NORMA Dale was four years and ten months old when she left her Tang Hall home to play on Saturday, September 21, 1946. The next day, her body was found on wasteland by 11-year-old Michael Duffy.

Norma had been strangled and her body had been dumped less than 60 yards from her Rawdon Avenue home, and despite an investigation that interviewed more than 1,000 people and drew support from Scotland Yard, her murderer has never been identified.

This week, 70 years on, the case remains one of York’s biggest unsolved mysteries.

Alan Powell, who lives in Huntington, celebrated his tenth birthday the day before his cousin Norma died, and turns 80 this week. He said: “She had big, brown eyes, that’s what I remember most about her. Norma was a little younger than me, and I used to tease her, but we were a close family.

York Press:

Alan Powell

“I remember grandma saying to me ‘Norma’s missing, tell your mother they’re dragging the beck’. I remember the words exactly. She broke down, because she knew what could have happened.”

Scores of residents lined the streets of Tang Hall to pay tributes as Norma’s funeral procession passed, but despite initial optimism by police, nobody was ever arrested or charged with Norma’s murder - which became known as the red shoe murder, as only one of Norma’s red leather shoes was found at the scene.

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Local people line Rawdon Avenue as the funeral cortege departs

Another of her cousins, Brian Dale, wrote a book with his wife Beth which they claimed identified the killer. To date, the book has never been published. Mr Powell has not read the book, but remembers theories from the time.

He said: “The general opinion at the time was that Norma had walked in and seen something she shouldn’t have seen, and was murdered because of it.

“I remember laying on the floor at home pretending to read a comic, but listening to my parents and one of mum’s sisters or brothers talking about it. From what I can remember the person they suspected had an alibi for the crucial ten minutes, but who the person was, I wouldn’t like to say."

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The front page of the Yorkshire Evening Press, from a few days after Norma's murder

Now a father of four and with four grandchildren, Mr Powell said he was grateful his family had not had to deal with similar tragedy.

He said: “Seventy years on it’s no longer raw as it was at the time, and just being five, you accept these things more.

“You get knocks in life, don’t you? You adapt and cope with it better as a child than as an adult, I suppose.

Norma’s great niece Toni Dale has heard stories about what happened from her family, and was given a box of newspaper clippings by her grandmother.

She said: “Someone out there must know something, most probably a secret they’ll take to their graves. My great grandmother never got the closure she needed and that was sad.

“I’d have thought with the technology they have these days they could have found the killer through DNA, but sadly it isn’t the case. The only way we can try solve this is through the papers and I know my great grandmother would have been forever thankful for The Press’ articles, as she was when she was alive.”

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Michael Duffy, left, talks to friends about the discovery

Mr Powell said he had been told the files relating to Norma’s murder had been lost when the former police station in Clifford Street was flooded several years ago.

“The big let down is with modern technology and science, I’m quite sure more could have been done. No doubt the original red shoe would have been held by police and there might have been DNA on that, you never know, but now it’s probably lost to the river. It doesn’t matter how good technology is, if it’s not there to test, you can’t test it.”