Unsolved Murders

Jack Quentin Smith

Age: 11

Sex: male

Date: 12 Apr 1948

Place: Farnworth, Lancashire

Jack Quentin Smith was found murdered on a railway embankment for the Manchester to Bolton line near his home in Bradford Road in New Bury, Farnworth on Monday 12 April 1948.

He had been stabbed sometime between 4.20pm and 5pm on the Monday 12 April 1948.

His companion, a 9-year old boy was also stabbed, but survived, and the police said that they thought that he had the key to solving the crime. The police said that it was safe to say that the murderer had left both boys for dead.

Jack Smith was found behind a railway bridge.

The police said that they thought that the 9-year-old boy had been attacked first and that Jack Smith had seen the attack and that he was murdered for that reason. It was said that there was no evidence that the boys had put up a fight and that they appeared to have been taken by surprise.

It was said that the 9-year-old boy had been attacked in open view of houses about 150 yards away from the scene.

The police said that they thought that Jack Smith had been murdered by a local man who had the confidence of the children, and who had lived in the New Bury area.

The police said that they were looking for a 'tall thin man, who had skin eruptions on his face covered with white ointment' who was seen in the area at the time of the murder. The man was also said to have had deep set eyes and long fingernails.

On Friday 23 April 1948, the police released a new description of the man that they were looking for after a 9-year-old boy was stabbed, which they said cancelled out all previous descriptions. The description was:

  • Aged 25 to 35.
  • Height, 5ft. 11in.
  • Thin build.
  • Long, thin face, sunken cheeks.
  • Dark brown, wavy, brushed back hair, which might be grey at sides or closely cut.
  • Good clean teeth.
  • Deep-set eyes.
  • Thin nose, wrinkled forehead, clean hands, long finger nails; on Monday, April 12 (the date of the crime) had skin eruptions on both cheeks, which were smeared with white cream or ointment, skin of the face inclined to be scurvy.
  • Dressed in blue grey suit, which may be double breasted, with broad herring bone pattern, fancy tie with coloured horizontal bars, pullover with red V-shaped neck, clean black shoes, tidy appearance, no hat or coat.
  • Spoke with local accent.

An earlier description of the man, from Tuesday 13 April 1948 was, 'Young, tall, thin, believed to have grey hair, hatless, and wearing a suit of zig-zag pattern, with black boots'.

The police called on doctors and chemists in the Farnworth and Bolton areas to look up their records for particulars of any man that they may have treated recently for skin eruptions of the face and supplied with cream or ointment.

A boy scout's knife was also found about half a mile away and taken away to the Forensic Laboratory in Preston for examination. The knife was stamped, 'William Rodgers, I cut my way'.

On Saturday 24 April 1948 the police carried out a reconstruction of the murder after stating that they had a clear picture of the movements of the two boys after they had left Highfield School where they were pupils.

Newspaper reports suggested that the murder of Jack Smith and that of some other children around the country which occurred around the same time during a new moon cycle were the work of a 'moon maniac'. The police said, 'The police neither accept nor refute the possibility of the crimes having been committed by someone who might be mentally affected at such times, but do emphasise that unnecessary public alarm can be caused by too much stress being laid on such a possibility'.

Jack Smith was buried on Friday 16 April 1948. Crowds of women, most of them with prams and young children, gathered near the boy's home in Bradford Road and on the route to the cemetery where he was buried. It was reported that despite a police guard at the main gates to the cemetery, that there was a crowd of over 400 women at the graveside who had gained entry from the rear. It was reported that more than a dozen uniformed police were needed to keep them under control.

The police carried out over 150,000 interviews and a total of 50,000 males were subjected to inquiry.

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

see www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - MEPO 3/3003

see Gloucester Citizen - Saturday 22 May 1948

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 29 June 1948

see Nottingham Journal - Saturday 17 April 1948

see Western Morning News - Tuesday 11 May 1948

see Hull Daily Mail - Friday 04 June 1948

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 23 April 1948

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 14 April 1948

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 31 January 1949

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 11 May 1948

see Manchester Evening News - Tuesday 13 April 1948

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 23 April 1948

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 08 February 1949