Unsolved Murders

Nancy Patterson

Age: 28

Sex: female

Date: 8 Jan 1932

Place: Shilloth, Cumberland

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Nancy Patterson was found dead in the sea.

She was known as The Black Shadow because she always wore black clothes.

Her post mortem stated that death was due to asphyxia and that there was nothing to show that her death had been due to drowning. The pathologist said that she was either unconscious or dead before her body entered the water and that there were marks around her neck suggesting strangulation or attempted strangulation. He said that he didn't think that she breathed after entering the water noting that there was no water in any part of her body.

The Coroner asked the doctor that carried out the post-mortem whether the bruises found on the sides of her neck could be due to mere discolouration and he replied, 'No' and said that the bruises were caused before death. The Coroner also asked if the marks indicated sufficient violence to cause unconsciousness or death and the doctor said, 'Yes'.

The doctor also said that the possibility that Nancy Patterson had throttled herself could also be ruled out and noted that there were signs that she had been interfered with.

He also said that her cause of death might have been partly due to asphyxia and partly due to shock. He went on to say that the shock might have been caused by the dislocation of her ankle or the sudden cold of falling into the water.

She was last seen on 3 January 1932 near the Navvies Bridge over the River Derwent near Workington. She was later found washed up 30 miles away at Shilloth in Cumberland on 8 January 1932.

A ship's fireman from Workington said that he knew Nancy Patterson and said that she had spoken to him before in August 1931 about suicide. He said that she told him that when her niece saw her talking to men she told Nancy Patterson's sister, and she (the niece) corrected her. He said that Nancy Patterson said that she would 'take off' or throw herself into the river.

A labourer from Hensingham near Whitehaven said that he knew Nancy Patterson and said that on 3 January 1932 he had walked with her for about three hours by the golf links but said that no misconduct took place between them and that there was no rough handling of her during that time. He also said that he saw no marks on her neck or bruises of any kind. He said that when they were walking in the main street he had his arms around her shoulder and said that when she left him he thought that she was going home. He noted that when she left him she gave him a ring for a keepsake noting that she was also wearing another ring with stones in it. He said that when she was with him she was cheerful.

He said that the following Sunday he went to keep an appointment with her as he had not heard that she was missing and on the next Tuesday he went to Whitehaven Police Station to give himself up. When the Coroner asked why he gave himself up he said, 'Well, I thought it would be best to give myself up and say I was in her company'.

A labourer from Workington said that he saw Nancy Patterson on 3 January 1932, alone and running. He said that she kept looking back as if she expected that someone was following her but said that he didn't see anyone doing so.

A fitter from Workington said that he saw Nancy Patterson on the night of 3 January 1932  on a little wooden bridge crossing over a stream. He said that she was standing alone and was twirling a pair of gloves in her hand.

Also, at the coroners inquest, an unemployed labourer from Workington said that he also saw Nancy Patterson on the night of 3 January 1932 but didn't report it to the police as he didn't like the idea of going to the police station. After the unemployed labourer had given further evidence the Coroner said that there was an interval or lapse of twenty minutes or half an hour in his evidence regarding his movements on the night in question and said that he had not explained what he had done from the time he had stood on the bridge until the time he had seen the woman. However, the unemployed labourer said that he couldn't remember what he had done during the time and said that he might have gone for a walk. The coroner said that it was extraordinary and asked him if he were a Peeping Tom and the unemployed labourer said, 'Not that night'. The Foreman of the jury then asked the unemployed labourer how it was that he recollected so clearly all the other facts but that his mind was blank for the twenty minutes and the unemployed labourer said, 'Perhaps I wandered about'. The foreman then said, 'We wish you could have remembered. It would have been of great assistance to us. Have you ever been on the Peeping Tom game in the Mill Fields?', and the unemployed labourer replied 'Yes, often'. The foreman then asked 'Were you out on an expedition for that purpose that night?' and the unemployed labourer replied 'No. We had been chased by the police'.

Another labourer that came from Workington said that he knew Nancy Patterson by the name of The Black Shadow and said that she used to stand on the Navvies Bridge in the summer in the company of men and watch cricket matches. He said that he saw her once on 3 January 1932 coming up some steps at Black Path in Workington at about 9.15pm or 9.20pm although noted that he first told the police that it had been 8.15pm or 8.20pm. He said that she was going towards Navvies Bridge and that he spoke to her. He said that he couldn't remember the exact words but said that they were to the effect that she was late to meet her chap and that he had said it as a joke. He said that she laughed, but didn't speak or stop.

He said that later that night he went along Pumpinghouse Lane to see a woman who was under a bridge with a man and said that he found that she was a woman he knew as Lavender Lil.

Another man said that he saw Nancy Patterson under an iron bridge next to Navvies Bridge just before 10pm. He said that there was a man with her but that he didn't know who it was although he said that he had seen him with Nancy Patterson before at Navvies Bridge. He said that he had not seen the man again since that night. He said that he didn't see the man's face but said that he had been wearing a light fawn-coloured coat, a grey suit, and black shoes. He said that he was also wearing a cap but said that he didn't remember what colour it was. He said that he heard Nancy Patterson saying to the man 'Stop, give it to me', and noted that they appeared to be on friendly terms. However, the coroner noted that the man had earlier told the police that he had heard Nancy Patterson say, 'No, no, I won't; and asked him which was correct, but the man didn't reply. The man went on to say that the man he had seen with Nancy Patterson had had a long sharp nose and light-coloured hair. He also said that he did not hear any splash in the river or hear anyone crying out.

The Coroner said that it was clear that asphyxia by drowning was not the cause of death and said that the main question was as to the cause of her unconsciousness. He also said that the unemployed labourer had told a very remarkable story which possibly the jury might not believe and asked whether the unemployed labourer had desired to achieve a certain amount of notoriety.

Her inquest returned a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown.


see Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Saturday 30 January 1932

see The Scotsman - Saturday 30 January 1932

see Daily Herald - Monday 11 January 1932

see The Scotsman - Saturday 30 January 1932

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 11 January 1932