Police are probing links to unsolved murders after human remains were discovered at the dilapidated former home of a military historian who was jailed for stalking and possessing an arsenal of illegal weaponry.
Officers arrived on Tuesday at Appletree Cottage in Chop Gate on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors national park, the former home of Kenneth Ward, 72.
For the past four days there has been a heavy police presence at the remote cottage on the North Yorkshire moors where the remains were buried. Up to six officers are said to have been involved in digging up the plot.
It follows police in neighbouring Middlesbrough opening a £25million, six-year investigation into three unsolved murders in 2018.
Rachel Wilson (left), 19, disappeared in May 2002. Vicky Glass (centre), 21, disappeared from Middlesbrough in October 2002 with her body found in a stream in North Yorkshire three weeks later. Donna Keogh (right), 17, went missing after a house party in April 1998
Rachel Wilson, 19, disappeared from the Southfield Road area of Middlesbrough, where she was a sex worker, in May 2002.
Her remains were found on farmland on the outskirts of the town in 2012, with Cleveland Police reopening the investigation into her death as a murder inquiry.
Sex worker Vicky Glass, 21, disappeared from Middlesbrough in October 2000 and her body was found in a stream in North Yorkshire three weeks later.
Donna Keogh, 17, went missing after a house party in Middlesbrough in April 1998 and is assumed dead, although her body has never been found.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: ‘Police are working with other agencies, including a forensic archaeologist, following the discovery of suspected human bones at a remote location near Chop Gate.
‘Although it is too early to say precisely how old these bones are, current forensic investigations suggest that they are not recent, and are likely to be several decades old. Specialists are being used to recover and examine them.
‘We’d ask people not to speculate online about the nature of the bones while this process is underway.’
There is no suggestion Ward was involved in any wrongdoing and no arrests have been made. Human remains have been discovered at the former property of a jailed stalker who carried out a nine-year campaign of intimidation against his former neighbour
Human remains have been discovered at the former property of a jailed stalker who carried out a nine-year campaign of intimidation against his former neighbour
Farmer Mandy Dunford, 59 (right), had been subject to a nine-year campaign of intimidation and harassment from military historian Kenneth Ward, 72 (left), who was jailed for exposing himself to her in 2011, was released from prison and allowed to return to his home
Ward was jailed in December 2011 for indecent exposure and weapons offences after police found, amongst a huge haul, a loaded Luger pistol under his pillow and the cockpit of a WW2 fighter plane with working machine guns.
His neighbour Mandy Dunford, now 59, had suffered a terrifying nine year campaign of intimidation from Ward, who would creep around her property naked by night and day.
Sometimes he would be dressed only in military boots and would be shouldering a rifle. The court heard how he climbed ladders with his trousers down, and watched his victim through binoculars while pleasuring himself.
Miss Dunford revealed her torment in 2015 after Ward was released from prison and tried to move back to his home – but was prevented from doing so by intervention from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Miss Dunford’s local MP.
A team of six officers have been carrying out searches at the property after the discovery
Yesterday Miss Dunford, who cared for her 87-year-old mother at her farm 200 yards from Ward’s cottage, said: ‘The police arrived three days ago and there has been a lot of activity ever since.
‘They are searching the property and people in the Dale have been told that human remains have been found.
‘It’s very concerning and brings back a lot of anxiety for me. That man put me through hell and even though he was prevented from coming back here I can’t seem to shake off his memory.’
It is understood that Appletree Cottage is now in the hands of new owners although it is still in a tumbledown state and in need of major renovation.
In 2015 Miss Dunford told of her ordeal at the hands of Ward and his brother Brian, who also lived at the cottage but is believed to have died around 2002.
Their two homes stand together on a windswept fell and there was no escape for the retired police officer other than to flee the small farm where she kept her sheep and horses.
Mr Ward tried to return to the property upon his release in 2015 only for a court intervention
She remained there until 2015 when it looked certain that Ward would win his battle to move back to his home on release from jail.
However when Mr Sunak raised the matter in parliament the courts intervened and she and her mother were able to safely move home again.
Mandy told how Ward would follow her around naked, appearing at her property every day for nine years.
He and his brother would leave piles of maggot-infested animal carcasses outside her home and Kenneth Ward would stand on ‘sentry duty’ dressed in army fatigues and shouldering a rifle outside her window for hours on end.
Miss Dunford and her pal Wendy Coulthard, 54, another retired cop, used their policing skills to trap Ward using hidden camera footage after her former colleagues failed to act despite reporting him several times.
Their footage shows Ward repeating his bizarre ritual daily as the seasons change – even standing half naked in deep snow during one of the hardest winters on record.
Eventually, faced with their evidence, the police officers who had ignored her had no option but to act and raided Ward’s home.
Ward was set to return to the property before Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the MP for the area, stepped in and a court order prohibited Ward’s return
As the eccentric military expert – who ran what he termed a museum from his home – was arrested a huge cache of bombs and live weaponry was discovered. RAF bomb squad officers were brought in to carry out controlled explosions on the moorland above their isolated homes.
Ward was arrested and jailed at Teesside Crown Court after admitting 11 counts of exposure, three charges of possessing a prohibited firearm and seven other firearms offences.
At the time Mandy Dunford said: ‘After Brian’s death Kenneth’s behaviour became more and more erratic. He first started exposing himself to me around 2002 and would peer in through my windows with his wild staring eyes.
‘He’d run around the house at night shouting and tapping on the windows. When I was working during the day he’d come right up to me and follow me around wearing nothing but boots and socks.
‘He had a favourite stone on the lane next to my house where he used to stand to watch me with his pants down and shirt pulled up. He’d stand there for hours and hours every day, terrorising me. I became the only focus of his life.
‘I went to the police to report him but their response was hopeless.’
She went four times to Stokesley police station but it only resulted in warnings for Ward, which, she claims, only made his behaviour worse.
Five North Yorkshire police officers who failed to respond effectively to her original reports were criticised in an internal disciplinary enquiry which concluded they failed to meet ‘appropriate investigatory standards.’
The report said: ‘It must serve as a reminder to North Yorkshire Police to periodically review how officers carry out their investigations and how North Yorkshire Police expects managers to supervise their staff.’