Date: 20 Jan 1961
Sarah Jane Morris was found battered and strangled to death at her home on 20 January 1961.
She was also known as Bernadette Morris, Bernie, Sally and Irish Moll across the dance halls and pubs of Plymouth and was a prostitute. She had five children and her husband was served in the Royal Navy.
She had also been mutilated with a kitchen knife and a garden trowel. The police had said that it was the work of a sex maniac.
A naval cook from HMS Osprey was tried for her murder at the Exeter Assizes but found not guilty on Thursday 15 June 1961. The court heard that he had made a confession to the police but that it was not true and he had only written it so that the police would leave him alone and not question or pester him. He added that he had done so because he was frightened and could not stand being asked any more questions by the police.
Sarah Morris was known to have earlier visited a dance hall and a public house before her murder and it was said that she and the naval cook had gone home together.
The naval admitted that he had seen Sarah Morris on the night that she was murdered but denied having gone home with her, but the police said that when they questioned of seamen that they said that he had arranged to meet her the night before and that after leaving him with her on the night of the murder that he had later returned and told them several times that he had killed her.
When the naval cook was informed that the other seamen had made their incriminating statements he eventually admitted killing her, but at his trial he denied it, saying that he had only admitted it to stop the questioning.
The police were first notified of Sarah Morris's murder on the morning of Friday 20 January 1961 after one of Sarah Morris's children went to the house of a woman that lived at 8 Foliot Road and told her something. The woman said that she then went to 2 Foliot Road and went round the back and went into the house and went upstairs and looked in Sarah Morris's room and saw bedclothes and a mattress on the floor. She said that she then went out to the Swilly shops to see if she could find Sarah Morris and then returned to the house and went a little further into the bedroom whereupon she then saw a foot protruding from underneath the mattress, noting that the mattress was definitely on top of Sarah Morris.
She said that she didn't touch anything and then went and summoned the woman from 6 Foliot Road who then went to look in the bedroom. When the woman from 6 Foliot Road went into the bedroom she moved the mattress from over Sarah Morris's body to see what was underneath it. She said that she didn't move anything else and found that Sarah Morris's foot was cold and then went downstairs and called the police.
The police arrived at 2 Foliot Road at 9.35am. A constable that went upstairs said that he then moved the mattress some more to see what was underneath it and then saw Sarah Morris's head and a blood stained pillow. He said that he then replaced the mattress so that it was as he found it and then arranged for further police assistance to be summoned.
A pathologist from the Department of Pathology at the University of Bristol made a statement after having seen Sarah Morris's body:
'On the 20th January 1961 at about 3.50pm I went to the front first floor bedroom at 2 Foliot Road, Swilly, Plymouth. Two detectives were present. I there saw the body of a woman whom I understand to be Sarah Jane Morris. When I first saw her she was as shown in photographs 11, 12 and 13 of exhibit 5. I took off the various articles which were covering her during the course of which photographs 14, 15 and 16 were taken. Photograph 14 shows what was seen when two blankets were removed. Photograph 15 shows what was under the flannelette sheet and the pillow shown in photograph 14. Photograph 16 shows the skirt removed from her arm and the body of the jumper moved from the arm to lie on the chest. Photograph 16 there is shown some 18 inches from her right knee an eye ball. There was a considerable amount of blood and faecal staining on the floor and on the body. Photograph 16: There was the pattern of elbow in blood 12 inches below, that is towards the feet, where her elbow is shown in this photograph. Also the largest amount of faeces was 12 inches below, that is towards the feet, where her elbow is shown in this photograph. Also the largest amount of faeces was 12 inches away from her anus. There were no definite drag marks but a number of marks in the blood shown in photograph 16, also some appear in photograph 14. There was no faecal staining on her feet. In the first place the body was covered by two blue bordered blankets produced exhibit 8. The blood stained pillow which is shown in the photographs is exhibit 9. Exhibit 10 is the flannelette sheet shown in photograph 14. Exhibit 11 is the blood stained rag which was by her left elbow. Near and above her knees was the blue and white jumper exhibit 12. The purple knickers exhibit 13 were between the blankets and the sheet towards her feet. Exhibit 14 is her suspender belt shown on the left of the photograph which had inside it the green knickers also exhibit 14. The skirt exhibit 15 is the one shown in photograph 15. The brassiere exhibit 16 is shown in the same photograph. The blouse exhibit 17 is shown in photograph 16. Tied around her neck was the jumper exhibit 18. One sleeve of this jumper was tied around the neck by a single knot which is preserved in the exhibit. The knot was in the front of the neck. It was very tight around the neck. The trowel exhibit 19 and the knife exhibit 20 are the ones shown in photograph 15.
Later that day at the public mortuary I carried out a post mortem on the same body. I then removed the jumper from the neck preserving the knot, by tying the ends with string. Along the right eye were 12 scored marks radiating from the eye, some of these are shown in photographs 19 and 20. There was laceration of this eye, the eye ball was still present. There was a deeper cut the left side of the ridge of the nose (photograph 20) which was fractured. There were splits in the left upper eyelid and the eyeball was missing. These splits had been caused by the eyelid being stretched while the eye was being gouged out. There were 4 deep score marks radiating from the orifice of the right ear as shown in photograph 19. On the angle of the jaw at the right was a long score mark running downwards and 4 running across. These are shown in photograph 19. There were two score marks radiating from the left side of the mouth as shown in photograph 20 and inside the mouth were 5 shallow ragged cuts on the back of the palate, 4 cuts inside the lip on the right and one on the left and there was laceration of the front of the tongue. All these injuries to the mouth were associated with haemorrhages beneath them which means they must have been caused before death. There was bruising on the left cheek and around the left eye and slightly less severe bruising along the right eye. There was a small laceration below the left corner of the nose shown in photograph 20. There was extensive bruising of the lower half of the neck and over the top of the chest just below the neck. Some of this is shown in photograph 19 and photograph 20. There was a pattern of 3 bruises over the left side of the junction between the neck and the chest and a larger bruise just to the right of the midline at the same level. These 4 latter bruises were lower than bruises produced by the usual form of manual strangulation. These could have been caused by blows but they could have been caused also by gripping. Running across the front of the neck was a wavy score mark similar to the ones on the face. This mark was covered by the tied sleeve of the jumper. It could have been caused before the ligature was applied or it could have been caused by the knife being stuck down between the skin and the ligature after the ligature had been applied. There was no fracture of the hyoid bone or thyroid cartilage.
There was a straight horizontal laceration an inch long in the scalp behind the top of the right ear but no other head injury. There was a large bruise on the front of the right shoulder, on the right breast there were two opposing crescentic marks to one side of the nipple shown in photograph 22. There were ill defined impressions in these marks resembling those caused by human teeth. There was a small straight graze in the black staining on the lower chest shown in photograph 18 and another one to the right below it. There was severe deep bruising of the abdominal wall at the front. Combined with the injuries I found beneath this, this indicates that great considerable force had been applied to the abdomen. This force could have been caused by someone jumping on her. There was a slightly curved mark shown in the staining shown in photograph 18. It was similar in shape and size to the edge of the trowel exhibit 19. I later removed the skin surrounding that mark and delivered it to specialist. There was bruising over a large area of the small of the back and slight deep bruising on the back of the left thigh. There was bruising on the back of the left hand extending on to the first three knuckles and on the inner side of the wrist, I removed from the fingers of both hands and handed to the specialist some fibres I found adhering to the fingers. There was no injury to the vagina. It appeared that she was menstruating at the time. There were two small splits in the lining of the anus but there was no haemorrhage associating these. This indicates the splits to the anus were caused after death. There were numerous small haemorrhages on the surface of the heart. They may be one of the signs of death by strangulation.
Beneath the bruising of the abdomen there was severe bruising around the right kidney and in the attachment of the intestines and there was a slight split in the liver. Apart from the genital organs, all the organs were healthy, the genital organs show signs of old inflammation of the tubes and of the womb. In my opinion the cause of death was strangulation by ligature. I believe it took some minutes for death to occur. The score marks I have described on the face and around the ear and the tears inside the mouth could all have been caused by the knife exhibit 20. The removal of the eye could have been done with the table knife but I think it was more likely with the trowel, exhibit 19. I think a considerable degree of force would be required to move the eye in this way. The fracture of the nose was consistent with it having been used for leverage purposes in the process. I think the eye was removed either just before or just after death. The same applies to the scoring of the face. The injuries to the abdomen were caused before death I think. The splitting of the anus suggested the anus had been dilated forcibly and in my opinion after death. I took temperatures and in my opinion the probable time of death was between 12 midnight and 5am on the 20th January. I took swabs from the vagina, the rectum and from inside the mouth and handed them to the detective.
I think she would lose consciousness fairly rapidly after the ligature was tied. It was likely that she was conscious until then. Apart from the injury to the anus and to the eye, the other injuries in my opinion could have been caused before she became unconscious. They are not the sort of injuries that could be caused by a struggle. She may have put up a resistance but it is not the resistance that has led to the infliction of these injuries. There was no other evidence but the split in the anus that sodomy had been committed on the body of the deceased. There was no other evidence to show that she had had anal intercourse on this night or any other time prior thereto. I cannot rule out anal intercourse on that night or before that. I can't say one way or the other. I would like to add that the split in the anus indicated that the anus had been dilated in some way after death'.
A staff biologist at the South Western Forensic Science Laboratory said that he examined the swabs taken from the vagina, mouth, lips and anus and found that human spermatozoa on the vagina swab, that on the rectum swab and swab from inside the lips he obtained a positive chemical reaction for semen.
When the police examined the bedroom they took away the trowel and knife which they examined for fingerprints, stating that they didn't find any impressions with ridge characteristics to identify at all. They noted that if there were heavy bloodstains on an item that the blood tended to blur any impressions that there might have been. A detective that examined the knife said that the knife was particularly heavily bloodstained but that whist the trowel was also bloodstained it was not quite so heavy. Both items had been found lying adjacent to bloodstained areas.
The detective said that there were a number of identifiable impressions found at the house but that none of them belonged to the naval cook.
The detective noted that there were impressions in the blood on the iron bed beneath the window but said that it contained insufficient characteristics for any identification to be made.
He said that he found 15 impressions with sufficient characteristics to enable him to analyse them and found that 13 of those impressions were subsequently found to have been made by persons that had legitimate access to the house, including Sarah Morris and her family.
Other material that was examined by the staff biologist included the blanket which had an area of blood staining near the centre as well as cellular material and human seminal matter. The staff biologist said that the cellular material was the sort that came from the vagina and that he found similar material on the sheet from underneath the mattress. He said tha the amount of bloodstaining was not extensive and was the amount that he would expect to find in intercourse with a woman who was menstruating.
He said that there was also a rag that contained blood stains and cellular matter and that from its size and condition he thought that it had been used as a sanitary towel. He added that he found no seminal staining on either of the two pairs of pants.
He said that he found cellular material on the blade that could have come from the mouth or vagina, blood staining on the trowel as well as soil and carbonaceous material. He added that there was also soil and carbonaceous material on the piece of skin that he had received.
He said that he measured the diameter of the ligature formed by the jumper and found it to be about four inches in diameter. He added that samples of fibres taken from the right hand of Sarah Morris contained a few black wool fibres that were similar to fibres from the jumper along with other fibres that appeared to come from the bed clothing.
He said that he received the naval cook's clothing on 14 March 1961 which he examined but said that he found nothing to connect it with the death of Sarah Morris, noting that quite a large percentage of the articles were clean.
A sailor that lived in Milner Road, Henwell in Cheshire and who had been serving in the Royal Navy at HMS Tiger in Plymouth said that he had known Sarah Morris since about March 1960 and that on a number of occasions, quite regularly unless his ship was away, had spent the night at her house. He said that he took Sarah Morris on leave with him in Easter 1960 and had continued to see her regularly since, sleeping with her when duties allowed him to sleep ashore.
He said that on the night of Tuesday 17 January 1961 that he stayed the night at Sarah Morris's house but didn't have intercourse with her that night, noting that she was wearing a sanitary towel. He said that on the Wednesday, 18 January 1961 that he stayed at her house, noting that she was out that evening and didn't get back until about 1.30am the following morning. He said that he had intercourse with her that night and left the house early on the morning of 19 January 1960 and got the 6.50am bus.
He said that during all the times that he had visited her house that he had never seen a fire lit in the fire place in the bedroom. He said that there used to be a fire downstairs in the sitting room and that the trowel was always kept downstairs in the fireplace in the living room which Sarah Morris used to poke the fire with through the bars in the fireplace.
He said that he had been in the sitting room during the evening of 18 January 1961 until Sarah Morris came home and said that there had been a fire in the sitting room fireplace then.
He said that the knife, exhibit 20, was mostly kept in the back kitchen on the draining board or on the sideboard and that he had never seen any other kind of knife like that in the house, adding that it was the only knife of that kind that Sarah Morris had had.
The sailor also said that he had written letters to and received letters from Sarah Morris and was familiar with her handwriting and said that he recognised the handwriting in pencil on page 15 of the Naval paybook, exhibit 24, which had belonged to the naval cook, and said that it was Sarah Morris's handwriting, but said that the instructions were wrong because her house was no 2 and not no 34, although he noted the details for the No 31 bus was correct.
He said that he had been aboard ship during the night of 19/20 January 1961 as he had been on duty. He said that he came off duty at 5pm on 19 January 1961 but could not have come ashore because he would have had to have handed in his station card. He added that he had had to stay aboard until 12 noon on 20 January 1961.
He said that when the ship was in port that he used to spend pretty near every night at Sarah Morris's house but gathered that other people went to her house on the nights that he could not get there. He added that he had a feeling before she was murdered that that was happening but said that he had never actually met anyone who said that they had been there. He added that he used to let Sarah Morris know each time he was coming.
The naval cook had served with two other cooks on the HMS Daring and a naval writer.
The 1st cook said that he had been serving on the HMS Daring until 18 January 1961 after which he was victualled at HMS Drake.
He said that on Wednesday 18 January 1961 that he went ashore in the evening with the naval cook about 6.10pm, going first to a public house just outside St Levan Gate where they had two pints of beer. He noted that they were both in uniform.
He said that from there they moved on by taxi to another pub in Albert Road, noting that he didn't know its name but said that it had horse brasses in it. He said that by that time they were joined by two other cooks, a leading cook, another cook and the 2nd cook that he worked with and they each had a pint before going to the Harvest Home public house where they had sandwiches and a pint of beer and possibly some spirits, but said that he couldn't quite remember. He said that they were all having pints of beer apart from one of them who drank lager but noted that the naval cook drank pints.
He said that from the Harvest Home they moved on to Union Street by taxi and first went to the Crystal Bar which was also known as the Long Bar an then to the Palace Theatre where they had a pint of beer, but stayed for only five or ten minutes because the married ones, the leading cook and the other cook went off, leaving them at about 9.20pm.
He said that that left him, the naval cook and the 2nd cook and that they then all went off to the Antelope where they had a pint of beer each.
He said that whilst he was ordering the drinks that he saw the naval cook sitting down at a table with a lady who he knew as Molly, stating that she was the woman shown him in the photo but that she was a bit fatter than the photo showed.
He said that the naval cook then shouted across to him to get Sarah Morris a drink and said that as he had previously bought her a drink that he knew what she drank and ordered a gin which he took over to her.
He said that they all stayed at the table for some time and were in conversation and that when they finished the drinks he, the 2nd cook and the naval cook went over to the bar where they had a friendly argument about who was going to take Sarah Morris home after which they drew lots with a matchstick and he won. However, he said that when he went over to Sarah Morris to ask her how much it was he went back to the bar and told them that Sarah Morris had said it was a fiver which they all thought was too steep, adding that the naval cook thought it was far too much, saying in a loud aggressive voice, 'It's far too fucking much'.
He said that they all then turned out their pockets and found that both he and the 2nd cook had about £2 each whilst the naval cook had about £9 or £10. He said that the 2nd cook tried to borrow money from the naval cook but said that the naval cook would not lend him any. They then decided that since the naval cook was the only one with any money that he should be the one to take Sarah Morris home.
He said that the naval cook then bought them all another round, possibly with whisky and they went back to where Sarah Morris was sitting and that they then drank up and left. He said that before leaving that the naval cook told him that he was too tired to go back with Sarah Morris and would see her the following night, saying something like, 'I am too tired to go home with her tonight. I have arranged to meet her tomorrow night at Paramount'. He said that after he left the Antelope that he lost the naval cook and didn't recall seeing him again that night.
The 1st cook said that the following morning, 19 January 1961, whilst in his mess, the naval cook called them decent bastards for leaving him alone and told them that he was going to meet Bernie that night. He said that he teased him about how much he was going to pay her as he knew that he was tight about his money, but said that later that morning his entire ship’s company was moved to HMS Drake and he went on 14 days leave straight away and went home to Bristol.
He said that he didn't give a statement to the police until 28 February. When he returned from leave he went straight to HMS Cambridge on 2 February 1961 which was some miles from Plymouth and on 3 February 1961 visited HMS Drake to collect his kit but didn't see the naval cook that day or any day later.
He said that he then went on week-end leave on 3 February and got flu whilst at home.
Then on 9 February he was visited by someone with whom he discussed matters relating to the naval cook and then again sometime whilst he was on sick leave. He said that his sick leave was then extended until 21 February 1961 noting that he didn't want to come back because the police would question him and because he wanted to cover up for the naval cook and returned a day late on 22 February 1961 for which he was punished by his captain.
He said that he was interviewed on 28 February 1961 by the police and made a statement which at the time of the trial he noted was not entirely consistent with the evidence that he had given under oath at the trial, stating that he did not initially tell the truth because of his loyalty to the naval cook.
The 2nd cook said that on Wednesday 18 January 1961 that he had gone ashore in the evening of Wednesday 18 January 1961 to the Avondale public house where he met the other cooks including the naval cook and they each had a couple of pints of beer before they moved on to Berts Vaults in Albert Road where they each had a pint of beer after which they moved on to the Indian Arms where they each had another pint of beer. He said that they then went to the Harvest Home where they all had a pint except the leading cook and the other cook who each had a whisky. He said that they also had sandwiches to eat and then went to the crystal Bar where they each had a pint before moving off to the Antelope where they all had more drinks.
He said that whilst they were there that he saw the naval cook sitting with a woman and that he and the 1st cook went and joined him and the naval cook then ordered the woman a gin which the 1st cook got for her. He said that the leading cook and the other cook were still with them at the time that they joined the naval cook and the woman at the table.
He said that he had never seen the woman before and that after the first round of drinks that he, the 1st cook and the naval cook stood up at the bar and suggested that they should draw to see who should go with her that evening which they all agreed and they did the draw with matches which the 1st cook won. However, he said that when the 1st cook went over to the woman that he came back soon after and told them that the woman wanted £5 and said that the naval cook said, 'Oh that’s a lot'.
He said that they then all saw how much money they had and found that neither he nor the 1st cook had enough although the naval cook did. He said that he asked the naval cook if he would lend him some money but said that he couldn't as they were all splitting up after and going to different places. He said that he then left the others and went to the toilet and that when he got back he found the naval cook sitting at the table with the woman and the 1st cook. He said that he then went to the bar with another man and at closing time went outside with the other and met the naval cook who told him that he had been fixed up with a date for the following night but didn't say who it was with but that it was at the Paramount. He said that he then left the naval cook after leaving the Antelope at which time the naval cook seemed happy.
He said that the following morning, 19 January 1961 that he didn't hear any conversation about the naval cooks date for that night nor have any conversation with him about it.
He said that on the morning of 20 January 1961 that he went on leave and had not since had any communication with either the naval cook or the 1st cook about the matter.
He said that he had gone ashore on 19 January 1961 at 12.30pm and returned between 6pm and 7pm and did not come off again until he went on leave on the morning of 20 January 1961.
The writer who served in at the Patrol Headquarters in Plymouth with the Royal Navy said that until 19 January 1961 that he had been serving aboard HMS Daring where he knew the naval cook nd the other cooks, noting that he was particularly friendly with them and had been in the same mess with them aboard the ship.
He said that on 19 January 1961 that the entire ship's company was taken off HMS Daring and billeted in barracks at Devonport except for watch keepers and that he and the naval cook were the only two people that had messed together previously that were messing together in the barracks, noting that the naval cooks bunk was three or four from his.
He said that on the evening of 19 January 1961 that he went ashore with the naval cook at about 6pm. He said that they were both in uniform with raincoats and wearing bell-bottomed trousers. He said that after leaving barracks that they caught a bus to Union Street and went to several pubs but could not say the exact order of any of them, but noted that they included the Crystal Bar, Sydenham Arms and possibly the Two Trees and the Long Bar. He added that they later went to the Antelope at about 9pm by which time they had had about five or six pints each but had not had any spirits or anything to eat.
He said that he thought that the naval cook ordered the first round and that soon after he noticed a woman in the pub who he knew as Bernie, identifying her as the same as Sarah Morris from a photograph.
He said that after he finished his first drink in the pub that he made an approach to Sarah Morris by signalling to her with his empty glass asking her if she wanted a drink. He said that she told him that she wanted a milk stout and that when she said that that the naval cook made a derisive snort. He said that he got Sarah Morris a milk stout and took it over to her table as well as getting him and the naval cook a drink and that they all sat down together. He noted that he didn't think he had seen Sarah Morris on a previous occasion, adding that he had only been into the town two or three times.
He said that they all later had another round in the Antelope which he believed he paid for and later went to the lavatory leaving Sarah Morris and the naval cook together. He noted that before closing time that some beer was splashed onto Sarah Morris's skirt.
He said that later on when they said that they were moving that Sarah Morris suggested that they should go to the dance at the Paramount and that he asked whether they had a bar and that when she said that they did that he agreed to go. He said that he went out and put on his raincoat and that Sarah Morris and the naval cook joined him within a minute and that the three of them walked off to the Paramount.
He said that he paid for himself and Sarah Morris to get in and that the naval cook paid for himself and that when they went inside that he took all their coats to the cloakroom, noting that Sarah Morris had been wearing what he thought was a green coat and similar to exhibit 7 which he was later shown at the trial. He said that after that he found Sarah Morris and the naval cook going to the bar and that he bought the first round, buying himself and the naval cook a half-pint of Worthington or Double Diamond and Sarah Morris something else and that they then sat down at the second table from the bar just before the steps.
He said that there were a couple of men sat at the table against the wall when they first got to it and that Sarah Morris sat on the end seat nearest the steps with her back to the wall and that he sat directly opposite her with the naval cook to his left.
He said that shortly after they sat down that Sarah Morris left them for a bit, but noted that whilst she was away that the naval cook said nothing to him about her.
He said that either that time that she was away or on another time she left them that the naval cook asked him whether he had any plans for taking her home and although he could not remember exactly what he said that he thought he possibly said 'Yes' but noted that whatever response he did make that it didn't bring a response from the naval cook.
He said that a little while after Sarah Morris returned to their table that he had a dance with her after which they returned to their table. He said that when they returned they found that to men had moved into the seats against the wall but that the naval cook was still in his seat. He said that Sarah Morris then told the two men to get out as they were in her seat and they did so.
He said that another round of half-pints was then bought and that at some stage he left to go to the lavatory and that when he did so Sarah Morris and the naval cook were at it.
He said that sometime after he got back Sarah Morris left the table and for a short time and that whilst she was away that he had a talk with the naval cook about Sarah Morris and said that the naval cook told him that he thought that he had a better chance of taking her home than he did. He said that he didn't know if he made any response to that other than, 'Let's wait and see'.
He said that when Sarah Morris returned that a third round of drinks was obtained after which Sarah Morris left them again and that when she returned he said in the hearing of the naval cook that he asked her whether he could take her home, no terms being discussed, and said that she told him that she was already fixed up for that night but told him that he could see her the following night and told him where she lived, writing something down on page 15 of his pay book, which was exhibit 24 at the trial, noting that he had borrowed a pencil from the bouncer so that she could write it. He noted that she had written the note in his paybook about ten minutes before the bar had actually closed.
He said that after that that they finished their drinks and about five minutes after that the naval cook went to get their coats. He said that he then put his coat on and was starting to leave as he was going back to barracks, stating that he didn't think that he was going to take Sarah Morris home as she had told him that she was already fixed up and that the naval cook had said that he had a better chance than he had. However, he said that as he started to leave that Sarah Morris called him back in the presence of the naval cook and said, 'We will all go up the road together' and that they then all left the hall together, him going out first followed by the naval cook and then Sarah Morris. He said that before Sarah Morris came out that he had a conversation with the naval cook in which he told him that he was going to carry on to the barracks and that he could go off with Sarah Morris, and that it was more or less agreed between them that the naval cook was going off with Sarah Morris and he wasn't.
He said that when Sarah Morris joined them that they all walked off along the street in the direction of the Mambo Cafe as he said he was going to have some coffee and sandwiches and that Sarah Morris said that they would come up with him. He said that they walked together just past the Antelope on the Antelope side of the street and that Sarah Morris and the naval cook slowed down and that Sarah Morris then said that they were going to go and were not going to come for coffee or anything and then turned around.
He said that the naval cook then said goodnight and that he would see him and that was about all.
He said that he then saw them walk off down the street, noting that the naval cook was sober, or that he didn't think that he was drunk.
He said that he then went to the Mambo Cafe where he had a fried egg sandwich and coffee, noting that there were some people there who he had seen before but didn't know by name. He added that he thought that he saw someone there from his ship but could not be sure, but noted that he was joined at his table by three other ratings and that eventually the four of them left the Mambo Cafe and hailed a taxi in Union Street which took two of the ratings as far as St Levans Gate and then him and the other rating back to barracks.
He said that he then went to bed but noted before he did so that the naval cooks bed was empty.
He said that he was woken early in the morning by the naval rating who shook him and said that he cursed him for shaking him and said that he then pulled his leg and asked him if he had dipped out. He noted that he thought that it was about 2.30am and that ratings were allowed out until 7.30am in the morning. He said that when he asked the naval cook whether he had dipped out that the naval cook told him that he had made sure that nobody else would dip out and that he had more or less killed her. He said that he couldn't remember his exact words but said that they were to the effect that he had strangled her and hit her with a trowel, adding that the naval cook told him that he had found the trowel in the hearth in the bedroom.
However, he said that he thought that the cook had been sky-larking and that he went to the lavatory but that when he got back he found that the naval cook was still sat at his bed and that he asked him what was wrong. He said that the naval cook then told him that he just wanted to tell him what he had done and said that he had strangled her, but he said that he told him to go away and leave him alone and that after that the naval cook went back to his bunk.
He said that later that morning, shortly before 7.30am that the naval cook asked him if he remembered what he had said to him and said that he replied, 'No', noting that he had been in a hurry at the time. He said that a little later, at about 8.30am that the naval cook repeated his question to him and said that he told him that he was not interested in his skylarking any longer and that as far as he was concerned he was pulling his leg.
He said that the naval cook then asked him to say that he had come off shore with him and said that he told him that he had come offshore at about midnight.
He said that he saw the naval cook on the ship a little later, before 11am and said that he asked him why it had taken him so long to get back and said that he told him that he had had an egg sandwich and a cup of coffee in the Mambo and that he had come back with three others by taxi from Union Street. He added that as he had come back with three other people that it could be disproved that he had been with him but said that the naval cook told him that that could be fixed or arranged.
However, he said that he had no further conversation with the naval cook about that story until he was seen by the police on 22 January 1961 when he made a signed statement, noting that he told the truth in the statement up until a point but that part of it was untrue, noting that he had tried to cover up for the naval cook.
He said that after he made his statement that he saw the naval cook and told him what he had said, saying that he had told him what had happened until he got turned in and that he had included him in it as well, stating that he told the naval cook that he had told the police that two ratings had got out of the taxi at St Levan's Gate and everything else that he had told the police.
He said that he was interviewed again by the police on 23 January and made another untrue statement.
He added that he knew that the naval cook went on leave some days later and that on 3 February 1961 that he himself went on leave and that whilst he was on leave that he went to see the 1st cook on two occasions and had certain conversations with him.
However, at the trial he said that the evidence that he gave there was true and that he had told the untruths earlier because he had told the naval cook that he was going to stand by him.
He further noted that when he had got Sarah Morris to write down her name and address that he had arranged to meet her the following night and paid her £2. He noted that he didn't pay her the £2 for that reason but because Sarah Morris had been telling him all night that one of his shipmates had let her down and that he had given her the £2 as a gift but that he had expected to pay nothing the following night when he would sleep with her.
At the trial he noted that detailed in the statement that he had made to the police on 22 January 1961 was a reference to a rating that Sarah Morris had spoken about and who had been from HMS Venus but that whilst dancing with her that she had told him about another man that she had told him had refused to give her any money and had tried to get it for free and that it was that man that he had later told the naval cook about.
He denied having given Sarah Morris part of a cigarette packet on which to write her address and said that he didn't go to her house on the following night as arranged as he was not really interested any more.
In his statement of 22 January 1961 the writer said:
'I am a ship's writer in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Daring, but at the present time the ship's company is billeted in HMS Drake.
On Thursday, 19th January, 1961 between 9pm and 9.30pm I went into the Antelope Inn Union Street with my friend the naval cook, a cook aboard HMS Daring. We were stood with our drinks when I turned round and saw a woman sat in the corner of the lounge near the door, this woman smiled at me. When I bought the next round of drinks I asked her if she wanted one. She said 'Yes, it's a sweet stout'. I got the drinks and we sat down at the corner table with the woman. During a conversation we had this woman got talking about a rating of HMS Drake, she said he had let her down that night. I asked her 'How'. She stated that the rating had been up to her place and said he could not give her any money. Just before closing time a blonde girl came into the lounge carrying a suitcase and the woman I was with shouted over 'Where have you been?' and the blonde girl replied back but I can't remember what she said. At 10pm the naval cook and I went outside and waited on the pavement outside for the woman, who was by this time talking to a naval rating off HMS Venus. The woman joined us in about one minute and walked with the naval cook and I to the Paramount ballroom. I remember passing the naval patrol on the corner by the Antelope and the woman passed some sarcastic remark to them. I paid for the woman into the ballroom and the naval cook bought his own ticket. On entering the ballroom I took the woman's coat and put it over the cloakroom counter with mine and the naval cook's, but the attendant said I wouldn't need a ticket for the woman's coat. I bought a round of drinks and we sat down on the top landing near the steps. The woman excused herself and wet down onto the dance floor and the next time I saw her she was dancing with a woman with dark hair. She returned to the table and later I danced with her. During the course of this dance I saw the rating dancing with a girl dressed in a pink cardigan, as we passed the rating the woman said to him 'You shithouse'. She then said to me 'He has let me down by not giving me the money he was going to give me'. After the dance we returned to the table and carried on drinking.
At 11.20pm or 11.25pm I left the dance with the naval cook and at that time the woman I had been with was stood talking to a man in civilian clothes. I would describe this man as being about 25 years 5'8", long dark hair, dressed in a patterned sports jacket, fawn coloured. The naval cook and I went to the Mambo Cafe and stayed there until about midnight when we got a taxi and went back to HMS Drake. I was dressed in naval uniform No. 1 suit. I wear a good conduct badge on the left arm and a writer's badge on the right arm. The woman I had been dancing with was dressed in a purple or violet coloured skirt, white jumper and a green fleece lined mackintosh coat, dove grey ankle boots. I forgot to say that when we were in the Antelope the naval cook knocked over a glass of stout and it splashed over the coat and skirt of the woman.
On Friday morning 20th January I saw the rating on the messdeck in barracks and he said to me 'You won't get anything from that woman for nothing'. He then told me that her name was Bernadette. When I was talking to the rating it would be about 7.30am approximately, and he was dressed in bluish grey civilian trousers and light coloured shirt'.
During the initial investigation into Sarah Morris's murder sailors were asked to fill in a questionnaire. The one filled in by the naval cook read:
When the naval cook made a statement on 23 January 1961 he said:
'I am a cook in the Royal Navy serving aboard HMS Daring but at present time we are billeted in barracks.
On Thursday 19th January, 1961 at about 8.30pm to 9pm I went into the Antelope Inn Union Street with my friend the writer. We had been in the pub about ten minutes when the writer went over to a woman whom he said he thought he knew. The woman was sat in the corner of the lounge near the door. I would describe this woman as being in her thirties with fair hair, wearing a maroon squared skirt. After the writer had been talking to her for about ten minutes I went over to them. Shortly afterwards a naval rating bumped into me and I knocked the woman's drink over and some of it splashed down her skirt. I went to get another drink and when I got back we carried on talking. About ten minutes later a naval rating came over to the woman, leaned across the table and spoke to her. I did not hear what was said, but the woman shook her head. I would describe this naval rating as being about 19 years, 5'4"/5", light brown hair, greased, brushed back but pieces of hair had fallen out of place, medium build, eyelids half closed, pale complexion, wearing naval uniform.
At 10pm the writer, the woman and I left the Antelope and went to the Paramount Ballroom. The writer bought the woman's ticket and I paid for my own. I bought some drinks and we sat at a able alongside the bar overlooking the dance floor. We sat there talking for a while then the writer went for a dance with the woman. They came back to the table and apart from going to the toilet for about five minutes the woman never left our company. When the bar closed we finished off our drinks and I saw the writer leaning over talking to the woman. I heard her say 'No, I can't tonight, but I will give you my address and you can see me tomorrow night'. The writer then asked me for a pencil but I did not have one so the writer asked a big man in evening dress for one. The writer gave the woman the pencil and a piece of cigarette packet and she wrote something down. I then went to the cloakroom and got the coats.
I gave the woman her coat which was dark green with a fur collar. I put my coat on and the writer left the dance hall with me, leaving the woman behind. The writer and I went up Union Street to a cafe on the right hand side where we had egg sandwiches and coffee. We then went outside to get a taxi and eventually we flagged one down. We got into this taxi with two other naval ratings who got out at St Lebans Gate. We got out at the Barracks, the time would be about midnight. I remember seeing the same naval rating who had spoken to the woman in the Antelope, in the Paramount ballroom and he came over to the woman and asked her something which I took to be for a dance, but she refused him. I doubt whether or not I would be able to recognise this naval rating should I see him again'.
When he made a second statement on 27 February 1961 he said:
'Further to my statement concerning my movements on the evening of Thursday 19th January, 1961 at Plymouth in the company of my friend the writer and Mrs. Morris, I remember that whilst we were at the Paramount Dance Hall the writer and Mrs Morris went for a dance leaving me sitting at the table. Two men in civilian clothes came and sat down in the seats vacated by the writer and Mrs. Morris. When the dance finished they came back to the table and there was a bit of an argument about the seats. Finally these two men got up and left the seats for the writer and Mrs. Morris. Although they were in civilian clothes, I remember one was wearing a blazer with a badge on the breast pocket, I had the impression they were ratings. I don't think I would know either of them again.
I think I might have asked the writer if he was taking Mrs. Morris home when he asked me for the pencil. I don't remember what he replied. I had been drinking since 7pm that night and am not too clear what he said. After I got the coats and all three of us had our coats on I walked away from the table towards the door. I waited a couple of minutes near the ticket office and then went back into the hall looking for the writer. He was talking to Mrs. Morris near where we had been sitting. I called out to him and he came on towards me. To the best of my memory Mrs. Morris, as the writer left her, turned to a group of people standing nearby and spoke to one of them. I believe there were some girls in this group of people but I have no idea who they were.
When we got outside I asked the writer why he wasn't taking her home. I have no idea what he replied, other than something about seeing her the next night. The writer did not seem put out by not being able to take her home that night, he certainly was not bad tempered about it whilst he was with me.
Whilst the writer, Mrs. Morris and I were together that evening, the only argument involving any of us was over the incident of the chairs I have told you about involving the two men in civilian clothes.
Of the people around us in the dance hall, the only person I recognised there was a woman sitting at the next table. I don't know her name but I was once introduced to her by the 2nd cook who was on HMS Daring with me. This woman is a regular in the Paramount Dance Hall.
I have no idea who Mrs. Morris left the dance hall with, I did not hear her make any arrangements to meet anyone whilst she was in my company'.
A taxi driver that lived in Taunton Avenue, Whitleigh, Plymouth said that on Thursday 19 January 1961 that he had been operating his taxi from the taxi rank in the Octagon. He said that he was there when a large number of people came out of the Paramount Ballroom about a quarter to twelve and that he took a fare from amongst the people there for which he was away for about ten minutes.
He said that when he got back to the rank that he got another fare, Sarah Morris and her sailor, noting that he knew Sarah Morris by sight and had driven her on a number of occasions. He said that they both got into the back seat of his taxi and that he took them to Swilly, dropping them off at what he thought was the corner of Foliot Gardens which he thought was outside No. 20 or 22 Foliot Road.
He said that when they first got into his car they had been discussing someone else who had wanted to take her home, noting that Sarah Morris had said that the other person had been very annoyed because she had gone home with the person she was with rather than him. He added that the sailor appeared to know who she was talking about.
He said that he stopped outside 22 Foliot Road and that Sarah Morris got out on the near side and the sailor, who had been sat behind him, got out on the offside. He said that when he collected his fair that he had switched on the interior light and turned to collect it from the sailor, noting that as he did so that he saw a purse on the back seat that Sarah Morris had dropped which the sailor then reached over to and put in his pocket. He said that the sailor then continued to try and find some small change to pay the fare and that Sarah Morris then came back and said, 'I've lost my purse' and that the sailor replied, 'It's all right I've got it'. The taxi driver noted that the sailor was still trying to find some change and that Sarah Morris then closed the door and walked away after which the sailor gave him a £1 note and that he gave him his change and drove off.
The taxi driver later identified the purse that had been on the back seat of the taxi as the one that belonged to Sarah Morris.
He noted that he dropped them off between 12.05am and 12.10am.
He said that when he made a statement on 20 January 1961 that he described the sailor that had been with Sarah Morris as:
The taxi driver later attended a number of identity parades both on ships as well as in barracks but saw no one that he was 100% certain was the sailor that he had seen with Sarah Morris. He noted that it didn't seem to him in particular that the sailor had been drinking, giving him no impression of drunkenness at all and added that he was been very quiet and quiet spoken.
The police later questioned the naval cook again on 11 March 1961 during which interview he confessed to having murdered Sarah Morris.
He was seen at Weymouth Police Station at about 9.50am where the following exchange took place:
Detective: I am a detective from Plymouth and this is another detective. We have come to see you on a serious matter, you have already been seen before about it, you know that on the night or the 19/20th January this year a prostitute named Sarah Jane Morris, perhaps more often known as Bernadette or Bernie, was murdered at her home at 2 Foliot Road, Swilly in Plymouth. From information we have we understand that the story you have told us before is not true. We have interviewed the 1st cook whom you know and he tells us that on the night of Wednesday 18th January which was not the night of the murder but the night before that you were with this woman Bernadette and you made an arrangement to meet her at the Paramount Dance Hall in Union Street the next night which was the Thursday.
Naval Cook: Are you talking about the night before, you say I met her the night before.
Detective: Yes the night before and I believe that the amount you made arrangements to pay her was £8. We have also interviewed a naval writer whom you know and he is now in Plymouth. He has told us various things and what he says is that on the Thursday night the 19th you and he met Bernadette in the Antelope public house and that you, he, and Bernadette went to the Paramount Dance Hall together. The writer paid for the woman's admission.
Naval Cook: Yes that's right.
Detective: I understand that the writer did not know that you had a previous arrangement to see Bernadette and he asked her if he could take her home and because of that she wrote an address and the number of a bus to take in the writer's pay book which we have'.
Naval Cook: I had never seen her before that night so how could I have had an arrangement to meet her'
Detective: I will tell you now that I have not got the writer's statement, he is making one now in Plymouth but before I came here I saw him briefly, and I know what he is going to say. I understand from him that after the bar in the Paramount was shut on the Thursday night, the writer, Bernadette and you left the dance hall together and walked along towards a cafe in Union Street, but before you got there you said something to the writer about leaving him and you and Bernadette turned round and went off towards the Octagon taxi rank to get a taxi. I understand that at about 3 o'clock in the morning you returned to barracks and woke the writer up and told him you had done Bernie in and that she wouldn't walk the beat again. Also that you had had a go at her face with a trowel from the grate. He got up from bed and you told him again. In the morning when you got up, you told him again about this, you must realise of course that this is very serious and you don't have to say anything about it unless you want to.
Naval Cook: I didn't do it. My statement still stands. I went back to barracks at 12 o'clock with the writer. I didn't know anything about the murder until two days after'.
Detective: Well I have told you what I believe the writer is saying about this and also what the 1st cook has said about the previous night when you made an arrangement to meet Bernadette, it might be that the taxi driver would be able to pick you out.
Naval Cook: I expect he has seen my photograph.
Detective: He certainly has not.
Naval Cook: Anyway I was on an identification parade with about 500 others in the drill shed in Barracks.
Detective: Well you may have been I don't know that.
Naval Cook: About the 1st cook, I remember our last run ashore, the leading cook and the other cook were with us, that was the Wednesday, we started at the Avondale and finished at the Crystal Bar.
Detective: The 1st cook says that you went to the Antelope after that and that was where you met Bernadette and made an arrangement to meet her again the next night.
Naval Cook: I don't remember what happened after the Crystal Bar. I didn't go to the Antelope and I didn't meet the woman.
Detective: We will get your gear collected and will take you back to Plymouth with us. I will have to see the 1st cook and the writer to see if they are telling the truth. In the meantime you will be detained and I will see you again after I have seen them. You understand that you are not obliged to say anything but anything you say may be given in evidence.
Naval Cook: All right.
They later returned to Plymouth where the naval cook was detained.
The police interviewed the naval cook again on 12 March 1961 at about 3.35pm at Police Headquarters Plymouth.
He was first shown property from exhibit 23:
Detective: Is this all your property?
Naval Cook: Yes except for a case you haven’t brought and my best uniform is at the cleaners.
Detective: Since I saw you yesterday I have interviewed both the 1st cook and the writer, I will deal with the 1st cook first and I want you to listen carefully to what I have to say. As I understand it on Wednesday the 18th January this year you went ashore with the 1st cook, the second cook, the leading cook and the other cook. I believe that you all met in a public house near the Dockyard Gates and after staying there for some little while you all took a taxi to Bert's Bar in albert Road, whilst you were there it seems some of you decided you would go to Union Street to see if you could pick up some women. I believe you first went to the Harvest Home and then to the Crystal Bar in Union Street where the leading cook and other cook left you. You, the 1st cook and the 2nd cook then went to the Antelope and whilst the other two were at the bar you sat down and talked to the woman Bernadette. The other two joined you and Bernadette for a while and I understand that later the three of you discussed who was going to ask her about spending the night with her and how much she would charge. You tossed up and the 1st cook asked her and then said the charge was £5. It was finally decided that as you had the most money you would be the one to take her home and you again went and joined her. I understand that you were too tired to go home with her that night but you made arrangements to meet her the next night, the Thursday at the Paramount. The three of you left the public house together and then the 1st cook and the 2nd cook went back to the ship but you didn't go with them. I believe that on the following morning you spoke to the 1st cook and again mentioned your arrangement to meet Bernadette in the Paramount that night. The 1st cook went off to Bristol on leave that day. I will now deal with the writer.
It was noted that at that point the detective went and brought the writer to his office to show the naval cook that he was present and then removed him from the room again before continuing.
Detective: As I understand it, you and he were good friends and at about 6pm on Thursday 19th January you both went ashore in uniform together. You caught a bus to Union Street and after first visiting the Sydenham Arms and the Crystal Bar you went to the Antelope where you met Bernadette Morris. It seems that the writer did not know that you had an arrangement to meet her. I understand that the three of you sat together drinking and talking. At closing time you went together to the Paramount Dance Hall where the writer paid for Bernadette to go in. The three of you stayed the rest of the evening at the dance and at some time while you were there I understand that you told the writer that you had an arrangement with her, presumably he means you were taking her home. When you left the dance hall you all three walked along Union Street towards a cafe but on the way there you told the writer that you were leaving him and you and Bernadette turned around and walked back towards the Paramount. I believe that the writer went on alone to the Mambo Club where he had some sandwiches and later caught a taxi with some other ratings back to barracks, arriving there at about 11.55pm. I understand that some time about 2.30 or 2.45am you returned to barracks and woke up the writer who was in bed. You told him that you had made sure the Mrs. Morris would not be on the beat again and that you had killed her. I understand that you went on to tell him that you had used a trowel which was in the grate in the bedroom. A short time later you told him that you had strangled her and had stabbed her in the face with a trowel. In the morning I believe you asked the writer if he remembered what you had said the night before and also told him that if anyone were to ask him he was to say that you came off shore with him the previous night. I understand that you also asked him what time he had come off shore and when he told you just before midnight you asked him why it had taken so long and he told you that he had been to the Mambo Cafe where he had had fried egg sandwiches and a coffee. I believe the writer told you later that day that he had come off shore with three other chaps. Some days later the writer had been interviewed by the police he told you that he had said that you were in his company throughout the evening of Thursday the 19th January and you had returned to barracks with him shortly before midnight. I understand that you then asked him where you had got the taxi from and he said that it was shouted down as it was passing the cafe in Union Street. I believe that when the writer was on leave in Bristol he went along to see the 1st cook in order to arrange with him an alibi for you and this has been confirmed by the 1st cook. You will now realise the full seriousness of this matter and I must tell you that you are not obliged to say anything unless you wish and that anything you do say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence.
Naval Cook: I'm sure I went with the writer that night. I went to the cafe with him and had egg sandwiches, we went back to barracks in a taxi with some other sailors. We were there by midnight. I didn’t know the woman before that night so how could I have had an arrangement with her. If I didn't go with the writer I don't know where I went. I can't remember, it's a blank. I know I've never been to her house.
It was stated that the naval cook then rested his head in his hands and after an interval of about five minutes he continued.
Naval Cook: It isn't clear any of it what happened. I did go to the house with her in a taxi. We got turned in with the idea of having sex. She didn't want it and wanted to go to sleep. She got annoyed. I don't quite know what happened. She had a temper, shouting. I was frightened and I tried to quieten her. I don't know what I did it with, things went blank, I didn't know she was dead. I don't know how I got back to barracks. I don't remember waking the writer.
Detective: Will you make a statement in writing.
Naval Cook: Will you write it.
Detective: I would prefer you to write it.
Naval Cook: All right.
The naval cook shortly after wrote a statement which was labelled Exhibit 32 after which he was charged with murder.
The statement read:
'I am writing this statement voluntarily after having been told by the detectives that I need not say anything unless I wish and that anything I do say may be given in evidence.
It isn't clear any of it what happened, we went in a taxi to the house, me and the woman, we went to the bedroom and undressed and turned in. I went there for sex but she didn't want it, she then became annoyed and started shouting and hitting me about and I became frightened and tried to keep her quiet then things became blank and I didn't know she was dead, I don't remember leaving or how I got back to barracks or what time, I don't remember waking or talking to the writer, the next thing I remember was awaking next morning.
There is nothing I want to add to this statement. It is in my handwriting and it is the truth'.
At the trial it was noted that the police did not know who the taxi driver was who had taken the writer back to barracks or who the other sailors that had joined him were.
However, at the trial another cook gave evidence to say that he had been in the taxi with the naval cook that had gone back to Levans Gate. The court transcript is detailed below:
Q: Are you a cook in the Royal Navy?
Q: Where are you stationed now?
A: Paisley, Abbotsinch.
Q: Is that at a Naval Air Station?
Q: In January last were you serving in Her Majesty's Ship 'Tiger'?
Q: Was that ship at that time refitting in Devonport?
Q: On Thursday, 19th January, did you go ashore?
Q: With someone?
A: Yes. An officer.
Q: Did you go with him to a public house?
I think it was the Antelope, was it?
Q: Thereafter did you go to other public-houses with him?
Q: With him?
Q: To how many, do you remember?
A: Four, about four.
Q: You were drinking what?
A: Drinking beer at the time, about five or six pints altogether.
Q: About what time was it when you went ashore?
A: We went ashore in the afternoon at about half-past three. We first went to a cinema, then we came out of the cinema and then we went to the bars, at roughly half-past six.
Q: That is when you started drinking?
Q: Did the time come when you went to a cafe?
A: The Mambo Cafe about 11 o'clock.
Q: Is that in Union Street?
Q: Where you still with the officer?
Q: There did you have anything to eat, or what?
A: We had coffee, that is all.
Q: You had coffee?
Q: Were you with anyone else apart from the officer at that time?
A: At that time, no.
Q: While you were there did you see any other sailors?
A: The cafe was quite full at that time.
Q: Eventually did you leave the cafe?
A: We left the cafe about 11.25.
Q: Where did you go?
A: We went across the road and I met there two ratings off Daring.
Q: You met two ratings off Daring?
A: Off Daring.
Q: Why did you think they were off Daring?
A: I recognised one of them as being the naval cook who I knew off training, and we said 'Hallo' to each other, and then we just decided to take a taxi.
Q: You recognised one of them, you say, as the naval cook?
A: The naval cook.
Q: Do you mean the accused?
A: Definitely, yes.
Q: You are definite about that, are you?
A: Yes, I saw him before when I had been stationed at the Naval Air Station at Cildrose at that time and the naval cook was serving there as well.
Q: When were you at Culdrose?
A: July, 1958 to October, 1959.
Q: Had you seen him since then?
A: No. That was the first time I had seen him since then.
Q: That was the first time you had seen him since 1959?
Judge: Yes, then what happened?
Q: You recognised one of them as the naval cook whom you had served with and had not seen him since 1959. What did you do next?
A: We walked across and talked to each other, the naval cook, the officer and I.
Q: You walked across and ----.
A: We went across the road to these two other ratings off the Daring and talked to each other, the naval cook, and I, and the four of us left by taxi back to barracks.
Judge: You crossed the road, is that right? 'We went across the road'? Who is 'we'? Who do you mean by 'we'?
A: The officer and I.
Q: 'The officer and I, and we talked to each other, the naval cook and I, and we went in a taxi back to barracks', is that what you said?
Q: Did you say that you recognised and actually spoke to the naval cook?
A: I actually spoke to him, yes. We said to each other 'Well, what ship are you off?', and then I saw from his cap DARING. Then he said to me 'Where from?'. That was the very first thing that was said, 'Where from?' and we both said 'Culdrose'.
Q: You made a statement about this to the police, did you?
Q: Were you shown two photographs at that time?
A: Of the naval cook, the last time I was shown a photograph was about four weeks ago up at Abbotsinch.
Q: Did you recognise it?
Q: Can you recognise the other rating?
A: At the time I did not take much interest in the other rating. I did not know him. I cannot be sure of the other rating.
Q: Were you shown a photograph of him?
A: Yes, I was shown a photograph of the writer off Daring. I could not recognise him then.
Q: Let the writer stand up. Do you recognise that man or not?
Judge: Just look at him.
A: I recognise him from about three or four days ago, we have been together in mess, but not before then. I do not know him before.
Q: Are you able to say one way or the other whether he was the other rating whom you say you saw that night forming the four?
Q: You say you met these two others, and you say one of them was the naval cook, and you spoke to him. Where did you go then?
A: The four of us left by taxi.
Q: And you went where?
A: St Levan's Gate, RNB.
Q: Then what happened?
A: Well, Sir, the officer and I, our ship was in the dockyard at the time, and we left them at St Levan's Gate, and the other two ratings carried on with the taxi. The time was about 23.50.
Q: How were the other ratings dressed?
A: As seamen.
Q: As what?
A: As seamen, the same rig I am wearing now.
Q: Had the got any coats on or not?
At that point of the trial, in the absence of the jury, the prosecution sought permission to treat the cook as a hostile witness, however, the judge did not grant permission.
Other evidence was given by a hospital attendant that had met Sarah Morris about four years earlier after she bumped into his blind wife who said that he recalled seeing her sometime after 11.25pm on the night of 19 January 1961 with a man in Swilly Road who she then parted from and then shortly after with a different man at about 12.15am on 20 January 1961.
The man had lived in Careswell Avenue in Ham Estate, Plymouth. His statement read:
'I live at the above by myself and I am a widower, employed at the Wolseley Home as an attendant.
About 4 years ago when my wife was alive she and I were walking together in Union Street on the footpath outside the Antelope Inn. As we were passing one of the doors of the Antelope Inn a woman accompanied by a man in civilian clothes came out of the door and collided with my wife and nearly knocked her over. The woman said she was sorry and I told her that my wife was blind. She placed her hands on my wife's shoulders and said how sorry she was that she had bumped into her. I recognised her as a woman that I had seen in different pubs in Union Street and Devonport areas on many occasions. In one pub I heard her referred to as Irish Molly and they told me at the time she lived in Devonport. On a number of occasions since she bumped into my wife I have seen her many times in different pubs mostly in Union Street.
On Thursday, 19th January, 1961, I was late coming home. I remember the night very well because I changed my duties at the Wolseley Home that day as I wanted to see some friends who were up from Cornwall. I met the friend in the Falcon Pub near Wolseley Home at about 8.45pm on that Thursday evening and we stayed there together right up until closing time. We came out of the pub and stayed outside talking until at least 10.30pm. I then went with my friend to her home in Kent Road and stayed talking outside the house for another 15 minutes. I said good night and left her and went down Kent Road again . I turned left and walked along to the Fish and Chip shop. I got there just before it closed at about 11pm I waited about 10 minutes for my fish and chips. When the lady who served me wrapped the chips for me she put vinegar on them and I asked her to change them because I don't like vinegar. This took another couple of minutes. The lady who served me was a short thick set woman and middle aged. I came out of the chip shop and walked along the footpath beside the Wolseley Home to a toilet at the junction of Wolseley Road. I went into the toilet and when I came out I turned right to the bus stop in Wolseley Road outside the Wolseley Home. I stood there for a good quarter of an hour when I suddenly realised I did not have any cigarettes so I walked towards Milehouse to the first lot of shops in Wolseley Road and got cigarettes. I put a 2 shilling piece in the machine instead of a half a crown and while I was trying to get my money back the bus went by. I think it was a Route 34 bus and I realised that this would have been the last bus so I decided to start walking. I remember looking at my watch and it was approximately 11.25pm. I walked back to Wolsely Home across the pedestrian crossing and turned right up the road towards the hospital on the right hand footpath. When I got to Swilly Road I turned left and walked along by the shops. I stayed on the same side as the shops and walked towards home. I got as far as the bus stop before the No 31 bus turns left when I saw a man and a woman crossing the road from my left to my right. I had not seen them before so I think they must have come out of the road where the bus turns down.
The man had his left arm across the woman's shoulders but when he got on the footpath across the road from me he changed over and put his right arm across her shoulders. They had crossed the road diagonally and by the time they had reached the other pavement they were near to the police pillar. The man kissed the woman and turned right and walked up the road away from me on the left hand footpath. The man who was with the woman I would describe as being middle fifties, 5'6'', well built, wearing a dark coloured overcoat and a light coloured cloth cap. The man was full faced. I don't think I would be able to recognise the man again unless he wore the same clothing. The woman after leaving the man crossed the road in front of me. She was in a hurry and as she crossed the footpath in front of me she was so close she nearly bumped into me. She was carrying a small parcel wrapped in brown paper which she dropped as she passed in front of me. She said, 'Sorry dear' and we both bent down to pick up the parcel and he said, 'Thanks love'. The parcel was half open and I saw that it was a pair of dark coloured ladies shoes. The heels were about 3" high and the shoes seemed to have something on the toe. They were not stiletto heels. I looked at the woman and I recognised her immediately as the woman I had previously heard referred to as Irish Molly and the woman who had bumped into my wife. She was wearing a long green mac which was open at the front and with a fur type collar. She also had on a scarf around her neck of many colours. I believe it was silk. She had a dark coloured woollen long sleeved cardigan on, with what seemed like frilly cuffs. I don't think it was all one colour. I don't think she had her arms in the sleeves because they seemed to be hanging down in front of her underneath her mac. I believe the cardigan was of the button up type. She had a light coloured pleated skirt on. She was wearing shoes which appeared to me to be blue. When we almost bumped into each other we were underneath a lit street lamp. Her hair was auburn coloured and was not long.
I started to walk along Swilly Road on my way home and she started to walk down the hill by the school. She appeared to be in a hurry and she had gone as far as the school entrance on the school side of the road when another man who I had not seen before came from near some railings opposite the school entrance and went over to her. He said, 'Molly I want you a minute' and caught hold of her arm. She did not appear to want to stop. I turned back and watched. They were talking to each other for a few minutes but I could not hear what they said. She pulled her left arm away but the man kept hold of it. They stopped and talked for a few more seconds and then started to walk down the hill together. The man still had hold of her arm and she appeared to try and make him let go by shaking her arm but the man kept hold. Two cars passed each other in the same piece of road where the man and woman went down. The one that came up the road was like a London taxi and the other a private car. Both were black and there was only drivers in each car. The taxi turned right and went along Swilly Road towards the hospital. I continued walking home and I did not see whether they turned left or right or walked straight down the hill. The man who caught her hold was middle aged, 5'6/7", thick set, wearing a very light coloured almost white belted mac with slit pockets black shoes, dark trousers and a brownish coloured trilby hat. He was full faced. I remember as he walked across to meet the woman he appeared to stumble as though he was awkward on his feet. I did not see the man's face well enough to recognise it again but I think I would recognise the clothing. I would say the time when the man and woman went down the road together was about 10 minutes to 15 minutes past 12 midnight.
When I looked at the Evening Herald on Monday 23 January, 1961 I saw a photograph of a woman who had been murdered at her home in Swilly. I at once recognised the face of the murdered woman as the one I knew as Irish Molly. I read the article and realised that the clothing I saw the woman wearing on the night I have told you about is very similar to the clothing described in the paper'
The naval cook was cleared of murder at the Devon Assizes on Thursday 15 June 1961 after the judge directed that he be discharged. After his acquittal he was given leave from the navy to go to stay with his parents in Monton Farleigh near Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire for some time.
His acquittal was said to have been received by cheers from the people in the court.
see National Archives - DPP 2/3263, ASSI 26/235
see A Calendar Of Murder, Criminal Homicide In England Since 1957, Terence Morris and Louis Blom-Cooper
see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 26 April 1961
see Belfast Telegraph - Thursday 26 January 1961
see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 14 March 1961
see Belfast Telegraph - Thursday 02 February 1961
see Halifax Evening Courier - Friday 28 April 1961
see Daily Mirror - Friday 16 June 1961
see Daily Herald - Friday 16 June 1961
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Monday 23 January 1961
see Daily Mirror - Friday 16 June 1961
see Daily Herald - Monday 30 January 1961
see Belfast Telegraph - Friday 27 January 1961
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 24 January 1961
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Saturday 21 January 1961
see Belfast Telegraph - Saturday 21 January 1961
see Aberdeen Evening Express - Friday 16 June 1961