Date: 14 Dec 1931
Vera Page was found raped and strangled in some scrubland off of Addison Road in Notting Hill.
A man who was commonly believed to be her killer was questioned but there was not enough evidence against him other than a bandage that could have come off of his sore finger that he was missing and which was said to have been found on Vera Page’s dead body. He had also been seen in the area with a wheelbarrow and something suspicious in it around the time the body would have been placed in the scrubland.
She was covered in coal dust and it is believed that the murder took place in the cellar near where her beret was later found and then transported to the area off of Addison Road.
Vera Page lived with her parents at 22 Blenheim Crescent in Ladbroke Grove where they occupied a basement and ground floor.
After she came home from school on the afternoon of Monday 14 December 1931 she left to go and see her aunt at 70 Blenheim Crescent which was west of 22 Blenheim Crescent and about 300 yards away. She went there to collect some swimming certificates that she had left there the day before saying that she would be back soon because she was hungry. She arrived at 4.30pm and got the certificates and then left at 4.45pm saying that she was going home to tea. However, she never arrived.
She was seen by a schoolgirl walking back from 70 Blenheim Crescent towards 22 Blenheim Crescent where she lived just before 5pm. She was then seen by a little boy that knew her quite well and then seen by another little girl that was looking into the window of a chemist’s shop situated at the junction of Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. The little girl said that she saw that Vera Page had something in her hand, which was thought to have been an envelope.
After that she vanished until 6.30pm when she was seen at 6.30pm by a sailor although it was thought that he might have been mistaken in his identification. The sailor said that he saw her looking in a shop window and then noticed a man and a woman.
She was next seen at 8.45pm by another man on Montpelier Road. He said that he saw her on the right-hand side of Montpelier Road walking towards Lansdowne Crescent. The man said that when he then got up to Lansdowne Crescent he looked round and saw that Vera Page had disappeared. He said that he had seen her walking up towards the crescent on the right-hand side of the road swinging her red beret in her hand and said that she evidently turned either right or left in Lansdowne Road.
It was thought that if the man was right then he would have been the last person to have seen her alive.
Vera Page was later found on 18 December 1931 at 9.50am lying on her back dead, just behind a tradesman's entrance at 89 Addison Road, which was roughly about a mile or a mile and a quarter from where she was living.
She was found by a milkman and it was thought that she had been laid there earlier that morning.
It was thought that she had been manually strangled by a hand and there was a mark across the front of her throat, obviously made after her death by a cord or some similar article. She had also been violated, probably by a hand.
Her beret was also missing.
She had two or three spots of candle grease on her right shoulder just under her overcoat, and in the crook of her right elbow the police found a finger-stool which consisted of a piece of bandage and a piece of lint. It was thought that it had been drawn off the finger by the man that had placed her there.
The bandage was the only clue that the police got. When it was found it was noticed to have a peculiar smell and when it was tested it was found that the smell was ammonia. It was said that the finger bandage had been used by someone that had had a discharging wound on their finger.
Her family said that Vera Page was a shy girl and not likely to speak or go with any strangers, and as such the police thought that it was obvious that whoever decoyed her away had been somebody that she had known and somebody living locally. The police then interviewed almost everybody that knew Vera Page with the greatest care and took over a thousand statements and the whole district was combed.
The police report states that of all the people that they interviewed that knew Vera Page and that she knew only one of them was found to have been wearing a finger-stool which he had been wearing on the little finger of his left hand. It was also noted that the finger-stall was found under her right arm which would have corresponded to the man having held her under the arm with his left hand under her arm as he had laid her down.
It was also noted that the finger-stall had showed signs of puss and further shown that the man questioned was himself wearing a finger stall on his left little finger that was discharging and that his finger stall also smelt of ammonia.
The man was a flannel washer and was employed in Whiteley's Laundry on Avonmore Road which was south of Olympia. He had lived at 128 Talbot Road which was a direct continuation of Blenheim Crescent and only a few yards from 22 Blenheim Crescent. He lived at the address with his wife and no one else on the top floor of 128 Talbot Road and his mother and father lived above Vera Page.
It was noted that the man that had been wearing the finger-stall on his little finger and who knew Vera Page went to see his father every week and in fact had a key to 22 Blenheim Crescent, Vera Page’s home, to let himself in.
The police report stated that the man claimed the fact that he was wearing a finger stall on his left little finger which smelt of ammonia on a discharging wound at the same time as the murder was a coincidence.
The candle grease found on Vera Page's clothing was examined and was found to match the grease from a candle found at the man's house although it was admitted that that did not mean very much.
It was also noted that seminal fluid was found on the man's overcoat.
Also, it was found that a woman said that she saw a man wheeling a barrow in Holland Park Gardens where it leads from Addison Avenue at about 7am on the morning of 16 December 1931, only a few hours before Vera Page's body was found. She said that on the barrow there was a bundle and that the wrapping used on the barrow was a red table cloth with a peculiar knotted fringe. She said that the man had been wheeling the barrow in the direction where the body was found only a few hours later. The police also said that she gave a description of the man which tallied to some extent with the description of the man with the bandage. When the police searched the man's house they found a red cloth similar to the one described by the woman, however, she had two opportunities to pick the man out but failed both times. However, it was noted again that the fact that a red cloth was found in the man's house could have been another pure coincidence.
The police report noted that that cases of murder were not decided on mere facts of suspicion but were decided on facts proved in evidence. It stated that in cases where the facts were circumstantial it was necessary for a jury to come to a definite conclusion that the links in the circumstantial chain of evidence were complete and strong and firm and that if they were not so satisfied that they must not call a verdict against a suspected person. As was the case in Vera Page's murder.
When the man with the finger stall on his left little finger was questioned by the police he told them that he had not been wearing a bandage on 16 December 1931 but it was later proved that that he had in fact worn one.
Also, when he was questioned he had had a pyjama cord in his pocket although it was suggested that it was not unusual for him to have one in his pocket considering that he had worked in a laundry. It was thought that the pyjama cord could have been used to make the mark around Vera Page's neck as she was carried over his back.
When Vera Page was found she her face was dirty and there was dust in her clothing which was later found to be coal dust.
Her beret was later found by a woman in the area of 23A Stanley Crescent which was just off Ladbroke Gardens and quite close to where she was last seen in Montpelier Road. It was found at about 9pm on the night she disappeared, 14 December 1931 by a woman that lived in the basement of 23A Stanley Crescent. She said that after finding it she took it in and threw it under the scullery sink. Then, after reading about the murder she handed it to the police. It was found to smell of paraffin. The next morning, 15 December 1931 the woman also found a piece of candle in the area which she had not noticed in the dark when she had found the beret.
In the basement, there was an unused coal cellar and a water closet. The cellar was not used by the woman but it was used by the people that lived on the ground and first floor.
It was suggested that if Vera Page's body had been in the cellar where it had become dirty with the coal dust and the finger-stall had also been dirtied, that the murderer might have taken her there to that area knowing that there was a cellar there and that he might have violated her in the lavatory and then strangle her and put her in the cellar. It was said that if the murder did happen there then the only people nearby, the woman who lived in the basement would not have heard as she had had the loudspeaker of her wireless going at the time. However, it was stated that that possibility did not resolve the issue of the beret smelling of paraffin. The woman that found it said that it had not been near any paraffin whilst in her possession.
Another issue was the state of decomposition that Vera Page's body was found in. The pathologist said that her body was in an advanced state of decomposition and was of the opinion that it would have been kept in a warm place and that it would not have decomposed so quickly if it had been left in the cellar.
It was noted that at the man with the finger-stall's house, a paraffin soaked rag was found under a table on the landing and that he also had a coal cellar that was locked up although the police report states that that was also true of hundreds of thousands of houses in London. The man kept the key to his coal cellar in his own premises at the top of the house.
The man with the finger-stall said that he could not have committed the murder. He said that at 6.15pm on 14 December 1931 he had walked home from Avonmore Road to 120 Talbot Road and had got home at 8.15pm and that he had then next gone to work the following morning at the usual time and then came home again at the same time of 6.15pm and again not gone out again.
The man with the finger-stall said that he had thrown his bandage on a fire on the Saturday before the murder. The police later found similar bandages and lint in the possession of his wife, but when they examined them they found that the lint and bandage in possession of his wife were not identical to the lint and bandage of the finger-stall found on Vera Page's body.
Distances were measured and the following were found:
After the evidence and the witnesses were heard the Coroner’s jury returned an open verdict, against some person unknown and Vera Page's murder was never solved.
see The New Murderers' Who's Who by Gaute and Odell
see National Archives - MEPO 3/1671