensic testing has developed a great deal over the past six decades and detectives from south Wales have since reopened the case, with ITV Wales' Cold Case Detectives series following their work.

Seasoned detective, Gerry Blake, is one of those leading the investigation, but he also holds a deeper motivation behind cracking the case - Gerry was a childhood friend of Carol's.

"In 1959, I was a young boy, 7 and a half years of age, and I was actually in Sunday school with Carol a couple of days before she went missing."

A photograph taken in 1959, police gathered all of the clothes Carol was wearing at the time of her disappearance. Credit: Cold Case Detectives

Gerry and his two sisters went to school with Carol, describing her as "an innocent girl, a very chatty girl, a very friendly girl".

He added she did have a tendency to "wander", but that people would often look out for the younger children back then given "that was the type of neighbourhood that we had here in Cathays".

Gerry is one of the cold case detectives from South Wales Police, alongside other investigators and forensic experts, who work to pursue justice in undetected crimes often decades old by using the latest developments in forensic science to uncover new evidence.

Spurred on by both his personal and professional motivations, Gerry said this case has stuck with him.

Detective Gerry Blake says the case of Carol Ann Stephen's murder is why he joined the force. Credit: Cold Case Detectives

"This has always been at the back of my mind, if not really the main reason for joining the police force. I think all police officers would like to detect every case that they’re involved in. This is poignant for me because I knew the young girl, I knew Carol Stephens.

"There’s someone that I knew and she was murdered, you’d like to see that justice is done. On a personal matter because you knew the person and then of course on a professional aspect there’s an undetected crime", he explained.

Building on all of his experience to date, Gerry is committed to finding the child killer.

The last known sighting of Carol was after she walked back from a corner shop, known as Wilkins, where she would often run errands for her mother and buy sweets. Later that day, she was seen knocking on the window of a car door that was parked on Fairoak Road outside Cathays cemetery and was never seen again.

Carol Ann Stephens is believed to have got into a green or dark coloured car, possibly a Morris minor, before she disappeared. Credit: Cold Case Detectives

The six-year-old's body was found 50 miles west of Cardiff in a stream near the remote village of Horeb in Carmarthenshire. Her body was discovered near a culvert, tucked in off the side of a road. So remote, only someone with knowledge of the area would know.

Police gathered all of the clothes Carol was wearing at the time of her disappearance, including her cardigan, skirt and glasses.

Following recent advances in forensic science, traces might reveal the killer’s DNA on the little girl’s clothes which would have not been possible to pick up in 1959, such as tiny specs of blood, semen and saliva.

The tragic event undeniably shook the Cathays community.

Gill Ward, who remembers Carol from the neighbourhood, says the community changed following the abduction and murder. Credit: Cold Case Detectives

Gill Ward, who was 13 at the time, remembers Carol from the neighbourhood: "She was a quiet little girl with glasses and she would come down into our street and play with the younger children.

"Growing up in Cathays at my time it was quiet, people just went about their daily lives, we went to school, we had the library, nothing bad happened, it just didn’t. It was a nice, quiet, ordinary family area."

But the community wasn't the same after the disappearance with parents worried about what might happen next: "Who’s to say he wouldn’t come back for another child. Because, as far as we were concerned this evil person had gone round in a car and taken a child off the street, just like that, as easy as that, which is very frightening."

She added: "When she’d been found it was a realisation that she’d been taken and actually killed and that was a big shock. There was great talk about how she was found so far away because it was assumed she’d be found nearer to home.

"I mean the talk was, it’s awful to talk about it because she was a little girl, was she murdered in the area, and then taken down later, did she travel all those hours in the car with somebody that she didn't know but obviously trusted on what would have been a 4 hour car journey then back in those days, no motorways, but it was just a terrible terrible thing to a little child.

"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

You can watch the full Cold Case Detectives series, which covers this case and more, on ITV1 and ITVX. The first episode airs at 9pm on Thursday 9 March 2023.