This woman claims she murdered the man who raped her in 1976, but there's one problem, no one believes her
Janet Holt is a retired farmer who claims she murdered Fred Handford, her co-worker, after he raped her twice
Janet Holt, 69, claims she murdered Fred Handford, a farmer, over 40 years ago on Ball Beard Farm in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1976, after he raped her twice. However, law enforcement authorities are refusing to charge her with any crime and have branded her a "liar". Holt did not confess to the killing until 2011, when her reversion therapy brought back memories of the alleged rape and the subsequent killing. She remembers digging a hole and burying her attacker's body, the Daily Mail reported.
After Holt's "confession", authorities conducted an extensive excavation of the farmland. They even dug out the field where she claimed Handford's body was buried. But after recovering nothing from the investigation, authorities have called Holt a "fantasist". She was 26 at the time while her alleged attacker was 56. Her bizarre story brings a new twist in the new ITV documentary 'Am I A Murderer?' In the film, Psychologist Jamie Hacker Hughes re-examines Holt's statements and concludes she is telling the truth.
On the fateful night in 1976, Holt said Handford attacked her twice before she spotted his gun and proceeded to fatally shoot him. She explained: "Fred attacked and raped me twice. Then I was trapped in the kitchen. I thought he’d lost his mind because he was talking rubbish about us getting married and having children. I thought he was going to attack me again. There was his gun, leaning against the wall. I picked it up and I shot it. There was nothing running through my mind... no emotion. He fell to the ground. I got a wheelbarrow, put him in it, took him round to the field and dug a hole. I don’t think there was any panic."
After her therapy, Holt said memories of the gruesome details about the incident became crystal clear, but authorities disregarded her claims despite her admission of guilt. That said, investigating officers insisted Holt has ulterior motives for her confession as she is innocent of the crime. Detective Inspector Paul Cullen said in the documentary: "She has tried to con police and a psychologist to try and make financial gain."
Holt's background check revealed she was a thief and a convicted fraudster, thus casting further doubts on her story. Authorities later discovered Holt was working with Helen Parker, a local journalist, who was apparently writing her autobiography, leading police to further believe she made up her story to promote her book.
The ITV documentary features Jamie Hacker Hughes, a memory expert and former president of the British Psychological Society, who tries to determine if her claims are credible. According to him, while Holt's memories of the murder are unclear, the details of the rapes are rather convincing. Holt said in the documentary: "Why would my memory have invented this story? What possible purpose? What could it be based on? And what purpose does it have?' I’m absolutely certain my memories are true. I’ve no doubt whatsoever. But we’ll see what the expert has to say… I know that’s a possibility that you can have false memories, but I don’t believe that these are."
That said, Lynette Chapman, Handford's daughter, believes Holt murdered her father for money and not rape, per the said documentary. "I’ve read far too many murder mysteries and watched far too many crime thrillers," she said. "Who actually benefited the most from it all? And there’s only one person… I think that’s Miss Janet Holt. If he'd committed suicide, surely some remains would have been discovered at some point because I don't really think it's your priority when your committing suicide to hide your body. So, unless you're in some really obscure place I can't see how a body can be hidden. While Chapman doesn't believe her father raped Holt, she admitted in the documentary that she "once had to defend herself against her violent father with a knife, and he once attacked her mother."
Holt, who worked with Handford for more than 30 years at Ball Beard farm in Buxton, had no idea what happened to him but claimed she had recurring nightmares about the farmer, which prompted her to undergo psychological therapy and see if there was something hidden deep in her mind. In a sudden but terrifying epiphany, Holt "realized" she shot Handford after he raped her twice, then proceeded to put his body in a wheelbarrow, before burying him on the farm.
In 2011, law enforcement arrested her and interrogated her claims when she told them the apparent location of the body. However, after extensive probes across the 50-acre farm, Handford's body was never found and she was released. Back in 1976, residents were shocked by Handford's mysterious disappearance and called on authorities to conduct a thorough missing person's investigation. But, after nothing was recovered, police concluded that it was a suicide.
Having said that, Shaun McElheron, a former duty detective inspector, thought there could be some truth to her claims after his officers interviewed her. "As the evening progressed, the more I got back from the officers, the more I thought there could well be something in this or certainly Janet knows a lot about the case that not many people would have known," he said.
Police found nothing after excavating the part of the field where Holt, who still lives on the farm, claimed to have buried Handford's remains.
Holt said: "They took about two foot off the top of the field and then brought me back to show me that there was nothing there. There’s always the thought, of that possibility of a knock on the door in the future. But I’ve done everything I can - and I can’t do anymore. It’s so frustrating when you feel that people are not even beginning to believe you and you’re left with no other way of convincing them other than just repeating the truth all the time."
"Am I A Murderer?" airs Wednesday, October 10, at 9 pm on ITV.