Lancaster hairdresser’s plea: my mum was burned alive 30 years ago – help me find her killers

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A Lancaster hairdresser who is the daughter of a murder victim has spoken for the first time about her mum's brutal death in a bid to find the murderers 30 years on.

Kelly Hill, 40, a hairdressing student from Lancaster, revealed new details about the days before her mum Tracy Mertens, 30, was abducted, doused in petrol, set on fire and left to die in a churchyard.

She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dinner lady Tracy managed to tell police about her ordeal in her final hours.

Kelly Hill and her mum Tracy Mertens who was burned alive after visiting her former Birmingham home. Photo  Courtesy of Kelly Hill / SWNS.Kelly Hill and her mum Tracy Mertens who was burned alive after visiting her former Birmingham home. Photo  Courtesy of Kelly Hill / SWNS.
Kelly Hill and her mum Tracy Mertens who was burned alive after visiting her former Birmingham home. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Hill / SWNS.

But despite extensive and exhaustive enquiries over the years, nobody has ever been convicted in connection with her death.

But Kelly has bravely decided to speak out in a bid to find justice and answers - and remains hopeful someone will be caught in her lifetime.

She revealed a chilling bit of advice her mum gave her the day before she died.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kelly said: "I can't imagine what my mum would've felt when she was burning alive - I hope I get to see justice in my lifetime.

Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.
Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.

"Yes, she's got a pretty headstone on her grave - but in 30 years all we've got to show for her murder is an inactive investigation.

"It's like she's been forgotten about."

Tracy "doted" on Kelly and her older brother, Daniel, 41.

Kelly describes her mum as quiet - mostly keeping herself to herself, and doesn't remember her ever going out with friends.

Tracy Mertens headstone. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.Tracy Mertens headstone. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.
Tracy Mertens headstone. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.

"The night before she died, she said to me, 'if something ever happens to me, go to nana's or aunty Sharon's'," Kelly said. "I didn't think anything of it at the time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"But as an adult, I do wonder whether she knew something was going to happen to her."

On the morning of December 21, 1994, Tracy left her home in Rochdale to travel to Birmingham and collect her benefit books.

Despite the family moving out of their previous home weeks prior, Tracy still had a key - and would regularly collect her post from the old address.

Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.
Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.

Kelly remembers the last time she ever saw her mum - as she turned to wave at her from the driveway.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: "The morning she went - we were all asleep, and she set off about 8am.

"I remember hearing the door close - I ran to the window and looked out at her.

"She saw me, turned around, and waved.

"That was the last time I ever saw her."

It is believed she initially intended to return the same day but instead ended up staying overnight at her sister's home - Tina, now 56.

Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.
Tracy Mertens. Photo released April 4 2024. The daughter of a murder victim says she’s still looking for justice 30 years on - and her life has been “wrecked” by the crime. Kelly Hill, 40, was just 11 when her mum, Tracy Mertens, 30, was killed in Congleton, Cheshire, on December 23, 1994. In a vicious attack, the mum-of-two was abducted, set on fire and left to die. She suffered burns on 96 per cent of her body - and died in hospital on Christmas Eve, 12 hours later. Photo courtesy of Kelly Hill SWNS.

She went to her old home the next day, December 23, and when she answered a knock at the door she was confronted by two men who asked: "Where is Joey?"

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She'd been blindfolded and bundled into a Ford Escort parked outside her old house and driven 60 miles.

"She was taken to Congleton, and they had petrol cans in the car," Kelly added.

"They took her to a church - and at some point during the afternoon, they set fire to her."

Despite a passer-by spotting Tracy and calling an ambulance - she died at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kelly remembers Joey telling her and Daniel that Tracy had been injured in a car accident.

She said: "Two days after mum went, we got a knock on the door.

"It was really late, about 10pm. My dad answered.

"Daniel and I were in the front room, and my dad was taken into a police car.

"That's where they told him. He came back into the room and said, 'your mum's been in a car accident'."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kelly and Daniel were then taken to Mary's house while Joey visited Tracy in hospital.

After Tracy died, the pair were sent back to their dad's - and Kelly says she had to "grow up in an instant" - at 11-years-old.

"We didn't have any Christmas presents," she added. "My childhood ended in that moment.

"I didn't know what to do to fill the mum role - when my dad asked me to make him a brew, I put five sugars in.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I used to have to scrub mine and Daniel's school uniforms with a toothbrush, because we didn't have a washing machine.

"I had no-one to talk to about periods."

After two years of living with Joey, Daniel and Kelly ran away to live with other relatives.

She said: "I was passed around from pillar-to-post because I couldn't handle the way we were being brought up, and at 15 I ended up pregnant."

The 30-year police investigation - spanning a documentary, countless appeals and a Crimewatch reconstruction - was last renewed in 2019.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Joey died on June 6, 2020 - after doctors found a blood clot in his heart.

Now, Kelly just wants to build her life back up again - while fighting for justice.

She said: "At 40 years old, I thought I would've been able to handle things better.

"I'm doing alright for myself now - I'm married, and I'm studying to become a hairdresser.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I've been hospitalised eight-or-nine times in the past - because I just want to be with my mum.

"I still want to get these people brought to justice - we can only do that if we keep talking about it and keeping her name alive.

"If anyone's got any information, can you please speak up and help bring mum to justice."