Unsolved Murders

Ellen Carlin

Age: 28

Sex: female

Date: 6 Sep 1954

Place: Lillington Street, Pimlico, London

Ellen Carlin was found strangled with a stocking at a flat in Lillington Street, Pimlico on 6 September 1954.

Her cause of death was given as being due to asphyxia due to strangulation by a ligature.

She was found on a bed in her room partly dressed in her flat with the stocking tied round her neck and a towel over her head.

She also went by the name of Helen Kelly, Helen Carline O'Kelly and Red Helen.

Police found two packets of American cigarettes and some American whisky bottles in her room and it was said that she had been seen with an American Air Force sergeant on the night she died.

The police also said that they thought that Hellen Carline might have scratched her killers face.

A man a few flats away said that he heard a piercing drawn out scream over the sound of his radio on the Sunday night 5 September 1954 at about 11.28pm and it was reported that scream pinpointed the time of the murder. The man said that he had heard, 'a piercing drawn-out scream'.

Ellen Carlin's body was found shortly after midnight on the Monday by a German housekeeper.

Shortly after the murder the police appealed for a taxi driver who was thought to have picked up a man and a woman, thought to have been Ellen Carlin and her murderer, in the West End of London late on the Sunday night and had taken them to Pimlico or Victoria, to come forward.

The taxi driver was later traced, but not the man. The taxi driver said that he had driven a fair-haired man and a woman from Piccadilly to Pimlico on the Saturday night 4 September 1954 and it was said that from there Ellen Carlin and the man had gone to Ellen Carlin's flat.

It was reported that a number of men were interviewed shortly after her murder and the police said that they were looking to trace a man with a 'baby face'. The man's description was given as:

  • Aged 22 to 24.
  • 5ft 8in or 5ft 9in tall. (he was also described as being 6ft to 6ft 2in tall in other reports)
  • Stocky build.
  • Flaxen hair.
  • Clean shaven.
  • Baby face with very smooth skin.
  • Very cold blue eyes.
  • Wearing dove grey gaberdine trousers, blue small check sports coat with patch pockets and believed plain black, white shirt collar and tie.

The man was also described as a 'blonde American', but he was never traced.

A woman who had known Ellen Carlin for about five years who had been a flower seller at the time and had lived in Ashby House in London said that she knew some of Ellen Carlin's boyfriends by sight. She said that on Sunday 5 September 1954 between 10.30pm and 11pm that she saw Ellen Carlin with the blonde American. She said that she had seen him before but didn't know his name. She gave the police his description and said that he had been in civilian clothes at the time. She said that the blonde American had bought a flower from her and that Ellen Carlin then called a cab at about 10.45pm and that they both got in it.

It was later noted that an American Service man called 'Chuck' was thought to have been the blonde American with the baby face that they were looking for but when 'Chuck' was traced and questioned he was able to satisfy the police that he had been on a train at the time of the murder.

At the inquest the woman, who by that time was a laundry worker, said that she would recognise the man again, noting that she did not see the man before the inquest although there were a number of American men at the inquest who also gave evidence.

During the investigation it was noted that several American servicemen were interviewed by the police. and it was noted that the US Provost Marshal's Department were co-operating with the CID over the investigation.

However, on 9 September the US Air Force Provost Marshal authorities in the United Kingdom said, 'None of the US Air Force have been visited by Scotland Yard authorities. No one from RAF station Manston (Kent) and for that matter, no one from any other USAF station is being detained by Scotland Yard. Nothing known by police authorities now indicates that there is any reason to believe that an American rather than anyone else is guilty of this crime'.

Two American airmen came forward voluntarily to Chelsea police station on 8 September 1954 to see if they could help in the investigation saying that they were friends of Ellen Carlin and said that they had been with her at some time during the weekend that she was murdered but it was heard at the inquest that there was not the slightest piece of evidence to show that either of them had been with Ellen Carlin around the time of her death.

It was also reported on 8 September 1954 that inquiries were also being made at United States camps outside London and additionally noted that Ellen Carlin was known to have had several American men friends. It was further noted that Ellen Carlin almost never associated with anybody who was not an American.

One of the American airmen said that he had given Ellen Carlin a handkerchief when her nose was bleeding. He also said he left a towel at her flat and it was noted that when Ellen Carlin was found that the towel was intertwined with the nylon stocking that was tied around Ellen Carlin's neck. However, the American airman said that he did not know how it got there. He noted that the towel was not in his overnight bag when he had picked it up on Saturday 4 September 1954 which he said was the last time he saw Ellen Carlin.

Several other American airmen were also interviewed by the police in the early stages of the investigation.

On 30 September 1954 it was reported that everyone one of the 45,000 American airmen in Britain was to be questioned by detectives in connection with Ellen Carlin's murder. It was said that detectives would be helped by the US Air Force Provost Corps and by undercover men of the Office of Special Investigations. It was further reported that the initiative represented a major official concession and was the first time that it had been granted in any murder inquiry thought to have involved an American Service man.

Ellen Carlin was originally from Londonderry. Her father said that she had left Ireland in 1946 and had gone to London where she had got a job in a laundry. He said that he thought that she had lost her identity card and had then changed her name. He said that after she left for London, she never came home but noted that he received a letter from her in February 1954.

Her father said that after Ellen Carlin left school that she got a job in a shirt factory in Derry.

It was noted that Ellen Carlin had maintained contact with a married sister that lived in Kensal Road, North Kensington, London and had a brother who was living in Congleton Road, Sandbank, Cheshire.

Her father said that he had received a letter from Ellen Carlin some years earlier saying that she was to be married to a Canadian Serviceman, but he said that he didn't think that the wedding had taken place.

However, at the time of her death Ellen Carlin was noted as having had no occupation but it was reported that she was well known, under the name of Helen O'Kelly to the police at Bow Street. It was noted that on the Friday 3 September 1954 that Ellen Carlin had been convicted at Bow street for an offence and that on the previous Tuesday she had paid £1 which was outstanding from a previous fine, having taken along a 2-year-old girl who she had claimed was her daughter.

Ellen Carlin was a red-head and was described as slim and good-looking.

Ellen Carlin's funeral took place on Thursday 16 September 1954 at Westminster Cathedral. Only relatives, including her sister and aunt and close friends were allowed to attend the funeral service which took place in the crypt at Westminster Cathedral. Her coffin had been taken to the cathedral from Westminster coroner's court mortuary and was interred at St George's Cemetery in Hanwell.

Police said that they thought that her murder could have been linked to the murder of Jean Townsend who was murdered in Ruislip on 15 September 1954. Jean Townsend had been strangled with her scarf.

Lillington Street was later demolished. It was just to the east of Tachbrook Street and where Longteat House and Exbury House is today.

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

see find.galegroup.com

see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 3 Mar. 1955: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see Daily Mirror Tue 7 Sep 1954 Page 16 (picture)

see Daily Mirror Wed 8 Sep 1954 Page 16

see Belfast Telegraph - Thursday 30 September 1954

see Londonderry Sentinel - Thursday 09 September 1954

see Derry Journal - Friday 10 September 1954

see Belfast News-Letter - Friday 17 September 1954

see Derry Journal - Monday 20 September 1954

see Belfast Telegraph - Friday 10 September 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 08 September 1954

see Belfast Telegraph - Thursday 09 September 1954

see Londonderry Sentinel - Thursday 03 March 1955

see Londonderry Sentinel - Saturday 11 September 1954

see Daily Express Thu 16 Sep 1954 Page 1

see Daily Express Fri 10 Sep 1954 Page 5

see Belfast Magazine

see National Archives - MEPO 2/9743

see National Library of Scotland