Unsolved Murders

David Thomas

Age: 41

Sex: male

Date: 8 Sep 1906

Place: Penglaise Hill, Aberystwyth

David Thomas was found dead on Penglaise Hill in Aberystwyth on Saturday 8 September 1906.

He had been kicked in the head and stunned and then throttled whilst drunk and left dead by the side of the road.

He was described as both a tramp and a harvester as well as being noted as a corporal in the Anglesey Militia. He was said to have been a native of Pontypridd and a labourer.

He had wounds on his head and throat and the autopsy showed that he had been strangled.

He had earlier been drinking at a village inn in Bow Street.

It was believed that he had been attacked and murdered while on his way back to his lodgings.

A police inspector said that he saw David Thomas on Thursday 6 September 1906 when he countersigned a life certificate for him so that he could get his bounty. He said that David Thomas had produced his identity certificate at the time which had no date but was printed in 1904. He said that he next saw him on the Friday, 7 September 1906 going from Chalybeate Street into North Parade but didn't speak to him, noting that he was walking steadily.

The police inspector said that later on the Saturday, 8 September 1906 at about 6am he went into Rhiw Shon Saem with an ambulance and found David Thomas's body.

He said that David Thomas's was lying on the left side of the road, fully dressed and appeared as though he had been sleeping naturally. However, he said that the crown of his head was almost covered with blood about the forehead and that there was a little blood on his face and on both hands as well as blood on the left side of his coat as though it had been touched by hands. He said that his body was cold but had yet to become rigid.

The police inspector said that he examined David Thomas's body minutely and found a cut midway between the centre of his forehead and the crown of his head, running from back to front. He said that he also found an abrasion on his right cheek with slight blood and dirt in it as if caused by a fall and said that he had been bleeding from the nostrils, both of which were full of clotted blood. He said that there was also a very slight abrasion on the left side of his nose which was hardly visible.

The police inspector said that there were no marks on the roadway where his body was found and that the roadway was clean and hard, although he noted that there was some blood on the road where it had run down from David Thomas's head which was about a foot in length and six inches wide. He said that between his body and the ditch there was loose macadam, but that there were no marks of blood on it.

He said that there was a distinct heel mark in the ditch as though a man had leaned against the hedge and another mark about a foot away as though made by the sole of part of a boot, but that it was indistinct.

He added that the grass on the side of the hedge had been pressed down for a distance of about four or five feet as though a man had leaned on it and had rolled about.

He noted that the footmarks were within a foot or two of David Thomas's body.

The police inspector said that about ten inches from the bottom of the ditch, which he said was an ordinary ditch and not deep, there were marks of blood on the blades of grass as though a man's head had touched them. He said that the blood did not go through the grass but was on the blades.

He said that three or four feet below there was a mark on the grass as if two men had lain backwards on the hedge but said that he saw no marks of feet. He added that the marks were not separate as though made by two men independently.

It was noted that there were no marks on the hedge as though a man had climbed up it and fallen down. It was noted that there were marks on the hedge, which had blackberries in it, as though someone had been picking blackberries.

The police inspector said that David Thomas had his boots on and was fully clothed except for his cap which had not since been found. He said that his body had been lying on its back with his head turned over towards the right and that there was no evidence that it had been shifted after death.

He noted that David Thomas was exceptionally clean for a man of his class and when he was found had appeared as if asleep on the side of the road.

He said that when he searched his clothing, he found 6d in silver and 6d in copper in his left waistcoat pocket, a common mustard tin containing a mixed tea and sugar in his coat pocket and a few loose buttons.

David Thomas's certificate of identity was later obtained from a woman at the Bridge End Inn and noted as being the same one that he had produced on the previous Thursday when he had wanted his life certificate countersigned.

David Thomas's body was taken to the mortuary at the infirmary where it was washed and the cut on his head measured, being found to be between two and two and a half inches long. It as also then found that he had a slight abrasion on his right knee. David Thomas was also then photographed.

It was said that it was not conceivable that his head injury could have been self-inflicted.

David Thomas's body was first found by a coachbuilder who had been going to work between 5am and 6am on the Saturday morning on the Rhiw Shon Saem on the right-hand side of the road as coming into Aberystwyth at a spot about halfway up the hill. He said that his body was on its back on the right side and his head was downwards with his left hand on his body and his right-hand underneath it. He said that he didn't touch the body but went off for help in Frongochfach and then went into Aberystwyth and told two policemen what he had seen. He said that he didn't know David Thomas and had never seen him before.

A woman said that she had previously seen David Thomas at Wern Phillip between 7pm and 8pm on the Friday night with another man who had been working for her on and off for about two years, with the current spell lasting for about a fortnight. The woman said that she saw the other man earlier on the Friday morning and asked him to come back at midday if he wanted to go for a little turn, noting that they had not quite finished with the hay, but said that he had replied to her that he didn't want any money and that he left and she didn't see him again until later that evening between 7pm and 8pm when he came back with David Thomas.

She said that when she saw David Thomas that evening, he was not sober and had been speaking very thickly and that the other man was fairly sober but had had some drink. She said that the man asked her for five-shillings, but that seeing that they appeared to have been drinking and had had quite enough, offered him two shillings but that he then asked for four shillings which she gave him. She said that David Thomas had left a small pack on the kitchen table and that as he was leaving she told him to take it with him which he did, but said that when they got outside he gave it to the other man. When the police went to see the woman on the Saturday the pack was found on the step leading to the stable loft. She also said that she saw the man give David Thomas a shilling out of the four shillings that she had given him before they left the house.

The woman said that she then saw David Thomas and the other man go away together through the fields in the direction of Gogerddan and said that that was the last that she saw of them.

A farm labourer who was described as healthy-looking with a splendid physique who had been working at Bryncastell in Bow street said that he had been at Bryncastell for about eight weeks in the summer and was on his fourth harvest that summer. He said that he was a native of Cornwall and had known David Thomas for four years and recognised his photograph but said that anyone knowing him on the street would not know him there. He said that he met him for the first time at Tregaron four years earlier but did not remember having met him out of the county. He said that at about 8.30pm he was at the Black Lion in Bow Street and that whilst he was on his second pint David Thomas and the other farm labourer that had given him the shilling came in. He said that at the time he did not know that David Thomas was in the locality and said that he had not seen him since January 1905. He added that he knew that the other man was in the locality and had slept with him twice recently at the loft in Bryncastell. The farm labourer said that he continued drinking with them until a little before 10pm when he left, leaving David Thomas and the other farm labourer in the pub.

The farm labourer said that he then went to Bryncastell, arriving there at about 10pm, and went straight to the stable loft where he was sleeping and lay on the bed reading for about half an hour or three quarters of an hour when he then heard a man walking about outside in clogs. He said that when he heard the man, he put out his light, noting that he had put a stone in the latch to keep it from opening. He said that he heard the latch being tried two or three times and then the voice of a man calling out his name and then go off about the stable to find another way in before returning and forcing the door. He said that he then lit a candle and saw that it was the other man and that he then came in and asked him why he had closed the door and said that he told him, 'To keep the likes of you out, where is Dai (David Thomas)?' The farm labourer said that he was positive that the other farm labourer had arrived before 11pm and said that he stopped there until 6am or 7am. He said that after the other farm labourer arrived, he closed the door again on the latch and went back to his bed and stayed up reading until 12 midnight or 1am and then put the light out and went to sleep. He said that when he got up again the following morning the other farm labourer was still there in the same place as he was the night before.

A builder that lived in Bow Street said that he saw David Thomas twice on the Friday. He said that the first time was between 6pm and 7pm as he was cycling to town, saying that he saw him with the other farm labourer near Torglwyd walking toward Bow Street. He said that what drew his attention to David Thomas was that he was apparently under the influence of drink and nearly walked into his bicycle. He said that David Thomas had been talking to people at the corn rick.

The builder said that the next time that he saw David Thomas was as he was walking back from town at about 11pm with another man, noting that he got home at about 12 midnight. He said that he saw David Thomas sleeping on the roadside opposite Bow Street Station and that he went up to him and struck a light, noting that he had not the slightest doubt that the man that he saw was David Thomas and noted that when he saw him he saw no marks of injury about him or any marks on the road. He said that after he heard that David Thomas had been murdered, he went back to the place where he saw David Thomas the night before and at about 12.45pm and saw three pools of blood, one pool about three feet from the ditch and the other two in the ditch about six feet apart. He said that when he had seen David Thomas the night before, he had been lying in the part between the two pools of blood and said that he could see the mark where his head had been on the grass. He added that he saw a broken clay pipe there too, but saw no traces of a scuffle.

The farm labourer that had given David Thomas the shilling out of the four shillings that the woman from Wern Phillip had given him said that he had met David Thomas on the Friday afternoon when he came out of the Terminus Hotel at Aberystwyth between 4pm and 5pm, as far as he could remember. He said that he had walked about a hundred yards towards Mill Street when David Thomas came towards him. He said then, at about the same time, a man who was the worse for drink came on and struck him with his open hand and said that David Thomas then threw down his bundle and said to him, 'You look after the bundle. I will look after the fighting', but said that there was no fight as the man went away. He said that the man was a stranger to him but said that he had a rather dark moustache.

The farm labourer said that they then went along Terrace Road and turned into James’s Vaults where he said David Thomas was bad but said that when they went in, he stood him two drinks. However, he said that although he drank his drink, the barman refused to serve David Thomas and gave him his threepence back. He said that David Thomas was not drunk but that he might have been suffering from the effects of drinking. He said that they then afterwards walked back to Wern Phillip. He said that he could not remember when they left town but said that it was dark when they reached Wern Phillip.

The farm labourer said that after Wern Phillip they went to Bow Street and called at a shop for some bread and cheese but could not get any and then went to the public house, stopping there until about 10pm. He said that after they left David Thomas sat down on the roadside by the railway station, noting that he appeared quite jolly. He said that he wanted David Thomas to go back with him to the stable as he didn't think that he could find his way across fields to Wern Phillip but said that David Thomas declined and so he left him there thinking that David Thomas would make his way to one of the farms that he knew in the area. He said that he then went back to the stable, but could not get in at first, but got in eventually and slept the night, leaving the following morning at about 9am. He said that he didn't see David Thomas again after leaving him on the roadside near the railway station. He said that he left him there because he could not insist on him going anywhere.

When the doctor carried out the post-mortem on David Thomas, he noted that David Thomas was a well built and powerful man. He said that rigor mortis had set in and that there were several small bruises, one superficial bruise on his right cheek and one on the right side of his nose, and another on this left malar bone, several bruises around his neck and one over each knee. He said that David Thomas had considerable blood over his hair which was matted and that there was a scalp wound about two and a half inches long on the top of his crown although it was not down to the bone.

He said that the bruises round his neck formed a cluster of four on the right side about an inch from the middle and that there was another single bruise about two and a half inches from the middle line on the same side. He said that then, on the left side, at about the same level, there were two more bruises about three quarters of an inch from the middle line and another less distinct cluster of bruises about an inch and a half from the middle line. He said then, upon dissecting the neck, he found considerable internal blood extravasation down to the hyoid cartilage from the skin and that the cartilage was fractured on the right side, but not on the left.

The doctor noted that David Thomas's skull was not fractured and that it was very thick and that his head wound did not go down to the bone. He said that his other organs were healthy, although his heart on the left side was firmly contracted and empty and that his lungs were very congested, but concluded otherwise that the whole of his body was that of a strong, well developed man.

He then concluded that David Thomas died as a result of asphyxia (suffocation) due to throttling.

He said that David Thomas could not had produced the bruises and strangulation himself and that somebody other than himself had caused them. He added that the wound to his head could also  not have been self-inflicted although he said that it might have been caused accidently, but that he thought that that was not probable. He also said that he did not think that his injuries had been caused as a result of an accident whilst he was walking along the road.

He said that he thought that the wound to his head might have stunned him, but that it was not sufficient to have caused his death and that he had no doubt that David Thomas was then wilfully throttled by somebody. He said that the marks on David Thomas's neck were consonant with a man using both hands to throttle him and that if stunned and under the influence of drink, that powerful as he was, it would not have been difficult to have throttled David Thomas.

He said that he thought that the blow to his head might have been caused by a kick whilst he was on the ground, or by a blunt instrument such as a stick or stone.

He added that he did not think that David Thomas had been throttled near Bow Street where the blood was found, but at the place where his body was found.

After hearing the medical evidence, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against some person unknown.

The following tattoo marks were found on David Thomas's right hand and arm, anchor, star and triangle on the back of hand, rings on second, third and fourth fingers, bracelet and two flags on wrist, cross and a navy man on forearm. On his left hand and arm he had rings on third and fourth fingers, wreath and cross on back of hand, bracelet and two flags on wrist, the figure of a man on the arm with a moustache, imperial and a sailor's hat, heart, cross and anchor encircled with laurel wreaths on his forearm.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Derbyshire Courier - Saturday 15 September 1906

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 12 September 1906

see Exmouth Journal - Saturday 15 September 1906

see Cambrian News - Friday 14 September 1906