The Murder of Tracey Meade
Fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Tracey Meade went missing in January 1992 after telling her mother she was going to stay at her aunt’s. The two-week search for the teenager ended in tragedy when her body was found in the Grand Union Canal.
Three decades later, Tracey’s murder remains unsolved.
Tracey was born on March 20, 1977. She lived with her mum, Kim, and her younger sister Emma at Gaydon House, Warwick Estate in Paddington. Meade’s were a close-knitted family, but as Tracey hated—for one reason or another—the fact her mother’s apartment was on the sixth floor she often stayed with Kim’s sister or grandmother in Lothrop Street, North Kensington.
Tracey also preferred hanging out with her friends and wandering the streets of Northwest London more than going to school, from where she had been truanting a lot by early 1992. The teenager was known to be somewhat “streetwise” and would always keep in contact with her family wherever she was going.
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Monday, January 20, was no different. Tracey had been at her grandmother’s house when her best friend called, and the two agreed to meet later that evening after Tracey had taken her younger sister back home. During the call, the friend did not notice anything out of the ordinary, but Tracey would never turn up to her house as promised.
Around 5:30 PM, Tracey arrived at her mother’s flat at the Warwick Estate with her sister, and again, she seemed like her normal self. Tracey did ask for her bus fare to go to school the next day—which, of course, was a rare occurrence for her if she really planned to go. Nevertheless, before Tracey left around 7 PM, Kim gave her £2, which is believed to be all the money the teenager had that night. In addition, Tracey told Kim she was going to stay with her aunt. However, she never arrived at the house in Kensal Rise and did not attend school the following day.
On Wednesday, January 22, Kim found out that her daughter had not actually stayed where she was supposed to and that she had skipped school. While truanting was normal for Tracey, she had never gone completely missing, and for that reason, Kim feared something had happened. She went straight to the police and filed a missing person’s report, but unfortunately, Kim felt police showed little interest in actually starting an investigation.
Feeling Tracey’s disappearance was not taken seriously by the authorities, Kim began asking around the local area by herself. She approached locals, friends, shopkeepers, and anyone that may have seen her daughter, but at first, there were no signs of Tracey. But as Kim then returned home, she learned there was one witness who had seen the teenager.
They said they had seen Tracey arguing with a boy near the bridge at Half Penny Steps. Reportedly, the boy was slightly taller than Tracey, had fair hair, and wore a white baseball cap.
There was another possible sighting of the teenager on January 31, 1993, at about 1.30 PM in Shepherds Bush. The girl had approached a woman and asked directions to “Adam’s Cafe.” The woman did not recognize the name, but as she was heading in the same direction as the girl, they walked together to look around. On the way, the girl explained she was supposed to meet her boyfriend and some friends at that specific cafe.
A few hours later, around 4:30 PM, two girls entered Cooke’s Pie and Eel Shop on Goldhawk Road. According to staff, they looked as though they had been sleeping rough but otherwise were clean and well kept—one of the girls with Tracey’s description. Still, despite the possible sightings, she was never found alive.
On Saturday, February 1, 1992, a fisherman discovered the body of a young woman in the Grand Union Canal near Kensal Rise. She had been partially undressed and stabbed two times—once in the stomach and arm with a small kitchen knife.
After the discovery, one of Tracey’s uncles came to her grandmother’s house and told everybody a body had been pulled from the water. Soon, it was confirmed to be Tracey’s. Emma still remembers the situation, saying:
“I remember the look on my dad’s face. He had to go and identify her body. The police weren’t sure how long she had been in there. My dad never got the image out of his head.“
As Tracey’s wounds were superficial, it was believed she stumbled into the freezing cold water trying to escape her attacker—she drowned soon after. Emma says her sister was not “a silly girl” who would put herself in a dangerous situation on purpose, so it is possible she knew the attacker.
Detective Inspector Colin Wright said he personally believes that Tracey went willingly to the canal area with a group of friends or people she knew and that “things progressed far more than they expected.” As the teenager was only partially clothed, a sexual motive is highly possible, even though the postmortem did not show evidence of an assault. Unfortunately, there was not much other evidence either.
The police did appeal to the public through Crimewatch but received a poor response. In less than a year, the murder investigation went cold.
Afterward, Tracey’s grieving parents turned to drugs, and her father Paul eventually committed suicide at the age of 45. Kim passed away in 2015.
Today, three decades later, Tracey Meade’s remaining family is still waiting for answers. Sadly, they faced another tragedy in July 2020, when Tracey’s brother—Peter Petrou, 37—was stabbed to death during a fight outside a McDonald’s in Kilburn.
Peter’s killer, 24-year-old Chihab Saleh, eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter—but only time will tell if a similar thing ever happens in Tracey’s case and if the family will ever receive closure.