Unsolved Murders

Ellen Astbury

Age: 13

Sex: female

Date: 25 Feb 1934

Place: Handsacre

Ellen Astbury was found drowned in a canal on Sunday 25 February 1934.

She was found at 3.30pm on 25 February 1934 in the Trent and Mersey Canal adjoining the wharf at Handsacre.

She was found to be scantily dressed and it was thought that the fact that she was not able to dress like other children might have affected her mind. When she was found she was fully clothed except for her hat.

She had lived in Station View in Handsacre.

She was said to have been a very healthy girl and not of an excitable nature. She had been doing housework for a woman before going to school and at night.

She was last seen on 22 February 1934 at about 5pm when she went to the woman's house to do some housework. Her employer said that on the evening she was last seen when she came to work for her, Ellen Astbury had failed to pay an account for which she had been sent out although she said that she had always found her honest and straightforward, although a little forgetful. She also said that she had not found Ellen Astbury out in any dishonest act before.

The woman said that she had given Ellen Astbury half a crown and sent her across the road at 6pm to make a small purchase, and to pay a small account of one and threepence. The woman said that when Ellen Astbury returned, she gave her the correct change. However, she said that shortly after she happened to rub up against Ellen Astbury's coat, which was hanging up, and heard some money rattle in her pocket. The woman said that she asked Ellen Astbury, 'What's this money in your pocket, Nellie?' and said that Ellen Astbury replied, 'I've got to get a postal order for my mother'. The woman then said that she asked Ellen Astbury if she had paid the small account and Ellen Astbury replied, 'Yes, I am sure I have paid her'. The woman said that she accepted that as being true but later found that it was not. She said that she said to Ellen Astbury, 'Well, I am going across to see the woman tonight and she will tell me'.

The woman said that Ellen Astbury left her house at about 6.20pm after she gave her one and a penny to take a parcel to Armitage Post Office and bring some labels. The woman said that she asked Ellen Astbury to come back quickly, and said that Ellen Astbury replied, 'All right, it won't take me long'. However, she said that Ellen Astbury didn't come back. She said that there was no need for her to go near the canal in order to go to the post office.

When questioned, the woman said that Ellen Astbury had said to her, about going to see the woman about the money paid, 'You won't go tonight, it is getting late', and said that she replied, 'No, I don't think I shall go tonight'. She also said that if Ellen Astbury had intended to pay the money to the woman that she could easily have done so on her way to the post office. She also said that she didn't think that Ellen Astbury had been brooding over the money and said that she put it down to forgetfulness.

It was later found that Ellen Astbury had gone to the post office where she had posted a parcel and purchased a packet of labels.

Ellen Astbury had been working for the woman for about two years and would generally come home between 7.30pm and 8pm, unless she stayed listening to the wireless.

It was noted that she would not have had to have gone anywhere near to the canal either to go home or to return to the woman's house. The canal was about half a mile away from the post office.

It was noted that she was illegitimate, although stated that she didn't know that. It was also said that she didn't have any boyfriends as she didn't have time for that or for mixing it up with anyone. It was also stated that it was not thought that anyone had twitted her and said that she had never threatened to do away with herself.

Allegations of foul play were rife, but the medical examination proved them to be entirely without foundation.

The doctor that examined her body said that she was well nourished and said that there were no external marks of violence and that she had not been outraged. He said that her post-mortem revealed that there was congestion of her brain and lungs, indicating that she had drowned.

However, the doctor added, 'I think I ought to mention the inadequacy of the girl's clothing. She was most scantily clad and the fact that she was not dressed as other girls might have affected her mentality. She was very poorly clad, indeed. She was not even decently clothed'. He went on to say, 'It seems to me it ought to be part of the regulations of school inspectors to see that children are properly clothed'.

It was noted that she had no reason to go anywhere near the canal.

The Coroner said that it was difficult to conjecture what really happened, and would return an open verdict of found drowned, there being no evidence to show how she had got into the water.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Thursday 01 March 1934

see Daily Herald - Friday 02 March 1934

see Lichfield Mercury - Friday 02 March 1934