Unsolved Murders

Ann Powell

Age: 69

Sex: female

Date: 11 Jul 1906

Place: West Street, Alford, Lincolnshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ann Powell was found dead in her house.

She had lived in a lonely house and smoke was seen coming from it on the Tuesday. When an entrance was made she was found with her clothes in flames.

However, it was soon discovered that the flames had not been the cause of her death and that her head was terribly injured.

A blood-stained hatchet was then found.

A doctor stated that her injuries could not have been self-inflicted.

She had lived alone and was deeply religious, but of a cheerful and friendly disposition.

Neighbours were alerted when they saw smoke curling out of her bedroom window. When they went to her house they found the door open, which was unusual, and when they rushed in they found the front sitting-room dismantled and the kitchen a picture of disorder.

Access to the bedroom was only possible up a broad-stepped ladder from the kitchen and there were patches of blood on the ladder.

Ann Powell was found sitting at the foot of her bed dead, with her back to the wall in quite a natural position. She had been wearing her night-clothes and all that was left of them was a portion of sleeve that was still smouldering on her left arm. The pillows and bedclothes were smothered with blood and there was blood on the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.

She had a deep wound to the back of her skull which had driven a portion of her skull into her brain.

Under her body they then found a bloodstained chopper or billhook, which, upon later examination the upper end of, exactly fitted the shape of the wound to her head.

At her inquest, the strange verdict of suicide was returned and the police did not investigate her death any further.

Five members of the Coroner’s jury were for an open verdict whilst nine were for suicide.

It was later argued that her death was not a suicide and that she could not have inflicted the wound to the back of her head. It was said that no man, let alone an old and weak woman could have possibly inflicted the wound to the back to the head themselves. It was noted that the wounds were in the occipital protuberance where both the scalp and skull were thickest and it was said that the entire thickness of the bone had been cut.

However, a policeman said that he thought that Ann Powell had inflicted the less serious scalp wound to the back of her head and then got into bed which caused the marks on the pillow and then whilst in bed dealt the other terrible blow that had killed her and then got out of bed and then got into a kneeling attitude to represent a dying martyr, according to the 'Christian Martyrs' book that was found on her bed.

The policeman’s version of event was later described by a newspaper as 'very quaint indeed'.

It was claimed that when her body was found all charred and looking like an Egyptian mummy she was in a sitting position atr the foot of her bed and that it would have been well-nigh impossible for anyone falling either through faintness or death to have got in that position.

However, it was also noted that the back of her head was leaning against the wall but that there was just one patch of blood on it, just where the wound had touched the wall and that no blood had trickled down the wall which was said was clear evidence that her arteries had ceased their flow when her body had reached that position. It was then questioned how, after losing so much blood, could Ann Powell had possibly placed herself in that position.

It was also noted that there was a piece of carefully folded newspaper in the kitchen with blood and hair on it that was thought to have been used to wipe the chopper with after the wound was inflicted and it was asked how it had got there if Ann Powell had committed suicide.

It is not known whether the inquest verdict was ever changed.

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

see Western Gazette - Friday 13 July 1906

see Boston Guardian - Saturday 25 August 1906