Date: 4 Jun 1935
William Ellis was found mummified in a pub cellar on 4 June 1935. He had been missing since 5 July 1934.
A barman later admitted to saying that he had found William Ellis's body in the cellar and that he had become panic-stricken and had concealed it.
William Ellis had an injury to his skull. However, it was heard that his skull was quite thin and that because he was quite old, his injury, a skull fracture, could have been caused by a turn during his sleep or even by the slightest movement when his body was found.
It was also thought that he might have died from a fall or that he had gone into the cellar to sleep and covered himself up with the wrappings that were found around his body, after which the barman had hidden his body.
An open verdict was returned that concluded that he had died from a fall and that it was thought that there had been no foul play.
It was said that the fact that the cellar never had a temperature above 50 degrees explained why there had been an absence of smell.
William Ellis was a commercial traveller in glassware and had lived in Milford House, East Hill in Wandsworth. He was found tied up in a carpet in the cellar of the Equestrian pub in Blackfriars Road. He used to visit hotels for orders of drinking glasses.
When he had left his home on 5 July 1934 he was said to have been in the best of spirits and having planned to return home the same day but never came back. His landlady said that he was a fine old gentleman and that when he had left he had said to her, 'I feel a treat today'. She said that before that William Ellis had not been too well and had had a painful swelling on his neck.
The police were notified after he failed to return home and he was posted as being missing.
His landlady said that during his whole time with her, about three years, William Ellis had never stayed away a night and that when he went missing she grew anxious and told his daughter who then informed the police. She said that he was a charming man and gave one the impression that he was wealthy, but that he actually didn't have a lot of money. She said that William Ellis had once told her that he had ridden in his own carriage. She said that he had told her that after the death of his wife he had preferred to live alone although his daughter had been willing to provide a home for him. She noted that he was rather feeble and used to walk with a stick.
When his body was first found it was first thought that he had been there for 30 to 50 years, but the police later found his wallet on him containing correspondence dating from April 1934 which allowed them to trace him to his daughter who lived in Grosvenor Gardens in Kingston.
The body had been hidden in the cellar in a roll of carpet in a small recess in the cellar that had then been covered over with a barrier of chairs, a roll of old curtains, linoleum and carpets. It was found whilst two men were clearing rubbish from the cellar.
The police said that from the passage of the pub there were some very steep and narrow steps leading down towards the cellar and that from the foot of the stairs to the end of the recess where his body was found, there was a 27 foot long and 4 foot wide passage. The pathologist said that a fall from a standing position down the steep wooden steps would have been sufficient to have produced the fractures found on William Ellis's skull and added that the injuries to such an old man would have proved fatal in a short time and that they might have caused death instantaneously.
The potman that had found the body said that it was his first time in the cellar for six years and that no one else had been in there for 30 years.
At his inquest an open verdict was returned stating that his death had been caused by a fall but that there was not sufficient evidence to show how he had come to fall.
The barman was later charged with having disposed of his corpse on 5 July 1934. It was heard that he had worked at the pub from June 1932 up until August 1934 and that he would have been on duty all day on 5 July 1934.
The barman said, that he found William Ellis dead in the cellar when he went down for coal. He said, 'I saw the body of a man lying on the steps. I was panic stricken and did not know what to do. I did not touch him. I was too frightened. After I had taken the coal up I took the body and put it in the recess'. He then said that a day or two later he wrapped William Ellis's body up in a curtain and carpet. He said that he did it because he was too frightened, noting that there had been an inquest on the Friday and that the customers had all been talking about it at the bar and that that was why he had lost his head and was too frightened to tell anyone.
When the barman said that he could not be certain that William Ellis was dead when he had first found him the Coroner asked him, 'Why in the name of common humanity did you not summon someone to see if they could help this man?', the barman said, 'Because I was too frightened sir'.
The Coroner noted that the inquest that the barman was referring to was one held by him on 6 July 1934 on a man that was found accidently dying in a convenience and said, 'That should not be a matter to excite feelings of being panic stricken in any person'.
see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 27 June 1935
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Wednesday 19 June 1935
see The Scotsman - Tuesday 11 June 1935
see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 11 June 1935
see Western Daily Press - Thursday 06 June 1935