Criminologist claims murders of Patrick Warren and David Spencer have not been properly investigated

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The disappearance of the ‘Milk Carton Kids’ was not properly investigated by police because they were working-class children, claimed one of Britain’s leading criminologists.

Patrick Warren, 11, and David Spencer, 13, disappeared on Boxing Day in 1996 after playing together near their home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull.

The couple got their nickname after a campaign by the National Missing Persons Helpline that featured images of the missing boys on milk cartons.

To this day, no one has been charged with the double disappearance and murder of the two friends, and their bodies have never been found despite two major police investigations.

Professor David Wilson investigated the famously unsolved murder case for a new Channel 4 documentary, and believes that if the couple had come from a middle-class area, the police would have taken their disappearances ‘seriously from the start’.

When he appeared on This Morning, he said police have not investigated essential “leads” such as the criminal past of Brian Field – who lived nearby and was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for the murder of the 14-year-old schoolboy in 1968.

Patrick Warren, 11, (right) and David Spencer, 13, (left) disappeared on Boxing Day in 1996 after playing together near their home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull.

Professor David Wilson investigated the famously unsolved murder case for a new Channel 4 documentary and appeared on This Morning today

Professor David Wilson investigated the famously unsolved murder case for a new Channel 4 documentary and appeared on This Morning today

“It’s about class,” he said. “These are two boys who are missing from a very working-class neighborhood.

“I suggested that if they had gone missing in the more expensive parts of Birmingham, the case could have been more serious from the start.

“What really struck me, there was so much criminological evidence related to this case, I felt like they could have been used.”

To this day, no one has been charged with the double disappearance and murder of the two friends, and their bodies have never been found despite two major police investigations.

To this day, no one has been charged with the double disappearance and murder of the two friends, and their bodies have never been found despite two major police investigations.

A missing persons campaign by the National Missing Persons Helpline featured images of the missing boys on milk cartons, leading to the couple being dubbed the

A missing persons campaign by the National Missing Persons Helpline featured images of the missing boys on milk cartons, leading to the couple being dubbed the “Milk Carton Kids.”

Timeline on the disappearance of the ‘Milk Carton Kids’

Reports at the time show how the families of the boys from Chelmsley Wood - a sprawling working-class estate on the outskirts of Birmingham - asked for information

Reports at the time show how the families of the boys from Chelmsley Wood – a sprawling working-class estate on the outskirts of Birmingham – asked for information

1996 Patrick Warren, 11, and David Spencer, 13, disappeared on Boxing Day after playing together near their home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull

Police initially thought they were two street-wise children who had run away from home.

1997 Four months after their last sighting, the boys became the first children to appear on four-pint milk cartons in 770 Icelandic stores, as part of a National Missing Persons Helpline campaign.

The initiative was taken from the US, where it had been running since 1979 when six-year-old Etan Patz went missing in New York.

But after four weeks, the families were still in the dark.

The boys were last seen just after midnight on December 27, 1997, at a Shell gas station where the attendant gave the couple a pack of biscuits before walking away.

The boys were last seen just after midnight on December 27, 1997, at a Shell gas station where the attendant gave the couple a pack of biscuits before walking away.

2006 10 years after their disappearance, the case was treated as a murder investigation, despite the absence of bodies.

A full forensic search of the boys’ homes revealed nothing untoward, and a check on the sex offender registry – which did not exist when the pair went missing – was checked to see if any known pedophiles lived in the area at the time.

Police discovered that pedophile and convicted child murderer Brian Field was living just a few miles from Patrick and David in Solihull when they went missing.

In 1999, three years after the boys went missing, Field, a former farm worker, was arrested for drunk driving in Chelmsley Wood.

A DNA sample taken from him matched him to the 1968 rape and murder of schoolboy Roy Tutill in Surrey.

A computer-generated image shows what David (left) and Patrick (right) would have looked like as older teenagers several years after they disappeared

A computer-generated image shows what David (left) and Patrick (right) would have looked like as older teenagers several years after they disappeared

Field was named as a suspect and questioned by detectives and officers also excavated land he used as a dump off Old Damson Lane in Solihull.

But without proof, despite his denial of any knowledge of the boys, they were unable to develop the case further.

2020 Police found human bones at a construction site just three miles from where the boys disappeared, but the… remains from before 1996.

Brian Field, a farm worker living in the Solihull area at the time the boys went missing, was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Roy Tutill, more than 30 years earlier.

Officers of Operation Stenley are said to have visited Field in Full Sutton prison, York in 2001 to interrogate him.

He has denied any involvement in the disappearances.

Wilson said police should have immediately identified Field as a suspect in the disappearance: “Brian Fields is the only person in British criminal history ever convicted of kidnapping two teenage boys at the same time.

“Fortunately, those two boys were able to escape.

“If you look back at our historical records, there’s only one predatory pedophile who has done that and that’s Brian Field.

“So why don’t we look at Brian Fields in relation to the kidnapping of two teenage boys in Chelmsley Wood?

“You could tie those things together, especially if you find out that Brian Fields lived and worked in that area at the same time.”

He says the case was not “treated seriously” until more than a year after the boys were reported missing, and it was assumed that the children would “come home when they are hungry.”

“This is where we have to say, with no joy, the police investigation was not very good from the start of what happened,” he claimed.

“If David and Patrick go missing, they go missing on Boxing Day 1996, but that case isn’t really taken seriously as a missing person until February of the following year.

“The first 48 hours are so important when a young person goes missing, but they treated this as, ‘They come home when they’re hungry.'”

He said David’s mother, Christine O’Toole, was not taken seriously when she reported the crime, and that the children were believed to be “more mature and capable” than they were.

‘I’m going back to class. They didn’t believe what Christine, David’s mother, said. They downplayed it.

“They saw these guys as streetwise, making them look much more mature and capable than they really were — because they were kids.”

West Midlands Police said: ‘Brian Field has been interviewed about the missing boys, as previously reported, but not charged as there is not enough evidence to present to the CPS to consider.

“The West Midlands Police have conducted a wide range of investigations to try to find the missing boys, including following up on investigations into CCTV media campaigns.

“This has been recovered and looked into and friends of the boys have been spoken to. The missing persons search was overseen by an inspector with staff assigned to the investigation and was continued by the detectives in February 1997.”

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