Unsolved Murders

Lilian Mabel Miller

Age: 20

Sex: female

Date: 16 Feb 1946

Place: Sturry Road, Canterbury, Kent

Lilian Mabel Miller was found strangled near Vauxhall Lakes on Sturry Road, Canterbury by a milk retailer on his way to milk some cows on the morning of Sunday 17 February 1946.

She was the wife of a former Canadian soldier who had been in Canada at the time. At the time of her murder she had had all her bags packed and her transportation arranged for her to join her husband in Canada.

She was strangled soon after she left a dance on the Saturday night 16 February 1946 in Canterbury and was found on a footpath in an allotment off the Sturry Road.

The pathologist said that her death was due to manual strangulation and added that her body had considerable bruising and some scratching, along with evidence of a criminal assault. He said that her injuries were caused before her death.

The doctor that was called out on the morning of 17 February at 7.30am said that he found her body lying on the edge of the pathway at Vauxhall Lakes, some distance from the main road and near the gravel pits. He said that he found that Lilian Miller had been dead for some time and that she appeared to have been lying where she was found all night.

Lilian Miller had lived with a couple in Vauxhall Crescent in Canterbury and had keys to both the front and the back of the house so that she could let herself in if the other occupants had gone to bed.

The police said that they were looking for a man thought to be between 20 and 30 years old, fairly tall with a good build, and with his hair brushed back from his forehead and with a flushed face and who had been wearing a dark suit and a light coloured mackintosh or raincoat such as were being issued to demobbed men. He was also said to have had a deep voice.

A thresher that lived in Reed Avenue off Sturry Road and who had been in the WLA said that she had been walking home with another girl at about 10.35pm on the Saturday night, 16 February 1946, after having been to the pictures and to have a drink when she heard someone groaning. She said that it was just before the pathway opening. She said that they looked over the hedge but couldn't see anything and then walked on a little further and that when they got to the pathway opening she saw a couple lying down about three or four yards down the path.

She said that the fellow wore a dark suit and a light raincoat, but that she knew neither of them. She said that it was a moonlit night and that 'a bus came by and threw out light'.

The thresher said that she could see the girl’s legs which were exposed to the top and that she then shouted at the man but got no answer and so she shouted out again, 'Leave her alone'. She said that the girl was kicking and that she didn't think that she was a willing party. She said that the man then shouted out, 'Scram!'  The thresher said that just before she passed the entrance she shouted out 'I'll fetch a policeman', and said that the man shouted back 'Fetch a ---- policeman!'.

The thresher said that they then went home.

The thresher said that the light was not good enough for her to recognise the man but said that she might recognise his voice again if she heard it.

After the thresher gave her evidence at the inquest, the police noted that Lilian Miller'ss body must have been dragged about 45 yards further along the path from where the thresher and her friend had seen her on the ground with the man.

The milk retailer that found her body who had lived in St Stephens Road in Canterbury, said that he had been on his way to milk some cows in a cowshed on the Sunday morning, 17 February 1946, soon after 6.30am near Vauxhall Lakes by the Sturry Road, and that he was walking along the allotments footpath when he saw her body. He said that he saw her face, but didn't know her name and that he immediately went off for the police, noting that she appeared to be dead when he first saw her.

He said that when he returned with a police sergeant about 15 minutes later Lilian Miller was still in the same position.

A policeman said that when he arrived at the allotment, he saw Lilian Miller lying on her back. He said that she had been wearing a green and white flowered frock, a grey and brown herringbone tweed coat, a part of a torn brassiere and a pair of black laced light shoes, further described as not being ordinary dance shoes.

He said that her limbs were exposed to her waist.

The doctor that examined her on the morning on the pathway said that she was wearing an outdoor coat and a loose, untied scarf around her neck that concealed the injuries below. He said that there was a torn brassiere a few inches from her outstretched right hand and noted that she had no clothing underneath which suggested that perhaps they had been ripped off. He said that there was no sign of her underclothes in the vicinity but that she had been wearing shoes, although no stockings. He noted that her clothes were such as she would have worn to a dance.

The policeman said that about four yards along the path from Sturry Rad there were signs of a struggle and that about two yards farther on towards where her body was found there were further signs of a struggle. He said that then, a few yards from that point there were marks on the path made by the heels of Lilian Miller's shoes which extended for a distance of 18 to 20 feet.

Lilian Miller's body was then found on a path to the left, about 35 yards further on.

The policeman added that there were also signs of a struggle on the soft earth at the sides of the path.

The crime was known as 'The Footpath Murder' in the press although it was also referred to as the 'Allotment Murder' and the 'After-The-Dance Murder'.

Lilian Miller was buried on Saturday 23 February 1946. The funeral was delayed so that her husband could fly over from Canada. His flight was also delayed by a gale that had forced it to land in the Azores. He arrived at Prestwick in Ayrshire by plane on 22 February 1946 and then made his way to Kent.

At her inquest on 6 April 1946 the coroner returned a verdict of 'Murder against some person unknown'.

In January 1982 a man said that he saw his father murder Lilian Miller when he was 8-years-old but had been sworn to secrecy by his mother. His father died in 1963 and his mother in 1980 and he said that he could not come forward before as he had to protect his mother.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - Saturday 06 April 1946

see Hull Daily Mail - Friday 22 February 1946

see Western Daily Press - Monday 25 February 1946

see Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald - Saturday 06 April 1946

see Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 22 February 1946

see Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 22 February 1946

see Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 22 February 1946

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 21 February 1946

see Gloucester Citizen - Friday 22 February 1946

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Friday 22 February 1946

see Lincolnshire Echo - Friday 22 February 1946

see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 09 January 1982