AN AUTHOR has published a book about a grisly unsolved murder, and he thinks he has cracked the case. 

Stockton Heath, which is a pen name, believes that he has identified who is responsible for the 1973 murder of John Cartland, a Brighton language school principal and businessman. 

The case was well known at the time and Jeremy Cartland, his son, continued to live in Brighton until he died in 2014. 

In spring 1973, Jeremy and his father had been travelling through southern France when John was murdered with an axe – or "decapitated" according to the tabloid press.

Jeremy was also attacked and was knocked unconscious just metres away from their caravan, which was then set on fire.

French police were unable to obtain a conviction and the case was handed over to Scotland Yard, although they too failed to bring the perpetrator to justice. 

From drug couriers to the French Resistance to opportunist thieves and even Jeremy, there have always been plenty of theories about who carried out the attack. 

Cartland’s background in wartime intelligence led to speculation, as during the Second World War he had been involved with De Gaulle’s Free France and he had also worked under cover in Sudan, Libya and Egypt. 

Each of these theories are assessed in depth by Stockton, who after 18 months of research has now put his extensive knowledge of the case into his book. 

“Imagining A Murder: The Cartland Case Revisited” was released last year and has had a positive response from readers who describe it as “gripping”. 

Stockton, who lives in Liverpool, said he took a special interest in the case due to a recurring nightmare he had as a child of a caravan on fire. 

Two years ago Stockton was browsing through a French book about the Cote d’Azur which mentioned the murders of British nationals in the south of France in the mid-1970s. 

One of the cases under scrutiny was that of a man named John Basil Cartland who had been murdered camping on waste ground in 1973. 

After murdering the businessman and academic, the killer had then set his caravan on fire.

Stockton said: “I think, now looking back, I must have seen the image during the BBC documentary that was released in 1980 which reconstructed the crime

“As a young boy it must have stuck in my mind because I associated caravans with holidays and family, so seeing one on fire and knowing that these men had been on a holiday when they were so brutally murdered.”

Stockton was hooked and knew he needed to pursue the story to try to gain some justice for John. 

The book, while outlining each individual theory in detail, does not reveal who Stockton believes in responsible for the murder, something he said is intentional. 

He said: “I think people reading it will think that some theories are more probable than others, but I wanted the readers to have all the information and assess it themselves.

“I think I know but I don’t want to tell anyone, I want them to make their minds up themselves.”

Stockton, a former teacher who retired early to pursue the book, said: “It’s definitely been worth it, and I have to say, I do think I could start a career as a detective because I do feel I’ve got a knack for this.”

Stockton already has his eyes on his next unsolved murder and is hoping to write a series of books in the future.