Unsolved Murders

Hilda Arbuthnot

Age: 31

Sex: female

Date: 29 Jul 1906

Place: St Marys Street, Deansgate, Manchester

Hilda Arbuthnot was found dead in a lock-up in St Mary's Street in Deansgate on 29 July 1906.

She was a domestic servant and had lodged in Withington.

The son of her employer described her as modest, unassuming and most exemplary in her conduct, but a man at whose house she had lodged at a while before said that both he and his wife had suspicions about her and said that they knew that she had taken medicine. He said that she left them after a complaint about her keeping late hours.

The lock-up was occupied by a hairdresser who said that he had given the key to the premises to a traveller on 29 July 1906.

The traveller, who was a traveller in hairdressers sundries, said that on the Saturday night he had met Hilda Arbuthnot and taken her to the premises and that while he was there, she had become ill and he left. He said that he returned an hour later and found that she was dead.

The inquest heard that Hilda Arbuthnot had been under the treatment of the hairdresser for some time as her hair under her fringe was thin.

The hairdresser said that he saw Hilda Arbuthnot on the Saturday evening in St Mary's Street whilst he was waiting for the traveller with whom he had arranged to see about the sale of some fixtures. He said that Hilda Arbuthnot accompanied him and the traveller to the shop to see a fine mirror but said that he did not think that they were more than seven minutes. He said that after locking the door he gave the key to the traveller because the traveller had told him that he had a possible customer for the fixtures and that he then told Hilda Arbuthnot that he would see her on the Monday and then went to board a tramcar. He said that the last that he saw of Hilda Arbuthnot was when she was going up Market Street with the traveller going in the same direction.

The hairdresser said that Hilda Arbuthnot had known him for about three years.

The traveller said that he had only seen Hilda Arbuthnot once before 29 July 1906 when he had seen her with the hairdresser. He said that after going to the shop together they had left but that he had afterwards seen Hilda Arbuthnot waiting for a car and said that she beckoned to him with her umbrella and asked him why he had not kept an previous appointment with her and said that he had told her that he had been out of town and that he didn't know her address and could not let her know. He said that she then asked for another appointment and that they then arranged to meet at 9.30pm that night.

The traveller said that he was a little late, but that he met her in St Mary's Gate and that they then went off to the hairdresser’s shop. He said that whilst they were there Hilda Arbuthnot said, 'I feel faint. You know I am liable to have fits'. He said that she then sat on the couch and then all at once said, 'I am choking'. He said that when he looked at her and the colour of her face he undid her neck and went for a basin of water, and then got frightened, stating that he didn't know whether she was 'having him on' and so he left her, and said that when he returned in about an hours’ time he found that she was dead.

He said that when he went into the shop, he found her there lying dead on the floor. He said that he didn't know what to do and so he carried her out in to the passage with her things and then locked up the shop, put the keys under the door and went off on a car. He said that he didn't inform the police.

Her death was stated to be due to syncope but that there was no clue as to what had caused it.

A city analyst said that when he examined Hilda Arbuthnot's internal organs, he found no trace of poisons and said that if an anaesthetic had been administered that the traces of it might have vanished.

The doctor that carried out her post-mortem stated that her cause of death was syncope, but that it was not absolutely sudden but fairly slow. He said that there was absolutely no clue as to how the syncope was produced and added that it would have been quite possible to fail to detect chloroform administration by inhalation.

When the coroner summed up he said that the case was left in a very unsatisfactory condition and said that if anything had been done to Hilda Arbuthnot to cause her death that the effect of it had disappeared by the time the post-mortem examination was made.

He added that the story that the hairdresser had given about having given the keys to the traveller was a 'lame' one and noted that the traveller had dealt with materials of a very disreputable and illicit nature and that there was no doubt that he was responsible for Hilda Arbuthnot's death, but that the court had to set aside questions of morality.

An open verdict was returned, and both the hairdresser and the traveller were censured. He said that the case was left in a very unsatisfactory condition.

The Coroner noted that on the traveller’s own story he had behaved like a blackguard and a coward and had blackened his own character in the process and said that he would certainly have to answer to a higher authority.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see London Daily News - Wednesday 22 August 1906

see Northern Daily Telegraph - Wednesday 22 August 1906