21st August 1997, 12 year
old Thomas Marshall left his home in Happisburghn Norfolk,
around 5:45pm, to cycle to a friends house close by. When he
was late coming home his parents called the friends house to
discover Thomas had never arrived, in a panic, they
immediately called the police.
22nd August 1997, Police
had launched a search, but it was a friend of Thomas, that
discovered his dismantled bicycle in woods at Drunsterad
Common at 3pm.
At around 5pm a passer-by
discovered Thomas' body in a lay-by at Rowdham Heath, near
Thetford 50 miles away from the family home.
Thomas had been strangled with
his black shoelace necklace and black round-necked T-shirt.
Other marks suggested he may have been sexually abused.
Police launched a massive
investigation, but after a year it was scaled back, with no
real leads of interviewing many hundreds of people.
Roberts ran a local newsagents
shop in nearby Eccles village, it appears that Thomas and
some other friends frequented the shop, and that a
relationship between Thomas and Roberts may have developed.
Once arrested police found many disturbing pornographic
images of children on his computer, he was openly gay, but
had not had contact with police over any paedophile
concerns, although in 1995 he had been cautioned about
letting two teenage boys use his property for making graphic
On a search of his property,
including the flat behind the shop where he lived, a small
bead being an identical match to one from Thomas' shoes was
found in his kitchen sink U-bend.
A neighbour of Roberts
confirmed she saw the shopkeeper in his garden standing over
an upturned mountain bike around the time Thomas vanished.
Police believe that Thomas may
have threatened to expose Roberts, and it was this fear that
pushed him to him becoming a killer.
8th December 1999,
Roberts pleaded not guilty.
But a jury found him guilty of
Sentencing Roberts, to life
imprisonment, Judge Mr Justice Smedley said:-
“There is only one sentence I can pass,” the judge
told Roberts. “You have been found guilty by the jury of
strangling to death a young boy of 12.
“You described him to a witness as ‘not an angel’. “I have
no doubt he was not – very few 12-year-olds are.
“But he didn’t deserve to die in the appalling way you