13 February 1999

Police seek
‘Quality Street killer’

On this day in 1999, a short report in a local newspaper referred to the ‘Quality Street killer’ – the first appearance in print of a nickname that would soon become world-famous. Kent Constabulary’s biggest ever operation eventually led them to Ronald Inchsmith, a tobacconist from Maidstone. He was found guilty of the murder of 32 old age pensioners between 1996 and 1999.

There was considerable criticism of the police for being slow off the mark, and they were accused of being too vague in their estimate of the number of victims, as is evident from the original Maidstone Enquirer article…

Inchsmith's victims could not resist his Quality Street toffees


A friendly murderer is preying on old folk in the Maidstone area, say Kent Police.

The kindly killer is described as 6’1” with brown hair and a “trustworthy” beard. He is thought to be responsible for between six and 19 deaths over the past three years.

Police are anxious to speak to a man matching this description who has been seen buying tins of Quality Street in unusually large quantities from a local wholesalers. It is thought that he uses the sweets to win the trust of his victims.

Edith Tilly, 78, a widow who lives alone in Bentos Street, said the man had called at her home during the afternoon. When she refused to let him in, he became testy. “You are being silly,” he told her. “You know you are missing out on some lovely toffees.”

Mrs Tilly said that she became suspicious when she saw the man’s face. “It was his nose,” she explained. “There was something about it that just wasn’t right.”

Community Support Officer Wendy Weaver praised Mrs Tilly’s presence of mind: “She did exactly the right thing, and on no account should anyone let him in, however tempting his offer might seem.”

So far, the killer is believed to have used Quality Street in all his attacks, but police stressed that elderly people should be vigilant when offered any kind of sweets. This is especially important if they have diabetes or high cholesterol.

Picture: Alex Brown

One Response to “Police seek
‘Quality Street killer’”

  1. June says:

    wondering how their dentures coped with toffee, or did they finish soft centres too quickly