On December 23, 1994, mother of two Tracey Mertens (31) was abducted from former home and later set on fire. Tracey sustained 95% burns but managed to survive long enough to give the police her story. She would later pass away in the hospital.
On 22nd December Tracey travelled from Manchester to Birmingham to collect a benefits book, and she stayed the night at her sister's house.
On 23rd December, Tracey visited her former home (which she had shared with her partner Joey Kavanagh). Shortly before midday, she answered the door to two men who barged in and asked her where Joey was. When Tracey didn't answer, they grabbed hold of her, blindfold her, and then bundled her into an old yellow Ford Escort.
The two attackers were described as "black men around 30-years-old, big and fat in build with Birmingham accents, who also spoke in a foreign language, which police believe was the Jamaican dialect Patois." Tracey was driven to Eaton churchyard in Cheshire (about an hour drive). There she would be doused in petrol and set on fire - sustaining 95% burns to her body.
Around 4pm, a passer by found Tracey crying for help in the churchyard and after being rushed to hospital she was able to give vital information to the police. A petrol cannister was also found nearby.
Tracey Mertens would tragically lose her life just hours after reaching hospital.
When officers later searched the family’s former Nechells home, they found the word ‘death’ daubed on the window. Detectives reportedly received a lead after another couple who owed money for drugs revealed that they received a call telling them if they didn’t pay, they would “get what Tracey Mertens got”.
No one has ever been charged for her murder, though they police do have a DNA profile.
One theory is that Tracey was murdered in a tragic 'wrong place, wrong time' attack. Tracey no longer lived at the property and so would not have been expected to answer the door.
However, her on-again-off-again partner Joey Kavanagh still lived at the house, and Tracey's family had claimed that Joey was a drug user that owed people money. We also know that the two attackers had asked where Joey was. With this information we can infer that the attackers were looking for Joey that day to settle a debt, but abducted and murdered Tracey to send him a message.
In 2010 and 2012 Crimewatch featured Tracey's case, and while Joey Kavanagh denied being a drug user, he did admit that he 'owed a lot of people money'.
Who are the Attackers?
The attackers were described as black men around 30-years-old, big and fat in build with Birmingham accents, who also spoke in a foreign language, which police believe was the Jamaican dialect Patois.
During the 1990's there was a drug war playing out between Birmingham's top gangs; The Burger Bar Boys, The Jonhson Crew, and the Yardies Gangsters. The Yardies gangsters were made up of men with Jamaican heritage (mostly Jamaican expatriates). When the Yardie gangs entered the UK drug scene they brought a new kind of brutal violence and a disregard for life that had not been seen before in Birmingham. This would later lead to a serious influx of violence between the rival gangs.
The reason I mention this is because we know the attackers were black men, possibly speaking patois, with Birmingham accents. We also know Joey likely owed money to drug dealers. So could it be possible the attackers were 'Yardies?'
Unfortunately, as the police have a DNA profile it's unlikely the attacker has their DNA in the system. However, I would be interested to see if they pursue Genealogy to solve this case.
If you have any information about this case, please call 101, or make an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers.