Unsolved Murders

Florence Elizabeth Buckley

Age: 47

Sex: female

Date: 2 Nov 1940

Place: Mitre House, Western Road, Brighton

Source: www.truecrimelibrary.com

Florence Buckley was found dead at the bottom of some flats.

Her body was found on a flat roof below her studio at about 11pm on 2 November 1940. The flat roof was at the bottom of a well, or open space, in the centre of a large block of buildings, the roof covering the back part of some ground floor shops that fronted on to Western Road.

She was found 21ft 6in below the open window of a room on the third floor. The rooms that Florence Buckley used for her school of dancing and dance club were on the second floor. When her body was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital and examined the pathologist said that her injuries were very extensive but were not consistent with what was first thought to have been her cause of death, a fall from a window.

The pathologist said that amongst her injuries, she had damage to her brain and lungs, four fractured ribs on the right side of her chest, thirteen fractured ribs to the back of her chest, eight ribs on the right side and five ribs on the left side. He added that her upper right arm was also fractured 5 inches above her elbow and that she also had much bruising elsewhere, including the inner side of her lower limits.

At the inquest, the pathologist said, 'In my view some of the injuries could be caused by a fall from the window, but certainly not all of them. Also, the character of the injuries indicates that they were not all caused at the same time'.

He concluded by saying that he thought that Florence Buckley's injuries were probably caused by a severe crush or very strong pressure exerted on the upper part of her chest against a hard surface, probably by the wheel of a vehicle. He also said that he thought that her head and chest injuries had occurred several minutes before her death whilst the bruising to her limbs was caused at the point of death.

Following the initial hearings at the inquest it was concluded that it was thought that both accident and suicide could be ruled out.

Florence Buckley's friend said that she and Florence Buckley had gone out on the afternoon of 2 November 1940 to a greyhound meeting where they were introduced to two Canadian officers. She said that they then went to a restaurant for dinner and were afterwards driven back to the club between 9.15pm and 9.30pm.

Witnesses at the inquest said that they had seen Florence Buckley and a woman friend come into the club with two Canadian officers and said that they then heard Florence Buckley shouting, 'Good-night', and taking her keys and disappearing at about 10pm. They said that they then later heard screams when they were searching for her in the club.

Florence Buckley's assistant on the night of her death said that several people were in the room at the studio which was also used as a club and that at about 10pm Florence Buckley shouted, 'Goodnight, everybody', and asked for her keys. She said that Florence Buckley was later missed, and a search of the building was made for her. A woman that said that Florence Buckley had offered to drive her home from the club said that she took part in the search for Florence Buckley and said that whilst she was doing so she heard some screams which grew fainter.

An AFS worker said that Florence Buckley came out and asked for a torch just after 10pm and then went to her car but said that she returned without putting the lights on. He said that later, when the search for Florence Buckley was being made, some people said they heard a cry of 'Coo-ee', screams and the sound of someone in distress.

A Canadian soldier said that he drove Florence Buckley and another woman, as well as two other Canadian officers back to the studio building on the night of 2 November 1940, arriving at about 9.30pm. He said that the two Canadian officers later came out at about 10.30pm.

The police said that they examined the cars known to be in the vicinity at the time, but without result.

When the jury visited the dance studio, they were shown the window, which was noted to open for 15 inches, and then told that Florence Buckley's body measured 17in from shoulder tip to shoulder tip. The coroner later said in reference to that fact, 'If this woman had been injured and then put through the window, it would have been a matter of some difficulty. Also, if she had been injured outside of the building it would have been a long distance to carry the body up to a point from where it could have fallen on the roof'.

When the Coroner summed up at the inquest, he said, 'But for a post-mortem examination her death might have passed off as an accident'. He added, 'Somebody must know a good deal more about it, but no one has come forward here'. He also said that Florence Buckley's injuries had occurred at some other part of the building, or outside, and that sombody who knew a good deal about the arrangements of the building had assisted in carrying Florence Buckley's body to a point from where it fell onto the lower roof where it was found.

It was heard that some keys had been found near the window on the third floor and that it could not be ruled out that they were not left there to indicate that Florence Buckley had fallen from that particular window.

The Coroner also stated that the circumstances rather suggested that more than one man was concerned in assisting in taking Florence Buckley's body and putting it in the position in which it fell.

The jury returned a verdict of 'murder against some person or persons unknown'.

Her home address was given as 12 Cranley Court, Aldrington Close, Hove and she was a dance instructress.

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

see Manchester Evening News - Monday 11 November 1940

see Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 11 November 1940

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 11 November 1940

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 09 December 1940

see Evening Despatch - Monday 11 November 1940

see Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 09 December 1940

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 10 December 1940

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 10 December 1940

see Newcastle Journal - Tuesday 10 December 1940