Date: 19 Apr 1957
Frederick Walter Jeffs was found half-buried in wooded wastelnd near a 'Lover's Lane' at Handsworth between West Bromich and Brimingham on the night of 19 April 1957.
His A30 van had been found earlier that day abandoned in Brantley Road, Witton, Birmingham, six miles away from where his body was found. The van had blood on the bonnet and roof. Frederick Jeffs's wallet was found in the back of his van but it was empty. It was noted that there was no damage to Frederick Jeffs's van to suggest that it had been in an accident.
A pathologist said that Frederick Jeffs's injuries were probably caused by bricks found near his body and that the blows had been of 'very great force'. He added that he thought that Frederick Jeffs had been stanfding near his van when he was first struck and had then been put inside the van at some stage where he might havve been further attacked causing fresh injuries.
It was said that skid marks were also found near the wood which were thought to have been made by the van as it pulled awway from the scene and that additionally that Frederick Jeffs's body had been dragged from it. It was noted that a belt from a mackintosh was died round his neck and it was thought that he had been pulled along by it. The wood was about thre miles away from his home in Quinton.
His body was found half buried under twigs, leaves and bricks. The wood was about ten miles from his house. There was no money on his body.
Frederick Jeffs was noted for having had a black miniature French poodle dog called Perro which was later thought to have been seen in Reservoir Road, Langley in Worcestershire, at about 10.30pm, 18 April 1957, on its own. The dog was not seen again for four days when it was found in a nearby garage with its distinctive red collar missing and the police focussed their search around Langley, which was about eight miles from where his body was found, on the theory that he had been murdered there before being driven off in his van and dumped in Handsworth.
He was a shopkeeper and had lived in a flat above his shop in Stanley Road, Quinton. His shop and sold sweets and tobaco products and it was thought that the motive for his murder was robbery and that he had been lured away by a young woman woman that was seen earlier on in his shop on the pretext of a date and then attacked by a man. When Frederick Jeffs's body was found all of his pockets had been turned inside out. His business was described as 'thriving'.
It was thought that after murdering Frederick Jeffs, that his murders had then driven back to his shop with his keys and taken £150 in money. It was said that Frederick Jeffs had been in the habit of hiding money beneath his floor boards but that when his shop was searched, none was found. It was noted that a watch and radio were also thought to have been missing from his shop.
Following that it it was thought that his murderer's had then driven off in his van and then dumped it in Witton.
The police said that they were anxious to interview the young woman customer who was thought to have dated him. Frederick Jeffs had been seen in his shop on the Thursday evening 18 April 1957 with the woman by another customer who said that he heard the woman, who cwas described as being about 20 years old and with dark brown hair, arranging to meet Frederick Jeffs later that night. It was said that Frederick Jeffs had appeared embaressed by the woman and was seen to mouth to her, 'I will see you later'.
It their appeal for the information about the woman, the police said, 'She may have played no part in th murder, but in any case she could give us vital evidence'.
It was later suggested that the woman had an Italian accent and that Frederick Jeffs's murder might have been connected to gangland activity.
On 26 April 1957 it was noted that a 19-year-old girl had come forward to say that she had met Frederick Jeffs on the night before he disappeared, saying that she had talked to him whilst he was in his stationery van whilst it was outside his shop without its lights on, but it is not thought that she was the same girl that was seen to agree a date with Frederick Jeffs in his shop as they were still attempting to find her several day later during their house-to-house intiative.
His body as found by five shoolboys that had been playing at a secluded spot near to the West Bromwich Albion football ground and a few hundred yards from Handsworth cemetery.
No murder weapon was found and the police said that they thought that his body had been taken to the wood after he had been murdered. It was said that he had been battered to death with a rock and that he had about 12 serioushead wounds, but it was later said that he had been beaten to death with a lorry starter handle. It was claimed that the fact that he had been beaten to death with the starter handle was not discolsed until 2018 when a man came forward to say that he had found it when he was a boy, aged 9, and had thrown it in some bushes, adding that he had been unaware that Frederick Jeffs had been lying in some bushes nearby at the time. He said that the starter handle had had blood and matted hair on it. It was noted that he had been interviewed at the time and that he detail was corroborated during a cold case review in 1972. However, it was noted that the detail have not been revealed to the public until 2018.
It was said that after the boy, who was with a friend, threw the starter handle away that they were followed by a tall man wearing a trilby hat and a long raincoat and that they ran away. However, the boy said that when he went back the starter handle had gone. It was as such suggested that the man had been the murderer and that he had both followed the boys and gone back to get the murder weapon, the starter handle.
The wood that he was found in, also referred to as a spinney, was on a track that ran from Birmingham Road in West Bromwich, to Newton Road in Great Barr and was known as the Wasson or Lover's Lane. The police appealed for courting couples that had seen anything unusual in Park Lane during the night to come forward.
It was noted that his van had been seen in Vicarage Road, Langley at about 10.30pm, stationery and then shortly after at about 10.45pm at the back of his shop with someone in the drivers seat. It was also noted that it was not in its usual parking spot. The van was seen at about 11.15pm to pull out into the street and a woman, whoc matched the description of the woman seen earlier in his shop, was seen to emerge from the shadow of his shop door and to get in.
It was later suggested by the police that his murderers might have taken everything out of his pockets to conceal his identity for as long as possible.
During an appeal for information, the police said, 'We think that someone somewhere is concealing vital evidence. The murderer stayed out unexpectedly on Thursday night and someone must have seen him coming home agitated and probably bloodstained'.
On 29 April 1957 was reported that the investigation encompassed one of the biggest house-to-house inquiries made by the police in the Midlands with the CID set to question 25,000 families. It was said that the police were particualry keen to trace the woman that was seen to make the appointment with Frederick Jeffs's shop on the afternoon he vanished. It was said that the initiative was to involve 60 detectives and that it was expected to take ten days to complete with a comprehensive checking system in place along with a huge street map of the area to ensure that no houses were missed.
A detective said, 'I firmly believe that the answer to this is in the area of Quinton, Langley, Warley and Bearwood'.
He was married but had been separated from his wife for the previous 15 months. and lived alone. His wife, who lived in Milton Road, Bentley Heath in Solihull, said that she had been living apart from Frederick Jeffs since September 1956 and that the last time that she had seen him was October 1956. It was later reported that they had agreed to get a divorce a week before Frederick Jeffs's was murdered, having come to the agreement over the telephone. She said that Frederick Jeffs had agreed to the divorce and had told her that he would see his solicitor about it.
THey had married in 1948 and in 1953 had started a confectionety and tobacco business under a joint name. It was said that the business prospereed but that their marriage broke down in September 1956 at which point she went to live with another man. Frederick Jeffs's wife said that Frederick Jeffs rarely went out alone at nights whilst they had lived together, but said that when he did go out that she never knew where he was going. She added that he was not the type of man who liked drinking and was not interested in gambling or betting to her knowledge. She added that he didn't have any close male or female acquaintances that she knew of.
He was noted for having gone to the cinema every Thursday night and it was later determined that whilst he wa generally considered to have been a quiet, sober and home-loving man, that it was noted that he had been meeting various women at night and going out to public-houses and it was later reported that the police were interviewing hundreds of women in an attempte to establish Frederick Jeffs's last movements. THe police said that one or two women had come forward to say that they had known a man that answered Frederick Jeffs's description and said, 'We think there could be a strong connection there and we are interviewing hundreds of young women in the Quinton and Langley areas'. THey added that they were also trying to trace any women that might have seen Frederick Jeffs in any public houses reently.
In particualr the police appealed for three people to come forward:
In September 1957 the police additionally said that they were interested in tracing three other women, all of whom were said to have been with Frederick Jeffs at various times at the Abbey public house in Smethwick, Staffordshire. They said that they had high hopes that they would be able to trace one of the women, whocse name was thought to have been Eve or Edie, but did not disclose the names of the other two women.
Frederick Jeffs was buried at Quinton Parish Church on 26 April 1957.
see Birmingham Mail
see Getty Images
see Graeme Rose Blog
see Northampton Arts
see "Missing Shopkeeper's Body Found." Times [London, England] 20 Apr. 1957: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.
see Western Mail - Saturday 20 April 1957
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Tuesday 23 April 1957
see Shields Daily News - Friday 26 April 1957
see Shields Daily News - Thursday 20 June 1957
see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 11 September 1957
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Wednesday 24 April 1957
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 29 April 1957
see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 23 April 1957