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David Charles Earp

Age: 7

Sex: male

Date: 20 Oct 1963

Place: 83 Shakespeare Street, Chorlton on Medlock

David Charles Earp was found dead in a stairwell.

A 67-year-old retired man was tried for his murder but acquitted at the Manchester Crown Court on Friday 13 December 1963.

Both David Earp and the retired man had lived in Shakespeare Street. David Earp was last seen playing near his home at 5pm on the Monday.

He had been missing for three days before he was found under some carpeting on a landing outside the man's room. When he was shown a photograph of David Earp, the man said:

I have never set eyes on him in my life.

David Earp had been previously examined by a psychologist in September 1963 and it was found that although he was seven years old, he had was four years three months mentally and that therefore his intelligence quotient was 51, which meant he fell into the educationally sub-normal group.

He had been born on 13 November 1955.

On 21 October 1963 he had had a mid-term school holiday and later that night he was reported missing.

The police had searched the apartment house where the retired man had lived on 23 October using a torch on the unlit stairs on the second floor, but found nothing, however, the house was searched again the following day and David Earp's body was found under a pile of carpet.

When the retired man was charged with murder, he said:

I am quite innocent of it all.

In his statement he said:

The honest truth is that I have never seen the little boy, in my life, and I can't explain how the little boy was found at the spot. I had matting and two pillows, one of which I threw out, with the carpet, I should say it was about 8 weeks ago. There were more carpets in a pile, which I threw these on. The pillow I threw away was slipping down the back of the mattress, which was no good, so I decided to do with one. The reason for doing this, was I wanted to make it easier to sweep the floor, as a lot of hairs were falling on the floor, as the dog was molting badly. I picked up a bit of croched lace which the children were playing with in the hall near the door, I had it for a duster, but it got too dirty, and that meant me u-winding it all to wash it, so I just threw it in the waste bin which I have in my rppm, which I empty into the dustbin in the yard. I never let any of the younger children up the 2nd and third landings, except the boy and the girl who are older and quieter. The main thing is, that I have never seen the little child inside the house, or outside, and that is my main reason for pleading innocence.

The property at 83 Shakespeare Street had been occupied by a number of people, with the three rooms on the ground floor occupied by an Indian family, the three rooms on the first floor occupied by three men, each with their own room, and the three rooms on the top floor occupied by another three men, including the retired man who occupied room 8. The landing where David Earp's body was found was immediatly outside both rooms 8 and 9.

David Earp's Mother

David Earp's mother said that she lived with her three children in a ground floor furnished flat at 91/93 Shakespeare Street.

She said that on Monday 21 October 1963 that her children had been off school because of a mid-term holiday. She said that in the morning David Earp had been playing normally in and out of the house and that he had dinner at about 12.30pm, which included home made chips. She said that after dinner he went out to play in the back.

She said that she recieved a visitor later in the afternoon about 4pm and that she let David Earp through to the front of the house to go into the street to play with some little Indian boys.

She said that she next saw him at about 4.30pm and that as a result of what he said to her that she gave him a piece of bread and butter, noting that she didn't give him any more at that time because his tea was nearly ready. She said that tea was going to be ready between 5pm and 5.30pm and that David Earp had been aware of that when he then went back out to play at 4.45pm after having his bread and butter.

She said that when tea was ready that she called her daughter but couldn't find David Earp and she went out into the back streets to look for him and continued to look until about 6.30pm. She said that after her daughter finished her tea that she sent her to the houses where David Earp was last seen playing and that after she came back without him that she went out herself again to look for gim and later went to Longsight Police Station and reported him missing. She noted that she continued to look for him after having reported him missing.

It had been 7pm when David Earp's mother had reported him missing to the police.

After David Earp was found dead, she later identified David Earp's clothing as well as some toys. She said that on 18 October 1963 that she purchased two plastic chariots from Bailey's shop in Shakespeare Street and that she later found them on 22 October 1963 whilst clearing up David Earp's room, noting that one was broken and that one of the horses was missing, noting that she was later shown a horse by the police on 26 October that was similar to the one remaining in the toy chariot she found in the room.

She also identified a green Dinky toy as belonging to David Earp as well as a plastic toy known as a jack.

She said that on Monday 21 October 1963 that she had not given David Earp any chewing gum and that he had had no money with which to buy sweets if he had wished to.

She noted that as a result of the recent mental examination that David Earp had had that he was due to go to an open air residential school on the following Monday, 28 October 1963.

Unemployed Man

An unemployed man that had also lived at 91/93 Shakespeare Street said that on Monday 21 October 1963 he left his home address to go to the grocer's shop at 55 Shakespeare Street between 4.55pm and 5pm and that as he walked along the street towards the grocer's shop he saw David Earp standing outside the school medical clinic at 69 Shakespeare Street. He said that he had been looking across the road at the bonfire on the corner of Avon Street and Shakespeare Street and that as he walked passed him he spoke to him but that Shakespeare Street didn't answer, but kept on watching the bonfire.

He said that after he walked on a few paces that he turned to see if Shakespeare Street was going back to their house at 93, and saw that he was walking in theat direction.

He said that he never saw him again after that.

He said that after going to the grocer's shop that he returned home along the same street and arrived home between 5.10pm and 5.15pm, noting that there was no sign of David Earp.

Production Clerk

A production clerk that had lived at 9 Kirkstall Street in Ardwick said that he knew the retired man and would see him at the College Hotel at the corner of Brunswick Street and Oxford Road.

He said that he saw him there on Monday 21 October 1963 around 8.30pm, noting that he was there when he went in. He said that he had his dog with him at the time.

He said that he had not seen him there before on a Monday evening, noting that it was usually lunchtime that he saw him, although he noted that he had seen him there on an evening occasionally before. He said that he remarked to him, 'What are you doing here?', because he was sitting in a corner where another regular usually sat, but said that his reply was inaudiable.

He said that the only thing he noticed about him was that he was a little flushed.

He added that he didn't know what time he left.

The production clerk noted that he had been in there every day because he had been off work for some months, and that the retured man was uauslly there around mid-day, asnd just occasionally in the evening.

Detective Constable

A detective constable with the Manchester City Police said that on the evening of Wednesday 23 October 1963 that he had been with another detective constabler making enquiries along Shakespeare Street, trying to trace David Earp, and that they arrived at 83 Shakespeare Street at about 8pm.

He said that he first saw the Indian man that lived in rooms 1, 2 and 3 on the ground floor and then went upstairs to rooms 4, 5 and 6, noting that room 4 was locked. He said that he then saw the man from room 5 and went into his room and looked around, but saw no trace of David Earp there. He said that room 6 was also locked and that he then checked the bathroom and toilet by room 4.

He said that he then went upstairs and knocked at room 7 and spoke to the man there and roomed around his room and under the bed, but found no sign of David Earp there and went on to room 8 which was occupied by the retired man. He said that his knock was not initially answered and so he knocked again, but that inbetween knocks he looked at room 9, whic hwas also locked.

He said that after his second knock at room 8 that the retired man came to the door in his underwear.

He said that he then introduced himself and told him that he was making enquiries into the disappearance of David Earp, but couldn't remember what his reply was, but that he backed away towards his bed and sat on it. He said that he then stepped into his room and noticed that there was an alsation dog there attached by a piece of string to a table leg.

He said that having seen the dog there he pushed the door close and then looked under the bed but saw nothing there, noting that at that time the bed was away from the corridor wall. He noted that the bed had been in a very untidy condition and that the bedclothes  were piled untidely on it.

He said that after looking underneath the bed that he walked towards the centre of the room and that the dog came sniffing towards him and that the retired man told him that the dog wouldn't bite him. He said that he then walked between the table and the bed and that as he did he noticed there was a white enamelled feeding dish, which was in his way and so he moved it under the table with his foot. He later identidied the dish which was presented at the trial as exhibit 16.

He said that he didn't see any signs of David Earp in the room , but noted that he didn't look behid the dresser or the chest of drawers.

He said that he then asked the retired man to contact the police if he got to know anything about David Earp and said that he replied, 'Yes, sir'.

He said that he then left the room, but saw nothing on the landing as he did so that would require him to search it and then went down the stairs and left the house.

When he was cross-examined, he said that he didn't actually search room 8 thoroughly, noting that the retired man had done nothing to prevent him from doing what he liked, and that nor did the dog. He said that when he looked under the bed the retired man had been sitting on it and that he saw nothing suspicious, noting that if he had done he would have searched it.

He noted that he didn't recall whether there had been anything in the feeding dish, and that neither did he recall seeing any carpets on his left and that he didn't notice the bed head on the landing, but noted that there was no light and he had used his torch.

Second Detective Constable

The second detective constable said tht he had also gone to 83 Shakespeare Street on 23 October 1963 at about 8pm to make enquiries regarding David Earp. He said that he went into all the roms on the ground floor as well as the cellar and back garden and saw the man in room 5 and then went on to room 7 on the second floor, knocking on the door and then went up a flight of six steps to room 8 and knocked on it. He said that whilst waiting for the door to be opened  he glanced around the landing outside rooms 8 and 9, noting that room 9 was locked with a hasp and lock, but that there was nothing on the landing that made him suspicious of anythingbeing hidden there, but could not say whether he saw anything on the landing.

He said that he was on the landing for about five minutes.

He said that when the door to room 9 opened, about about five inches and held slightly ajar, that he asked whether the policeman had been there and the rretired man said that he had and so he went away.

He said that he returned to 83 Shakespeare Street on 25 October 1963 when the doctor examined both the retired man and the man from room 9 as well as the other people in the building.

Police Constable and Discovery of Body

David Earp's body was found by a police constable at about 7.30pm on 24 October 1963.

He said that he had been searching 83 Shakespeare Street with another special constable with a torch and went to the top floor of the house where he saw a pile of carpets on the opposite side of the landing to room 8.

H said that he knocked on the door of room 8 two or three times and that the retired man opened the door dressed in a nightshirt and socks and that he told him who he was and that he wanted to have a look around and then went in to room 8 and had a general look around and then returned to the landing.

He said that he then went up to a pile of carpets on the landing and removed a piece of hand-rolled green carpet from the pile, later labelled exhibit 67, and then removed two pieces of cocunt matting, later labelled as exhibits 69 and 70, and then saw something that looked like a boy's head.

He said that he then removed a pillow, exhibit 19, and saw something that looked like the body of a boy.

He said that he didn't touch the body any further and sent for assistance and that when it arrived he showed it to the detective inspector.

Detective Sergeant

A detective sergeant said that after the body was discovered that he went in to room 8 where he saw the retired man lying in the bed, and said to him:

I have just seen the dead body of a missing boy on the landing outside your room. Do you know anything about it?

He said that the retired man replied:

No, why should I? I keep myself to myself.

The detective sergeant and the detective inspewctor then asked a few more questions:

Detective Sergeant: How long have you been in bed?

Retired Man: Since about 3 o'clock, I usually go to the College for a drink in the afternoon and then go to bed.

Detective Inspector: What time do you get up again?

Retired Man: Oh, I stay in bed all night then.

Detective Inspector: Is that what happened on Monday night?

Retired Man: Yes.

Detective Inspector: What about Tuesday and Wednesday and today?

Retired Man: The same thing.

Detective Inspector: you don't seem surprised or shocked by all this. Did you know the boy? [showing him a photo]

Retired Man: No, it's no business of mine. I don't allow children up here.

Detective Inspector: I see you have no no carpets or mats in your room, are those your mats outside?

Retired Man: Yes, they were collecting dog hairs so I threw them out several weeks ago.

DetectiveInspector: [after going outside to look at the carpets and returning] There does not appear to be a great deal of hair on the mats and they don't appear to have collected a lot of dirst or dust with lying about.

Retired Man: Well, I threw them out and I have not seen any child.

Detective Inspector: There's a flat white dish outside, near the dead boy. Does that belong to you?

Retired Man: Yes, I threw it out last week.

The detective inspector then told the retired man that he required him to go to Longsight Police Station whilst further enquiries were made a t the house.

The detective sergeatn said that they then removed the body and examined the building and that he was there when the jack toy was found, which he described as a small plastic toy approximately 7⁄8in by 7⁄8in, with one leg broken off, noting that he had seen children playing with such items before in conjunction with a ball. He said that it was found in the extreme corner just behind the right hand leg of the bed end on the floor between the large carpet and the skirting board.

He said that he was also there when the toy horse, exhibit 13, was found in the bread bin, exhibit 66, which was being used as a waste bin. Hsaid that the bread bin had been found standing on the table as shown in photograph D of exhibit 2.

A number of other items were also collected from room 8, including an exercise book and a note book.

They also took a number of items from room 9 as evidence.

Pathologist

The pathologist attached to the Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory at Preston said that he he visited 83 Shakespeare Street at about 9pm on 24 October 1963 and saw the body of David Earp and whilst there removed a small triangular piece of paper which was presented at the trial as exhibit 17.

He said that later at 10pm that same night that he performed the post mortem. He said that he had been a normally developed male child and clothed in a jersey, vest, trousers, stockiga nd sandels.

He said that he found recent abrasions on the front of the left ear, above and below the lips, on the centre and on the left side of the neck and on the front of the left knee. He added that he also had numerous small hemorages in the skin on the forehead, in the eyelids and on the nose aand that the whites of his eyes were suffused.

He said that a piece of material in the form of a circle, 58in in circumference and about 6in wide was present in his mouth and throat, later presented as exhibit 18.

He said that rigormortis was not present and there was post mortem staining on both his front and back and that putrefaction was present in the skin of his face and the skin of the front of his abdomen.

He said that internally, the inside of the scalp was bruised over an area of about 1½in x 1in on the front and the lef tof the head. He said that his skull and brain was normal and that the tissues on both sides of his jaw were swollen and that small hemorrhages were present in the tissues of the back of the throat. He added that there were also small heamorhages scattered over the surface of both lungs with larger haemorhages at the bas of the right lung, and that both lungs were congested. He said that there was also a moderate number of pin-point hemorhages on the surface of the heart.

He said that the stomach contained vabout 4 ounces of food remnats.

He added that his anus also appeared to have been stretched and that there was mild diffuse bruising on the lower end of the mucosa of the anus. However, he added that in his opinioni that the amount of stretching of the anus, which was a small amount, was not compatible with an act of buggery with an adult and could have been caused by a pull on the buttocks at any time after death.

He said that all other organs of the body appeared to have been healthy.

THe pathologist stated that in his opinion that the cause of death was asphyxia, but he didn't know how it had been caused, stating that it could have been by suffocation, but that he didn't think it was due to manual strangulation. He agreed that it could have been caused by a such, such as produced as exhibit 19, which was also seen in photograph G of exhibit 2.

He said that the material in his mouth, exhibit 18, appeared to have been put in at, or about the time of death, but could have been just before or just after.

He said that having refard to the position of the body when it was found and the presence of hyperstassi on the front and back of his body, that he thought that his body had been turned over three hours after death and within 24 hours of death. He said that the appearance of the body was compatible with death having taken place on Monday 21 October 1963, with the latest time of death being Tuesday 22 October 1963.

Along with the clothes, the pathologist also handed over a number of other items to the police, including the green Dinky toy, exhibit 14, which was in David Earp's trouser pocket.

25 October 1963

When the retired man was seen at 9.30am on 25 October 1963, he was shown the carpets and pillow that had been found on the landing, and he was asked:

I have here the carpets, matting and pillow which were covering the body of the boy. I would like you to look at them and tell me if any are from your room, and which you say you threw out.

THe retired man then pointed to four pieces of carpet, two pieces of coconut matting and the pillow and said:

Those were in my rrom.

He was then asked about a bolster, exhibit 19, and he said:

Yes, that was mine, I threw that on the pile, it kept slipping down the back of the bed.

He was then asked about the exercise book that he said he had taken from the hall-stand which he said he had taken and then about a piece of lace curtain, and he said:

Yes I did. The kids were playing with a piece of lace in the lobby and I took it for a duster.

when he as asked where it was then, he said:

I don't know, I put it in the drawer in my room.

When hhe was asked whether he meant the the drawer in the dresser with the mirror, the retired man replied, 'yes, the top one on the right'.

The retired man was then told that the woman from the ground floor had told them that she had two pieces of lace off a petticoat and left one piece in the lobby and that it had afterwards dissapeared and she couldn't find it, noting that a piece of lace had been found stuffed into David Earp's mouth. However, the retired man replied:

I didn't do that. Homest to god. I will say that I never did that. I'd like to make a statement in writing that I didn't do that so as to show my innocence.

The police later went back to room 8 on Saturday 26 October 1963 at 1.30am and looked in the right-hand top drawer of the dresser and found three cloths, which were then labelled exhibit 82.

Registered Medical Practitioner

A registered medical practioner later examined the retired man, including his private parts from which small fibre samples were taken. The other tennetns in the building were then also examined.

Arrangement of Room

The police also later went back to room 8 and considered the arrangement of the room and observed that the chest of drawers in the top right of Photograph D was not flush against the wallas the skirting board at the bottom of the wall protruded, making it impossible for the chest of drawers to be pushe back against the wall, and as such left a gap that was capable of taking a body 4ft long. The police further noted that it was close to 2ft from the wall to the back of the chest of drawers. It was also noted that the drawers in front of the window was also about 18in from the back of the wall, and also capable of having something put behind it.

During cross-examination it was noted that the chest of drawers was placed against a recess to the right of the fireplace and that the chimney beast was about 18in, and that the chest of drawers did not go the same extent tnto the recess, and that it was a false impression given in the photograph.

The policeman that said the gap had been 2ft said that he had not made a wild guess, but that that had been his opinoin.

The position of the chest of drawers was lter measured and it was fount to have been 21in from the wall, and that that was as far as it could be pushed in.

Charge

The retired man was charged with murder on the Friday evening about 25 or 26 hours after he was first taken there.

Shakespeare Street has since been demolished, the place where the 83 once was being approximately at the south end of Haymarket Street, the lower fork, just by where number 2 Haymaket Street is today.


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

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - ASSI 52/1358

see Liverpool Daily Post (Welsh Edition) - Saturday 14 December 1963

see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 28 November 1963

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 28 October 1963

see National Library of Scotland