The unexplained death of a scientist
An Oxford University doctor is shot through his kitchen window, with no motive, no clues, and no suspects. What lies behind this story? Science perhaps?
It was Saturday 10th December 1994, and Dr Michael ‘Spike’ Meenaghan was settling down for the football results programme on TV. He stepped into his kitchen to make a cup of tea and was shot through the window.
The gunman had moved quietly through the garden close to Michael’s kitchen window and fired a shot from a double-barrelled shotgun. Michael was hit in the chest and was badly wounded. He crawled to the phone and managed to dial 999 but could only groan.
The call handler at the emergency services traced the call and sent out police and an ambulance, sadly they were too late as they found Michael dead from his injuries.
Dr Meenaghan worked at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, a department within Oxford University. The research programme there includes the cellular and molecular biology of pathogens, the immune response, cancer and cardiovascular disease. I will come back to this.
Glasgow-born Michael lived on a pretty rough housing estate and so although the shot was heard, no one came out to see what was going on and “no-one saw anything”.
When police began knocking on doors on the Blackbird Leys Estate in Oxford one witness recalled hearing what he described as the sound of “a light bulb exploding” whilst others said they thought it was “just a car backfiring”. Nobody saw anyone running away or indeed anyone carrying a gun.
Despite a forensic search the gun and its cartridges were never found so it would seem the killer was careful enough to take the weapon away. The shot from the cartridge was removed from Michael’s chest and forensically examined but found to be from a common shotgun with hundreds in circulation, so very difficult to trace.
The Blackbird Leys Estate, Oxford
The estate where Michael chose to live was not the best of places and had a pretty bad reputation with a period of severe unrest in 1991 when youth attacked police officers after Oxford Constabulary clamped down on car thieves and joy riders. He liked it because he was of a working-class background originally and felt comfortable there. He was not a particularly house-proud man or anything he neglected the garden and had bed sheets hanging at all of the windows, except for the kitchen, in place of curtains.
Dr Meenaghan had a bit of confusing love life. He had been married and divorced, then lived with a girlfriend, Jenny who was a psychology student until the previous Easter. By all accounts, the relationship had not ended well after the police were called on more than one occasion.
In the time leading up to his murder, Michael had been involved in a relationship with a lady named Denise and was in the process of trying to sell his house in order to move in with his new love. Jenny was married and had been expecting to meet Michael for a music gig at a local pub on the night of his murder. When he didn’t show up she drove to his home to find police officers there.
So let’s come back to Michael’s work for a moment:
Sir William Dunn School of Pathology is a specialist research facility specialising in molecular and cell biology including DNA replication and repair as well as studying cell defects that can lead to cancer.
So was Michael working on something or close to bringing forth a discovery that could have made a major change in science? Something that someone really didn’t want the world to know about?
It is interesting that Michael worked in a branch of medical research and another lady who was also a victim of a cruel murder, namely Janet Brown worked in a public health and primary care research unit at Oxford University. Her husband was in the pharmaceutical industry and worked in Switzerland, the couple were planning to move to live in Switzerland.
You can read about the Janet Brown murder in a well-researched blog by clicking HERE
This case was mentioned by a writer as “A murder to baffle even Morse’s mind”, it certainly is a very confusing matter but it is my opinion that this case firstly can still be solved and secondly I feel that by carefully re-examining the evidence a whole “can of worms” would be opened for sure.
I always say that I would love to hear from you but, more so than ever in this case. I am sure I have some sleuths and of coursed qualified readers and I would truly value your opinion on this one so please leave me a comment or write me an email.
This is one case that I hope the team and I can take forward to a documentary so any input would be greatly appreciated.
Please do help me not to pop my work behind a paywall by clicking the link to Buy Me a Coffee
Email the team: