Police launched a special surveillance operation on thousands of spectators attending a Southampton football match at The Dell in a hunt to catch a farm worker suspected of brutally murdering a pensioner.

Fanny Tinkler, 70, had been found dying by her husband when he returned home from milking cows.

The killer attacked her with a stick he had grabbed from a wood pile while she was tending their garden and then pulled her through the living room and into the kitchen where she was battered about the head with a poker. Unconscious, she was dragged upstairs and dumped in their main bedroom where he ravaged her.

Police attending the scene with a district nurse found a trial of blood leading from the front door of their isolated cottage. The stick, cracked by the force with which it was used, was still in the garden and the bloodstained poker lay at the foot of the stairs.

At a special news conference three days later on October 27, 1951, a police chief took the rare step of saying they wanted to question William Ward, 29, who had gone missing from his home at Great Stowell, a hamlet in the Vale of Pewsey, where the victim also lived.

Detective Superintendent Reginald Yeoman, head of Wiltshire CID, revealed they had information Ward had fled to Hampshire, following a report a lorry driver had given a lift to a man answering Ward's description from Downton to Fordingbridge. He told the driver he was going to Christchurch.

Daily Echo: Fordingbridge. View from Salisbury Street to The Square - July 29, 1966. THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. VIEW FROM THE PAST..

Yeoman said: "We think it is now possible that he is in the Southampton and Bournemouth area. It is vital he is traced. He may have information of value to us in our inquiries. For that reason, we have sought the cooperation of the Press and the public, as well as the police in those areas."

Every police officer in Hampshire and Wiltshire was issued with a photograph of Ward who was said to be about 5ft 6in tall, with black hair, brown eyes and a small dark moustache and had a fresh complexion. He also carried two scars, one above his left eye and the other on his left wrist.

Police believed his clothing, principally a blue jacket, a white open-necked shirt and dark brown trousers, was heavily bloodstained and officers kept a detailed watch on spectators attending Southampton and Bournemouth matches.

Following an appeal in the Southampton Echo, detectives disclosed they had traced the lorry driver and his passenger but he had been ruled out of their inquiries.

Daily Echo: The Dell, Southampton.

At the height of the operation, more than 500 troops, 150 police officers and two tracker dogs scoured 1,100 acres of woodland at Manton, near Marlborough.

Three weeks were to elapse before Wood's body was found hanging from the upper branches of a tree not far from the murder scene by a medical attendant gathering firewood with his son. Thick foliage - now fallen with frosts and late autumn winds - had hidden it during earlier police and army searches.

On December 19, a 'dead man' went on trial for trial in a coroner's court in Marlborough.

Jurors heard a hair taken from Ward's body matched one found on the body of the victim who had been overcome after a fierce struggle. They returned a verdict he had murdered the pensioner and within two hours had committed suicide.