Unsolved Murders

Iris Watkins

Age: 21

Sex: female

Date: 10 Oct 1925

Place: Blackwood, Newport

Iris Watkins was found dead in a shallow mountain stream about a mile from her home six weeks after she disappeared on 12 August 1925.

She was a shop assistant and lived with her grandmother in Blackwood near Newport.

When she was found in the stream on 22 September 1925 and lifted out a small square mirror dropped, apparently from her hand, into the stream. There were no signs of violence. She was found by a young married woman who said that at the time the brook was in flood.

It was noted that from the moment she disappeared her grandmother declared that she had been abducted although it was not known what her reasons were for saying that. She said that as far as she knew Iris Watkins was not in any trouble and that she was generally cheerful. She said that she knew that she had received letters from two young men but had not seen her with any male and did not know whether she was in the habit of pillion riding.

She was described as a quiet reserved girl and not given to escapades or excursions with men and that when she attended dances and would go accompanied by a girlfriend and that she had never been taken home from a dance by a male companion.

She was identified by her grandmother who identified her by means of a shoe, a portion of clothing and a bangle found on the body.

A young man that had been on friendly terms with Iris Watkins said that he was quite certain that she would never have gone willingly with any man on such a wet night although he said that she might have been persuaded against her will or even been taken forcibly in either a car or on a  motorbike. He went on to say that she might have possibly realised that she was being abducted if she had been in a car or bike and had thrown herself into the roadway or caused the driver to lose control and crash. He said that if that were so the man might have secreted her body and then disposed of it later in the stream when decomposition made it impossible to keep her body any longer.

At the inquest a farmer gave evidence to say that he had seen a man with Iris Watkins at Kincoe Farm on the night of 10 August 1925. He said that he saw the man again on the night of 13 August but not again since. He said that the man was about 22 year old, with medium brown hair and wore a tooth brush moustache. He said that there were patches of red on his cheek bones and his nose was more of a Jewish type, a little Roman. The Coroner said that that was the man that they were trying to trace but without any luck and then asked that if by recognising the description he could come forward he would be doing a great service. When the man presented himself before the Coroner the following day he said that he remembered a particular Monday night when he had been at Kincoe Farm with a young woman and said that a man had spoken to them and told them that they were trespassing but said that they could stay. The man said that the woman was not Iris Watkins and that he was wearing the same clothes at the inquest as he had been on that day. The Coroner then asked the farmer who had given his evidence the day before 'Where are the stripes in his clothes? Where is the brown cap? The lady was an entirely different person. Have you been drawing on your imagination very largely?' The farmer replied 'No, I don't think so' to which the Coroner replied 'Well, I think you have, from your evidence yesterday, and from now seeing the man'.

Iris Watkins’s mother said that Iris Watkins had not visited her since March 1924 and added that she was not on speaking terms with her father. Iris Watkins's father said that he had never spoken to Iris Watkins in his entire life and nor had she spoken to him.

A friend of Iris Watkins said that Iris Watkins had told her that she was fed up with Blackwood and would like to clear out.

One of the four doctors at the post-mortem said that her body was very much decomposed and had been dead for more than twenty days but could not form an opinion as to how much longer than that. He said that practically all her skin had a wax on it usually found on a body which had been exposed to the air for some time and that if the body had been under water for six weeks it would not have been there. He said that in many parts of the body the hair, skin and soft tissues had disappeared practically to the bone and the right knee was practically dislocated. He also said that her lower jaw was almost separated from the rest of her face and that her lungs were perfectly free from water and in perfect condition. He also said that there was no penetration wound in any part of her body.

The Coroner said that the death was not due to drowning. He said that there was no direct evidence of violence and the condition of her lower jaw and right knee might have been the result of decomposition. He said that he thought however that death was due to violence although it could have been due to a sudden stoppage of her heart by some unexplained cause.

The Coroner noted that Iris Watkins was found virgo intacta.

A partner with the county analyst said that he examined Iris Watkins's organs for poison and found nothing.

The president of the Blackwood Central Spiritualist Church stated that as a result of his psychic investigation which he carried out a week after she had vanished that was convinced that she had not left town and had been murdered and that her body would eventually be found, although not in the culvert through which the stream flowed.

At the time the Coroner accepted the Coroner's jury's verdict of 'Murder by some person or persons unknown', but said that he profoundly disagreed with it.

Her case was to be raised in Parliament with the Home Secretary in relation to evidence that had been passed between a firm of solicitors and the Public Prosecutor which was said to contain certain information and evidence that not been acted on and as to whether Scotland Yard could be instructed to proceed with investigations. The National Archives document HO 144/22367 contains information including a document titled 'refusal by Scotland Yard to investigate circumstances of death on account of delay in asking for their assistance; position of Chief Constable vis a vis the Standing Joint Committee'.

There was much dissatisfaction in the village and a public meeting considered that the matter should not be allowed to die out as an 'unsolved mystery'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see National Archives - HO 144/22367

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Saturday 10 October 1925

see Portsmouth Evening News - Thursday 21 January 1926

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 01 October 1925

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 09 December 1925

see Gloucester Citizen - Thursday 08 October 1925

see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 26 October 1925

see Northern Whig - Saturday 26 September 1925

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 01 October 1925