Unsolved Murders

Constance Grant

Age: 16

Sex: female

Date: 25 Dec 1917

Place: 12 Pembroke Place, Kilburn

Constance Grant was found dead under the floorboards of a house at 12 Pembroke Place in Kilburn. It was thought that she had died around Christmas 1917.

Two people were charged with her manslaughter but the cause of death was so obscure that the charge of manslaughter was passed over and they were convicted of neglect and disposing of a dead body. They were tried at the Old Baily on 12 to 15 September 1919.

The people charged were:

  1. Man, Constance Grant‘s father, 48-year-old boiler cleaner.
  2. Woman, 42-year-old widow.

They were charged with being concerned in her manslaughter on a date unknown.

A 19-year-old girl was also charged with having been concerned with the woman in burying or otherwise disposing of Constance Grant's body, without giving notice to the coroner. However, when the case was opened at the Old Bailey the charge against the girl was dropped.

Constance Grant was said to have been buried under the floorboards between 18 August 1918 and 13 January 1919. It was said that her remains had been placed under the floorboards after her bones had become separated from one another and that when found, they were bones without a vestige of flesh.

The man and woman had lived together as man and wife since 1903. The woman had been a widower and had eight children whilst the man had four children and whilst together they had another five children.

The court heard that Constance Grant had been weak minded and had been kept away from the other children.

Evidence stated that the man had bathed Constance Grant's broken chilblains around Christmas 1917 for about half an hour in the presence of several of the family in boiling soda water and that one of her toes had dropped off and that after that she was never seen again. She was said to have screamed throughout.

The children said that whenever they asked where Constance Grant was they were always put off by some elusive statement.

It was heard that when the remains were found that one of the woman's children had said to the woman, 'what they are saying about you at Pembroke Place is that you murdered two children and buried them under the floor', to which it was said that the woman had said, 'They will have to prove that'.

It was claimed at the trial that some form of maceration similar to boiling, but not exactly the same, must have been adopted, and it was suggested that the body had at first been place in a manhole in the passage and then afterwards under the floor.

It was said that in a statement to the police that the woman had said, 'I never told anyone, but let her lie there. She lay for two months, and after that I put her under the floor'.

The prosecution submitted that Constance Grant's death had been accelerated by lack of attention shown her on the day her chilblains were being attended to.

When the pathologist gave evidence at the trial, he produced Constance Grant's skull and placed it on the ledge of the witness box, which was said to have caused a murmur of horror amongst the women in the court, some of whom burst into tears.

The pathologist said that the condition of the bones was not consistent with natural decay resulting from the two years that they had been in the position that they were found, and said that he thought that the flesh had been taken from the bones by some process previous to their being buried under the floor. He said that their condition was consistent with the body having first been placed in the inspection chamber in the passage and having been there for some six months or a year.

With regard to Constance Grant's foot, he noted that there would have been great risk of blood poisoning unless the chilblains had received proper attention.

It was also heard that Constance Grant had suffered from her chilblains in March 1918 that that her father had bathed her feet, which were badly swollen, and then put her to bed and that in the morning she was found dead after which she was buried.

It was also heard that they left the house in December 1918 and that shortly after the new tenants noticed a horrible stench in the lower rooms and that when they pulled up some boards in the kitchen that they found the human remains.

The prosecution stated that if the jury were satisfied that Constance Grant's death was accelerated by lack of medical care, that the man and woman were guilty of manslaughter.

However, when the judge summed up at the Old Bailey on 15 September 1919, he said that the cause of death was so obscure that he thought the question of manslaughter could be passed over. The jury then acquitted them of manslaughter, but they were both found guilty of neglect and disposing of the dead body and sentenced to 18 months' hard labour each.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Monday 15 September 1919

see Western Times - Monday 15 September 1919

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Monday 15 September 1919

see Leeds Mercury - Wednesday 10 September 1919

see Leeds Mercury - Tuesday 05 August 1919

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Friday 12 September 1919

see Londonderry Sentinel - Saturday 13 September 1919