Unsolved Murders

Stephen Gilbert

Age: 43

Sex: male

Date: 7 Jun 1936

Place: Crofts Street, Noath, Cardiff

Stephen Gilbert was beaten to death in his grocers shop.

He was found dead in a pool of blood in a room at the rear of his business premises. It was thought that he had been battered to death by intruders.

He had lived nearby in Cottrell Street but had failed to return home on the Saturday night, and the following day the police went to his shop after his wife reported him missing and broke in and found him in a blood-stained room that was in disorder. It was heard that when his wife had gone to the shop in the morning on the Sunday she had knocked on the door but got no reply. A man in the house at the back of the shop then looked through the window and said, 'Yes, he is there and is lying on the floor'. His wife said, 'Oh, my God', and the man then smashed the window and the police were then called. It was thought that Stephen Gilbert had put up a desperate struggle. His body had been covered in brown paper.

His lock-up shop was in one of the busiest parts of the Roath district in Cardiff. It was noted that the shop was in a thickly populated area and that ordinarily there would have been children playing in the street until the later hours, but no one had heard anything, including the people that lived above his shop. The shop had two rooms.

It was heard that he was in the habit of remaining at his shop late on Saturday's to count his takings and to check his week's accounts. It was thought that he had been disturbed by sounds to the rear of his shop and that when he had gone to investigate he was attacked.

He was last seen by his errand boy who said that when he left him he was busy checking his cash at 9.15pm. The girl-assistant had left the shop shortly before the errand boy.

When the police searched the premises, no money was discovered and it was thought that his takings had been stolen. It was heard that his takings were fairly heavy on Saturdays as most of his customers were in the habit of paying their weekly bills them. It was said that he would ordinarily bring home his weeks takings of between £40 to £90 in a wallet. The girl-assistant in the shop said that Stephen Gilbert was in the habit of keeping his silver and copper takings in a box on the shelf in his store room and that he would keep the notes in his wallet.

They also found a bloodstained poker or iron bar and wallet which they said they were examining for fingerprints that they found on them. The wallet was found the day after his body was found in a gully near the shop. The police said that they also found a woman's shopping basket and said that they were trying to trace its owner. The police also found his bloodstained trilby hat. The iron bar which was found bloodstained had ordinarily been kept by the front door and was used to lock it.

Other items including a box of cigarettes, matches and keys were also examined.

When he was examined he was found to have had a wound on his head that had been caused by a blunt instrument. The doctor said that when he examined his body he had been dead for between 12 and 16 hours and that in his opinion his injuries were inflicted at about 10pm on the Saturday night. Reports stated that his head had been beaten to a pulp and that he had had other frightful injuries to his body.

It was said that his body had been covered in brown paper and that when the paper was removed, it was found that his trousers were down over his ankles and that one of his trouser legs was completely off. His shirt and vest were rolled up at the front and he had no underpants on. It was noted that his shoes were properly laced and that his shirt sleeves were neatly rolled up.

It was heard that his shop had been broken into four times in the previous year, the last time being at Christmas.

The police said that whoever had attacked him would have had blood on their clothes, face and hands and added that their clothes were probably torn. As such, they made an appeal for anyone that saw a man or woman wearing clothing that appeared to be torn or whom upon there were any traces of blood that had been in the vicinity of Stephen Gilbert's shop on the Saturday night between 9.15pm and 10.30pm, which were the times that the police said they had fixed for the attack, to come forward.

They said that Stephen Gilbert's body was not discovered until 12 noon the following day, and so as such, the attackers had had 14 hours in which to cover their tracks.

The police later appealed for a young man that was said to have been seen in the vicinity of the Croft Street shop on the Saturday night and after receiving some replies questioned the youth that answered the description.

They also appealed for a man to come forward who had been seen pacing up and down the roadway opposite the shop on the Saturday night between 9.15pm and 10pm. He was stated to have had a medium build, about five feet five or seven inches tall, with a pale complexion, wearing a navy-blue serge suit and having had dark hair that was brushed well back with a clean parting.

It was also reported on 12 June 1936 that an anonymous letter was received by the police that indicated that a certain man who was a trainer of thieves had been heard to declare that he would, 'do the grocer', but the police said that many of the allegations in the letter were found to be baseless. On 24 July 1936 the police superintendent said that three persons had made confessions that were all proved to be groundless and totally untrue.

At his inquest, the court heard that a woman with an aristocratic voice, sharp features, red hair, aged about 45 and wearing a light mackintosh had gone to his shop and that when she had entered, and he saw her he had gone pale.

A business acquaintance of Stephen Gilbert said that Stephen Gilbert had told him that, 'A ---- has threatened to murder me'. The business acquaintance said that he replied, 'Don't be so ridiculous', but said that Stephen Gilbert replied, 'It is a fact. I have been messing about with another woman and I don't know whether it is his wife or his sweetheart'. The business acquaintance said that a short while later Stephen Gilbert said, 'Here she comes' and put his hands on the counter and said that when she came in he went pale. The business acquaintance said that when the woman entered the shop she said, 'Hello, there. How are you', but that Stephen Gilbert didn't answer. The business acquaintance said that the woman then said, 'I hope I am not intruding', and said that he replied, 'No, it is quite all right', and that he then left the shop.

The business acquaintance said that Stephen Gilbert had told him that he was not on the best of terms with his wife.

The police said that they had made every effort to trace the red-haired woman, but without any result.

Stephen Gilbert's brother was asked at the inquest whether there had been any family ill-feeling and the brother said that there had been an argument over the sale of a house. He said that when their mother died Stephen Gilbert was named as the executor and that he had had the biggest share of her estate. He said that some of the family had wanted the houses sold whilst Stephen Gilbert had said that he had wanted to hold out for his own price.

The man that had sold the shop to Stephen Gilbert the previous November said that Stephen Gilbert had bought the shop off of him for £250 plus £120 for the stock, stating that Stephen Gilbert had paid him the £250 in £1 notes in two instalments and that he had agreed to pay him for the stock at the rate of £1 a week. When the Coroner asked why Stephen Gilbert had not paid for the business and stock in cash the man said that Stephen Gilbert told him that his mother had left him 440 sovereigns about six or eight months earlier and that he had made a deal with a bullion dealer for £800 for them, however, he had added that Stephen Gilbert had lost about £500 of the money in gambling.

It was heard that Stephen Gilbert had been gambling between £10 and £12 a day and that he had been loosing heavily and had a short while before he had died said that he was broke.

The Coroner recorded a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown and said that over 4,000 people had been interrogated and 350 statements taken by the police.

It was noted that Stephen Gilbert's murder was witnessed by his big Persian cat which was a prized possession of his. It was heard that he would visit his shop on Sundays especially to see it.

In July 1936 a miner from Tonypandy was convicted at the Glamorgan Assizes in Swansea for falsely confessing to the murder of Stephen Gilbert and was also sentenced to six months imprisonment. He was also convicted of larceny and sentenced to two years for that. Whilst under arrest, the minor also dived through the window of an express train near Severn Junction, and when the train stopped to look for him they found no sign of him other than a human finger.

Stephen Gilbert had been in the RAMC during the war and had been badly gassed.

Stephen Gilbert left property valued at £159 16s 4d and died intestate.

It was noted that Stephen Gilbert had been involved in an accident at the Red Castle in April 1936 which occurred when a drawbridge that a party of people were walking over collapsed into the dry moat below it. After the accident the custodian of the castle had run out to see a mass of people sprawling in the pit and women screaming. Ladders were used to retrieve the victims who had mostly suffered from abrasions and shock, but it was noted that Stephen Gilbert had received head injuries in the fall.

About 10,000 people thronged the route to see his funeral on 12 June 1936 in Cardiff. The police said that they moved among the crowd in the hope that the murderer, out of morbid curiosity, might make his appearance and in some way give himself up.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.truecrimelibrary.com

see Dundee Courier - Monday 08 June 1936

see Hull Daily Mail - Monday 27 July 1936

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 22 July 1936

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 09 June 1936

see Gloucester Citizen - Wednesday 22 July 1936

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 24 June 1936

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Thursday 23 July 1936

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Saturday 11 April 1936

see Western Daily Press - Friday 12 June 1936

see Dundee Courier - Friday 24 July 1936

see Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 17 July 1936

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Friday 17 July 1936

see Daily Herald - Wednesday 22 July 1936

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 23 July 1936