Unsolved Murders

Eliza Wilcocks

Age: 63

Sex: female

Date: 19 Jan 1912

Place: 27 Tredagar Street, Cardiff

Eliza Wilcocks was burnt to death with a lighted lamp.

A nurse was tried for her murder but acquitted.

It was said that she had been burned with the lamp during a sordid drinking carousal.

A quarrel was heard shortly before the incident at 27 Tredagar Street between two women but the nurse denied it.

A witness said that they had heard quarrelling between two woman and saw a shadow on the blind of someone raising a lamp above her head and then the sound of a crash after which he saw Eliza Wilcocks through the window ablaze.

Eliza Wilcocks was alleged to have later said to the nurse, 'Go away, you wretch' and then shortly after, 'May God forgive you, I can't'. However, the nurse denied it, saying, 'We were the best of friends. I loved the woman as my mother'.

Before she died Eliza Wilcocks said that she had been in the room with the nurse with the lamp on a table but did not know how it became upset. She denied that she had had an argument with the nurse but said that she could not say whether the nurse had thrown the lamp at her. She said that at the time she was a little distance from the lamp itself and was standing up. She said that it was a small lamp.

The nurse had been living at 27 Tredagar Street for about five weeks and had had the use of the front room downstairs.

Eliza Wilcocks had been the tenant of the house and had lived in the kitchen.

Another woman that had lived in the house said that during the evening of 6 January 1912 that she saw Eliza Wilcocks and the nurse in the front room drinking together. She said that there was a lighted paraffin oil lamp on the table in the room.

She said that about 8pm or 8.30pm she went out shopping, leaving the two women in the front room, and that when she returned about an hour later she saw Eliza Wilcocks in the front room with her clothes ablaze and the broken pieces of the lamp on the floor.

She said that she then threw a bowl of water over her.

She said that at the time that the nurse had not been present but that when she came in directly afterwards that Eliza Wilcocks said, 'Go away, you wretch, you wretch'.

She also noted that when she had returned to the house that the front door had not been locked, noting that it was closed but not bolted and that she had turned the handle and gone in.

She also added that she had had too much to drink that night and didn't remember everything.

A woman that lived next door to 27 Tredagar Street at 26 Tredagar Street said that she had been in her front room when she heard quarrelling in the front room downstairs that 27 Tredagar Street. She said that she recognised the voices of the two women quarrelling as that of the nurse and of Eliza Wilcocks and that it went on for about a quarter of an hour after which she heard Eliza Wilcocks screaming and immediately after that heard the door of 27 Tredagar Street being banged.

She said that she then went out immediately after that to see what the matter was and saw the nurse on the opposite side of the road looking towards 27 Tredagar Street.

She said that she then went back to her house and closed the door and that about ten minutes after that someone told her something and she went to 27 Tredagar Street. She said that the front door had been shut and that when she went into the kitchen that she saw that the table cloth was burning and then saw Eliza Wilcocks come in front he back kitchen with a police constable, at which time she was wearing only her corsets and boots and burnt about the upper part of her body.

She said that the house then became full of people that came in front the street.

She said that about a quarter of an hour after she went into the house that the nurse came in and said to Eliza Wilcocks, 'What can I do for you?' to which Eliza Wilcocks replied, 'Go away, you wretch', noting that nothing was said by either woman about the lamp.

An apprentice pattern maker who lived at 159 Penarth Road said that he had been walking through Tredagar Street with his friend at about 8.30pm, entering from Ruperra Street, when he heard the voices of two women rowing and swearing, apparently from 27 Tredagar Street. He said that when he got opposite 27 Tredagar Street that they stopped. He said that there had been a light in the front room and the blind was down over the window and that it appeared to him that the rowing was going on in the front room, but said that he couldn't distinguish what was being said.

He said that he then saw on the window frame the shadow of two women, stating that one of them appeared to be standing up and the other to be sitting down, because she was low down. He said that he then saw, whilst the row was still going on, the shadow of the woman that had been standing up, raise the lamp from about the level of her arm, as though it had been on a table, in her right hand, up to just above her head and that the lamp then left her hand and fell to where the other woman had been sitting and that he then heard the crash of glass.

He noted that the women had been about three or four feet apart and that the rowing had gone on until the lamp fell.

He said that the room then went dark for half a minute and that he then heard a woman scream and say, 'My God, I'm afire'.

He said that there was a space at the left hand side of the window which was not covered by the blind and that he looked through and saw a woman in a mass of flame going out through the door in the room, noting that he saw that all the floor of the room was ablaze.

He said that he then spoke to a gentleman that was passing and then tried the front door of 27 Tredagar Street but found that it was fastened. He said that they then burst the door open and went in and heard two women in the kitchen, one screaming and the other groaning and that he then went into the kitchen whilst the other man went into the front room and put out the flames. He said that he then stayed in the passage until the police constable arrived after which he went out.

A labourer who had lived at 33 Tredagar Street and who had been in Tredagar Street at the time said that he helped to shove in the door. He said that he had gone into the front room and put out the flames and that he afterwards heard Eliza Wilcocks say to someone in the kitchen, 'Get out you vagabond. You have brought all this trouble to my house'.

A surgeon said that someone came to his surgery at about 9pm and that he then went to 27 Tredagar Street where he saw Eliza Wilcocks. He said that she was severely burnt on several parts of her body, the worst being about her breast and that he ordered her immediate removal to the infirmary.

He said that after some moments woman tried approached Eliza Wilcocks as though to console her but that Eliza Wilcocks said something like, 'Get out of this you wretch, get out of the house', adding something about being the cause of the trouble. He said that sometime later after her burns had been covered up that Eliza Wilcocks said to someone in the room, there being several women, including the woman tried, 'My God forgive you, I can't'.

Eliza Wilcocks's dying deposition was taken on 7 January 1912. It read:

'This evening I met with injuries to my body. The injuries are burns. I was in the kitchen of my house when I received the injuries. It was gone eight o'clock. The nurse, a tenant of mine, was in the kitchen with me. I don't think anyone else was there. My clothes got on fire through the lamp. I fancy the lamp must have got upset. I don't know how it was upset. I was standing when the lamp was upset. I was in the centre of the room. The nurse was standing near me. She did not say anything to me before the lamp was upset. The lamp was in the centre of the table. I was some little distance from the lamp. The nurse might have troubled the lamp. I had not had a quarrel with the nurse. I have never quarrelled with anyone. I had taken off the cloth from the table, and had put away the tea things. I don't know the lamp was upset. I cannot say whether the nurse threw the amp at me. I have no recollection as to how the burning took place. Very probably the lamp was upset, but I am unable to say. The lamp is a small table lamp. I have two daughters and two sons. They do not live with me'.

When she was cross examined by the nurse, she said, 'I don't think you threw the lamp at me. We were the best of friends. I don't know how the lamp came to be upset over me. It was the small table lamp and not the big lamp. I don't know that you have done me any harm. I don't think you did it, I don't know. I did not upset the lamp myself. The lamp contained paraffin. I don't blame anyone. I don't know'.'

She died at 4am on 7 January 1912.

The woman was tried at the Glamorgan Assizes at Cardiff on Thursday 14 March 1912 charged with wilful murder but was found not guilty.

Tredagar Street has since been redeveloped.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Archives - ASSI 72/38/4

see Lichfield Mercury - Friday 19 January 1912

see Aberdeen Journal - Friday 15 March 1912

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 17 January 1912

see Merthyr Express - Saturday 20 January 1912

see Cheltenham Chronicle - Saturday 20 January 1912

see The National Library of Scotland