Unsolved Murders

Ada Lilian Cleveland

Age: 29

Sex: female

Date: 21 Dec 1932

Place: 5 Crescenta Walk, Bognor Regis

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ada Lilian Cleveland died from an illegal operation.

Her husband was tried for feloniously procuring a certain person whose name was unknown to perform an illegal operation, to wit abortion, and thereby kill and murder her. He was tried at the Sussex Assizes on 24 March 1933 but was found not guilty. He said that he knew nothing about it.

It was said that he had taken her to London to meet a person to procure an abortion, but he denied it. The only evidence against him was Ada Cleveland's mother who said that he had told her certain things when they met at Piccadilly Circus. However, the husband denied speaking to her saying that she had not come within ten yards of him when they had met and that they were not on good terms.

It was said that they had gone to London on 23 November 1932 to procure the abortion and that Ada Cleveland had delivered the four-month-old child the following day back at their home in Bognor, but had then become ill and later died on 2 December 1932.

In his statement to the police Ada Cleveland's husband said, 'I have lived on good terms with my wife. My wife had informed me that she was pregnant. On Wednesday, 23rd November 1932, I told my wife I was going to London on business, and she asked me if she could join me as she wished to see her mother who lived in Fulham. I left in my car about 2pm with my wife. I left her at Fulham at about 4.30pm at her mother's house, and she asked me to meet her in the evening at 5.30pm at Piccadilly Tube Station. I have met her at that place before. I go to London by car on business every week. I met my wife sometime after 5.30pm as arranged. She was with her mother. The mother left, and my wife asked me to take her to Mortimer Street, near Great Portland Street. I took her to the corner of a road leading out of Mortimer Street. I think it was Berners Street or Newman Street. At her request I dropped her there. She said she would meet me in half an hour. She did not tell me where she was going except that it was to see a friend. I did not know where she was going.

I met her again after nearly an hour. I left the car in a side street a few feet from Mortimer Street. I went to a public-house about 100 yards away. I went into the saloon bar and had a drink. I do not know the name of the public-house. I waited in the car for some time and my wife came along. She did not say where she had been or what she had done. It must have been nearly 8pm as near as I can remember, the shops were closed. My wife said she was anxious to go home, and I drove straight back to Bognor, arriving home between 11 and 12. We went to bed in separate rooms which we had been doing for some days. I went to London via Billinghurst, Dorking and Kingston by-pass and returned the same way.

On Thursday, the 24th, between six and seven am I heard my wife obviously in pain. I went to her and she told me she expected to have a miscarriage. She did not give any reason. I gave her some tea and went for the doctor about nine am and he came round soon after with a nurse at his suggestion.

Prior to the Thursday morning my wife made no suggestion that she had been interfered with. I did not countenance this interference, and if I had known of it I should not have countenanced it'.

Ada Cleveland's mother said that when she met Ada Cleveland's husband at Piccadilly she called him 'a ---- scamp' for taking Ada Cleveland for another operation and said that he replied, 'It has got to be done, as I will not keep another bastard'. She said that Ada Cleveland replied, 'Don't say such things'. She said that Ada Cleveland's husband then said 'Well, come along, my appointment is for six o'clock and it is now a quarter to'. She said that Ada Cleveland then said, 'I don't think they will do it when we get there' and then said to her mother 'Don't worry, mother, I will send you a telegram and tell you what has happened'.

Ada Cleveland's father said that when he saw Ada Cleveland on 2 December he said to her husband, 'It looks as if she is dying, and I shall want to know the address to which you took her' and said that her husband replied, 'I don't remember'. The father said that when he pressed Ada Cleveland's husband for an answer he said, 'Don't worry me now'.

A doctor said that after he first examined Ada Cleveland he asked her husband if he knew of any attempts made to procure an abortion and said that he replied 'No', but said that he subsequently said, 'She had probably had an injection of soap and water'.

The pathologist that carried out her post mortem on 4 December 1932 said that she had died from acute peritonitis, consequent on the abortion and septic infection. He said that in his opinion her death was the direct result of the use of a dirty instrument for the purpose of producing an abortion and that in all probability the instrument was used within 24 hours of the off-set of her illness, but it was possible that it might have been 48 hours before.

Ada Cleveland and her husband had been married for about eight years and had two children aged about five and seven. They had been married in 1925.


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


see Bognor Regis Observer - Wednesday 21 December 1932

see Portsmouth Evening News - Saturday 18 March 1933

see Chichester Observer - Wednesday 22 March 1933

see Sussex Agricultural Express - Friday 24 March 1933

see Hampshire Telegraph - Friday 13 January 1933