Unsolved Murders

John Child

Age: 54

Sex: male

Date: 10 Oct 1941

Place: Mote Mount Park, Edgware

Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

John Child was found dead in his park-keeper's hut in Mount Park, Edgware on Friday 10 October 1941.

He was found at 10.15am. He had been shot four times.

Five shots in total had been fired at him. It was later determined that it was practically certain that he had been shot betwen 3.10pm and 3.35pm on Thursday 9 October 1941 and that he had died within half an hour.

He was employed by Hendon Borough Council at the park and had been since July 1930.

He was a married man but had been separated from his wife for over 20 years and lodged with a man and wife at 45 Birkbeck Road in Mill Hill.

No one was ever arrested for his murder and a police report detaling the investigation stated thatat that time the prospects of anybody being arrested were nil.

The report noted that the investigation might have had a different result if they had been able to establish a motive for the crime, for which they had been unsuccessful. The police report noted that there were some facts that pointed to the motive having been jealousy due to John Child's associations with married women, but stated that the cases known to them, despite thorough investigation, failed to provide any clues as to the identity of the murderer. The report did note however, that the possibility of a motiveless murder was not overlooked.

John Child was found dead by a 68-year-old man that lived in Mount View in Barnet Way, Mill Hill and who was a frequent visitor to the park and who knew John Child and often chatted with him. He had gone to the park to see John Child in order to give him some vegetables that he had spare and arrived at John Child's hut at about 10.15am to find the door open. He said that when he went in he saw John Child lying on the floor with his back propped up against a cupboard in the far right hand corner of the hut. He said that he noticed that John Child's face and hands were covered with blood and formed the opinion that he was dead.

He then left the hut and hurried down to the park entrance and stopped a motorist and asked him to get the police.

The police arrived at the hut at 11am and a thorough examination of the scene was made, however, nothing was found to help identify who the murderer was other than two bullets.

The hut itself was situated at the top of a footpath that led from an entrance in Barnet Way and was somewhere about the centre of the park which itself covered approximately 75 acres. Theere was a pond about ten yards in front of the hut and both the hut and the pond were surrounded by a forest of trees and bushes. The hut was a permanent wooden structure, 7ft 6in wide by 10ft 6in long, with a gabled roof, the apex of which was 10ft from the floor. There was only one door, situated on the centre of the front of the hut, and it opened on to a footpath 8ft long by 3ft wide.

In the hut there were three chairs, a combined table and cupboard, two other cupboards and a small coal-burning stove.

The park, which had its main entrance in Barnet Way, was never closed. There were at least five other means of entry, through wire fencing, gaps in the hedge, etc, leading from various parts of Mill Hill, and it was noted in other words that the park could be entered from almost every conceivable angle.

John Child's body was fully clothed, except for a jacket that was hanging on a hook near the door. His shirt sleeves were rolled up and he was lying on the floor in a sitting position, facing the door, with his back resting against the combined table and cupboard.

In his right hand he had a bloodstained dish-cloth and under his left forearm there was a broken lower denture. His right hand was covered with blood, with a wound near the thumb. Other visible wounds were, two in the face, nose near the left angle of the mouth and the other on the right side of the cheek. His shirt, and waistcoat on the inside, were badly bloodstained. Other pieces of broken denture were found between his legs. The denture and the broken pieces were identified as belonging to John Child.

In the top left pocket of his waistcoat the police found a very badly smashed white metal watch and a nickel .445 bullet. The face of the watch had been struck by the bullet which had first passed through his body. The hands of the watch, which were still attached, showed the time as 3.17.

There was no disorder in the hut. John Child's double-barrelled shot gun, which had both barrels cocked, but was not loaded, was found in the corner of the hut to the left of the doorway.  The gun was considerably bloodstained and there were several splashes of blood on the floor around the weapon. It was determined that the gun had not been recently fired. The gun was identified as belonging to John Child by another park-keeper who at that time was working for Hendon Borough Council and who had previously worked with John Child at Mote Mount Park.

Inside the cupboard or wardrobe on the left of the hut there was a cartridge bag containing five 12-bore No. 5 cartridges, and there were also bloodstains on the side and back of the cupboard, just below where the bag had been hanging.

On a chair against which John Child's head had been resting, there was a galvanised metal bath that contained dirty water and in which was a small saucepan and a man's cap. The cap was later identified by a woman as belonging to John Child and it was apparent that as John Child had collapsed into the position in which he was found that his cap had slipped from his head and fallen into the bath.

On the table-cupboard and on a chair at the side, there were a number of plates and cups etc., that had been washed and dried, prior to being returned to two shelves attached to the back of the hut above the table-cupboard. One plate had been broken and was lying under a chair and there were blood stains on one of the cups.

The police found four bullet holes in the back of the hut. One of them was on the left of a window situated in the centre of the back of the hut, the others were near the bottom right hand corner of the window, and the fourth was to the right of the window. In the last hole, a lead .445 revolver bullet was found.

In John Child's clothing, the police found seven £1 notes, thirty shillings in silver and seven pence in copper.

When the divisional surgeon attended the hut at noon on Friday 10 October 1941, he found John Child's body quite cold with rigor mortis present. He then certified John Child dead, but didn't at that time make any examination to ascertain the cause.

The post-mortem was carried out on Saturday, 11 October 1941 at 2.30pm at Hendon Mortuary. The pathologist found four bullet wounds. He said that one bullet had penetrated John Child's left cheek near his mouth and emerged in his right cheek near his ear. He said that the second bullet, that had produced the fatal injuries, had entered John Child's back near his spine in the lumbar region, and had travelled upwards and inwards, fracturing his right eleventh rib, and then traversing his right lung in its course before emerging through the front right of his chest, four inches below his collar bone. The third bullet had entered John Child's back on the right side about six inches horizontally from his spine and then passed through his kidney, stomach and liver and then emerged through the front of his left chest, about 9 inches below his collar bone. The third bullet was found in John Child's waistcoat pocket with his broken watch. The fourth bullet had entered the outer side of John Child's right wrist and had emerged in the palm of his hand near the ball of the thumb. Both the radius bone and the adjoining carpel bone were smashed.

The pathologist stated that none of the injuries John Child received could have been self-inflicted.

It was thought that the bullet wound to his face was probably inflicted when John Child had been standing erect and that the second bullet wound had been inflicted from behind John Child as he was bending well forward and that the third bullet wound was caused when his assailant had fired from his behind and rather to the right of John Child as he was bending forwards.

The pathologist stated that John Child's death was due to haemorrhage into the right pleural cavity consequent upon the passage of a bullet through his right lung. He said that John Child would have collapsed almost immediately after being shot through the lung and would have been dead probably within half an hour.

The pathologist added that there was no indication in any of the injuries of the distance from which the weapon had been discharged and added that the injuries to his face and wrist certainly did not appear to have been produced at very short range.

The pathologist said that after examining John Child's stomach contents, he was able to say that John Child had had a meal that included meat and potato about two hours before his injuries were inflicted.

He noted that John Child's organs were those of a fairly healthy middle-aged man.

A search was made in the hut for fingerprints, but none were found.

The police report stated that there seemed to be little doubt that at the time that John Child was shot, he had been engaged in the hut washing dirty crockery. The report stated that it was known that at about 1pm he had consumed a fairly heavy meal containing meat and potato and that after the meal he had boiled some water in preparation for washing up.

The police report noted that the blood on the shot gun and on the cupboard near the cartridge bag suggested that John Child had, after first being shot, probably in the face, made an attempt to defend himself. It was noted that he obviously handled his gun that he kept in the corner of the hut near the door, even to the extent of pulling back the hammers, presumably in an endeavour to scare off his assailant. It as thought that in failing to scare off his assailant, John Child then reached into his wardrobe to get some shots and that that was then he received the two wounds to his back, whilst in the crouching position, and that those too shots were too much for him and he dropped the gun in the corner and then collapsed into the position that he was found in.

It was thought that from the condition of the blood on his face and hands, that John Child had made some attempt to staunch the flow of blood through the use of the wet dishcloth that was later found in his right hand.

On the issue of John Child's murder being fixed almost certainly between 3.10pm and 3.55pm on the Thursday 9 October 1941, it was noted that in the first place there was John Child's watch which showed 3.17. It was also noted that the pathologist had said that John Child had received his injuries about two hours after a meal containing meat and potato. The police report noted that there was also evidence from a certain woman that had been in the hut with him earlier. It was also heard that two other women that had been in the park at 3.35pm, some distance from the hut had said that they had heard shots. It was noted that neither of the two women saw anybody to whom suspicion could be attached. The police report also noted that John Child was known not to have returned to his lodgings on the Thursday night.

When the bullets were examined by a gunsmith, he said that the weapon used to kill John Child had been a .455 Webley revolver and in an effort to find it the police searched the park. The park covered 75 acres and despite the efforts of 30 police officers and 100 members of the local Home Guard as well as members of the local Scout Movement, in a search that took several days to complete, nothing was found.

It was noted that the park had a fairly large pond that had a mud bottom which was drained by the fire brigade. After it was drained, the mud was raked over in sections by a number of police officers, but again, nothing of any use was found.

When the nickel bullet that was found in John Child's waistcoat pocket was examined by a Major from the Office of the Chief Inspector of Small Arms at Enfield Lock, it was found to have been of a type that had been manufactured only since the commencement of the Second World War and to have only been issued to three fighting services and the Home Guard, and that that type of ammunition could not be purchased for private use.

After finding out the type of weapon used, the police caused an immediate check to be made of all revolvers in possession of Home Guard units, both factory and outside units, in the Edgware, Mill Hill, Bushey and surrounding districts. As such, the police took possession of 250 .455 revolvers from various branches, and they were taken to the Police Laboratory at Hendon where test bullets were fired through them. The revolvers were then returned after the test bullets were compared to the bullets recovered from the scene of John Child's murder.

In relation to .455 revolvers in possession of local residents, the police used the services of the Firearms Branch. The efforts of the Firearms Branch also covered .455 revolvers reported lost, stolen and found. As a consequence of their efforts, a .455 Webley revolver that was found by a woman on Down Road in Epsom on Sunday 19 October 1941 was deposited at Epsom Police Station and was sent to the Laboratory for tests. The results found that a number of markings on bullets fired from the gun were similar to those found on the nickel bullet from John Child's waistcoat pocket, that that there were also many dissimilar markings. It was concluded that the comparison photographs left real doubt as to whether the .455 revolver found in Downs Road was the one used by the murderer.

The police report concluded that they were quite certain that no jury would have accepted the revolver found in Downs Road as being the murder weapon merely from an inspection of the bullet comparison photographs, and also strongly doubted themselves the possibility that that was the murder weapon.

It was noted that the lead bullet found at the scene of the crime was too damaged to be of any use for comparison purposes.

However, it was also noted that despite every possible enquiry, including photographs in the Press, a circulation in the Police Gazette and special enquiries at all gunsmiths throughout the country to trace the owner of the .455 revolver found in Downs Road, nothing was found.

The gun that was found in Downs Road had been manufactured and issued to the military authorities in November 1914 and subsequently re-sold by them, possibly to a serving officer or to a gunsmith at an auction. However, it was noted that the record of sales were destroyed approximately three years earlier at Weedon in Northamptonshire where all military small arms were dealt with.

The .455 revolver found in Downs Road itself was old and rust pitted and contained no cartridge cases and when it was examined for fingerprints, none were found.

It was noted that none of the Home Guard weapons could be connected in any way with the enquiry

It was also noted that another Webley revolver that was found in the mud on the river bank at Chiswick could also not be connected to the murder in any way.

The Firearms Branch were able to retrieve several weapons that came from private sources, but tests similarly ruled them out.

Enquiries were also made at all military barracks and depots in the Edgware, Mill Hill and Bushey and Epsom districts concerning Webley .455 revolvers, and particularly whether or not any were missing or recently fired and so forth, as well as checks on ammunition, but no information of use to the enquiry was obtained.

When the police looked into the history of John Child it was found that he was identical with the subject of CRO file No. 6752/1915 and that he had one conviction recorded against him which was passed at Greenwich Police Court on 27 April 1915 for stealing coke and for which he was sentenced to two months imprisonment. It was also found that he had been charged with wilful damage to a plate glass window worth £60 in 1917 but that he was acquitted of that offence at the Country of London Sessions on 9 March 1917.

John Child was born on 17 August 1887 at Greenwich and had three sisters and a brother. He married his wife on 11 April 1929 at Rotherhithe and had two children with her, a daughter and a son aged 32 and 29 respectively at the time of his murder.

John Child had joined the Army on 11 April 1916 but was wounded and discharged with full disability pension on 17 June 1917. His wife left him in 1917, taking their two children and went to reside as a housekeeper with a builder at Canvey Island with whom where lived ever since.

When the police went to see John Child's wife she told them that she had neither seen nor communicated with him from the time she left him and the police stated that from their enquiries, they found that there were no grounds for disbelieving her story. They also found that John Child had not contributed to her support. The report stated that s far as his children were concerned that they found that his daughter, who was married and living in Newhaven was in hospital at the time of the murder and that his son, who was serving as a Private in the Royal Army Service Corp, had been stationed in Northern Ireland at the time.

The police found that John Child had had a variety of jobs between 1923 and 1930, such as a labourer and a lorry driver, and that from 31 July 1930, he had been employed as a park-keeper at Mote Mount Park where he worked until the time he was shot.

A tractor driver and another park-keeper who had also worked for Hendon Borough Council and knew John Child said that he was quite uneducated and of low mentality and given to petty pilfering. It was found that amongst other things that he had stolen were tools from cycles left near his hut as well as packets of cigarette papers from a local tobacconist. It was also noted that he had frequently played the part of a peeping tom on courting couples who visited the park.

It was also noted that John Child had had a number of female acquaintances, mostly married women, and the police said that they had investigated several of his affairs in the hope that they would provide a clue as to the identity of the murderer but said that unfortunately they were unable to find anything of any use.

When the police examined John Child's movements on the day of his murder, they found that he was supposed to have started work at the park at 7am but was seen by two fishermen by the pond to arrive at 8.40am. His landlord and landlady said that they were unsure what time John Child had left in the morning but his landlady said that John Child had gone to bed on the Wednesday night suffering from a cold and said that he might have left the house later than usual on the Thursday morning. It was also noted by a woman that saw him later in the morning at his hut that John Child told her that he had gone to bed the previous night suffering from a cold and had overslept and arrived late for work.

The woman said that she had been with John Child in his hut from about 10.45am until between 1.15pm and 1.30pm except for a few minutes between 11.10am and 11.45am when she said that John Child went off on his cycle to some nearby shops to make some various purchases. It was noted that a man confirmed that he had seen John Child leave his hut with his cycle at 11.10am.

The police report stated that they were unable to trace anyone that saw John Child after he was last seen by the woman at 1.30pm and that knowing that he received his injuries between 3.10pm and 3.35pm, there were at least two hours for which they were unable to positively account for.

It was however known that it was John Child's practice to have a sleep in his hut after lunch for about an hour and that because it was raining on the day that he was murdered, that he might have slept for a little longer. It was noted that Thursday 9 October 1941 was a particularly wet and nasty day and that as such, it could be taken as a certainty that after he saw the woman off at 1.30pm that he had returned to his hut and rested and that he had later commenced to wash the dirty crockery and that whilst he was so engaged that he was shot.

It was further noted that the fact that John Child's body was not discovered until 10.15am the following day was not surprising considering the weather conditions prevailing on the day of his murder.

When the police looked in to John Child’s associations with married women, amongst them they found five cases that were of particular interest.

The first was a 42-year-old married woman who was residing with her second husband at Gardener’s Cottage in Nanclarks Lane, Mill Hill, which backed onto the park. She had a married daughter from her first marriage. She had been married to her second husband for 18 years. He had been formerly employed as a gardener and but had for the last 15 months been a stoker and boiler attendant at Messrs Rawlplugs Ltd in Hale Lane, Mill Hill.

It was noted that the 42-year-old woman’s husband had aged prematurely and had the appearance of being in his sixties and was not at the time on friendly terms with his wife, which was due mainly to the fact that after leaving work at 6pm he used to visit local public houses and frequently didn’t return home until well after closing time.

The 42-year-old woman’s married daughter, whose husband was a sapper in the Royal Engineers and was stationed at the time in Peebles, Scotland, lived with her mother and stepfather. She was employed during the afternoons at Harveys Laboratories nearby, and whilst she was there her mother looked after her baby daughter and would often take the baby to Mote Mount Park.

The 42-year-old woman said that she had first met John Child about nine or ten years previously at a local public house whilst in the company of her husband. She said that whilst she had seen him in the park and at various other places subsequently, it was not until about three months before the murder that they became particularly friendly. She said that in the four weeks before his murder, she met John Child in the park practically every week day except Saturday.

She said that she told John Child of the trouble that she was having with her husband and said that on or about Friday 19 September 1941 whilst visiting John Child in the company of her married daughter, John Child asked her to go with him to the Golders Green Hippodrome the following evening, and she said that she agreed and that they met outside the Hippodrome. She said that after the show John Child took her part of the way home and kissed her goodnight.

She said that her husband had arrived home a few minutes before her and that she told him that she had been to the Hippodrome, inferring that she had been with her daughter’s mother-in-law, noting that she had previously arranged that story with her daughters mother-in-law, adding that her daughters mother-in-law knew of the quarrel she had had with her husband and of her association with John Child.

The 42-year-old woman said that she later met John Child on Sunday 21 September 1941 by appointment, at 3.30pm at Golders Green bus terminus and said that they then went to Kew Gardens. She noted that she didn’t leave the house until after her husband had gone to bed for his usual Sunday afternoon rest.

She said that they arrived back at Golders Green at about 8.45pm and that upon alighting from the bus said that John Child, who she called Jack, made love to her. She said, ‘Jack then made love to me and tried to persuade me to let him have intercourse. I would not let him, and he abuse himself. I understood how he felt. I refused him only because it was not possible owing to my condition’. She said that when she got home her husband was out and that her daughter told her that he had gone out to the Rising Sun public house, which was his usual procedure. She said that he didn’t return until after closing time and that he didn’t question her about where she had been when he did return.

The 42-year-old woman said that she went out with John Childs on other occasions and that on 26 September 1941 after they had paid another visit to the Golders Green Hippodrome, he took her part the way home as before, and before leaving her he again masturbated himself in her presence. She said that she was not shocked in any way and that the only reason she denied him intercourse was because it was late, and she wanted to get home.

The 42-year-old woman said that on Tuesday 30 September 1941 that her husband apologised to her for the way he had been acting and that they composed the quarrel. However, she said that she had John Child went to the Hippodrome again on 4 October 1941 and that she continued to visit him at his hut but said that there were no further improper incidents.

She said that on Thursday 9 October 1941 that she visited John Child at the hut at about 10.30am, noting that he had previously told her that a man was going to bring him some vegetables and that she could have some. However, he said that when she arrived at the hut at 10.30am John Child told her that the man with the vegetables had not called on him. She said that she remained in John Child's hut until about 1.15pm at which time John Child walked with her to a point in the park nearest to where she lived and left her. She said that at the time it was raining heavily and that John Child had loaned her an old mackintosh, which the police later found was in her possession.

The 42-year-old woman said that while she was in the hut with John Child, she remembered seeing two men fishing. She also added that John Child had gone to some local shops and had returned with some Sloans Liniment, saccharine tablets and a large bottle of Guinness. She said that she had a glass of Guinness with John Child somewhere between 12pm and 12.30pm and that he warmed his dinner, which she said was meat pudding, cabbage and potatoes, on his stove and ate it. She said that it was after he had finished his meal that John Child saw her out of the park. The 42-year-old woman said that that was the last that she saw of John Child.

She added that they had however, in fact arranged to go to the Golders Green Hippodrome on the Saturday night, 11 October 1941 and when the police searched John Child, the tickets were found in his possession. She said that she arrived home in time to have a meal with her daughter and two of her fellow employees confirmed that she returned between 1.20pm and 1.30pm. After that she went to see a neighbour and her married daughter, with whom she stayed talking to until 6pm, which was all confirmed by the police.

The 42-year-old woman said that on Friday 10 October 1941 that she worked in the morning, charring for a woman and that she returned home at 3.30pm and that it wasn't until then that she was informed that John Child was dead. She was informed by the relative of one of her fellow employees who had been informed by her grandfather who was the father of John Child's landlady who she resided with who had in turn been informed by the police.

When the 42-year-old woman was informed about John Child's death she was very much upset and said that she wondered whether John Child had shot himself accidently with a small revolver that he kept in the hut. The police noted that a miniature revolver was, in fact, found in the table-cupboard in the hut but that it was not in any way connected with the murder enquiry.

The police report added that the liniment, saccharine tablets and an empty Guinness bottle were in fact found in John Child's hut when they searched it after his death.

When the police spoke to the man that John Child was expecting to bring him the vegetables, he said that he had intended to deliver the vegetables on the Thursday but that he was prevented from doing so by the bad weather.

When the police examined the movements of the 42-year-old woman's husband they found that he had arrived at work on Thursday 9 October 1941 a few minutes before 7am and that he had not clocked off until 6pm which was verified by the works manager, senior engineer and gatekeeper. The senior engineer said that it was part of the 42-year-old woman's husbands’ job to attend every 20 minutes to the fuelling of a boiler that supplied the firm with hot water. The senior engineer also noted that the 42-year-old woman's husband had also been engaged in cutting a pathway through a large heap of coal at the rear of the firm's premises. He noted that it was a job that had required plenty of hard work and that when he visited the heap on the Friday morning, he had been very impressed to see how well the 42-year-old woman's husband had done.

It was noted that the 42-year-old woman's husband attended a small garden at the front of the factory in his spare time and that to reach it he would have had to have passed through the main gates of the factory and that in doing so he would not have had to have clocked out, only to have mentioned to the gatekeeper on such occasions where he was going. However, the police report indicated that there was no evidence that he had done so on Thursday 9 October 1941. It was further noted that it would have taken him at least an hour travelling time alone to have got from the Works to the hut and back and that he didn't possess a cycle and that there was no public conveyance to assist. The police report concluded that the jobs that he had been engaged on would almost certainly have prevented him from being absent for sufficient time to have committed the crime. The police said that they first interviewed the 42-year-old woman's husband at Edgware Police Station, and he was then later held for 15 hours and that on the conclusion of that, they were satisfied that he could not have been responsible for the murder. The police report noted that he was a slow-thinking unemotional type of individual and that they formed the impression that he was very truthful.

The police report said that the 42-year-old woman's husband admitted that he had quarrelled with his wife but denied emphatically that he knew anything about her association with John Child. He said that he had known John Child for about nine or ten years and said that they were very friendly and said that in fact it was he that had introduced him to his wife. He said that they used to meet at the Mill Hill Services Club but that he resigned from the club about two years previously and that as a consequence he had not seen as much of him as he had done formerly.

When the 42-year-old woman's husband was asked about his wife's visits to the Golders Green Hippodrome and so forth, he said that he had believed that when she went she had gone with her daughters mother-in-law, and had never thought otherwise on the matter, and the mother-in-law confirmed that to the police.

When he was asked about the Sunday when he found, after resting, that his wife had gone out, he said that his daughter told him that she had gone out for a walk, and said that he fully believed her and thought that it had been due to their quarrel. He said that he then went out to the Rising Sun public house and that when he returned, his wife was back at home.

The police report noted that the 42-year-old woman's husband denied that he had ever fired or possessed a revolver and the police noted that despite every possible enquiry, they did not obtain any evidence to prove the contrary. The police report stated that the only people that knew that the 42-year-old woman and John Child had been going out together were her daughter and the daughter's mother-in-law and that neither of them had told him about it. The police report stated that there was no evidence at all that the 42-year-old woman's husband knew anything about their association.

The police report noted that so far as they were able to ascertain, John Child was the only person, other than her husband, who was interested in the 42-year-old woman, and that consequently, the question of any other person being responsible for John Child's murder out of jealousy over John Child's association with her did not arise.

The police report went on to deal with John Child's landlady, the second woman with whom he had associated with. She was a 51-year-old woman who was described as stout and extremely garrulous, and who was noted in the police report as being by no means good-looking and having hairs on her face that resembled a beard. John Child had lodged with her and her husband since 1929 or 1930. The 51-year-old woman's husband was a temporary civil servant with the Board of Trade and had worked in Ponders End. They were married 25 years earlier but had no children. However, the police said that they were satisfied that John Child's relationship with his landlady was not on quite the same terms that his relationship with the 42-year-old woman was. However, the police report stated that they were convinced, even though John Child’s landlady strongly denied it, that their association had at some time before been an improper one.

The police found out that about seven or eight years earlier, John Child had a fight with the landlord during which they both received black eyes. The landlord said that the fight had occurred because John Child was receiving preferential treatment from his wife in respect of food, however, it was noted that the landlady said that John Child had told her that it was because her husband had accused him of misconduct with her.

The police report noted that against that, they had the statement of a man that had worked with John Child with at the park about seven years earlier, who told him that the fight had occurred over the bullying way in which the landlord had treated that landlady.

However, it was noted that the landlord later apologised to John Child on the morning following the fight and the matter ended there.

The police report further stated that they knew that John Child had been out with his landlady to the Golders Green Hippodrome since the fight and that on one occasion he had purchased some clothes for her. However, the landlady told the police that whenever she went out with John Child that her husband had known about it beforehand. The report further stated that it was certain that nothing of an improper nature had occurred between John Child and his landlady during the 12 months prior to the murder because at about that time she had undergone a very serious abdominal operation and that even at the time of the police investigation, she had been attending the hospital for treatment of her wound.

The police report stated therefore, that under those circumstances, it could hardly be said that the landlord had had a motive for murdering John Child, and noted that in any case, he had a very good alibi that had been thoroughly checked. It was determined, beyond doubt, that at the time of the murder he had been away on business in the West End of London during the morning and that he could not have reached home on the afternoon of Thursday 9 October 1941 until 4.30pm at the earliest. It was found that the landlord had made the trip into London every Thursday regularly and called at various branches of the Board of Trade concerning matters to do with his office in Ponders End. It was noted that his alibi was supported by the following civil servants who were also employed by the Board of Trade:

  • Two civil servants at New Oxford House WC1.
  • Two civil servants at ICI House in Millbank SW1.
  • A civil servant at Adelphi House, Strand, WC2.

It was found that the landlord and the man from Adelphi House had left together between 2.45pm and 2.50pm and that the landlord had then made his way to Strand Station. He said that on the way he looked into some shop Windows and that when he got to the station he waited a few minutes for a train to Hendon Central. He said that when he arrived at Hendon he called at Woolworths and purchased some biscuits, and that after walking to 'The Burroughs', he caught a No. 113 bus to Mill Hill and that as such, he could not possibly have arrived home before 4.30pm. The landlord said that when he got home he stayed home until about 6.50pm and that he then went out to the Mill Hill Services Club where he acted as a steward.

The police report noted that the landlords wife agreed with her husband regarding the times and further reiterated that if the civil servant from Adelphi House was speaking the truth, and it was noted that there was absolutely no reason why he should not have been, then the landlord could not have got home before 4.30pm and that as John Child was murdered between 3.10pm and 3.35pm, that the landlord could not have been responsible.

The report further noted that when they checked up on the landlord’s story regarding his purchase of biscuits from Woolworths, they found that Thursdays was the only day that week that they had had biscuits to sell.

The police said however, that despite the landlords alibi, they had him at the police station for 12 hours and said that although he was a shifty kind of individual, they could find nothing to connect him with the murder. It was found that whilst he had served in the army during the First World War, that he had never possessed a revolver and that despite very thorough enquiries amongst friends and relatives, they were not able to prove the contrary.

It was noted that regarding John Child's failure to return home on the night og Thursday 9 October 1941, both the landlord and landlady said that is was not particularly unusual for John Child to stay away at night and said that he used to sleep in his hut if anything was wrong with one or other of his two dogs that he kept there. However, they did say that they were surprised that he did not arrive home on the Friday morning for his breakfast but added that before they could do anything about it, the police had arrived and told him that he had been murdered.

The third woman that John Child was found to have had an association with was a rather pleasant 38-year-old woman who had two young children and whose husband was a district manager for the Chesterfield area NAAFI. It was found that her husband was a member of the Mill Hill Services Club and that he used to take her there and that it was there that they had met John Child. She said that they all became friendly and that about eight years earlier John Child started to pay them the occasional visit. She said that when the war broke out, her husband went away but that John Child's continued to visit, ostensibly to collect scraps for his dogs.

The 38-year-old woman said that in August 1941 she had wanted to visit her husband in Chesterfield but was a little short of money and that when she mentioned that to John Child, he loaned her £2. The police found out that she had not told her husband of the loan and said that when they first questioned her, she told them that she had repaid it, but said that she later admitted that she had not.

The police report stated that it appeared that John Child had taken advantage of the fact that he had loaned the 38-year-old woman £2 and started to make advances towards her on occasions when he was leaving her house, saying that he would put his arm round her and kiss her. However, she said that she had no affection for him and that she eventually avoided going to the door to see him off. She said that John Child later asked her to go out with him but that she refused. It was determined that nothing improper ever occurred between them, mainly because she offered no encouragement. She said that she didn't tell her husband about the kissing incidents and as such it was reasoned that he would have had no reason whatsoever to have been jealous or upset over John child's conduct.

When the police checked on the 38-year-old woman's husband’s movements on Thursday 9 October 1941, they found, through the Chesterfield police, that the NAAFI Staff Manager at York said that the 38-year-old woman's husband had been there undergoing a course of instruction every day between 8 and 14 October 1941.

When the 38-year-old woman's husband was questioned by the Chesterfield Police, he admitted that he had seen John Child at the club around April 1941 and borrowed a fiver from him, saying that he had made no mention of it to his wife and that he had not repaid the loan. He also said that he knew nothing of John Childs loan to his wife.

The police said that on the face of it, there was practically nothing in John Child's association with the 38-year-old woman but said that they formed the impression when speaking to her that she had not spoken the whole truth in that respect. The police report stated that the fact that she borrowed money from John Child, failed to repay it, and made no mention of the matter to her husband, was certainly suspicious to say the least.

However, the police stated that in any case, there was no evidence at all that the 38-year-old woman's husband suspected that his wife had had an improper association with John Child and said that his alibi ruled him out.

The 38-year-old woman said that on the Thursday 9 October 1941, that she was at home all day with her two children, saying that she didn't go out on account of the rain, and that the last time that she saw John Child was on the evening of Friday 3 October 1941 when her husband, who had been on leave until Monday 6 October 1941, brought him home from the club for supper.

The fourth woman that John Child had had an association with was a 45-year-old woman who had known John Child for about ten years. The 45-year-old woman said that until about 12-months before John Child's murder they had been on very friendly terms and that she used to go out with him to shows and cinemas. However, she said that from something that he said, she suspected that he was married and that as a consequence of that she brought their close friendship to an end.

The 45-year-old woman said that during the time that she knew John Child, she had been friendly with another man whose home was in Nettlecombe in Dorset but who had been working in the Mill Hill district as a steam roller driver. At the time of the investigation he had been employed as a works foreman by Richard Costain & Co. at Greenwich. The 45-year-old woman said that she didn't know that the steam roller driver was married and that after she finished with John Child, her friendship with him ripened and she said that he used to visit her home at weekends and that on occasions he took her out.

However, it was noted that about three weeks before his death, John Child, for an unknown reason, called at the 45-year-old woman's house to see her, but she was out and he spoke to another woman there. The woman said that she mentioned John Child's visit to the 45-year-old woman who then told the steam roller driver. It was said that when she did, he asked her, 'What did he want?', to which the 45-year-old woman said, 'To see me, I suppose', to which the steam roller driver was supposed to have said, 'Right', but in such a way as to give her the impression that 'He had come to a decision about something he had on his mind'.

The police said that when they checked the steam roller driver's movements on Thursday 9 October 1941, they found that he had a perfect alibi. They found that on that particular day he had been in charge of a gang of men working on a static water basin in Roberts Street, Plumstead, from 7.30am until 6.30pm. They did find that he was away from the job from about 3.30pm until 4.30pm, during which time he took a lorry and an excavating machine to Barnfield Gardens in Plumstead, in preparation for commencing a new job the following day. The police report noted that his story was confirmed by the works supervisor and eleven named workmen.

When the police looked into the 45-year-old woman's movements on the Thursday 9 October 1941, they found that she was at home with another woman until 5pm when she then went to Wykeham Rise to do an hour's charring after which she returned at 6.15pm and then remained indoors for the rest of the evening, which was confirmed by the other woman.

The last of the five women that John Child had been associated with was a married woman that John Child had known and lodged with from 20 years earlier. It was found that John Child had been employed by Constable, Hart & Co. asphalting roads in various parts of the country and that one of the other men that he had worked with was the wife of the woman, and they had all lodged together in Gilbert Street, Dalston. It was found that in 1924 John Child had loaned the woman £100 and the she and her husband took over the licence of the Manchester Arms public house in Hackney Road, Shoreditch. John Child then went to live with them there. However, it was found that after a period of about ten months the husband found out that John Child was having an affair with his wife. However, at the same time, he also found out that the £100 that had been used to purchase the business had come from John Child and not, as he thought, from his wife's savings. When the husband found out and confronted his wife, she admitted that he was John Child's mistress and he gave up the licence and walked out.

Although the police managed to trace the husband, they were never able to trace the wife, who was last heard of in November 1939.

After that, John Child went to lodge with another married couple where he remained until 1929 or 1930 when he went to lodge with the couple that he was with at the time of his murder.

When the police spoke to the husband who was at that time residing in Southwell, on Frances Road, Kidderminster, he said that he had neither seen nor heard anything of John Child since leaving the public house in 1924. He also added that he had no idea about what had happened to his wife and said that he had heard in a roundabout way that she had died. The police traced her mother who said that she had no idea where she was, and the police noted that she had not registered under the National Registration Act.

The police said that when they checked up on the husband’s movements on Thursday 9 October 1941, they found that he was at work the whole of the day. He worked as a clerk in the transport department of Messrs Cochrans Ltd, Contractors, at Drakelow in Wolverley.

The police also traced John Child's wife in Canvey Island where she lived with the man that she had gone to live with after leaving John Child. The man that she was living with was a master builder and was engaged at Canvey Island. During their investigation the police confirmed that both John Child's wife and the man that she was living with had been in Canvey Island on the day of the murder. They told the police that the first that they heard of the murder was when they read about it in the newspapers. The police report simply states that they went into the matter of John Child's wife and the man that she was living thoroughly and were satisfied that neither of them were concerned in the murder.

When the police examined John Child's finances, they found that he had £213 in the Abbey Road Building Society and that that and his property and other cash etc, had been claimed by his wife, the matter being dealt with by Messrs Pierron and Morley, Solicitors, of Hammersmith.

The police found that John Child had belonged to a Slate Club which, in the event of his death, had collected amongst its members and paid out between £30 and £40 which John Child's wife claimed after John Child's landlady informed her about it.

It was noted that John Child had not left a will, but his wife said that she was agreeably surprised at the value of his estate. Letters of Administration were granted to his wife and the gross value of his estate was £323.11.7.

The police report stated that although every possible angle in the case had been thoroughly investigated, they felt sure that John Child's death was brought about as a result of his association with a woman, and most probably a married woman. The report stated that everything pointed to that being the case and added that they were equally certain that they had not yet interviewed the persons responsible.

They said that everything in John Child's possession, his letters and diaries etc were examined for a possible clue, but nothing was forthcoming.

It was noted that two people were observed, a man and a woman, by a tractor driver entering the park at about 3.10pm and leaving by the same route at about 3.30pm on the day of the murder. The tractor driver had been ploughing a field next to the park entrance in Brent Way when he saw the man and woman watching him. He said that he stopped and asked them the time. He said that they walked arm-in-arm around the back of the field that he was ploughing towards the trees between the field and the hut and also saw them return. He said that they appeared quite normal and unhurried. The police report stated that every effort was made to trace them, including putting their descriptions in the press, but without success. The tractor driver also attended the CRO without success. He said that whilst he knew some of the women that had been to see John Child, he said that the couple were strangers to him. The tractor driver said that he didn't hear any shots whilst the couple were about, but the police noted that that might have been because he was driving a noisy tractor.

The police report stated that the question of robbery as a possible motive was considered, but stated that there was no evidence found to support it as it was noted that the content of John Child's pockets, which included cash, and the contents of the hut had not been disturbed in any way.

The police report stated that the possibility that a person had called at the hut with the intention of robbing it was thoroughly investigated, and in respect of that, detailed enquiries were made concerning deserters from the services residing in the district as well as people that might have had occasion to pass through it. The report stated that in addition, the movements of all local thieves were checked, and enquiries were made at common lodging houses in and around the district. However, the police said that nothing to which any suspicion could be attached had been forthcoming.

The police report stated that in the course of their enquiries, three people were traced with whom John Child had quarrelled, his landlord, the husband of the couple who took up the licence at the Manchester Arms public house, and a third man not already discussed. The third man was a professional gardener who at the time of the investigation had been working for a man at Hyver Hill in Mill Hill.

The gardener was a married man and had previously educated for priesthood and as a consequence, was intelligent, well read and far above the average type of gardener. He had come to England from Ireland in 1931 and was employed by Hendon Borough Council at Queens Road Park. It was found that at the time there had been two keepers at Mote Mount Park and that John Child had been in charge. However, in 1935, in consequence of a neglect of duty, the other keeper was transferred and the gardener from Ireland became John Child's senior at the park. John Child was said to have bitterly resented that move and as a result he was in constant conflict with the other keeper. It was found that on one occasion after the other keeper had remonstrated with John Child for being late for work, John Child had assaulted him.

It was also found by the police that John Child had upon every conceivable occasion complained to the Parks Superintendent as well as to influential visitors, about the other keepers dealings with the trees and bushes in the park in an endeavour to get him removed and it was in fact noted that the other keeper was removed as a consequence of John Child's complaints to a less popular park. However, it was noted that there was no evidence to show that the other park keeper knew of the complaint against him and that he was not told the reason for the transfer. After being transferred the second keeper agitated against it and then eventually resigned in 1938 and went to work for the man at Hyver Hill in Mill Hill.

It was noted that the man had a typical Irish temper and that although it was thought that what had happened would not have provoked an ordinary individual to commit murder, the police deemed it advisable in this case to make a thorough check of his movements. They said that they found that on Thursday 9 October 1941 the gardner had been employed from 8am through to 4.30pm at his employer’s house. When the employer was questioned, he said that whilst neither he nor his wife had been at home, he was able to say from the amount of work done that he could not have left the house during the afternoon. The police also noted that they had the gardner at the police station for about seven hours and concluded as a result of their interrogation that they were satisfied that the gardener was not concerned in the murder.

It was also noted through enquiries with his friends and acquaintances that he had never been seen in possession of a revolver or firearm of any description.

The police said that they made enquiries to trace persons that had visited the park on either the 9 or 10 October 1941, which included house to house enquiries in the vicinity both at Mill Hill and in Edgware, as well as putting notices in the local and national press.

However, the police said that nothing of importance came of those enquiries, although they said that they did trace three people who had been in the park between 11am and 12.20pm. These were a woman and her fiance, who was a soldier on leave and another woman.

The woman and her fiance said that they remembered seeing an elderly man in the park between 11.40am and noon.

The other woman said that she saw an entirely different man in a field adjoining the park between noon and 12.15pm.

They all attended the CRO but failed to identify anybody.

The police also interviewed all the fishermen that had permits to fish in the pond at the park, but none of them were able to assist in the enquiry. Two of them had been at the park on the Thursday morning until 11am, but none of them were there on the Friday morning. It was noted that fishing was permitted only between the hours of 7am and 10am daily and that on occasions, as in the case of the two men on Thursday, John Child closed his eyes to the regulation and allowed anglers to carry on fishing until about 11am.

Other lines of enquiry were followed including:

  • Escaped lunatics.
  • Persons who attended doctors and hospital, subsequent to the murder, for treatment of wounds.
  • Accommodation addresses where John Child may have been receiving communications.
  • Local suicides.
  • Members of the Mill Hill Services Club, particularly those to whom John Child was known.

However, it was noted that nothing from them of any use was obtained.

At his inquest, a verdict of 'murder by some person or persons unknown', was returned.


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


see National Archives - MEPO 3/2192