Unsolved Murders

Mary Helen Jones

Age: 32

Sex: female

Date: 2 Oct 1920

Place: Poole

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Mary Helen Jones died from an illegal operation on 2 October 1920.

A woman was tried for her murder and several people were charged with being accessories, but were all acquitted.

She died from peritonitis having previously had a miscarriage at Poole.

When the post-mortem was carried out it was determined that her womb had been perforated in such a way as to lead to the conclusion that something improper had been done to bring about the miscarriage which then set up peritonitis and septic poisoning.

Enquiries were made and it was determined that Mary Jones had gone to London on 22 September 1920 where she had been introduced to the woman who had lived on Park Road, Portway in West Ham, who was then charged with her murder. A witness was brought forward who said that she had seen the woman insert an instrument into Mary Jones on 24 September 1920 and that on the next day, 25 September 1920 an abortion had taken place. As such, the court heard that it was a result of what had happened to Mary Jones in London that she had later died in Poole.

The court heard that she had gone to the woman after another person had tried to carry out an illegal operation for an abortion on her which had failed. A telegram was read out which read, 'Can you see us on Tuesday, or wire lady's address. He failed'.  The telegram had been handed into the post office by Mary Jones's husband who, it was stated, knew that his wife had been to see the previous man for an abortion and that that was the meaning of the reference, 'He failed'. The court heard that the husband then sent his wife to see the woman who was to introduce her to the woman who carried out the operation and was tried for her murder.

However, the court heard that Mary Jones didn't wait for a reply and went to London on the quest, provided with money supplied by her husband. So Mary Jones and her friend, whose expenses were paid for by Mary Jones's husband, went to London to meet the woman who was said to have taken them to see the woman that carried out the abortion.

The court heard that the woman who was alleged to have carried out the illegal operation was paid £3 for what she did.

The court heard that the husband had paved the way for his wife to go to London to have performed on her an illegal operation and knowing that her trip was for that purpose. It was said that although he didn't know the woman who carried out the operation he was prepared to take the risk of the woman performing the operation with-out danger to the life of his wife and as such had assisted his wife in having an illegal operation which resulted in her death and was guilty of her murder in the same way that the woman who had carried out the operation was guilty of murder.

It was unclear what type of instrument had been used. The woman who had carried out the operation gave police an instrument, a syringe with a nozzle in it, which she said had been used but the woman who had introduced Mary Jones to the woman that had carried out the operation said that the instrument used was not the one that was produced and said that the one used had been longer and thinner.

The friend that had accompanied Mary Jones to London said that Mary Jones was determined to go to London and was of the opinion that nothing would have stopped her from going and that she had only accompanied her as a friend. The court also heard that the husband had tried to persuade his wife not to go to London and that Mary Jones was a strong minded woman and determined to go and he was surely not an accessory to that. The court heard that he did not know the woman that Mary Jones was going to meet in London and that even if he had consented to her going that would not make him an accessory to the offence carried out by the woman that had carried out the operation. However, the judge said that the counsel appeared to be saying that no one could procure an unknown person to commit a felony and that he thought differently and that the matter would have to go to the jury.

The court also heard that there was no proof that the women had gone to London or that the husband had provided money for his wife to go or that he had commanded his wife to commit the felony.

The defence said that the case against the woman charged with carrying out the operation was based mainly on the evidence of the friend that had taken Mary Jones to London and said that the accused woman had only carried out a syringing with soap and water which was a recognised method and which if done with a flexible tube was perfectly harmless.

The judge summed up the case saying that he doubted that the operator of the operation had intended to murder Mary Jones and said that the jury should rather direct their attention to the charge of manslaughter if they considered that the woman had carried out the operation that had caused Mary Jones's death. The jury retired for fifteen minutes and returned with a verdict of not guilty.

Following there was a charge against the woman who was tried for the murder of Mary Jones on a count of using a certain instrument with the intention of procuring an abortion but the defence said that the case should be heard in London and not Dorset as that was where the offence was said to have been committed, however, the judge objected to the case being postponed to the next Assizes in order for the prosecution to consider their position with that kind of charge hanging over the accused woman's head for so long and the jury was sworn in and after some consideration found her not guilty on that count as well.


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


see Western Gazette - Friday 29 October 1920

see Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 14 October 1920