Unsolved Murders

Kent Reeks

Age: 24

Sex: male

Date: 20 Jan 1914

Place: Millsfields Road, Ettingshall, Bilston, Staffordshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Kent Reeks was shot.

He was found beside an abandoned pit shaft in Ettingshall with bullet holes in his head by a little girl who thought he was asleep. Gold, silver and a gold watch were found on him when he was found but his wallet which was said to have contained a considerable amount in dollars was missing.

He was lying on his right side with the collar of his raincoat partly covering his head.

A pensioner of the Metropolitan Police found four spent centre fire revolver cartridges and three live ones in the soft soils between Millsfields Road and the disused mine shaft where the body was found. Three of the cartridges had the letters U and L marked on them and a different type of cartridge was found under his body which had the number 32 on it.

The autopsy stated that he had three bullet wounds in the head, two penetrating his forehead and one at the back of the skull. There was scorching on his forehead indicating that he had been shot at close range and the top part of one of his eye cavities had been destroyed.

Police had no clues but investigated a number of lines of investigation including a story about a smart gang that were using two cars to visit locations around the Black Country, Liverpool and Manchester. The police were trying to trace the journeys of the cars and as to whether they had any bearing on the case.

Dragging operations were also carried out at the pit in Millfields Road, Bilston close to where the body of Kent Reeks was found. The air in the shaft was tested by lowering lighted candles to within a few yards of the water and as a result of the experiment it was not thought advisable to send anyone down after the presence of carbonic acid was found. However, grappling irons were used and an extensive search was made but nothing was found.

He was an Australian marine engineer and had arrived in Liverpool on Saturday 17 January 1914 on board the Empress of Ireland from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in order to sit an examination for a Board of Trade certificate. He had been in Manchester on Saturday and at 8.30pm an uncle who he had visited put him on a tramcar to join a train for Liverpool. He stayed in a hotel in Liverpool on 19 January 1914. Nothing more was heard from him until he was found dead.

Whilst he was at his uncles he had shown his uncle a $100 note as well as showing his uncle's wife and daughter some notes the values of which were not remembered.

Whilst at the hotel he had made the acquaintance of a man who signed in the hotel book as being from Chicago, Illinois but the man vanished without a trace.

It was considered to be a mystery as to why he had gone to the Black Country.

The keeper of the hotel that he had stayed at in Liverpool which was on Lord Nelson Street said that Kent Reeks had booked a room for three weeks. Shortly after a man from Chicago booked in for 3 days and she said that the pair of them met at breakfast. When Kent Reeks left the hotel he asked where the man from Chicago was and was told that he had just left and Kent Reeks said 'Oh' and then wrapped up a brown paper parcel and said that he would be back in a few days. The hotel keeper said that he left without paying his bill and that he had left his luggage behind.

At the inquest the uncle said that Kent Reeks had expressed no interest in visiting works in the Black Country and had seemed keen to get through his marine examination and get to Australia.

A couple of months later in late March 1914 a close friend of Kent Reeks who was an officer of an ocean-going liner that had been at sea up until the time it returned to Liverpool said that he had been in regular communication with Kent Reeks by letter and said that Kent Reeks had written in great detail about his affairs to him which could shed light on the case. It is not known what light the letters shed on the case.


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


see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 11 February 1914

see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 21 March 1914

see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 10 February 1914

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Friday 06 February 1914

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 26 January 1914

see Nottingham Evening Post - Tuesday 10 February 1914