IT was a murder which launched one of the largest searches West Mercia Police has ever undertaken.

As more than 150 officers, including 30 dog handlers, aircraft with thermal imaging equipment and 600 public volunteers combed the highways and byways, avenues and alleyways, forests, fields and riverbanks of north Worcestershire, the face of fair-haired Hagley newspaper boy Stuart Gough was carried by just about every news outlet in the land.

Eventually the 14-year-old’s body was recovered at virtually the farthest point of the force area from where he had been abducted.

Stuart was taken off the streets of upmarket Hagley, a few miles from the West Midlands border, and found a fortnight later hidden in remote woodland 50 miles away on the southern edge of the Malvern Hills.

He had been sexually abused and partially strangled before being bludgeoned to death with a rock.

Halesowen News:

Stuart Gough

The teenager was a victim of paedophile psychopath Victor Miller, a Wolverhampton computer operator, who within two days of being arrested confessed to the murder and led police to Stuart’s body.

The reason Miller, then aged 33, chose such a distant location was that he knew it well.

In the 1960s he had been a pupil at the nearby Bodenham Manor School, which at the time was used to educate seriously emotionally disturbed boys.

Miller, who came from a broken home, spent eight years there and gained extensive knowledge of the surrounding countryside.

It was that, police believed, which set in motion the train of events that led to Stuart Gough’s murder – and also Miller’s eventual capture.

But the young newspaper boy wasn’t his first victim. Over a 15 year period, homosexual Miller had carried out 29 attacks on young men - although Stuart was the first to die at his hands.

In 1979 he was jailed for an indecent assault on a 16-years-old boy in a park in Brighton and released back into society in 1983.

But by January 1988, after an argument with his gay lover, Miller’s frustration had boiled over and he set out to find more victims.

First he tried to kidnap another newspaper boy in Hagley, but the lad managed to run off and hide. Then a few days later he drove to familiar territory in Herefordshire and nearly succeeded in grabbing 18-year-old Richard Holden as he cycled home down a dark country lane near the village of Wellington at night.

This was a major mistake by Miller.

Halesowen News:

Victor Miller

Off his bike Richard was a far cry from the pervert’s usual type of prey. Strong, six foot tall and a slaughterman, he fought back against his stocky, knife wielding attacker, kicking him hard in the groin and then legging it.

Not only did he escape, Richard went on to give police a good description of his assailant and the car he was driving - a silver Colt Sappora.

However, in less than two days and before detectives could match Miller, he had killed Stuart Gough.

Stuart had two early morning rounds of deliveries to make on January 17, 1988, comprising just 14 houses within a few hundred yards of the newsagent’s shop. But after leaving with his first round of papers, he never returned to pick up the second, and police were called.

Armed with information about his car, detectives picked up Miller and he was taken to Hereford police station where he was initially questioned about the attack on Richard Holden. Although evasive, Miller’s behaviour throughout was said to have been impeccable.

Chief Inspector Eamon Croft recalled: “He was no arrogant monster. We were dealing with an articulate, intelligent man with many character complexities. He approached the interviews with a determination not to confess, giving lengthy replies to the most routine questions.”

But as the evidence built up and implication in the Stuart Gough murder surfaced, Miller confessed all.

On a bleak January morning, a convoy of police vehicles were directed by Miller to a narrow country lane at Bromsberrow, close to the M50.

Halesowen News:

The location where the body of Stuart Gough was found

Miller refused to enter the lane, but told officers to proceed to a drainage culvert where they found Stuart’s partially-clothed body.

Experts who later examined the killer described him as a highly dangerous man who should never be released.

At his trial at Birmingham Crown Court in November 1988, Victor Miller pleaded guilty to murder and various other abduction and assault charges.

In a bizarre twist to the case, he apologised to Stuart Gough’s family and asked to be given the maximum possible sentence. Mr Justice Otton jailed him for life and he remains behind bars today.