Unsolved Murders

Skeleton

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 13 Jan 1913

Place: 34 Heckford Road, Heckford Park, Longfleet, Poole

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

A skeleton was found buried beneath a tiled yard in Heckford Road.

It was found by a workman who was effecting repairs at an unoccupied house at 34 Heckford Road in Heckford Park, Longfleet on the Monday morning 13 January 1913.

The builder said that his suspicions were aroused by the uneven and disturbed appearance of the back yard, which was originally tiled, but which showed old bricks in three centre rows. He said that he himself had laid the tiles 16 years earlier with 9-inch square tiles. He said that the surface had also sunk a little which he said with fair ware should not have occurred. He said that he was also urged by neighbours who told him that they had heard stories of a missing man. He said that a neighbour told him that he should probe the yard all over with an iron bar, and said that when he asked why, the neighbour said, 'I shan't tell you why'. He said that he asked the neighbour for a reason, but the neighbour replied, 'I shall not convince you'.

The builder said that another neighbour then told him that he thought that there was a son missing and that he thought that there was something wrong.

He said that after he started to dig, about 18 inches below the surface he found the remains of a human skeleton. He said that the skeleton was a short distance from the kitchen window.

When the police examined the skeleton, they said that it had been buried face upwards.

When a doctor examined the skeleton, he said that it was that of a male of mature age.

It was also noted that the ground in the lavatory also showed signs of having been dug up to a depth of 2ft 6in, but it was not thought that a body could have been buried there unless it had been doubled up. It was noted that the bricks in the lavatory showed signs of having been taken up and replaced roughly.

It was noted that the house had been in continual occupation by a man from 6 May 1901 until 29 December 1912 when the man was taken to Poole Hospital after he became ill. The man died on 31 December 1912. When the man had been in hospital he had been asked about his wife and whether it would help if she attended and the man said, ‘It is no use, she is 72 years of age, and would be no help to me whatever'. It was also noted that he said that he didn't think that his son or daughter would care to come, adding, 'And it's perhaps as much as they can't afford to come'.

The man was said to have lived alone since August 1905 when his wife left him.

The man that had lived in the house had formerly been a disciplinarian clerk and principal warder at Portland Prison and had lived in Wimborne before coming to Poole.

His landlord said that the man that had lived at 34 Heckford Road had been peculiar in his habits and had not allowed him in the house even though he had endeavoured to do so several times.

When the man's daughter gave evidence at the inquest, she said that she had previously lived at 34 Heckford Road with her father and mother. However, she said that she left with her mother in November 1905.

She said that she sent her father and twin brother some postcards in the month after she left and added that she had another brother. She said that her twin-brother had been in Highgate ill at the time she left, but that two weeks later she heard that he went back home to Poole but said that she never saw or heard from him again.

The man's wife said that she wrote on 25 July 1901 to a neighbour and asked her if she had seen her son about. The man's wife said that she seemed to recall that the neighbour said that she believed that she had seen the twin son and said that she was not quite sure as the other brother had been down to Poole sometime after the twin had gone there. She said that the man never replied to enquiries regarding the twin son to his daughter, but it was heard that on one occasion he had written to his wife and said, 'You need have no fear, your son is at rest'.

The sister said that she didn't really know what had happened to her twin brother. She said that he was born in 1864 and was a man with a fine physique. She said that she thought that when he had gone to Poole, he had been suffering from haemorrhage following a strain.

The sister said that when she looked over her father's effects, she found suits of clothes that had belonged to her brother.

A letter was found in the house from the sister fated May 1908, in which she sent her love to the twin brother.

At the inquest, she said that her suspicions were not aroused by her father's communications, saying that she still hoped that her twin brother would turn up.

The coroner noted that after perusing letters that had been found in the man's effects, both from the daughter and the man’s wife, he said that they appeared to be agonised enquiries, one reading, 'Where is my son?', and another reading, 'Where is my brother?'.

The doctor said that when he examined the bones, he found that they formed a complete human skeleton. He said that the body had evidently been laid on its back and that when he saw it there was very little flesh attached to the bones and that what there was was only the thicker parts. He noted that under the shoulder blades there had been the remains of some fragments of underclothing.

He said that in his opinion, the body had been buried some years before. He said that the skull was that of an adult male from its size and strength. He said that from the measurement of the bones, he thought that the body would have been not less than 5ft 6in in height in his socks, although he might have been an inch taller.

The doctor said that there was no sign of any fractures, either old or recent in any of the bones.

The doctor noted that clothes from the house that the twin son had previously worn were examined for signs of blood but that nothing of the kind was apparent. He added that he had been struck by the fact that with regard to one suit of clothes, although evidently very much worn, the collar had been washed and some of the lining of the coat had been removed. The doctor said that he could not determine the cause of death.

After cross examination the doctor added that from the appearance of the bones, he said that it was apparent that the man had had a considerable physique and had been very muscular and was of a mature age.

He also added that no examination was made with a view to ascertaining whether the man had been poisoned or had taken chloroform. He added that a person could be easily stunned without their skull being fractured and noted also that he might have been suffocated or strangled or he might have had his throat cut.

When the tiler gave evidence at the inquest, he said that he did some work at the house seven or eight years earlier, 1905/6 and said that the yard as alright then, and had been covered in tiles.

The neighbour from 36 Heckford Road said that around May 1907 he had frequently seen the twin son returning from work, saying that he believed that he was a gardener. He said that the twin son had been about 5ft 5in or 5ft 6in in height, sturdily built, and apparently strong. However, he said that after that he missed him, but said that he had never heard of his going away.

The neighbour said that his suspicions  would not have been aroused but for the fact that enquiries had been made by the mother and daughter and he said that he remembered some little time after the enquiries to his wife that he remembered hearing a person go into 34 Heckford Road, who he thought was the twin son, and that he had then heard a loud shout, in an angry tone, and then some scuffling all over the room, as though the persons were quarrelling, and then heard a dull thud and that he then didn't hear anything. The neighbour said that he naturally thought that there had been a quarrel and that the man had turned his son out of the house.

He neighbour noted that every summer since the man's wife left him, the man would have an old curtain placed across the backyard. He added that he had seen the man scraping over the earth in the yard on several occasions and that on another occasion he said that he had taken up all the tiles for more than a month. He said that the tiles were all piled up in the garden and that every now and then the man would try to put the bricks back in their position, but eventually take them back up again. He said that he later saw a single line of tiles laid out that he assumed the man had laid so that he could walk over them. He said that he had even seen the man sleeping in a chair in the yard and said that he was a man that many people would not like as a neighbour, noting that for some years he had heard him walking about his room for the whole night and said that he thought that he never went to bed. He also said that he didn't think that the man had undressed for years. He said that the man always had his boots on day and night, and said that on the night before the man had been taken to hospital, he had heard him walking about all night with his stick. He said that he had not spoken to the man for years, but said that when he tried, the man ignored him.

The neighbour added that after he heard that the twin son's clothes were found that he thought that the twin son might have enlisted as a soldier, but the sister told the inquest that that was impossible as she knew that he had already tried and had been refused owing to his defective sight.

Two other men, one a neighbour from 32 Heckford Road said that they had either sold or given the man about four years earlier, about a couple dozen brick-bats which they deposited in he lane at the rear of the man's house. They said that they were not allowed in the yard and said that the man told them that he wanted them for a back step.

The police noted that they found a considerable number of half bricks around the skeleton.

The coroner pointed out that although identification had not been established that the appearances all pointed to the fact that it was the man's son that was buried in the yard. However, he said that as to how he came about his death, no one could say.

The police also noted that amongst the letters, there was a letter from the man that intimated that the son was paralysed.

The coroner's jury however, after a few minutes’ absence, returned with a unanimous open verdict, stating that there was no evidence as to the identity of the remains or how they came to be there, or as to the cause of death.

However, the coroner said that he would refuse to accept such a verdict if the police superintendent pressed for an adjournment. However, the police superintendent didn't press for an adjournment and the enquiry, which had lasted for about three hours, closed.


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