Byline: By Ray Marshall
Four workmen approached the petrol storage tank in South Shields ready to start cleaning it out.
They opened the hatch and immediately came across a polythene bag, which they thought contained a pile of oily rags and rubber gloves.
But closer examination revealed the full horror of the situation ( because the workmen had discovered the grisly remains of a murder victim.
In two plastic bags was a human torso and head.
One of the men said: "The arms were still attached but were twisted. The bag wasn't tied. The second bag contained a head with long hair."
A police murder inquiry was quickly under way, but there were problems.
First, what sex was the body and secondly, how long had it been there? The tank, belonging to Velva Liquids Ltd, had last been cleaned out in the 1960s. This was 1979.
An anonymous caller called our sister paper, The Journal, and said the torso had been there for 13 years and was one of Tyneside's gangland war killings.
A plea was issued to the public as detectives began searching through the missing persons file.
The victim was quickly identified as female but the torso was proving a hazard for pathologists because it was feared the petrol-soaked body could be explosive. For 20 days the mystery dragged on until on July 16, when a dramatic development took place. Ernest Adolphus Clarke from Hull was charged with the murder, although the body had still not been identified.
Eventually the victim was identified as Eileen McDougall. The 16-year-old had gone missing from her home in South Shields in 1970 and had died from severe head wounds.
In court Clarke pleaded not guilty but was convicted of murder.
It was said that Eileen and other girls had visited his flat.
Clarke was sentenced to life imprisonment. But that was not the end of the story.
In 1981 he sought leave to appeal against the verdict but was refused.
In 1983 the BBC's Rough Justice programme claimed to have turned up new evidence which cast doubt on the guilty verdict.
Former Attorney General Sam Silkin watched a preview of the programme and said: "I have no doubt whatsoever that if the whole of what I have seen had been in front of the jury at the trial they could not have conceivably convicted Mr Clarke."The programme was screened nationally and the BBC's verdict was that Ernest Clarke was innocent.
It was also claimed police withheld vital evidence. An appeal hearing opened in 1986.
Vital evidence which helped convict Clarke was thrown out, but the Appeal Court judges decided the weight of evidence was still such that Clarke was guilty.
In another development Clarke decided to get married while still behind bars. He was then 53 and his bride was Tynesider Mary Sands, who had been writing to him for a year.
In 1994 Clark was released from prison after serving 14 years. He was then 63, and described as in frail health.
On his release his wife said: "We have nothing to say."