Unsolved Murders

Mary Learoyd

Age: 36

Sex: female

Date: 25 Aug 1929

Place: Sedbergh Park, Cow Pastures Lane, Ilkley

Source: find.galegroup.com

Mary Learoyd was strangled with a stocking on a vacant plot of land in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. She was almost naked and her clothes strewn about.

She had gone out on the Saturday night, 24 August 1929 to go to the cinema but didn't arrive and was not seen alive again.

Her body was found the following day by a labourer who was in quest of mushrooms. He noted her care foot sticking out from some brushwood in a small coppice and immediately telephoned the police.

The murder took place just off of Cow Pastures Lane which leads straight up to Ilkley Moor.

One of her stockings had been used to strangle her whilst the other had been used to tie her hands behind her back.

It was thought that she might have been drugged beforehand, with by a hypodermic syringe or by a cigarette. However, a doctor said that both of those methods would have been very unlikely due to the amount of time that would have been required and the difficulty of injecting a person if they were struggling. The doctor who carried out her post-mortem said that if an anaesthetic such as chloroform had been used that he would have been unable to detect it.

She had been wearing a blue beret, a green dress, white underskirt, brown strapped shoes, light brown stockings, a light brown mixture tweed coat with leather collar and leather straps on the pockets, and cuffs of black leatherette.

After she was discovered police used bloodhounds to try and track down the murderer but without success.

Her injuries included two blackened and swollen eyes and a badly injured nose. Her upper lip was also split open. The injuries to her face were said to have been caused by a blunt instrument.

The cause of death was stated as being due to the injuries to her face and stated that the silk stocking was probably applied when she was just dying or was already dead. It was said that many of her injuries had been inflicted after she had died. The doctor said that he found no trace of poison or any fingerprints.

She had lived at Little Gables, Sedbergh Park Road in Ilkley. Her body was found within 100 yards of her home.

A resident in Cow Pastures Lane said that they heard a scream at 10.30pm on the Saturday night but didn't think it was anything important at the time.

The trampled state of the grass showed that the body had been dragged from a tree to the bushes.

Her face had been badly disfigured and the soil was saturated with blood.

Her purse was found opened and empty nearby along with a string of beads.

It was thought that she had been murdered about twelve hours before she was found.

A woman who lived at Sedburgh Park said that she had seen two people by her gate on the night of 24 August 1929. She said that she heard a mumbled conversation, but no quarrelling, and that the couple then walked onto the grass on some vacant land in front of her house and then disappeared into the darkness.

Another woman said that she had seen a girl and a man at about 10.40pm on 24 August 1929 when she was going home. She said that the girl turned as though she didn't want her face to be seen. She said that she would not be able to recognise the man's face again. She later said that she was quite sure that the girl that she had seen was Mary Learoyd.

The police later said that they were keen to speak to a man that was picked up by a motorist on the Sunday morning about 8am at Addingham, three miles from Ilkley and Skipton. The man had ridden with the motorist as far as Preston, Lancashire. He was described as being about 25 years old, five feet seven and a half, with a fresh complexion, a gold tooth in the right side of the upper jaw and was dressed in blue serge. He had had extensive scratches down the right side of his face and forehead. It was said that the man was familiar with Preston.

A maid from Sedbergh Park Road said that she had seen a boy with his arm around a girl who she thought was Mary Learoyd. She said that she had never seen Mary Learoyd with a man before. A young man that had been with the maid said that he saw a couple lying on the grass and heard a scream. He said that he heard no words spoken.

Another maid said that she heard a girl's voice say 'Wait a minute and I will kiss you'.

The Coroner said that death was no doubt due to great violence.

Police made 1300 interviews and took 453 statements.

Mary Learoyd was the daughter of a builder and worked as a clerk in Bradford.


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


see "Woman Murdered At Ilkley." Times [London, England] 26 Aug. 1929: 14. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 29 August 1929

see Belfast News-Letter - Monday 26 August 1929

see Portsmouth Evening News - Monday 26 August 1929

see Sheffield Independent - Tuesday 27 August 1929 - includes photo of Mary Learoyd

see Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 31 December 1929

see Dundee Courier - Friday 30 August 1929