St Albans bus driver who swerved to avoid killer’s car looks back on heiress’ murder 40 years ago

Former bus driver Peter Gaylard.

Former bus driver Peter Gaylard. - Credit: Archant

A former bus driver has recalled the moment that the man who murdered a blonde Australian heiress nearly collided with him four decades ago.

Peter Gaylard wrote to the Herts Advertiser after seeing a 40th anniversary feature marking the gruesome discovery of Janie Shepherd’s body in 1977, and the subsequent imprisonment of the man who raped and murdered her, David Lashley.

Two St Albans schoolboys found the missing woman’s body when they almost stumbled over her body, as they wheeled their bicycles through thick bracken on Nomansland Common.

Their chance discovery on April 18 in 1977 ended a 10-week-long hunt for Janie, who had gone missing after being abducted in London on February 4.

Peter, who has a bus driver at St Albans bus garage, told this paper last week that on the same evening Janie was taken, “I was driving a route 355 bus from Harpenden to Borehamwood. Just before 10pm, I drove past the Wicked Lady pub, when a car came from the opposite direction, onto my side of the road.

“I had to swerve to avoid him [the driver]. The car, a Mini, reversed into Ferrers Lane and parked. I carried on towards St Albans in the bus, not thinking anything of it. I didn’t know the significance of it.

“Fast-forward to October 1977 - when I arrived home from work and found a detective in my house, who wanted to ask me questions about February 4, when Janie went missing.”

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It later transpired that the mud-caked blue Mini which had nearly struck him was being driven by Janie’s murderer, and he was about to dump the young woman’s body in Devil’s Dyke.

Peter said he told the detective all that he could remember of that night, but to this day, “I just wonder what would have happened, if I had confronted the driver of the car. My colleague at the garage said to me that the car had overtaken him, on the way to Wheathampstead.

“Every time I go past that spot, I think, that is where Janie Shepherd’s body was left.”