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THE MURDER OF LUCY LINGARD . . . A Grimsby tragedy (part one)

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Lucy Margaret Mullins was born in the village of Worlaby in 1869. Her father James was Irish, and worked as a groom. Her mother Jane was from the Lincolnshire village of Great Limber. In the 1881 census the family had moved to Little Limber Grange, near Brocklesby. In April 1889, Lucy married John Lingard in St James Church, Grimsby, and the census two years later shows that they were living at 6 Vesey’s Buildings in Grimsby, and they already had two children, Rose (2) and William (10 months). By 1901 they had moved to Sixth Terrace, Hope Street, and had two more children, Nellie (8) and Arthur (4). Also living in the house were two of Lucy’s adult relatives.

The 1901 census was taken on 1st April, and by the autumn of the next year John and Lucy Lingard had separated, Lucy remaining in Hope Street with the children. By the autumn of 1902 she had given birth to another child, born earlier in the year. The census also tells us that a fisherman named Samuel Henry Smith was also living in Hope Street, apparently on his own. His background has been difficult to track. The census records that he was born in Norfolk, but later newspaper reports suggest that his home town was Brixham in Devon.

It is not clear if Harry Smith was in any way responsible for the break up of the Lingards’ marriage, but by November 1902 it was clear that Lucy Lingard and Harry Smith (also separated from his spouse) were in a relationship, when he was not out on the North Sea on a trawler.

At this point, it is worth pausing the story to compare how people lived – in terms of house occupancy – back in the day. It was very common for ordinary working people to share houses with others. I was born in 1947, and my parents rented a room in a Victorian terraced house, which was shared with another couple and the owner, a single man. Each had a bedroom to themselves, and the kitchen and scullery were shared. There was no bathroom. There was running water, but also a pump in the scullery which drew water from a well. There was no electricity until, I think, 1951 and lighting was from gas lamps which were lit by pulling a little chain, which struck a flint, rather like the mechanics of a cigarette lighter.

Before demolition

Screen Shot 2022-09-10 at 18.37.47Hope Street in Grimsby was cleared of its terraces in the late 1960s (pictured above, thanks to Hope Street History), but a late 19th century map shows back-to-back houses opening directly onto the street, and every so often there would courtyards, each open area being surrounded on three sides by further dwellings. For those interested in the history of Hope Street, there is a Facebook page that gives access to an excellent pdf document describing the history of the street. That link is here. It is also worth pointing out that house ownership, certainly in 1902, would have been in the hands of landlords. The great majority of people in streets like Hope Street would be tenants.

We must now move on to the events of 18th November 1902. Harry Smith’s trawler docked that morning, and he had spent the best part of the afternoon and early evening in the company of Lucy Lingard. Smith at one point went down to the docks to collect his wages from his latest voyage. He and Lucy Lingard were at each other’s throats, perhaps because she had refused him ‘conjugal rights’, and he had struck her several times, giving her two black eyes. In spite of this, they went out drinking again, but what happened when they returned to Hope Street later that evening was to send a shiver of revulsion through the whole area.

IN PART TWO
A daughter’s testimony
Denial, trial – and the black cap

THE OXFORD STREET ATROCITY . . . Murder most foul in Leamington, 1907 (part one)

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13 Oxford StreetNumber 13 Oxford Street is a narrow three-story terraced house used these days, I believe, for student accommodation. It was advertised recently as a six bedroom let, a snip (!) at £3,360 pcm. The Bank of England inflation calculator tells me that in 1891, Edward Moore and his family would have been paying just under £26 a month. He had a large family comprising his wife Fanny Adelaide (36) and children Edwin James Moore (16), Fanny A Moore (14), William A Moore (13), Joseph C Moore (11), Rose Hannah Moore (10), Percy E Moore (8), Leonard J Moore (7) and Ernest F Moore (4).

Edward Moore was a cab-driver – horse drawn in those days, of course – and what became of seven of his eight children is a fascinating investigation for another day, but our story focuses on Edwin James Moore and, to a lesser extent, his youngest brother Ernest Moore, known as Bertie. Born in 1875, Edwin Moore appears to have become the black sheep of the family. Court records tell us that he had served time in prison for stealing potatoes, and between 1903 and 1906 had been convicted of minor offences such as drunkenness, using foul language and assault.

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It also seems he had found time to join the army, and had served in India, but in the spring of 1907, this prodigal son was back in Leamington. On the evening of Saturday 3nd March, at about 8.00p, Moore returned to the family home, the worse for drink. The only people in the house were his mother and brother Bertie, by then aged eleven. Mrs Moore has been cooking Edwin’s supper – herrings – in the oven, and she put the plate in front of him on the table. He was far from impressed. Complaining that the fish was “stinking the place out”, he first pushed the plate aside and then flung it to the floor, where it shattered. He kicked the broken pieces of pottery and the remains of his dinner across the kitchen, and in his rage, picked up a nearby oil lamp and hurled it at his mother. She fended off the lamp, and it broke against the wall, bursting into flames. Mrs Moore made to escape, but her son snatched a piece of newspaper from the table, twisted it into a spill, lit it from the burning oil lamp and having seized his mother by the arm thrust it like a sword at her body. Her flanelette blouse immediately caught fire, and she rushed into the scullery to try to put out the flames with tap water.

Young Bertie, understandably terrified by what he had seen, ran to the door and screamed “Help! Murder! He’s setting my mother on fire!” Neighbours Henry Beeby and a Mr Phillips rushed into the house, and saw Edwin Moore flapping at the flames that were devouring his mother’s upper body with his bare hands. Beeby managed to put out the flames and, having been cursed at and struck by Edwin Moore, later testified that the younger man ran from the house. Fanny Adelaide Moore was beyond help, however, and was pronounced dead when medical help arrived in the person of Dr Bernard Rice, who later carried out a post-mortem on the poor woman. His findings were reported in The Leamington Spa Courier.

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IN PART TWO – ARREST, TRIAL AND SWIFT RETRIBUTION

MURDER COMES TO LADBROKE (1) . . . true crime from 1926

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Screen Shot 2021-12-12 at 18.11.45Manor Farm in Ladbroke dates back, according to the data on British Listed Buildings, to the mid 18th century. For architectural historians, it adds:

Squared coursed lias with quoins and coped gables. Slate roof with brick end stacks. L-shaped plan. 2 storeys plus attic; 3-window range of C20 three-light casements in original openings with stone flat arches to ground floor. C20 door with stone flat arch. 2 gabled dormers. C20 one-storey lean-to to left. Interior: noted as having stop-chamfered spine beams and large open fireplace, refaced C19. C18 central staircase with turned balusters.

In September 1925, the farm had been bought by Cecil Crabtree and his wife, Milly Illngworth Crabtree, (neé Fawcett). The couple had married in 1923 in Halifax, and had a son, Brian, aged eighteen months and a daughter, Betty, just six months old.

Crabtree was clearly a man with ambitions, and also had farming interests at Burton Farm, Neston, Cheshire. When the family moved down to Ladbroke, a young man called George Sharpes accompanied them as stockman. It appears that Cecil Crabtree had taken on Sharpes in a spirit of benevolence, as the the young man had, for four years, been an inmate of the Farm Training Colony, a reformatory for boys at Newton-le-Willows, and was considered to be “a wrong ‘un”. Sharpes’s parents lived in Crewe, where his father was a railway worker.

A young girl called Kathleen Coleman, aged 10, lived in one of the farm cottages with her mother and father – who worked for Mr Crabtree. Kathleen often helped out in the house, and on the afternoon of 13th January 1926, she made a chilling discovery. She went upstairs to Mrs Crabtree’s room, as one of the babies was crying. She told the inquest:

” I saw George lying on the bed with his throat all bleeding, and he told me to tell daddy to come. I ran and told father, who was in the cowshed.”

Her father, Sibert Pearson Coleman ran to the house, and saw George Sharpes, but was about to make another much more terrible discovery:

“His (George’s) throat was bleeding. I asked him what was the matter, and he said —’ Never mind me; go down to the missus. I have killed her.’ I ran down to the sitting-room, and found Mrs Crabtree lying dead in a pool of blood. She was bleeding from wounds in the face and the back of the head. I saw that she was past aid. One of the children was on the settee crying.”

Manor Farm

Inspector Cresswell, of Southam, was called to Manor Farm (above, as it was at the time) and when he arrived he found Mrs Crabtree lying on the floor of the sitting room, face downwards. There was a large quantity of blood near the head, and marks of blood on bureau, and also on the wall about five feet up. He found a hammer lying on the sofa, with blood and hair adhering to it. Seeing there was nothing he could do for Mrs Crabtree, the inspector returned to Sharpes, who was lying on the bed in Mrs Crabtree’s bedroom with a wound in his throat. There was a bloodstained shoemaker’s knife on the bed beside him. The wound was slight. There was towel and a suit of pyjamas wound round his head.

On seeing the Inspector, Sharpes muttered,“Let me die! Leave me alone, and let me die!”

The inspector called for a car and Sharpes was removed to the hospital in Leamington Spa, where he was detained. Cresswell said later that it seemed Mrs Crabtree’s skull was crushed in on the left side above and below the left ear.and probably done with one blow.

Cecil Crabtree was contacted and returned as fast as he could, in a state of understandable shock. There was little doubt who was responsible for his wife’s murder, and once the inquest had been comcluded, she was buried in Ladbroke churchyard on a snowy winter afternoon. The report in The Rugby Advertiser of Friday 22nd January was heartfelt:

Funeral report

Milly

IN PART TWO – Trial, motive – and justice

THE DUBLIN RAILWAY MURDER . . . Between the covers

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It is a November evening in 1856, and we are in Galway, the city on the west coast of Ireland. A mail train is due to leave to cross the country to Dublin, a distance of some 125 miles. On its way, the train will call at many stations, some no bigger than halts, and collect cash boxes containing the day’s takings. These boxes will, eventually, find their way into an office in Dublin’s Broadstone Station, the headquarters of the Midland Great Western Railway Company. Thee cash boxes will be emptied, the cash counted and the sums entered into the ledgers by 42 year-old George Little, the chief cashier.

Little was a modest man of good education, but the cruelties of fate had left him the sole provider for four widows – his mother, his aunt and his sister. His diligence, attention to detail and willingness to work whatever hours it took to get the job done had endeared him to his superiors, and he was highly thought of – if not lavishly well paid. Little was known to stay after hours if there was a particularly large amount of money to deal with, but was always at work on the dot the next morning.

It was lunchtime on Friday 14th November before anyone suspected that something might be wrong; Little’s sister, Kate, had come to the station to ask after her brother, who had not come home the previous evening. His office, however, is locked. When the worthies of the MGWR eventually manage to break in to George Little’s office, they are faced with a scene from hell.


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What follows is a classic locked room mystery as the police hunt for the killer of George Little.  Even establishing a motive is a puzzle, as most of the money George had been counting was still there in various piles on his office table. The initial investigation is lead by three Dublin detectives – Acting Inspector Daniel Ryan and his two subordinates, Sergeants Craven and Murphy. Try as they might, their enquiries uncover more questions than answers, and Superintended Augusts Dye is brought in to head up the hunt for the killer.

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Days, weeks and then months go by. Suspects come and go, and are released for lack of evidence and motive. Fast forward now to Wednesday 24th June 1857. Crown Solicitor Thomas Kemmis, who had initially been involved with the murder investigation was working from home – a handsome house in Kildare Street, Dublin. A servant announces that he has a visitor, and a middle aged woman is shown into the room. She is Mary Spollin, and she has an astonishing piece of news. She tells Kemmis that her husband James – a local painter and handyman – is the murderer of George LIttle. Her evidence is clear and damning, and James Spollin is arrested.

There is a problem, however, for the legal team. Under the law, a wife is not allowed to give evidence against her husband in a criminal trial unless she herself is the victim. It also becomes abundantly clear that the relationship between James and Mary Spollin is, to put it bluntly, a poisonous one. When Spollin’s trial, presided over by Lord Chief Justice Thomas Langlois Lefroy and Chief Justice James Henry Monahan, the accused man’s defence team are not slow to capitalise on this. A contemporary engraving (below) shows Spollin in the dock.

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On Tuesday 11th August 1857, shortly after 4.00pm, the jury in the trial of James Spollin returned to the courtroom, having reached their verdict.
“Mr Alley, the clerk of the court, called out the names of the jurors to check they were all present.
When he was satisfied, he asked, ‘Gentlemen of the jury, do you agree on your verdict?’
‘Yes,’ said the foreman, handing him a piece of paper.
James Spollin had risen from his seat in the dock and leant uneasily on the railing in front of him. Mr Alley unfolded the slip and examined its contents carefully. The courtroom remained in breathless silence as he lifted his eyes and  announced in a sonorous voice:
‘You say James Spollin is not guilty.'”
Spollin Liverpool

Astonishingly, James Spollin went on to capitalise on his notoriety by going on tour with a kind of celebrity show, which included, among other exhibits, a scale model of the scene of the crime. He then emigrated to America. Author Thomas Morris has written a book which brings Victorian Dublin to life, and he written as erudite, well researched and entertaining a True Crime story as you could wish to read. It is published by Harvill Secker and is out now.

Spollin departure

HORROR IN HOLLY STREET . . . A shocking murder in 1901 Leamington (3)

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SO FAR – Bessie Lockyer has been sentenced for committing murder while insane. She virtually decapitated her baby son with her husband’s cut-throat razor, and has been sent to Broadmoor. Normally, with these true crime cases, that is the end of the matter, and the killers invariably die in captivity, either by their own hand or other illnesses. Here, though we have something of a turn up for the books. I found a record listing a number of prisoners detained in mental institutions. There are four columns at the right hand side of the page, and they are headed Recovd. (recovered) Reld. (released) Not impd (?) and Died. Against Bessie Lockyer’s name there is written 4th September ’04, and a tick in the Recovd. column.

Broadmoor

‘Recovered’, just three years after murdering her baby? I thought there must be an error, but looked for the Lockyers in the 1911 census. Astonishingly, Bessie and Thomas were reunited and living at 6,Park Drive, Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Not only that, they had two young children, Stanley Walter Lockyer, aged 5 and born in Fulham, and Edward Norman Lockyer, aged 1 and born there in Ilkeston.

Ilkeston 1911
Redemption is not something often found in these stories, but it seems to have happened here. What became of the family after that is not so clear. There is a Bessie Lockyer recorded as dying in Spen Valley, Yorkshire in 1949 at the age of 74, and also a Stanley W Lockyer dying in the same district in 1968, at the age of 62. Both of these records fit what we know of the family. As for Thomas, there is little certainty about what happened to him. Searching the 1939 register proved fruitless.

All we can be thankful for is that Thomas and Bessie Lockyer had the chance to rebuild their lives together – and took it –  after that terrible morning in Holly Street, back in September 1901.

A CHAPTER OF HORRORS . . . A tragedy from 1890 (3)

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SO FAR – George Hay, a gentleman farmer from South Reston, has taken a shotgun and killed his brother-in-law, and left his young wife Louisa horrifically injured, and clinging to life by a thread. He is in police custody in nearby Alford. It is 25th May, 1890.

There were no backlogs of court cases in rural Lincolnshire back in the 1890s. Later on the Saturday after his appalling crimes had been discovered, George Hay was before the magistrate in Alford, charged with murder and attempted murder. He had tried to injure himself while in custody, and had been strapped to a chair to prevent such an occurrence. He was, of course, remanded in custody to await trial at Lincoln Assizes in July.

The other integral part of the justice system in the case of violent death is the Coroner’s Inquest. This was convened in South Reston on Monday 26th May and was presided over by Mr Frederick Sharpley. What was going to be a melancholy affair anyway was made more dramatic by the announcement that Louisa Hay had died. Not only that, but she had died while giving birth.

I have called this story A Chapter of Horrors, with good reason. The very thought of that poor woman – just 22 years old – having suffered horrific injuries but  then having to go through the trauma of childbirth just hours afterwards is truly appalling. She was buried in South Reston Graveyard on 28th May. The church of St Edith has long since been demolished.It is pictured below. (photo courtesy of Louth Museum)

The Hay family has a corner of the graveyard (below), and members of the family were interred as recently as the 1960s, but the gravestones are terribly weathered. I could not locate Louisa’s grave, but we can assume that she lies among her family. One can only hope that she found more peace in heaven than she did on that terrible night in May 1890.

It seems that George Hay had suspected Louisa of having an affair with a young man from a nearby village. This seems to be another of his delusions, because the young man, named Banks – and members of his family – appeared at Lincoln Assizes in July 1980 to testify that there was nothing between the pair. At the Assizes trial he was, obviously, found guilty of a double murder, but there was no doubt in the minds of the judge and the jury that George Hay was insane. He was sentenced to be detained “at Her Majesty’s pleasure.” There was to be one final, brutal twist to this terrible saga. On Thursday 14th August 1890, the Hull Daily Mail reported:

A CHAPTER OF HORRORS . . . A tragedy from 1890 (1)


ACOH header1I have been researching and writing
about true crimes for many years now and, by their very nature, the events I have described rarely make easy reading. On display is a journey through the very worst of human character, from weakness, via jealousy and insanity, through to pure and simple evil. I can say, however, that the story I am about to tell has been hard to write. It contains descriptions of madness and physical violence which may not be to everyone’s taste, so, if you are squeamish, then maybe this is not for you. Every word of this story is taken from contemporary newspaper reports and transcriptions from a criminal trial that horrified readers in the early summer of 1890.

We are not quite in Louth, but just a few miles south east, in the gentle landscape on the edge of The Wolds, and bordering the former marshland which stretches out to the coastal settlements of Mablethorpe, Trusthorpe and Sutton. South Reston is a modest village now, as it was then. In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described South Reston like this:

RESTON (South), a parish, with a village, in Louth district, Lincoln; 2 miles N N E of Authorpe railway station, and 6 S E of Louth. Post-town, Louth. Acres, 710. Real property, £1, 312. Pop., 235. Houses, 51. The property is divided among a few. S. R. Hall is the seat of W. Hay, Esq. There is a brick and tile manufactory. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Lincoln. Value, £180. Patron, the Duchy of Lancaster. The church was rebuilt in 1865; and is in the early English style. There are chapels for Wesleyans and Free Methodists, a parochial school, and charities £7.

It is the family of William Hay of South Reston Hall (pictured below) that concerns us in this story. The Hays were a landed family spread across the county as far north as Scunthorpe and Brigg. The Hall itself is on an ancient site that dates back to pre-Domesday times. Strangely, in the 1881 census, the inhabitants of the Hall are listed as Lizzie Hay, aged 20, as Head of House, with her younger siblings Walter and Mary. You will notice the name of John Crow living close by. He was to be a witness to the dreadful events about to be described. In 1891, a few months after the dreadful crime about to be described, the Hay family seem to have been all together again.

Although it is not illegal, we are, nowadays, justifiably squeamish about first cousin marriages. Where it does occur – mostly in immigrant families – it is a proven cause of child deformities and mental health problems. The Hay family, however in the second half of the 19th century, had no qualms. George Dawson Hay, elder son of William and Elizabeth had married his first cousin, Louisa Hay. The 1881 census has her, aged 14, living with her farming family in Humberston, just south of Cleethorpes. Also named is Thomas W Hay, aged 13.

George Hay had been gifted a house and land on which to farm. South Reston Grange sits near the junction of Willoughby Lane and Scrub Lane, a little way south west of the village. The household comprised George Dawson Hay junior, just a year old, his two year-old sister Ethel, and – strangely – Louisa’s brother, Thomas.

It seems that mental illness was not uncommon in the Hay family. A Thomas Hay, of Yarborough, had died eighteen months earlier in Bracebridge Asylum, Lincoln; George Hay’s older brother, William, had died at the Hall in 1886, while his younger brother, Sidney, was undergoing treatment for what was termed ‘melancholia’. George Hay himself had spent some time in New Zealand, and had confessed to trying to do away with himself there.

On the early morning of 24th May, the staff of South Reston Hall were astonished to see George Hay enter the building. He had apparently been sleeping in a stable. but his clothes were soaking wet, and he was covered in mud from head to foot. His mother came to his aid, and he told her that he had been to the nearby village of Withern, where he had tried to drown himself in the Great Eau (pictured left), a narrow but swift flowing stream which eventually dissipates into the marshes near Saltfleet. Mrs Hay packed him off to bed with a glass of whisky, realising that this was the latest manifestation of mental troubles of which George had been complaining for some weeks. When she went up to see him, a little later that morning, he was still awake, but barely coherent. He asked her just one thing:

“I think you had better go down to The Grange, and see how they are getting on there.”

A simple request from a concerned husband? What the visitors to The Grange found would scar them for the rest of their lives.

IN PART TWO – A TRUE CHAPTER OF HORRORS

DEATH AT SANDOWN VILLA . . . True crime in Leamington Spa (3)

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PART THREE

So far …. 21 year old Maida Warner, from Stockton, has been arrested after a dead baby was found in the room she occupied at Sandown Villa, the home of Mr and Mrs Patterson, who employed Maida as a domestic servant. The bay was found with string tied tightly around its neck.

On 23rd June, at the second Coroner’s Inquest into the baby’s death, (the first was adjourned because Maida Warner was too ill to attend) the grandly named Mr. J. J. Willington Wilmshurst, spoke to a packed room in Leamington Police Station. This time, Maida Warner was present. The newspaper reported:

“The young woman, Maida Warner, who has been charged with the wilful murder of the child, was present, accompanied by a wardress from Warwick Gaol. She looked white and ill, and after the evidence of the first witness was obliged to retire for a few minutes.”

The jury heard medical evidence which was ambivalent about whether the baby was born alive. This was to be a key issue in the criminal proceedings which followed. The legal phrase was “separate existence”. In simple terms, if the baby had drawn breath, even for a few seconds after the umbilical cord had been cut then was deemed, by law, to have had a separate existence and, as such, was entitled to the protection of the law. Despite one of the doctors saying:

“It is my opinion that the child was healthy child, at, or near, full time, that it had lived and breathed freely. The cause of death was suffocation by strangulation, which might have been caused the cord round the infant’s neck. The child was alive when this constriction was put round it.”

But he then muddied the waters by saying:

“It is impossible to say that the child was wholly born, at the time it was done.”

Despite the confusion, the Coroner could only pass the case on up the legal ladder to the criminal courts. It was at this inquest, however, that another piece of evidence emerged which was to have an important bearing on the date of Maida Warner. Knowing that the young woman would not – whatever the outcome of the trial – be coming back to Sandown Villa, John Patterson had gone to clear up Maida’s room. He found a letter, torn up and thrown in the fire grate. It was signed, “Your dear little husband, S.B.C. – Warwick

Stockton was a small village, and it wouldn’t have taken a Sherlock Holmes to discover who S.B.C. was. In 1901 Sidney Cox had been living with his sister and their large family in a house on Napton ad, Stockton.
Sidney Cox

Probably very much against his wishes, he was produced as a defence witness when Maida was brought to trial at Warwick Assizes on July 28th, in front of Mr Justice Wills (left) By this time – and Maida must have had a very clever defence team – the charge had been reduced to that of concealing a death. The judge seemed to put great store by the presumption that Maida was fully prepared for – and happy with – the fact that she was about to give birth. Evidence for this was produced, in the form of newly purchased baby clothes found in Maida’s trunk. Sidney Cox had his moment in court as reported in the local newspaper:

“A young man named Sidney Cox was then called, and stated that he had been keeping company with the prisoner, and it was arranged that they should be married next month.

Judge; “Did you know that she was about to be confined?”
Cox,“No”
Judge, “Did you know what she intended to do?”
Cox,“No”
Judge, “Are you now prepared to marry her, and is it you intention of doing so at the earliest opportunity?”
Cox, “Yes.”

To cut a long story short, the Judge – despite the strange and unexplained matter of the string knotted round the baby’s neck, decided that Maida Warner was guilty of concealing a death, and sentenced her to twelve months hard labour. This story has a happy ending, after a fashion. In December 1906, the local news from Stockton column had this announcement:

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It is good to know that, whatever the truth of what happened on that fateful day at the end of May 1905, Maida went on to live her life in full. The last we see of her, at least in official records, is that in 1911 she was living with her husband in George Street, Stockton.

1911 census

For me, looking back at something which happened over a century ago, it is a curious case, and no mistake. What was the string doing around the baby’s neck? Was it something to do with a young woman giving birth on her own, and perhaps misguidedly remembering – as a country girl –  how calves were hauled from their mothers’ wombs with stout cord? Did the baby have “a separate existence”? We will never know. I believe there are Neals and Warners still living in and around Stockton to this day, and I hope that they will think that I have reported this strange episode with respect and fairness.

THE ST MICHAEL’S ROAD MURDER . . . The madness of a daughter (part 1)

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Gladys Wright was born in Louth in 1894. Her father, Edward Wright was a schoolmaster, and the census of 1911 has the family living at Egmont – No. 4 South Street, Louth. Edward Wright went on to become Headmaster of St Michael’s School, where his wife Alice also taught.

Wright census
In December1916, Gladys married a young man named Victor King, in Richmond, Surrey. Their marriage was to be short lived, however. Victor was Second Lieutenant in The Machine Gun Corps, and on 29th September, he was killed during the Third Battle of Ypres, better known perhaps as the Battle of Paschendaele. His name is one of 34,000 others inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, which indicates that if he was given a battlefield burial, his grave was later lost. A grimmer option is that his body was simply destroyed by shellfire.

Like so many other young widows, Gladys had the rest of her life to live, and at some point between the end of the Great War and the beginning of World War Two, she met and married a man called von Hirschberg. It seems that they tried to begin a new life in what was then Rhodesia, where the von Hirschberg family had lived for decades. Whatever happened to the marriage was never recorded publicly, but by World War Two, Gladys was back in England and serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service – the ATS – a volunteer unit for women. After the war, the ATS became the WRAC, but Gladys chose not to continue with service life and, after another brief spell in Rhodesia, returned to Louth to live with her widowed mother Alice in her house in St Michael’s Road.

Gladys, now in her 50s, was a keen amateur actress and a member of the Louth Playgoers group. The only surviving photograph of her dates from 1949, when she played the role of Mrs Winslow in Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play, The Winslow Boy. One of the strange ironies of this story is that the gentleman playing Mr Winslow in the play was George Todd. When he wasn’t learning his lines, Todd was better known as Superintendent Todd of Louth police. He and his co-star were to meet again a year later in rather different circumstances.

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Part two of this story will go live at 6.00pm on Sunday 21st February

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