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Unsolved Murders

Lizzie Smith

Age: 8

Sex: female

Date: 29 Aug 1900

Place: Poyle Mills, Colnbrook, Berkshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Lizzie Smith was found dead in a shed at Poyle Mills in Colnbrook on the Monday morning, 20 August 1900 after vanishing on he Friday evening.

She had been strangled and had head wounds. It was thought that she probably died instantly.

She was found in an outhouse near her father's house and the Poyle paper mills by an employee at the Poyle paper mills. He said that he had gone into the outhouse where he found her straw hat near some paper bales. He said that when he looked closer he saw her feet protruding from beneath a paper bale and then went off to get a colleague. The paper bales were said to have weighted 2cwt each. Police also found a piece of gas piping that was bloodstained.

The mill worker was later questioned about the murder. He said that he had been into the shed a number of times to fix gas piping but denied killing Lizzie Smith.

She was last seen on the Friday evening, 17 August 1900 at 11.30pm when she was dispatched off on an errand to a shop about a quarter of a mile away by her mother to get some bacon and blacklead. She was also later seen by three little girls who said that they saw her on the Friday evening at about 12 midnight and said that Lizzie Smith had told them that she was going to the grocer's.

Her father said that she had been sent out to get some bacon at 8.30pm and that she had got it and brought back the change and had then gone out again at about 11pm and he said that he was in the firm belief that she never got past the shed.

She was first missed by her father at dinner time and a search was then made for her but the father said that he was under the impression that she had been taken away by gipsies.

A search was made for her on the Saturday and Sunday but she wasn't found until the Monday morning by the mill worker.

There were two cords around her throat which were tied tightly and her head and face bore signs of rough treatment.

Her post-mortem stated that death was due to the injuries she had received which had been caused by gas-piping being used with terrible force. It stated that her skull was severely fractured and that some of the bones had been broken.

It was noted that Lizzie Smith had been decoyed away before and brutally ill-used about three years earlier for which a man was convicted and sentenced to six-months imprisonment. The man was questioned, as he still lived in the area where he worked on the threshing machine gangs and had been seen recently, but could explain his whereabouts and was released.

It was thought that her killer was someone well acquainted with Colnbrook and the conduct of the mills. The shed was not locked, but no one other than employees of the paper mill had any right to go in there. It was used for  storing waste paper and canvas for remaking into paper.

On the Thursday 24 August 1900 a farm labourer was brought under suspicion when he was found by the side of the river Colne in a meadow washing some stains off his clothes as well as some stains off of an axe. It was said that his conduct was suspicious and he was arrested and that when he was questioned he had been evasive and arrogant. It was said that there appeared to be blood stains on his shirt and his conduct was said to have been that of a lunatic. He was kept at the police station through Thursday night but then released on the Friday as there was not sufficient evidence to warrant his further detention.

When the mother was questioned she had supposed that it was the child's fate, referring to the incident three years earlier.

Lizzie Smith had lived in a rustic thatched cottage in Poyle Road, Colnbrook by the banks of the Colne. Her father was a bricklayer and had been working at the linoleum works in Staines. She had four siblings.

Lizzie Smith was buried at the Colnbrook parish church. Her coffin had been carried by twelve of her fellow Sunday Scholars.


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


see Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 29 August 1900

see South Wales Echo - Thursday 23 August 1900

see Illustrated Police News - Saturday 01 September 1900 (with illustrations)

see Berkshire Chronicle - Saturday 25 August 1900

see Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper - Sunday 26 August 1900 (with illustrations)