Unsolved Murders

Lillian Beatrice Earley

Age: 3

Sex: female

Date: 14 May 1907

Place: Goswell Place, Windsor, Berkshire

Lillian Beatrice Earley was shot through the head whilst playing near her home in Windsor on Friday 10  May 1907 and later died from her injury on Tuesday 14 May 1907.

It was thought that she was shot by a stray bullet although it was said that it would have been fired illegally.

Lillian Earley had lived at 7 Goswell Place in Windsor with her parents. The houses in the street were known as the Zig Zag Cottages.

She had gone into the street to play and a few moments later her mother heard a scream and rushed out into the street to find a neighbour lifting Lillian Earley from the ground with blood flowing from the side of her head. They took her back to her home where it was said that her mother first thought that it was not serious and that she had merely fallen. However, when it was found that the bleeding would not stop the alarm was raised.

She was taken to the infirmary where her injury was treated on the supposition that it was a fracture. However, that was notwithstanding and it was later found that there was a hole on the opposite side of her head as well. Lillian Earley lingered for four days before dying.

When the surgeon had first examined her he said that he had discovered that Lillian Earley had suffered from some sort of haemorrhage, but said that he had been unable to discover the cause.

However, after her death it was deemed that a post-mortem was necessary and it revealed that there was a hole right through her head, the bullet having gone right through her skull and brain, and a search near the spot where she was found revealed a flattened bullet adhering to the mortar in the wall.

When the bullet was examined it was it was found to have been a small bullet either of the sort used in a revolver or in a miniature rifle.

The police searched practically every house in Goswell Place as well as the shops in Peasgood Street which backed onto the place where Lily Earley lived for clues but without luck.

One of the neighbours said that she remembered seeing a strange man walking around the streets with a revolver shortly beforehand. She said that he had been walking down Goswell Place but that she had naturally connected him with one of the rifle-ranges in the vicinity and had taken no further particular notice of his appearance.

At the Coroner’s inquest it was stated that there was no doubt that the shot had been fired illegally and it was said that the case should stand as a warning to persons who in their enthusiasm for acquiring the art of shooting may be tempted to practice in dangerous proximity to dwellings.

The police investigation into the shooting looked at a number of nearby ranges but did not support the theory that the shot had come from one of three rifle ranges close by as one was underground, another pointed in the opposite direction and the third was behind a row of houses.

It was also noted that there was a gunsmiths testing range not far from where Lily Earley was shot but that it was proven that no shot had been fired from the range on that day and it was noted that it had also since been very properly closed and would not ever be used again. The gun factory had allowed customers to try rifles in the rear of the premises, a back garden area, and a large steel target was erected at the bottom of the garden although it was said that it was practically impossible for a shot to be fired from that point so that it would have struck the spot in the wall where the bullet had been found. It was also noted that a stable lay between the steel target and the place where Lillian Earley was found injured as well as a tree and a fence. An image was later published in a newspaper showing the impossibility of the trajectory from the range to where Lillian Earley was found. It was said that if the shot had come from the garden that it would have had to have risen almost over the roof of the stable and to have then fallen again to within two or three feet of the ground. It was further noted that added to that was the significant fact that the direction of the hole made in Lillian Earley's head was upwards, which was to say that the bullet must have been rising more or less from the ground when it struck her.

When the gunsmith was questioned he made a definite statement stating that no firing whatever had taken place on the morning Lillian Earley was shot, which it was said merely served to deepen the mystery.

However, a detective did say that it was possible to exactly see the spot where Lillian Earley was shot from the rear of the gunsmiths premises.

A married woman who had formerly lived in the house that was then occupied by Lillian Earley's family said that rifles were often fired from the gunsmiths premises and that on one occasion a bullet had struck the top of a downstairs window and on another while she was standing in the doorway of the house a shot had struck the wall just over her head.

It was further stated that if it was granted that the bullet had not come from the gunsmith's premises that there would have been only two other suppositions, that either someone else was practicing in the vicinity on the morning or that the deed was done intentionally. The Penny Illustrated Paper on Saturday 25 May 1907 reported, ''the other theory, that of deliberate and cold-blooded murder, is almost too sinister a one to be entertained. What possible motive could there have been for the slaughter of an innocent child of such tender years?'.

It was also considered that it could well have been found that the shot was fired by a lad who had got hold of one of the miniature rifles which, in spite of legal restrictions, were still a little too easy for youngsters to obtain at that time.

Nothing more is known about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Lillian Earley's death.

Goswell Place has since been demolished and is now roughly where Bridgewater Way, the shopping area in central Windsor, is today with the actual street level area being below it, approximately where the delivery bays underneath the King Edward Court car park are.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Saturday 18 May 1907

see Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 23 May 1907

see North Devon Gazette - Tuesday 21 May 1907

see Penny Illustrated Paper - Saturday 25 May 1907

see The Royal Windsor Forum