Unsolved Murders


Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 9 Jan 1903

Place: River Avon, Chippenham

A woman was found drowned in the River Avon.

A man was charged with having thrown her in but the case was later dismissed after no evidence was offered at the Chippenham Police Court.

On the morning of 9 January 1902 the man who was charged had gone to Vitti's lodging-house in Chippenham with a friend at 11.40am and then later they went out into town.

The woman later also went to the lodging-house at 4pm and paid for a bed for the night.

The men returned around 5.30pm and went into the kitchen where the woman was sitting down. The man made some tea and asked the woman if she wanted some but she said she didn't. However, she later took some.

The woman asked the landlady of the lodging house if she wanted to have a drink with her but the landlady declined saying that she could not leave the lodging house.

The man then asked the woman if she wanted to go for a drink with him and they then went out around 6.30pm. The landlady said that the woman appeared to have plenty of money.

They were later seen in the Rose and Crown by the landlord's daughter who said that they came in between 7pm and 8pm on the night. She said that the man called for a pint of ale but because he was the worse for drink she refused to serve him and she said that he said 'If you will not serve me I will go somewhere else' and that they both left the pub. She said that the woman didn't speak at all and so she was unable to say whether she was drunk or sober.

They were later seen by a woman from Wood Lane who was out with her husband in the Borough Arms. She said that she saw the woman reading 'The Police News'. When the wife stood her husband a pint of beer she said that the man said 'My missus would not do that' and that the woman then wanted another pint and the man said to her 'I suppose you want to fight me again. If you do you will have my foot, or the flannel foot'. The landlady refused to serve them another pint and they then left.

The woman had got the copy of 'The Police News' from a man who lived on Factory Lane who had been reading it earlier in the evening in the Borough Arms. He said that he was reading it at about 7.45pm when he saw them and she had asked him if she could have a look at and he gave it to her. He said that he was there when the married woman stood her husband a drink and said that when she did the man said 'My wife would not pay for a pint for me'. He said that the man then asked the woman to come home with him but said that she refused and that he had said 'If you don't I shall use my flannel foot on you'. He said that he looked on that conversation as being of an ordinary character for people of that class.

Later a man was on the bridge at Back Avon when he heard the man say to a policeman that the woman had jumped into the river and that he was pointing to a spot about seven yards from the end of the bridge.

A nurse that lived at the Red Lion Inn in Cirencester said that she knew the man well and that he had lived at the Inn for some time and that while there she had heard him say on several occasions that if he met his wife he should kill her adding that he could not keep his hands from doing it. She said that he had said that when he had had beer but that he had known perfectly well what he was saying.

A common lodging house proprietor from Newport said that he recognised both the man and the woman from a photo as people that had lodged at his house in 1898 and 1899 as man and wife. He said that the woman belonged to Abergavenny and was about 27 to 28 years old. He said that when she first came with the man she had a respectable appearance but on subsequent occasions she didn't look so tidy. He also said that he refused to take them in because of their quarrelling and bad language and that the woman called several times and spoke to his wife asking then to overlook it. However, his wife said that the woman in the photo was not the woman that had lodged with them. She said that the woman was not a hawker and remained in the house all day while the man was out. She said that the woman had told her that she had settled down in Cardiff.

A policeman said that he had a letter from the Wolverhampton Police that proved the man's real name as he used many and details of a separation order that had been made against him four years earlier with his wife on the grounds of his cruelty towards her.  He said that the man and the woman were not married and that they had been living together.

When the Coroner had asked the man that was suspected of throwing the woman into the river why he had not used his real name when first questioned he said it was because he was afraid that that the people in Wolverhampton would find out where he was. He said that he had never seen the woman that died until he came to Chippenham and that the woman that he had been living with in Newport was now married and living in Newport. He also said that he had been in the Shropshire Militia for three years.

The man was ordered to be brought before the Mayor on the next Tuesday on suspicion of having committed wilful murder by throwing the woman into the river but in February his case was dismissed by the Police Court when no evidence was offered.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Warminster & Westbury journal, and Wilts County Advertiser - Saturday 24 January 1903

see Warminster & Westbury journal, and Wilts County Advertiser - Saturday 07 February 1903