Date: 29 Jun 1953
Catherine Hutchinson was found dead on a colliery railway line on 29 June 1953. She had been strangled and laid out on the line with her neck over the rail such that it would be decapitated when a truck passed.
A 33-year-old labourer was tried for her murder but acquitted.
Catherine Hutchinson had been drinking during the evening and had then gone to a cafe where it was said she met a man with whom she then went to a cornfield with and had sex after which she was strangled and then carried over to the railway line and placed with her neck on the track so that she would be decapitated if a train passed.
It was at some stage noted that Catherine Hutchinson might have been strangled for fun. A pathologist that examined her body said that he was of the impression that Catherine Hutchinson had been strangled with one hand. When the defence asked the pathologist, 'If this had been a deliberate and violent attempt to throttle someone to death, you would have expected more than you found?', the pathologist replied, 'I would have expected more bruising in the muscles of the neck'. The pathologist then noted that he had known death to have been caused 'in fun' in similar circumstances.
The pathologist further stated that he thought that Catherine Hutchinson might have been still alive when she was placed on the line. He said that her injuries could have caused a quick collapse and unconsciousness, giving the appearance of death.
He said that he thought that her death had taken place between midnight and 3am.
The defence then noted that it was possible from the evidence that Catherine Hutchinson had not died from a killing attack in that it might not have been meant as a deliberate killing attack and that the person with her might have been surprised to have found her unconscious. The defence then suggested to the pathologist that the person after finding that Catherine Hutchinson had died might have become frightened and the pathologist replied, 'Definitely, and panicky'.
When the man was charged with her murder he said, 'I didn't do it'.
Catherine Hutchinson was murdered either in the late evening of Sunday 28 June or the early hours of 29 June 1953 in a wheat field on the north side of Lemington and her death was stated as being due to shock following manual strangulation.
The wheat field was bordered on the south side by a footpath known as the Letch and on the west side by a footpath known as the Blucher Footpath which had iron railings separating it from the wheat field.
Catherine Hutchinson was married and had lived with her husband and her 17-year-old son at 18 Union Street, Lemington.
She was often referred to as Kitty and Daisy and was described as being not of a good character with it being found that she had been having sexual relations with men other than her husband. The police said that they had interviewed two men that she had been with and said that as far as could be ascertained Catherine Hutchinson had not been asking them for money.
The police determined that Catherine Hutchinson had been visiting licensed premises in the area, usually in the company of three women, all of whom were reputed to be of loose moral character.
The police noted that the most significant events proceeding Catherine Hutchinson's death all took place in two public houses and a cafe:
All three places were in Lemington.
The police report noted that many of the people associated with the case seem to have regularly left the Lemington Hotel or the Tyne and Iron public house at 10pm closing time and foregathered in the River View Cafe where, no doubt, a number of the opposite sexes paired up. However, the police report noted that there was no suggestion of improper use of the cafe premises.
At 6.35pm on the Sunday, 28 June 1953, Catherine Hutchinson's husband was preparing to leave his house when Catherine Hutchinson asked him for some money. He gave her 2s and then left the house, going off to a friend’s house in Throckley where he stayed until 11.35pm after which he caught a bus home, arriving at 11.45pm.
Catherine Hutchinson's son had been to the cinema and was in the house when his father came in, but he said that the time was more like 11.35pm.
Catherine Hutchinson's husband then asked his son where Catherine Hutchinson was and he told him that she was not at home.
Catherine Hutchinson's son then went to bed, but her husband waited up for her, and in fact, never went to bed. He went out twice looking for Catherine Hutchinson during the night and then finally lay down on the settee and slept until 6.30am and when he then woke and found that Catherine Hutchinson had still not returned home he went back to sleep until 8.30am and then at about 11am on the Monday afternoon, 29 June 1953, he notified the police that she was missing.
Catherine Hutchinson's body was discovered later that day at about 2.50pm, Monday 29 June 1953, by three miners that had been crossing the Blucher-Lemington Mineral Railway Line. As they were doing so they saw a bundle lying on the railway line and when they went over to investigate they found that it was the body of Catherine Hutchinson. They then called the police who, upon arrival, found that her body had been lying on the line with her neck over one of the rails.
The Colliery that used the railway line was in fact on holiday at the time and so no trucks had passed. It was noted that the railway line was on an incline and that trucks were hauled up the line, or run down the incline between the colliery and the British Railways sidings by means of a steel hawser which was operated at the Colliery at the top of the incline.
When the police inspected her body, they noticed marks of apparent bruising on her neck and so a pathologist was called out before her body was moved.
Beyond the railway, on its east side and immediately adjoining a public footpath running alongside the railway there was a growing wheat field, the height of the green wheat being approximately four feet. There was a track that ran diagonally through the wheat to the south side of the wheat field where a footpath ran at right angles to the railway line leading to the bridge. At that point of the Letch path by a break in the hedge there was a space where the grass at the north side of the Letch path had been flattened down, giving the appearance that some person or persons had lain there. Then, a few feet into the field, there was a space about 6ft in diameter of flattened wheat to the side of which the police found Catherine Hutchinson's knickers and to the other side of which they found two full sealed pint bottles of Reid's Pale Ale.
It was noted that the bottles of beer were of considerable importance as the labels of both bottles bore the marks 'Lemington Hotel' in ink from a rubber stamp which the police said indicated that the bottles were purchased for consumption off the premises and that threepence had been charged on each bottle, repayable on return of the bottle.
When the police followed the track further into the field for another 31 yards they found a further flattened space in which they found Catherine Hutchinson's handbag, skirt, a button, four twopenny bus tickets, part of her stocking and a piece of skirting material.
The police found that her handbag seemed intact and they found, amongst various letters and rubbishy oddments, two sixpences. As such, the police said that bearing mind that Catherine Hutchinson had only had three shillings on her when she went out and that her companions thought that, after her having paid for her drinks that she would have had about eightpence left, the police said that it appeared that no money had been taken from her.
When the police checked the bus tickets with the Newcastle Corporation Transport Offices, they found that they had been issued on 13 December 1952 as two fourpenny fares.
The button was determined to have come from Catherine Hutchinson's skirt.
From that space onwards through the field towards the railway line there seemed to be only a single track, but there were two other spaces where the corn had been flattened down although they were considerably smaller than the first two.
Catherine Hutchinson's left shoe was found at a point about 40 feet from the west side of the field and at a point 26 feet from the west side of the field the police found a small Yale key with the number HX/16 on it and marks indicating that it had been cut in Canada. However, the Yale key was not identified as having belonged to Catherine Hutchinson or anyone else or found to be connected to either her or anyone else connected with the investigation and the police later made enquiries with the Yale and Towne Manufacturing Company in Canada to see if they could find anything out.
Then, as the track came out of the wheat onto the Blucher path, there were some upright iron railings that separated the field from the footpath that ran alongside the railway line, and on top of one of the upright rails, which were four feet high, the police found a 1/2in square fragment of Catherine Hutchinson's coat.
The police report stated that up until that point in the investigation, having examined the wheat field and surroundings, that their theory was that Catherine Hutchinson had gone to the grassy bank on the north side of the Latch footpath running at right angles to the railway line with a man for the purpose of having sexual intercourse and that, owing to an interruption, that they had then moved into the corn field. The police report stated that there was no indication whether Catherine Hutchinson was killed in the first or second space, but it was suggested that Catherine Hutchinson's body had been carried from the second flattened space to the railway and that the two smaller spaces in the corn field indicated points at which her killer had laid her body down either to rest or because he had heard someone nearby travelling along the path that he was approaching.
The police said that it appeared that Catherine Hutchinson's body had been lifted over the footpath railings onto the Blucher path and it was noted that there were a number of gaps in the rails where the man could have clambered through.
The police said that it then appeared that Catherine Hutchinson's body was then thrown over the hedge that divided the railway line from the path and then finally laid with her neck over the railway line.
When Catherine Hutchinson's body was examined it was found that she had a fractured nose which was believed to have been caused before death and a considerable pock mark on her face which was thought had been caused by ashes and debris being embedded in her face, possibly when her body was dropped over the fence on to the footpath or over the hedge on to the railway line.
When the police considered Catherine Hutchinson's movements on the Sunday night they said that it was not known what time she had left her house, but two of her friends said that by the time they arrived at the Hairy Man at 8pm, she was already there. It was said that later on during the evening, before 9pm that Catherine Hutchinson and another of her friends left the Hairy Man and went off to the Lemington Hotel, although they returned to the Hairy Man at about 9.15pm where they sat down beside two other women. They were then later joined by two brothers.
It was said that there was little doubt that whilst they were in the Hairy Man that something of an arrangement was made between Catherine Hutchinson and another woman to meet up later in the River View Cafe after the public houses closed at 10pm.
The police report noted that the two brothers that had joined Catherine Hutchinson and her friends in the Hairy Man were both of loose moral character and had entered into conversation with Catherine Hutchinson and her friends when they had entered. It was noted that one of the brothers had had a carrier bag with him in which there were two bottles of beer that they had purchased at the Hairy Man. It was further noted that at 10pm one of the brothers had gone off to the Lemington Hotel, which was about 200 yards away from the Hairy Man, where, although it was a few minutes after 10pm, he had bought a bottle of whisky which he said was for a sick relative.
At about the same time, Catherine Hutchinson and her three girlfriends and a man then left the Hairy Man and all went off together to the River View Cafe which was only 30 yards from the Lemington Hotel.
They had some tea or coffee and then the women and the man left the River View Cafe leaving Catherine Hutchinson there. They then met the two brothers outside and stopped to speak to them and then went off in two parties.
At about the same time a 17-year-old girl approached the cafe and when one of the brothers saw her he asked her whether her mother was at home and when she told him that she was, the two brothers, without entering the cafe, went back with the 17-year-old girl and stayed at her house for most of the night, with one of them laying with the 17-year-old girls mother on the couch until about 9.45am the following morning when he left and the other brother sitting in the kitchen until about 4am at which time he left the house. It was noted that the two bottles of beer that they had bought at the Hairy Man were later found at the 17-year-old girl's house.
The labourer that was tried for Catherine Hutchinson's murderer was employed by Franki-Pyle, contractors who were sub-contractors to the firm of Sir Robert McAlpine who were at the time constructing the power station in Lemington. The labourer's moral character was placed in the police report in the same category as the other people that Catherine Hutchinson had been associating with. He had three children with his wife before they were married, and they were all mentally retarded and were in a children's home. His wife was described as an apathetic slattern who had little interest or knowledge in her husband's comings and goings. They had an elderly couple as sub-tenants in their house who occupied the upstairs part of the house. The elderly woman was a part-time charwoman at the Lemington Hotel.
The police report stated that on Saturday 27 June 1953 that the labourer had been drinking in the Lemington Hotel until 3pm after finishing work at noon after which he had gone to a gambling school in Throckley where he appeared to have lost most of his money. It was said that he was not out of his house on the Saturday night, and that in fact it was heard that he had lain in bed almost all of Sunday.
However, at about 7pm on the Sunday 28 June 1953 he had left his house and gone to the Lemington Hotel where he was joined by another man and then shortly by two more men who all spent the night, with a small exception when two of the other men went of briefly to the Hairy Man to drink there.
It was heard that one of the men had done most of the paying during the night whilst the labourer was said to have gone back to his home briefly, about 170 yards away, to get two miniature bottles of whisky and a miniature bottle of rum which he gave to the other men.
It was said that at closing time the labourer had obtained two bottles of Pale Ale which the labourer said one of the other men bought and put in his pocket, but the other man said that he had no recollection of that occurrence. He also didn't recall purchasing two other bottles of Brown Ale that he took home with him where he and another man drank them. However, he later produced the two empty bottles from his house and handed them to the police.
Either way, the police determined that there was evidence from several people, including the manageress of the Lemington Hotel and the barman there that the man had purchased two bottles of Pale Ale to take off the premises.
It was noted that it seemed that, possibly through drink, that none of the four men were very clear about what had happened, but the police report stated that it was undisputed that the labourer had left the Lemington Hotel shortly after 10pm with two bottles, one in each jacket pocket. It was said that on the night, Sunday 28 June 1953, that the labourer had been wearing a brown suit, brown shoes, white shirt and collar and had neither a hat nor an overcoat on.
It was said that after leaving the Lemington Hotel that the labourer then preceded back to the River View Cafe and that two of the other men went home.
The police report stated that there seemed to have been a continuous coming and going at the Cafe, but that it was quite evident that Catherine Hutchinson was in the cafe when the labourer arrived and it was said that they had in fact spoken to each other.
It was said that they then later left together at about 11pm, their departure being seen by a couple and a single woman that had been there. The single woman noted that when they left that she heard Catherine Hutchinson say to the labourer, 'Come on', referring to him by his name. Also, the wife of the couple that saw them leave said that she heard the labourer say, 'It's lost no time since I got it'. She said that the labourer didn't appear to address the remark to anyone in particular and said that she got the impression that he was acting big and indicating that he was continually being engaged in sexual intercourse and was going out with Catherine Hutchinson for that purpose.
It was also stated by two women that had seen the labourer at the River View Cafe that he had had two bottles of beer in his pockets at the time and that they said that they were able to see from the visible part of the label that it was Reid's Beer.
However, the labourer denied that he had left the River View Cafe with Catherine Hutchinson and maintained that he was still there after she had left.
However, at the trial, it was heard that the labourer had said in a statement to the police that he had given the two bottles of Reid's Beer to Catherine Hutchinson outside the Cafe and that that was the last that he saw of her. It was reported that in his statement he had later said that he had spoken to her outside the cafe and that Catherine Hutchinson had said, 'Give me a bottle', and that he had given her two bottles and then gone home to supper and to bed.
It was noted that of all the people in the River View Cafe at the time, some recollected seeing the labourer there and some recollected seeing Catherine Hutchinson there and that some recollected seeing them both there with the two other women saying that they recalled seeing them leave together.
One of the women that had noticed that the labourer had two bottles of Reid's Beer in his pockets said that she thought that they must have left together as they had both gone whilst she had momentarily turned to the counter.
It was also noted that no one could be found who could say that they had seen either the labourer or Catherine Hutchinson in the River View Cafe after either of the other had left.
The police report noted that some of the witnesses at the River View Cafe relied on their times by reference to the Top Twenty radio gramophone record programme from Luxembourg which started each Sunday night at 11pm.
At about 11.40pm a man and a woman were walking south in Algernon Road to go to the cafe and said that when they reached the end of Algernon Road and were about to cross over towards Sparkies' Bridge they met the labourer and Catherine Hutchinson. They both knew the labourer and Catherine Hutchinson well and were emphatic that they could not be mistaken about the sighting and they correctly described the labourer's dress and the woman said that she paid particular attention to the abnormal amount of white collar that had been sticking up beyond the labourer's jacket.
They both said that they were certain that the labourer and Catherine Hutchinson then turned left and went away together along Loraine Terrace.
The man and women then continued their way to the River View Cafe, and in doing so had to pass three shop doorways before reaching it and said that whilst doing so they saw no one standing in the shop doorways, it being noted that that was about 1 minute after they say they passed the labourer and Catherine Hutchinson. The man said that when they got to the River View Cafe that the Top Twenty programme had just started, but the woman said that it didn't start until about two or three minutes after they entered.
At exactly 11pm a woman and her two daughters aged 25 and 16 left the house of another daughter at 18 Tynevale Terrace to go to their home at 14 Union Street which was, as it happened, two doors away from Catherine Hutchinson's house. They said that at 11.03pm that they reached Johnnies' Bridge, which was a road bridge over the Mineral Railway at which point they all said that they saw Catherine Hutchinson, who was well known to them, standing and talking to a man . They said that the man had his back to them but that they all noticed the man's white collar sticking up in an abnormal way. None of the women knew the labourer.
They also noticed that the man had either his thumb stuck in his jacket pocket or he was holding something that was in his jacket pocket.
As they approached Catherine Hutchinson and the man, the 25-year-old daughter said that she heard Catherine Hutchinson say, 'Just a minute, just a minute'.
It was noted that Johnnies' Bridge was close to the common entrances to two footpaths, one which ran parallel to the Mineral Railway and the other that went up through the allotments and came out and joined the Letch footpath 121 yards east from where the flattened grass and wheat were found.
Sometime between 11.10pm and 11.15pm a man that was visiting his pigeon cree said that he saw a man and a woman walking along the allotment footpath, but he said that the couple seemed to want to avoid him and he was of little assistance to the police in their investigation.
A moment later, at 11.15pm, a man that was cycling west along the Letch to work said that he saw a man and a woman lying in an embraced position on the grass bank at the north side of the Letch footpath. He later identified the spot to the police as the place where the grass had been flattened down immediately beside the flattened wheat.
Then at 11.25pm, a 20-year-old miner who was going to work along the Letch footpath in a westerly direction said that whilst walking along the path he heard a distinct rustling in the corn field, but could see nothing. He said that he didn't investigate, but later identified the spot as the place where the wheat was flattened.
The police went to interview the labourer at his place of employment at 2pm on Wednesday 1 July 1953.
When he was told by the police that they desired to interview him regarding his movements on the Sunday night, he readily assented to go to Newburn Police Station with them and was taken there by car, arriving at 2.15pm.
He then gave a concise account of his movements from the time he left his house to go to the Lemington Hotel at 7pm until he returned home at, he said, 11.20pm.
As his account did not agree with statements made by other witnesses, he was closely questioned as to the accuracy of his statement, however, he adhered to all he had previously said and later in the evening, after an interval for tea, he dictated a statement.
He was then shown the Yale key, but stated that he had no knowledge of it.
It was noted that his written statement was exactly the same as his verbal statement.
The police report noted that although he was at that stage suspected, there was no question of administering any caution.
The police report stated that whilst the labourer was being interviewed at the police station, a police inspector had gone to his house in Store Street to interview his wife. In her statement the labourer’s wife said her husband had come home sometime between 12 midnight and 12.30am.
It was noted that the labourer had said that he had been home by 11.20pm, but that the alarm clock, which was the only one in the house, was threequarters of an hour fast and that it had showed 12.20am and that he had put the hands back to 11.45pm.
When the police questioned the sub-tenants, the wife, she said that she was able to hear when the labourer came home, and said that it was no earlier than 11.30pm which was when she went to sleep as up until that time she had not heard him enter the house.
It was noted that two women said that they had heard the sound of footsteps running along the street around midnight on the Sunday 28 June 1953.
The first woman had lived in Warkworth Street which ran at right angles to Store Street. She said that at about 12.25am on Monday 29 June 1953 that she had heard footsteps running from north to south in Warkworth Street and that from the sound of the footsteps, she judged that the person running had turned into Store Street.
The other woman who had also lived in Warkworth Street also said she heard running footsteps in Warkworth Street but could only say that that had been sometime after 11.30pm.
When the police carried out door-to-door enquiries in the locality, including Store Street, they failed to reveal that the footsteps were caused by any person other than the labourer living in that locality.
When the labourer gave his statement at the police station the police asked him whether he had any objection to them taking the suit that he had been wearing on the Sunday away for examination and he made no objection and handed over his suit, shirt and shoes which were at his house. However, it was noted that when they were handed over that the jacket and trousers were found to be damp.
When the police considered the fact that the labourer had said that the clock in his house on the Sunday night had been fast by three quarters of an hour, they noted that on Saturday 4 July the clock was exactly correct at 12.30pm and that on Friday 10 July the clock was nine minutes fast and that on the following day it was eleven minutes fast. The police noted that on the day of his arrest, Tuesday 14 July 1953 at 11.34am, the clock was two minutes slow.
When the police summed up in their report, they stated that if the material points in it were considered disproved by the evidence of the various people that said they had seen him with the beer and with Catherine Hutchinson, it stated that it would seem that there was an irresistible conclusion that the two bottles of beer were taken to the wheat field by the labourer and that he had gone there with Catherine Hutchinson.
The police report noted that it was expected that the forensic report on the labourers suit would show that there was a fibre that had come from Catherine Hutchinson's dress on the labourer's suit which could not have come to be there from the two garments having simply touched.
However, at the man’s trial on Wednesday 14 October 1953, the jury stopped the trial after hearing the prosecution’s evidence, without hearing the defence and discharged him with a formal not guilty verdict.
see National Archives - ASSI 45/179, DPP 2/2278
see Yorkshire Evening Post - Wednesday 15 July 1953
see Yorkshire Evening Post - Monday 12 October 1953
see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 14 October 1953
see Bradford Observer - Wednesday 15 July 1953
see Bradford Observer - Thursday 02 July 1953
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Wednesday 14 October 1953