Unsolved Murders

Esther Bowen

Age: 84

Sex: female

Date: 7 Nov 1918

Place: 3 Argyle Street, Kings Cross, London

Esther Bowen was killed in her boarding house.

Death was stated to have been due to suffocation by the insertion of a towel into her mouth.

She had been found on 8 November 1918 with her arms tied above her head and a handkerchief and towel tied tightly around her neck.

The back door to her house was also found to be open.

It was generally believed that she had had money hidden all over her house and her house had been ransacked from top to bottom.

A woman who lived at 6 Argyll Street who was questioned said that in August 1918 she had heard two men who both resided in Argyle Street with her talking about breaking into Esther Bowen's house and that she saw them go out and later saw them dividing some money. She said that they had said that they were going to climb over into the yard of her house. She said that she had asked them not to go there. She also said that she didn't see them go over the wall but heard Esther Bowen scream out 'Police'. She said that she later saw the two men back at 6 Argyll Street take out 22s from their pockets and put it on a bed and then divide the money between them.

The woman said that one of the men had told her that they had taken a candle and climbed over the wall and that when they got into the house they had seen Esther Bowen and asked her to give them a few shillings and that she had said 'Kiss me'. She said that they told her however, that they had not wanted to kiss her and had told her that they wanted some money instead, or words to that effect.

The woman also said that a younger sister told her on 7 November 1918 that Esther Bowen was dead and that she had said that they should inform the police but that the sister had said 'No, let it be found out'.

Statements from two of the men questioned over the murder who had lived with the woman at 6 Argyll Street were contradictory and the coroner said that some of the statements they had made could not be true.

One of the men questioned was asked what he had done with a key that he had taken from Esther Bowen's house and he replied, 'The night I took the rubber off my boots I put the key down the drain'.

The other man that was questioned said, 'If anyone has said I have been seen with her jewellery or money, they are telling lies'.

One of the men also said that the other man had known that he and a woman had been in the house and found the body. The other man denied that the other man had asked him if he was coming into the house or that he had told him to get in the back way or that the man had asked him to go to the police.

The coroner said that the evidence clearly showed that certain persons had delayed any action in informing the police and questioned why neither had given their evidence, that they had given at the inquest, earlier to the police and added that the whole story was very sordid.

A woman who had become friendly with the men and had stayed with them on Argyll Street on 6 November 1918 said that she heard one of them say to her friend, 'I have not seen anything of Miss Bowen for a long while, and I expect that she has fallen down and hurt herself. I would not mind giving £100 for one of her rooms. She has not got anything in the kitchen, and I think she hides her money under the boards. The back room is packed up, and you cannot get into it'.

A friend of Esther Bowen said that they were very friendly and that Esther Bowen dropped many hints to her that she kept a lot of money in her house but was secretive of where she kept it. She said that she had seen Esther Bowen on 6 November 1918 and had seen a humpbacked man pass through and go out the back and said that Esther Bowen then called out 'Come in', and that she saw Esther Bowen in the parlour with a strange woman and a heap of coppers lying on the table and said that Esther Bowen appeared to be nervous and had a strange look about her face. She said later that she saw the humpbacked man again on 9 November 1918 and said that he said to her 'It is a bad job about the old woman. Me or my missis would not have done such a thing. I have been to the court two or three times. I only fetched her errands.'.

Police evidence showed that she had at least £50 in a tin box and that it was common knowledge that she had money and that there was no doubt that an attempt to possess it was the motive to the crime.

Esther Bowen was described as an octogenarian.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 18 December 1918

see Western Mail - Wednesday 27 November 1918

see Daily Mirror - Friday 06 December 1918

see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 26 November 1918

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 21 November 1918

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Wednesday 11 December 1918