Unsolved Murders

Joyce Cox

Age: 4

Sex: female

Date: 29 Sep 1939

Place: Coryton Station, Whitchurch, Cardiff

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

Joyce Cox was murdered and outraged on her way home from school for lunch in Whitchurch, Cardiff.

She was last seen by her older brother and a friend at about 12.45pm on 28 September 1939 as they were going home from morning school at Whitchurch Infants School. They had last seen her in Velindre Road, in Whitchurch, Cardiff but when they had got to Joyce Cox's aunts she was not with them. Several school children said that they had seen her in a lane known as 'Lucky Lane', and a man from Heoldon Post Office said that he also saw her playing in the lane. However, a boy later said that he saw her in the evening with a man.

She was described as being plump, of normal growth, with fair straight hair, a fair complexion and with very rosy cheeks. She had been wearing a blue velvet frock, a navy blue coat, Scotch plaid socks, ankle strap shoes and carrying her gas mask that had her name and address on it. She was not wearing a hat.

A search was made for her by parties composed of police, soldiers, boy scouts and girl guides.

She was found 36-hours later on 29 September 1939 by one of the parties that had consisted of about 200 searchers when a man amongst the group who had his spaniel dog with him suddenly felt it tugging in a different direction and when he followed it to some bushes he found the body of Joyce Cox on a disused railway embankment near Coryton Station having been sexually assaulted and strangled. She was found in the tangled undergrowth beside what was a disused mineral railway cutting near Whitchurch.

It was said that she had died from shock and partial asphyxia from manual strangulation.

The police said that they were pursuing the line of inquiry that indicated that Joyce Cox had not met her death at the spot where she was found, stating that the evidence supported the theory that she had been carried down the railway cutting before her body was placed in the bushes.

A tobacco pouch was found nearby, and her gas mask was found a little further away some time later. A copy of the Western Mail newspaper was also found nearby.

Some of her missing clothes were also found later on 2 October 1939 in some bushes some distance from where her body was found.

A seven-year-old boy said that he had seen Joyce Cox on the evening that she vanished walking along with a man that he described as being dressed in black and old looking and who he had never seen before.

At the time the police said that they were looking for a man with a limp and wearing a black suit and cap who had been seen talking to a little girl.

Other reports stated that the police were looking for a man with a slouch.

The police also said that they were interested in interviewing a man who was seen on the road to Merthyr on the day that she was missed.

Another suspect was said to have been a man that had been seen at the time pushing a wheelbarrow with a sack over it.

Enquiries were also pursued at a mental hospital in the vicinity.

During the investigation, inquiries were made at the Whitchurch Infants School where every child answered a questionnaire. Amongst the questions that were asked were:

  • Did you know Joyce Cox?
  • When did you see her last?
  • Where did you see her and what time was it?
  • Did you see her with any man?
  • Has any man recently offered you pennies or sweets?
  • If so, can you describe him?

It was noted that a large number of children had replied that they had seen Joyce Cox on the Thursday, but no one had seen her after 1pm.

The police took about 1,800 statements.

Her father said that she was a robust child and was accustomed to wandering about.

It was also noted that there were a number of affirmative replies to the question whether regarding whether they had been offered pennies or sweets, but few of the children could describe the people that had done so.

Joyce Cox had been a few days away from her 5th birthday.

Her funeral was on Wednesday 4 October 1939. Her school friends lined the route from her home to the cemetery and her coffin was carried by four soldiers who were comrades of Joyce Cox's father who was in the army.

When the Coroner summed up at the inquest, he explained to the jury that they had to consider whether the person unknown was guilty of manslaughter or murder. He also added that it was fairly clearly established by the evidence that Joyce Cox had been taken to a house before being taken to the spot where her body was found.

He also said that it was apparent from the medical evidence that Joyce Cox had had a meal the one given to her by her mother before she had gone to school that morning.

The pathologist at the inquest said that Joyce Cox was a healthy child but that she had a lymphoid tissue condition that rendered her more liable to death from shock, noting that her cause of death was due to shock and partial strangulation. He said, 'One must take four o'clock as the focus on either side of which death might have taken place, the period covering two or more hours on either side of four o'clock'.

The jury heard that Joyce Cox's mother last saw Joyce Cox alive at 8.30am in the morning of 28 September 1939 when she left for school accompanied by her seven-year-old brother. It was heard that she generally returned home for dinner at 12.34pm, but that when she didn't, her mother went to her sister-in-law's house to see if she was there. It was heard that from then until 3pm, Joyce Cox's mother paid visits to relatives and to the school and also looked about on the main road, after which she reported the matter to the police.

Joyce Cox's aunt said that her son and Joyce Cox's brother had come to her house during the dinner hour at about 12.40pm but that Joyce Cox was not with them. However, she said that they told her that Joyce Cox was playing in the garden.

At the inquest, a verdict of murder against some person or persons unknown was returned.

It was noted that after Joyce Cox's mother identified Joyce Cox's clothes at the inquest she collapsed. After she was assisted out of the court at Whitchurch, a man shouted, 'What the ---- did you want to show her the clothes for?', but he was immediately silenced by the police officers there.

In 2015, some of Joyce Cox's relatives accused the Metropolitan Police of a cover up after they refused to open the public record on the case that is kept at the National Archives, numbered MEPO 3/676. The file is closed until 2024 but the police said, 'A named subject who was a suspect is described derogatorily and should not be associated with these matters. As an unsolved murder, with potential of reinvestigation at any indeterminate stage, practice to close for 100 years is invoked. However unlikely, indeed remote, it may be that this case is re-opened, we have to afford for that possibility. Putting information into the public domain will include naming specific persons who may yet be identified. These persons who may be living may have been witnesses and/or interviewees and who were not prosecuted and who therefore must be regarded as innocent parties. Persons will have given witness statements in the expectation that their information would not become public knowledge'.

In September 2017, the police said that they were carrying out a cold case review and said that the prime suspect in the case had died decades earlier. However, it was noted that there were two suspects.

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

see Wales Online

see Wales Online

see Wales Online

see Daly Mail

see Mirror

see National Archives - MEPO 3/676 (closed 2024 - Fingerprints re tobacco pouch: alleged murder of Joyce Cox at Cardiff)

see BBC

see Evening Despatch - Saturday 30 September 1939

see Western Mail - Wednesday 11 October 1939

see Sunday Mirror - Sunday 01 October 1939

see Western Mail - Friday 29 September 1939

see Londonderry Sentinel - Tuesday 31 October 1939

see Newcastle Journal - Wednesday 11 October 1939

see Nottingham Journal - Tuesday 03 October 1939

see Western Mail - Wednesday 04 October 1939

see Nottingham Journal - Thursday 05 October 1939

see Northern Whig - Wednesday 11 October 1939

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 31 October 1939

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 31 October 1939

see Western Mail - Tuesday 31 October 1939

see Gloucester Citizen - Wednesday 11 October 1939

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Saturday 30 September 1939