Date: 29 Apr 1947
George Harry Tyler was shot three times in the back in his taxi shortly before midnight on Tuesday 29 April 1947 at Clay Mills near Burton-on-Trent.
It was thought that his murderer was an airman who had been seen engaging his taxi New Street railway station on the Tuesday night sometime between 10pm and 10.30pm.
George Tyler was found on the floor in the back of his cab at Clay Mills on the A38, the main Burton-on-Trent to Derby Road, about 2.5 miles from Burton-on-Trent, shortly before midnight. Blood had dripped from the car and formed a large pool in the road. He had been shot twice in the back and once through the head with a .38 service revolver leaving the windscreen of his taxi pierced with bullet holes. The shots had been fired at close range with one bullet penetrating his heart.
The police said that they thought that robbery was the suspected motive. It was thought that George Tyler had had about 30s in his pockets when he had left Birmingham and when he was found he had only had a few coppers on him.
His taxi was an Austin with registration number BXL 686.
It was said that the airman that he had picked up had wanted to go to Derby even though it was noted that there was train to Derby leaving from the station at 10.45pm.
George Tyler had called at the Pearce Service Garage at 60 Great Charles Street in Birmingham shortly after leaving New Street Station with the airman as his passenger. The man who served him with petrol said, 'His passenger looked to me like an Air Force man. He was drowsy, but roused once and seemed surprised at his surroundings. He dozed off again, and as the taxi left the garage sank right down in his seat'.
The airman was described as being about 25 years old, 5ft 8in tall, with a round face and fresh complexion, but rather pale looking. He was said to have been clean shaven with dark hair, dark eyes and to have spoken with a middle-class Midland accent. He had been dressed in RAF battledress and wearing a forage cap and was said to have appeared agitated when hiring the taxi.
The shots had been heard by a man that lived near the scene. The man said that he thought the sounds were that of a car back firing and said that he had looked out of his window and watched a man, presumably the murderer, tinkering with the taxi, as though trying to start it, for a full five minutes before he went back to bed.
The lights had been left on the taxi and it was not until 9.30am the following morning that the Burton police were informed by telephone that a car had been abandoned with its lights on. When they went to investigate, they found George Tyler dead on the floor in the back of his taxi.
It was noted that the man who had lived opposite the scene had gone off to work at about 7am, going straight passed the taxi without noticing anything and also that in the meantime, hundreds of cars had passed the scene without noticing anything.
It was thought also that a lorry driver had picked up an airman and given him a lift from near to the scene of the murder, heading towards Derby, and the police appealed for him to come forward. A man was reported to have been seen by some lorry drivers on the night of the murder about two miles beyond Clay Mills trying to get a lift northwards and it was thought that he had eventually been picked up. About 50 lorry drivers were interviewed with at least half-a-dozen of them saying that they had seen the RAF man walking towards Derby, but none of them said that they had given him a lift.
George Tyler had been in business with another RAF man.
George Tyler had been demobilised 18 months earlier and had started the taxi business six months later when his business partner was also demobilised, operating from a site on Tyburn Road in Erdington. George Tyler's parents were not alive when he was demobilised and his business partner's parents had promised to adopt him like a son and two weeks before his death he moved in with them and his business partner, keeping the cars at 98 Bordesley Green in Birmingham.
During the police investigation, more than 1,000 RAF men were interviewed and from every RAF camp in the country a list of absentees was examined and compared to the description of the passenger seen in George Tyler's car on the night he was murdered but with no luck. The RAF man's description was also radio-flashed to all harbours and airports and a watch was kept on 'low-class cafes'. A police detective said, 'We are acting on the assumption that this man is an absentee, living rough, and probably obtaining meals at low-class cafes'. The police detective added, 'An early arrest is unlikely'.
The police search also covered all RAF armouries for any traces of the murder weapon and the police said that they were satisfied that the revolver used to kill George Tyler had been stolen. However, no trace of the .38 revolver was ever found. The police searched the bed of the canal at Clay Mills using powerful magnets but said that whilst an assortment of articles were recovered, the revolver was not amongst them.
The taxi itself was described as being a mass of fingerprints and it was said that the police feared that there would be difficulty in distinguishing between the fingerprints of the murderer and those of the many other people that had been in the taxi.
It was noted that there had at that time been a number of shootings in London by gangs of armed men, including the murder of Alec de Antiquis who was shot from his motorcycle whilst intervening in a smash-and-grab in London, but said that they were satisfied that George Tyler's murder was not associated with any of that business.
At his inquest it was noted that George Tyler had been hit above the right eye with a bullet which was found two inches under his left ear. The coroner told the jury that he could find no foundation for the suggestion that George Tyler's eyes had been shot out deliberately.
It was noted that one result of George Tyler's murder was that many innocent service men that later arrived in Birmingham during the night were finding that taxi drivers were refusing to accept them as fares.
A verdict of murder by unknown was returned at his inquest on 6 June 1947.
see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 12 May 1947
see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Thursday 01 May 1947
see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Thursday 01 May 1947
see Staffordshire Sentinel - Friday 06 June 1947
see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 02 May 1947