Unsolved Murders

Norma Mary Dale

Age: 4

Sex: female

Date: 21 Sep 1946

Place: Rawdon Avenue, Tang Hall, York

Norma Mary Dale vanished from a playground in York.

She disappeared from near her home at about 3pm on the Saturday 21 September 1946 and her dead body was later found strangled at about 10.15am the following morning.

It was noted that she was found by a neighbours lorry and that the neighbour said that he had been out by his lorry on the Sunday morning at 10am and had not seen her, but that she was found shortly after there at 10.15am by a boy.

When she had gone out she had been wearing a pair of bright red dancing shoes, but when she was found her right shoe was missing and the murder became known as the Red Shoe Murder. She had earlier been with her mother to a Saturday dance class.

She had lived at 111 Rawdon Avenue, Tang Hall in York and was 4 years 10 months old.

She was last seen by her mother, who was preparing to take her into the city, at about 3pm, and also seen at the same time by the next-door neighbour who spoke to her. Her mother said that Norma Dale ran in from play on the Saturday afternoon and took a bun, noting that she teased her about it, and then ran out again. She said that she could hear her outside chattering for a few minutes, and said that she then went out to pick blackberries and that when she returned at about 3pm Norma Dale was nowhere to be seen.

She said that during her search, at about 6pm, she went to a lorry on the waste ground, near where she was later found, but said that there was no sign of her there.

A boy that had lived in March Street who had been visiting his grandfather in Rawdon Avenue said that he had been out playing with Norma Dale on the Saturday afternoon sometime after she was last seen by her mother on the waste land behind Rawdon Avenue near a beck that ran through there. He said that they had been throwing some stones into the water when a man approached them and told them not to play there because they might drown. He said that the man then said to Norma Dale, 'Come along with me, and I will give you some money to get an apple'.

The boy said that the man and Norma Dale then walked off together across the wasteland in the direction of Milton Street which ran parallel with Rawdon Avenue.

The boy said that the man had been wearing a brown trilby and a brown overcoat. It was noted that the boy had told the same story several times, each time consistently.

After Norma Dale was noticed to be missing a search of the area was made and the police were informed. An appeal was then broadcast over the wireless relay system and the police dragged the beck running through the wasteland behind the houses.

Norma Dale's body was later found on the Sunday morning on the waste ground which was within sight of her home and beyond the bottom of a neighbour’s garden at 93 Rawdon Avenue. It was not thought that her body could have been there for very long when it was found as she had been wearing a white dress and would have been easily spotted by searchers looking on the previous Saturday evening or the following Sunday morning. She was lying about five feet from a lorry there and three or four feet from the garden fence of 93 Rawdon Avenue.

Norma Dale's grandmother said that she searched the field where her body was found on the Sunday morning at bout 8am but said that Norma Dale's body was not there then. She said that she also questioned two men that had been in a nearby brick yard.

Her body was found by an 11-year-old boy at 10am. He had also been in the field with Norma Dale's grandmother at 8am searching for Norma Dale and said that at that time Norma Dale's body was not there.

Her father said that he had left home at about 2pm to go with a friend to watch Heworth Rugby team for whom he was a trainer. He said that he then had tea with his friend and got back home at about 6.30pm, at which time there was no one in the house. He said that he then saw his wife out in the street with some other people who then told him that Norma Dale was missing and said that they then searched the waste ground until midnight.

The woman that lived at 93 Rawdon Avenue said that Norma Dale was a friend of her daughters and that she often came to her house and said that she last saw Norma Dale on the Saturday when she left her house at about 2.30pm outside in the street by 111 Rawdon Avenue.

The woman's husband, a lorry driver, said that it was about 2.45pm when he went to the gate with his daughter who he said was going off to a party and that when he did so he saw Norma Dale's father going by on his bicycle.

He said that shortly before that he thought that he heard Norma Dale's mother calling for Norma Dale.

The woman's husband said that after seeing his daughter of at the gate, he left his house and crossed the tip and went to a club in Walmgate, arriving at about 2.55pm, after which he attended a football match at Bootham Cresent with a friend, noting that at the match he had stood behind the goalposts at the Bootham Crescent end. The man that he said that he went with confirmed that he had arranged to go to the football match with the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue, stating that they had arranged to go together and that they had met in a club at 2.58pm and gone off to the football match and then returned at 5.35pm. When the coroner at the inquest asked him how he knew the times so accurately he said that they had averaged 5.35pm.

At the inquest, the woman's husband, the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue was cross-examined by the Chief Constable and asked whether he was certain that he had seen Norma Dale's father go by on his bicycle at 2.45pm and said that he was and added, I could have been mistaken. I am sure I saw him go by. I spoke to him and said, 'Have you lost the bairn?'. The Chief Constable then noted, 'But there was no alarm then', and the man replied, 'She was missing at 2.35pm'. The Chief Constable then said, 'There was no alarm until after you left. The real alarm arose at 3.30pm', to which the man replied, 'I don't know. It could have been the Saturday before that I spoke to him'. The coroner then added, 'And you would not say 'Have you lost the bairn?', to which the man replied, 'No'. When the coroner then asked whether he still wanted to be recorded as having said that he had seen Norma Dale's father go by on his bike, the man said yes.

The man added that he didn't see Norma Dale all that day.

When the man that had gone to the football match with the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue was questioned at the inquest, he said that he had met the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue every evening since Norma Dale's murder, but said that they had never discussed the matter. When the coroner asked the man whether the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue had ever asked him to say that he was in a certain place at a certain time, he replied no.

When the Chief Constable questioned the man's friend, he said that the match was between Darlington and York City and that they had stood at the main stand side towards the station. He added that he didn't remember going round to the Bootham Crescent goalposts at any time, but said, 'I was with the man from 93 Rawdon Avenue every bit of the time'. When the Chief Constable asked him whether they parted company at any time, noting that the man had said that they were behind the goalposts, he said, 'We might have been, but I think we were near the stand. At any rate it was more or less on that side'.

Another 15-year-old girl said that she saw Norma Dale running along Rawdon Avenue at about 2.35pm.

A person from Seventh Avenue said that he saw Norma Dale at about 2.50pm near the beck, stating that she had been wearing a flowered dress. However, the Chief Constable noted that she would have been wearing a white dress.

A man from 91 Rawdon Avenue said that on the Saturday afternoon he had driven his lorry home, arriving at 2.50pm and said that he didn't visit his lorry again until about 10am on the Sunday morning, at which time he said that Norma Dale's body was not there, adding that if it was, he would have seen it. Norma Dale's body was actually found at that spot about 15 minutes later.

At the inquest, the father noted that he remembered seeing a lorry standing behind a certain house but said that he didn't look inside it.

The Home Office pathologist who examined her body said that she had been strangled with considerable manual pressure. Experts determined that she probably died sometime around the Saturday afternoon.

The police later said that they didn't think that she was killed where her body was found and said that they were trying to determine what had happened to her in the 19 hours between when she vanished and when she was found. They said that her murder must have taken place in the neighbourhood and her body hidden until a later time.

The police took over 1,000 statements during their investigation.

The police scythed ten acres of waste ground looking for her right shoe.

The newspapers noted that Norma Dale was the third young girl murdered in the previous four months.

In October 2016 the police announced that they were carrying out a cold case review of her murder.

In 2016 it was reported that a cousin of Norma Dale said that he remembered lying at home at the time after Norma Dale's murder pretending to read a comic book and overheard his parents and another relative talking about it and said that from what he could remember, they had been saying that the person that they suspected had an alibi for the ten minutes that was crucial to his statement and that it was thought that Norma Dale had walked into the persons house and seen something that they shouldn't have seen and that she was killed because of it.

It was also reported in 2016 that Norma Dale's cousin said that he wrote a book about the murder in which he named the murderer but had not published it for fear of legal action as he named the murderer in it. The unpublished book was called 'One Red Shoe'.

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

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see "News In Brief." Times [London, England] 24 Jan. 1947: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Tuesday 24 September 1946

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Friday 08 November 1946

see Belfast Telegraph - Monday 23 September 1946

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 24 September 1946

see National Archives - MEPO 3/2740

see York Press

see Express

see Dailymail