Unsolved Murders

Margaret Dunwoodie

Age: 54

Sex: female

Date: 16 Dec 1905

Place: 34 Greenfield Street, Govan

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Margaret Dunwoodie was killed in her house on 16 December 1905.

Her son was tried for her murder but a verdict of not proven was returned.

She had been suffocated. When she was found it was said that she had apparently been strangled, but that there was also a bottle labelled 'Poison' by her side.

Her son was a slater and lived with her.

It was alleged that he had twisted and compressed her nose, forced a handkerchief into her mouth, and did thus suffocate her.

Margaret Dunwoodie was also known as Margaret Murray.

Margaret Dunwoodie and her son had gone to live in Greenfield Street a few months earlier and had occupied a room and a kitchen

They were described as being of a quiet disposition although Margaret Dunwoodie was said to have not mixed with their neighbours although she and her son were said to have lived happily together.

Saturday night on the Clyde was known as the 'big pay' and Margaret Dunwoodie, in her capacity as rent collector for the property, was said to have collected rents there, or at any rate part payments of rents, from a number of people.

At about 3pm a man and his wife who were acquaintances of Margaret Dunwoodie called at her house, which was a through-and-through room and kitchen on the ground floor. The house was described as being neatly and tastefully, although not expensively, furnished and had seemed in perfect order. They were admitted by Margaret Dunwoodie's son who was said to have been in the act of dressing and who they say informed them that Margaret Dunwoodie had gone off to the factor's.

They noted that when they saw him he was dressed to go out.

They said that when Margaret Dunwoodie's son was ready that he told them that he was going out and so they all wet out, with Margaret Dunwoodie's son locking the door behind them.

Margaret Dunwoodie's son then crossed the street to a dairy that was almost opposite with the intention of leaving the house keys there for his mother, but he returned without doing so, remarking to the couple that his mother had a duplicate set and would be able to get in herself. At the trial the husband noted that when Margaret Dunwoodie's son had gone into the dairy to to leave the keys that he had taken some time and hat when he came back he had come from another direction and added that he would have had plenty of time during that to have headed back to Greenfield Street and to have unlocked the door.

They then walked in company for some distance and Margaret Dunwoodie's son then suggested that they might go back to the house and 'kindle the fire for the old woman coming home' and handed them the keys to the house.

Later at the trial, the wife said that when Margaret Dunwoodie's son gave her the keys he had volunteered the statement that he had seen a suspicious looking character with a red muffler lurking about the back court that day and added that he had not liked the man's looks.

The couple took the keys from Margaret Dunwoodie's son and went back to Greenfield Street where they lit the fire. They said that as the door of the lobby leading to the room at the back was closed, they waited in the kitchen. However, they said that as time wore on and there was no sign of Margaret Dunwoodie or her son, that they began to feel that all was not right and the husband decided to take a look into the bedroom to satisfy himself. He took a paraffin lamp for the purpose and said that when he opened the parlour door that he saw Margaret Dunwoodie's body lying on the floor.

The husband then went quickly to the nearest telephone call office where he informed the police who soon arrived.

When Margaret Dunwoodie's body was examined it was found that she had been gagged with a pocket handkerchief that had been stuffed in her mouth. However, it was noted that there was little sign in the parlour that there had been a struggle, but colour was given to the theory of robbery when one or two coppers were found on the floor near her body. It was also determined that the leather pouch that she wore suspended from her waist and in which she was known to have kept her money, was empty.

It was later noted that all the money that was found in the house was the two halfpence near her body.

After Margaret Dunwoodie body was discovered the police started to look for her son and at about midnight he returned to the house just as some doctors were getting out of a cab and he inquired whether anything serious had occurred. However, he was promptly arrested, and it was said that after he learned about the seriousness of the case, he completely broke down.

Blood was found on his knees and it was said that it had not come from a wound on his leg.

At the trial, when the judge asked the police whether they had asked Margaret Dunwoodie's son whether he had killed her, they said that they did and that in response he had said 'No' and had started to cry.

However, a detective sergeant said that after he informed Margaret Dunwoodie's son that he was to be taken in custody on a charge of causing Margaret Dunwoodie's death, Margaret Dunwoodie's son had said, 'Me murder my mother! Me murder my mother! Oh, no!'. However, at the trial, when the judge asked the detective sergeant whether Margaret Dunwoodie's son had had been much put out by that, the detective sergeant replied, 'He did not seem very much grieved. No tears came'.

When Margaret Dunwoodie's son gave evidence, he said, 'I was working with the slater, Parliamentary Road, and left off work at one o'clock, came home and had dinner, and my mother then went away to the house factor's. I went to see my sweetheart at Blochairn'.

However, the slate merchant said that he had engaged Margaret Dunwoodie's son to work for him from 14 October 1905 and that he was in his employment until 9 December 1905 on which date he dismissed him as not being suitable, and added that it was not correct to say that Margaret Dunwoodie's son had been in his employment on Saturday 16 December 1905 and that he had ceased work on that day at 1pm.

The doctor that carried out the post-mortem on Margaret Dunwoodie said that in his opinion she had died from the combined effects of shock and suffocation. He said that the marks found on her body were due to forcible contact with some blunt instrument, but noted that the packing of the handkerchief into her mouth did not in itself cause her death, but that it had been a contributory factor. He also added that looking to the whole of the bruises and other marks of violence on her body that he did not think that it was possible that her death could have been self-inflicted and said that in his view her injuries were inflicted by some other person who used violence.

A professor who was also present at the post-mortem added that he agreed that her injuries could not have been self-inflicted and added that he thought that there must have been a struggle. He added that the theory of self-suffocation was not tenable because her tongue was jammed back.

Several women gave evidence at the trial over the sums of money that they had paid Margaret Dunwoodie in rental on the day that she was murdered.

One woman added that she had purchased a table from Margaret Dunwoodie who she said told her that she was selling some of her room furniture because her son was not bringing in as much money as keep himself.

Another woman who lived near Margaret Dunwoodie said that Margaret Dunwoodie had frequently complained to her that her son did not work and that when he did, he gave her no money.

Another woman said that Margaret Dunwoodie had told her that on one occasion Margaret Dunwoodie's son had given Margaret Dunwoodie a black eye.

A house factor who lived in Sardinia Terrace in Hillhead said that he had charge of the property at 34 Greenfield Street and said that although Margaret Dunwoodie had no authority to collect rents, tenants did go in odd cases and pay their rents to her.  He added that he had had an appointment with her o 16 December 1905 but that although he called at both 3.30pm and 4pm, that he didn't find her in and noted that on both occasions her doors were not locked. He added that on the followng Monday he learned that two tenants had paid sums of money to Margaret Dunwoodie.

A joiner also gave evidence to the effect that Margaret Dunwoodie had spoken to him in October 1905 about getting a duplicate set of keys but said that she didn't get them.

Margaret Dunwoodie's son's girlfriend who was a waitress at Blochairn Steel Works office said that she had lodged with Margaret Dunwoodie in 1904 where she had met Margaret Dunwoodie's son who later asked her to be his sweetheart, from which time she started to associate with him. She said that in January 1905 he asked her to marry him and said that she agreed and said that he later gave her an engagement ring in September 1905. She said that their marriage was fixed for 2 January 1906 but added that Margaret Dunwoodie had been against it.

Margaret Dunwoodie's son's sweetheart said that Margaret Dunwoodie's son came to see her on Saturday 16 December 1905 at about 5pm and that he stayed with her until about 10.45pm and that during that time they visited the session-clerk to give in their names for proclamation on 2 January 1905, noting that Margaret Dunwoodie's son gave the session clerk 2s. 6d and lso gave her 5s. She said that Margaret Dunwoodie's son told her that after they were married that he would ask Margaret Dunwoodie to come and stay with them and that if she did not that they would give her some money every week, noting that he had said that he would give her 15s a week.

When she was cross-examined, she said that she had never seen Margaret Dunwoodie's son the worse for drink and said that he had appeared in good spirits on 16 December 1905 and that if there had been anything bothering him that she would have noticed it. She also added that she still trusted him.

The trial also heard from a 15-year-old girl who lived in Greenfield Street who said that she saw Margaret Dunwoodie at about 5pm on the evening of 16 December 1905 and said that she assisted her home with her messages and said that Margaret Dunwoodie complained to her of a pain in her side. Her story was also corroborated by her mother who said that she had told her about helping Margaret Dunwoodie when she asked her what had detained her. Another woman also made a statement stating that she had seen the 15-year-old girl with Margaret Dunwoodie at about that time.

After the judge summed up, the jury retired for about three quarters of an hour and returned a majority verdict of not proven and Margaret Dunwoodie's son was immediately liberated and left the court in the company of some of his friends.


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


see Edinburgh Evening News - Tuesday 27 February 1906

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 18 December 1905

see Edinburgh Evening News - Monday 18 December 1905

see Edinburgh Evening News - Tuesday 27 February 1906

see Northern Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 28 February 1906

see Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle - Friday 22 December 1905