Unsolved Murders

John English

Age: 6

Sex: male

Date: 18 Feb 1936

Place: South Candren Farm, Inkerman, Renfrewshire

John English was found strangled and assaulted in a field not far from his home.

The police said that he was last seen alive at 7am and it was thought that he was murdered between 7.30am and 8.30am. They said that they thought that he had been murdered about 4.5 hours before his body was found in the field near Candren Farm.

He had disappeared whilst out playing with other children. One of his companions said that he had seen him in the company of a man on the Monday night. The police said that they thought that he had been decoyed away. One child said that he had seen someone call John English over to them, noting that he could not say whether it was a man or a woman who had beckoned and said that John English disappeared soon after.

His mother said that when John English had got home from school on the Monday he had gone out to play near his home and then later went into the house and his mother said that she gave him a halfpenny to buy some sweets. She said that he then went out to make a purchase and that that was the last time that she saw him.

After John English failed to return home in the evening a search was organised and the houses of neighbours and friends where he might have possibly gone were visited, but nothing had been seen of him.

The next day it was decided to drain a pond that had frozen over near John English's home in case he had fallen in through the ice. The fire brigade was called out to do that and whilst they were in the process of doing so the body of John English was discovered by a farm labourer in the field. He said, 'I found the child lying in the middle of a field, about a hundred yards from the roadway'. The farm labourer said, 'His knees were drawn up until they were almost touching his chin. In addition to the scarf which was tied round his neck, a man's necktie had also been used'. He said that he had had great difficulty in inserting his finger between the scarf and necktie to loosen the knot and said that he then hurried for the police.

When he was found his beret and jacket bore red marks that were thought might have been brick dust and the police said that they thought that he might have been to the brickworks which was about 500 yards from where he was found.

He had a black and white tie tied tightly round his neck.

The police said that they were making enquiries with any tramps that might have slept in the brickworks on the Monday night.

The police said that it was possible that John English might have been assaulted and killed, and then carried by the murderer across the railway line and placed in the field. They said that they could not say whether he had been taken to the field before or after his death.

The police issued a description of a man that they said they wanted to interrogate, saying that he was between 20 and 30 years of age, about 5ft 2in tall, with thin features, very dark around the chin, dressed in a dark suit with a light-coloured shirt with soft collar and a dark tie. He had been wearing a dark brown cap pulled down over his eyes, dark coloured trousers and black shoes. The police also added that he might have been wearing an overcoat. He was said to have walked in a slouching manner, and probably with a slight limp.

The police said that they were given the description after it was reported that a man with that description bought some sweets at a small shop in the neighbourhood at about the time that John English went missing and it was later found that John English had some sweets on him.

A 10-year old boy that lived on Howe Street in Barskiven said that he saw a man and a boy near Linwood Toll walking along the footpath. He said that the boy was trotting at the man's side. The 10-year old boy said, 'I was quite close behind them, when I heard the boy say, 'Is this the way we go?' and said that the man replied, 'Yes'. The couple turned into an opening which leads to the rough farm road going down past the field'.

The 10-year-old boy said that John English seemed to be accompanying the man quite willingly and said that he didn't pay any particular attention to the incident at the time as he thought that it was 'only a wee boy with his daddy'. However, he said that when he heard about the murder on the Tuesday he mentioned what he had seen to his parents who then at once got in touch with the police.

The shop-keeper that had served the man the sweets said that she had been serving in her shop at about 5.30pm on the Monday evening, attending to a little girl, when a slightly built man of medium height came in. She said that she turned to him and asked him what he wanted but said that he made no reply and just stared past her into the back of the shop. She said that she asked him again but got no response and so returned to the little girl and said that one or two other people then came in to the shop, adding that the man was still there. She said that by that time she was so uneasy that she was reluctant to be left alone in the shop with the man and went into the back premises on an errand but said that when she came out again the man was still there. She said that she asked him once more what he wanted and said that he muttered a request for a pennyworth of caramels. She said that when he was given the sweets he immediately left the shop.

The sweet-shop keeper said that she was so impressed by the incident that she mentioned it to one or two of her friends. She said that the man was a stranger to her and that she was not able to give any detailed description beyond the fact that he had been wearing dark clothing and a dark cap. However, she said that she was confident that she would recognise him again.

The police noted that John English was last seen not much more than 100 yards from his home but that the place where his body was found was between two and three miles away. They noted that anyone taking John English there would have had to have passed a considerable length of lighted road which was always fairly busy. As such, the police said that they thought that there was a high probability that they had been seen and asked to hear from anyone that had seen a man and a boy between Johnstone and Linwood Toll on the Monday evening to get in touch with them.

The police noted that it was curious how John English's boots were bleached almost white as though he had been walking through long wet grass but said that the field that he was found in contained stubble which could not have done that. They also said that there was no trace of mud on his boots but noted that if he had had to walkdown the muddy road he would not have been able to escape having his boots covered in mud.

The police also noted that whilst the back of John English's clothing was wet, it was the front of his stockings that were damp, suggesting that he had been lying with his legs doubled beneath him.

They said that the tie that was found round his neck was black with white spots and bore the name of a well-known men's outfitters who had branches in many parts of the country. The tie had been tied with a reef knot.

No further developments were made in the case.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see The Scotsman - Saturday 22 February 1936

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 21 February 1936

see Dundee Courier - Friday 21 February 1936

see Dundee Courier - Wednesday 19 February 1936