A new Channel 4 documentary explores the tragic disappearance of David Spencer and Patrick Warren in 1996 – but what happened to them?
Were they killed and why were they called the Milk Carton Kids?
Here’s everything you need to know about the troubling case and new C4 document, On the Trail of the Killers.
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David Spencer and Patrick Warren: Who Were They?
Friends Patrick Warren and David Spencer loved to play near their homes in Chelmsley Wood on the outskirts of Birmingham.
Patrick, 11, attended a local school nearby, while David was kicked out of regular school at the age of 12.
Schoolboy Patrick – known as Paddy – was one of seven siblings from an Irish family.
The police knew about David, an avid boxer, as he had been on trial for minor offenses in juvenile justice.
Tragically, their faces became known for all the wrong reasons when they went missing in 1996.
What happened to David Spencer and Patrick Warren?
On Boxing Day 1996, the couple disappeared without a trace.
They’d spent the day together, playing near their homes and roaming the sprawling working-class estate.
Just before midnight, David returned to his house on Circus Avenue.
He told his mother that he would be spending the night with Patrick’s brother, just a short walk away.
But instead of going straight there, the guys decided to stay outside a little longer.
Patrick rode his brand new red bike – a Christmas present – while David was walking.
She was last seen by eyewitnesses in the early hours of the morning, minutes from her home.
Their last known sighting was at a gas station where they asked a clerk for a packet of biscuits.
The guard then saw her go to the Chelmsley Wood Shopping Center.
David’s and Patrick’s parents never saw her again.
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Were David Spencer and Patrick Warren killed?
The police treated the boys’ disappearances like a normal missing person search.
They knocked on doors and talked to neighbors.
The police offered a £ 500 reward for information about someone who might be protecting them.
In late January, police held a press conference asking the boys’ mothers to come home.
Paddy’s new bike – a cherished Apollo Laser – had been found abandoned behind the gas station where they were last seen.
Just days after the boys disappeared, 17-year-old Nicola Dixon was raped and murdered in leafy Sutton Coldfield, seven miles from Chelmsley Wood.
It is believed that the two cases are not related.
Crimewatch and Suspects
On the 10th anniversary of their disappearance, the boys were the subject of a BBC Crimewatch special.
Unfortunately, it has not left any new traces.
In 2003 West Midlands Police announced they had arrested a 37-year-old man in connection with the disappearance.
But he was later released on bail and never charged.
In 2006 police announced that they were “closer than ever” to solving the mystery of what happened to the boys.
But no one has ever been charged with her kidnapping.
Following the review of the case in 2006, convicted killer and pedophile Brian Field was named as a suspect.
However, the police were unable to obtain a confession or obtain tangible evidence linking him to the boys’ disappearance.
A new call for information was launched in 2016.
DCI Caroline Marsh of West Midlands Police said she believed both boys died.
Where is Brian Field now?
Brian Field raped and murdered Roy Tutill on April 23, 1968 in Surrey, England.
He kidnapped Roy when he was just 14 years old on his way home from school.
Brian Lunn Field finally confessed to the crime after 33 years when DNA evidence surfaced in 2001.
On November 15, 2001, the police sentenced the 65-year-old to life imprisonment for the murder of Roy Tutill.
A judge had previously sentenced him to four years in prison in 1986 for kidnapping two teenagers on New Year’s Day near Oswestry.
They fled his car after he threatened them with an iron bar when they refused to undress.
The frightened boys escaped from the moving car, fell onto a grass verge and sounded the alarm.
Milk carton kids – what does that mean?
In April 2007, Paddy Warren and David Spencer were among the first to appear on four-pint milk cartons.
Their faces appeared on milk cartons in 770 Icelandic stores as part of a campaign run by the National Missing Persons Hotline.
The charity hoped the program would be as successful as its American counterpart.
The local media called the boys “the Milk Carton Kids”.
On the trail of the killers on channel 4
Emilia Fox and Professor David Wilson are at the forefront of this new C4 series that explores several unsolved murders.
In each episode, Silent Witness star Emilia and criminologist David Wilson open another cold case.
In the Killer’s footsteps uses the latest forensic science and criminological research to uncover new insights into these troubling cases, looking for new clues that the original investigation may have missed.
Emilia and David travel to the crime scene, interview the witnesses, suspects, friends and families of the victims and try to get an idea of what exactly happened.
In the first episode, the two reassess the disappearance of young Birmingham boys David Spencer and Patrick Warren in 1996.
In the footsteps of the killers begins on Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 at 10 p.m. on channel 4.
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