Unsolved Murders

Thomas Shaw

Age: 40

Sex: male

Date: 15 Dec 1931

Place: Sturton

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Thomas Shaw disappeared on 16 December 1931.

A man admitted to shooting him and then weighing his body down and dumping it in the Humber but said it was an accident. He was tried for Thomas Shaw's manslaughter but acquitted.

Thomas Shaw was last seen at about 3.20pm walking down a lonely lane near the River Trent carrying a thick stick with him. He had also had a bicycle with him which he had left propped up against a fence and which was later found by the police.

It was thought that his body had been thrown into the Humber between Ferriby sluice and Hull and that he had been shot with a double-barrelled shotgun in the lonely lane near Sturton on the Tuesday night. However, the police were unable to find his body.

On 18 December 1931, the police received a letter that appeared to confirm that his body was either in the River Trent which flowed near to where he was thought to have died or the Humber. The letter also indicated that the body had been weighted down. It was from a Hull motor tug master who said that he had shot Thomas Shaw accidently and stated that he was going to commit suicide. The police said that the width and flow of the two rivers made dragging operations very difficult and it was thought that his body would not be found until it rose to the surface in the natural course of events and that if it had been weighted down that it might never be found.

After receiving the letter, the police began searching for the writer of the letter thought to be the master of a Hull motor tug and said that his details had been broadcast and that they were also dragging the dock at Hull for his body, which was were his tug was moored.

They also said that they had called in a recognised expert on microscopic work from the Derby County Police to help with their enquiries in Retford and who was going to make a visit to the scene at Sturton.

The Hull motor tug master, or bargeman, later gave himself up on 11 January 1932. He was 36 years old and from Winship Buildings in Staniforth Place on Hessle Road in Hull.

He was later charged with Thomas Shaw's murder, but the charge was later reduced to manslaughter although was found not guilty and discharged.

The man was the tug master of the petrol tug Fearnought which was docked in Hull. It was really a converted coble that had previously been engaged in the traffic from Bridlington to Hull.

The Hull motor tug master said that he was climbing over a fence when his gun went off. He said that he didn't know how it happened and said that he didn't know that he had shot anyone but then saw a man fall. He said that he then ran back aboard but heard a groan and thought that he had better try and get the man to a hospital and so he then dragged Thomas Shaw's body back to his boat. He said that he then set off for Gainsborough Hospital but said that Thomas Shaw died before he got there and that he then lost control of himself and tied a piece of iron to his body. He said that he didn't remember anything more until he found that Thomas Shaw's body was no longer on board.

He had left Nottingham in his tug, Fearnought, on the Tuesday and arrived in Hull the following morning. To do that he would have had to have gone past the lonely lane which led to Sturton-le-Steeple. The police found bloodstains on the river bank at that point.

Thomas Shaw was a gamekeeper from Sturton Le Steeple near Retford.

He was said to have not carried a gun even though there were often poachers in the area and that he had been attacked by three poachers on a previous occasion. His stick was not found.


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


see Gloucester Citizen - Friday 18 December 1931

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 13 February 1932

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 23 December 1931

see Lincolnshire Echo - Friday 18 December 1931

see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 12 January 1932