Unsolved Murders

Elsie Payne

Age: 12

Sex: female

Date: 7 Dec 1923

Place: Clifton Street, Cardiff

Elsie Payne died from a wound to her throat although it was not known how the wound had been caused.

An open verdict was returned. Her death was stated to have been due to haemorrhage following the cutting of the jugular vein.

She had been out on an errand at the time, on 7 December 1923, and rushed back to her aunt and uncle's shop in Clifton Street at 8.40pm bleeding from her throat and said, 'A man asked me where Clifton Street was', but then collapsed. She died an hour later in hospital.

It was suggested that her injuries might have been caused by an accident such as her falling on some railings or broken glass. However, it was noted that whilst the accident theory had been advanced, that the police were inclined to the belief that she had been murdered.

When the police arrived they followed a trail of blood that led 103 yards down the street to a spot immediately opposite some railings on the other side of the road in Iron Street, off Clifton Street.

Elsie Payne had been with a companion shortly before, a 14-year-old girl, who said that she had accompanied Elsie Payne part of the way when she was given sixpence to buy some pies. She said that she left her to proceed alone down Iron Street, where the blood trail was eventually found.

Elsie Payne's companion said that she didn't see anyone following them, and nor did anyone stop them on the way.

A house surgeon at Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where Elsie Payne was taken, said that the bleeding had exhausted itself by the time she arrived and that a blood transfusion was attempted, but that Elsie Payne died whilst tests were being made.

He said that the wound was an inch long and an inch deep and that the edges were clean cut, except the outer edge, which was ragged, and said that he thought that it had been caused by a sharp instrument such as a knife or a piece of glass.

A railed gate with sharp spikes at the top was presented in evidence at her inquest and the house surgeon was asked whether he thought that her wound was consistent with Elsie Payne having slipped and fallen on similar spikes, but he said that he didn't think so as the spikes were not sharp enough to have caused the wound, unless considerable force had been exercised.

However, he agreed with the Coroner that if she had been molested by a man, who when she resisted had struck at her with a sharp instrument, that it would probably have been a downward, rather than an upward blow.

He noted that there were no other signs of ill-treatment other than the wound in the neck.

However, the police surgeon said that in his opinion that a spike might have caused the wound. He said that whilst it could have been caused by glass, that he thought that if so then the wound would have been downward and backward, and not upward and forward.

Evidence was heard from a young painter who said that he had seen a man with his hand on a small girl's shoulder. He said that he stopped to light a cigarette, and then saw the man run away. He said that, thinking that the man had stolen something from the girl, that he chased him, but had been unable to catch him.

He said that when he retraced his steps, he found that the girl had been stabbed. He added that he thought that he would know the man again.

A butcher's apprentice said that he saw a man and a little girl talking in Iron Street and that then, all at once, the girl ran across the road and screamed, but that when he got to the spot that the man had disappeared.

When Elsie Payne's aunt later cleaned the shop the following Wednesday, she found a bloodstained sixpence on the floor.

A man was detained in connection with her death but was discharged after the police said that they wanted to offer no evidence.

On the morning of Tuesday 18 December 1923, Elsie Payne's father received a letter confessing to Elsie Payne's murder. In the letter the writer said that they were very sorry for the trouble caused, adding that they must have been mad when they did it.

In the letter the writer said, 'I did it with a corkscrew, then when I realised what I had done I went into the shop on the opposite corner for a packet of cigarettes, and the man who served me saw blood on me. He wanted to know if I worked in the slaughter house, and I said, 'Yes''.

However, when the police went to the address found in the letter, they determined that the address was not that of the writer.

Elsie Payne's father had been a GWR foreman.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 21 December 1923

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Friday 21 December 1923

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 11 December 1923

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 14 December 1923

see Western Daily Press - Friday 14 December 1923

see Western Evening Herald - Tuesday 18 December 1923

see Daily Herald - Friday 21 December 1923