Date: 21 Dec 1940
Eli Jackson was found dead in a field on the old Roman road, Green Lane, in suspicious circumstances near Holcombe Farm in Newington, Oxfordshire on 21 December 1940.
It was first thought that he had been murdered after his post-mortem showed that he had a broken neck, but it was later stated that he had died from natural causes. It was then thought that he might have gone into a pond and then got out and died from exposure. When he was found his clothes were soaked up to his crotch.
However, there were certain unanswered questions such as how his hat came to be half a mile away ahead of the direction he had been going, and how he had no money found on him when he was found. However, it was also concluded that these issues were cleared up.
Eli Jackson was first reported missing by his wife on 19 December 1940 and found in the field a couple of days later on 21 December 1940. He had lived at 72 Aylesbury Street in Bletchley.
When the detectives first arrived at the scene, they found that Eli Jackson's body had already been removed to the farm granary by the policemen that had first attended the scene, although they had marked the spot where his body was found for further investigation.
When Eli Jackson's body was first examined at the granary at Holcombe Farm, the doctor formed the opinion that Eli Jackson had died from a broken neck. His findings were later confirmed by the police surgeon that later carried out a post-mortem on Sunday 22 December 1940 at the City Mortuary. However, it was heard that both the doctor and the police surgeon had both been of the opinion that it was difficult to understand how the fracture could have been caused owing to the position in which Eli Jackson's body had been found.
It was noted that there were no visible signs of bruising about his body that would have suggested violence had been used to cause his death. The only visible marks that he had were some scratches on the right side of his face and ear, as well as some scratches on his legs, both of which were similar to scratches that might be made by brambles or thorn bushes, as well as an abrasion and a small bruise on his left hip bone, a graze and two abrasions on the outer part of his left knee and an abrasion on the fourth finger of his left hand.
When the police took Eli Jackson's fingerprints, they confirmed that he was Eli Jackson CRO No. 23070-1918 and that he had three previous convictions, the last being at the Penny Stratford Petty Sessions on 19 December 1918 when a sentence of a fine of £4 or 1 month was passed on him for stealing scrap brass.
When his clothing was examined, certain marks and tears were found. The lining of his overcoat was badly torn at the bottom, and the bottom of the coat was very worn and torn. There was also a singular tear of 2 inches in the centre of the back of the overcoat that was 6 inches from the collar, another 1/2 inch tear 3 inches lower and another 1 1/2 inch by 1/2in tear 6 inches below that. It was also noted that the seat of his coat was caked as though he had been sitting on wet earth and that the bottom part of his coat appeared as though it had been dragged along the ground.
His trousers were found to be old, and to have a tear in the left leg on the back and side as well as a tear on the right left at the side. They were also noted as being torn at the bottoms and to be stained.
When the police went to the scene, the position where Eli Jackson had been found was marked as well as the position where an old dark grey overcoat was found 35 yards away. However, the police said that they could find no evidence of a struggle having taken place, although they noted that it would have been difficult to have seen footprints due to the hardness of the ground owing to severe frosts. However, they noted that the sides of the ditches showed no signs of disturbance.
The lane in which Eli Jackson's body and coat were found in was a bridle path that connected the Berrick-Chalgrove Road to the Newington-Oxford Road and was on average about 40 to 50 yards in width. Although it was called Green Lane, it was actually used as a grazing field for cattle, being bounded on each side by an open ditch, a hedge and farm land.
It was noted that when the police took photographs of the place where Eli Jackson's body was found they had a policeman lie down on the ground to represent his position, Eli Jackson's body having been removed earlier by the first policemen to arrive at the scene.
It was noted that the sides of the lane were covered with brambles, thorn bushes, briars and brush weed and also in many places’ strands of barbed wire and that as such, it was a place in which one could easily tear one's clothing, face or hands, even in daylight.
A policeman that arrived first at the scene said that he found Eli Jackson's body lying on its back, legs slightly apart and with both arms on the ground, slightly bent, with his fist’s half closed. He said that Eli Jackson's head was facing the centre of the lane and that his feet were pointing towards the ditch at the side, which was about 15 yards away. He said that Eli Jackson's clothing from the crutch down had been saturated with water and was frozen stiff by the severe frost. He said that Eli Jackson's overcoat was about 40 yards away and that it was a dark grey overcoat.
The policeman said that with the help of a constable he searched the vicinity but could find nothing to suggest foul play and so they removed Eli Jackson's body to Holcombe Farm, which was about half a mile away in the direction of Chalgrove.
When the police questioned Eli Jackson's 17-year-old son, he told them that Eli Jackson had been a roadman for Bucks County Council and had been for a long time but had just been pensioned off two weeks earlier. The son added that Eli Jackson had recently been wandering from their home and sleeping poorly, and in his words, 'seemed to be going silly'. He said that on one occasion he found Eli Jackson in the street in Bletchley being supported by a man. He said that he helped him home and said that on the way, Eli Jackson said to him, 'I have got cancer. I am an old man', after which he started to cry. He said that Eli Jackson had other curious habits and that the family had discussed putting Eli Jackson into an institution and had spoken to a relieving Officer about that but said that nothing ever came of it.
The son said that Eli Jackson had wandered away from home two weeks earlier, before his death, and had walked to Wolverton, eight miles away, being away from home for two days. He also said that on another occasion he had found Eli Jackson in Aylesbury Street, rattling on the door of a shop at about 10pm, and that when he asked him what he was doing Eli Jackson told him that he was 'waiting for change'. He said that when they got back home and went to bed, Eli Jackson later made a big coal fire in the grate in the early hours of the morning and when his wife got up and asked him what he was doing he told them that 'It was time to get up'. The son also said that Eli Jackson would sit in the kitchen by the fire and drink hot water from the kettle and when asked why, he said, 'I am always dry'. The son also said that Eli Jackson would open his fly buttons and place a hot flannel on his stomach, saying, 'that eased him'.
The son said that when he came home from work on Wednesday 18 December 1940, Eli Jackson was at home and they later that night went to bed, sleeping in the same room. He said that when he got up the following morning Thursday 19 December 1940, he went to work, leaving his father in bed. However, he said that when he arrived back home at dinner time, he learnt that Eli Jackson had gone off to the doctor's but had not returned. He said that he later found out from his mother that Eli Jackson had been seen to leave Bletchley Station on a train going to Oxford. He said that he never saw Eli Jackson alive again.
Eli Jackson's wife said that Eli Jackson had been earning 5/- a week whilst working as a roadman for Bucks County Council but had been pensioned off two weeks earlier. She said that in addition he drew a 10/- a week old age pension with a supplementary grant of 7/6d a week. She said that he drew his pension out on Thursdays at the Post Office in Aylesbury Street.
His wife said that Eli Jackson had been suffering from ulcers for years and was being treated by the doctor for it. She said that he didn't sleep well at night and wandered about and did comical things. She said that when Eli Jackson was in his normal state, he was always kind to her, but said that of late he had been 'pushing her about'.
The postmistress of the Post Office in Aylesbury Street in Bletchley said that Eli Jackson came in on the morning of Thursday 19 December 1940 at about 9.30am and collected his pension and supplementary pension for two weeks because the next pension day was Boxing Day, which she said amounted to £1. 15. 0.
It was later said that Eli Jackson had given his wife £1, which would have left him with 15/-, which he was thought to have spent on beer.
An engine driver said that he had gone to the Park Hotel in Bletchley on the Thursday, 19 December 1940 at about 11.30am to have a drink and had saw Eli Jackson there. He said that he was wearing an old dark overcoat that was rather long for him and well worn. He said that Eli Jackson had been having a conversation with another man there and that he overheard Eli Jackson say that he had burnt a pound note in a great big fire that morning. The engine driver said that he then told Eli Jackson that if he had saved a little piece of it he could have got it back if he had gone to the Post Office with it and waited a day or two. However, he said that Eli Jackson took no notice of what he said, but instead asked him if he wanted a game of skittles which he did.
However, the engine driver noticed about half an hour after they had been together in the Tap Room that Eli Jackson had a pint of beer and in consequence of what someone told him he said to Eli Jackson, 'Hi! mate, have you had a drink on me?', but Eli Jackson replied, 'No' However, he said that the barmaid told him that he had and so he said to Eli Jackson, 'You had better pay for it', but said that Eli Jackson took no notice. The engine driver said that a while later Eli Jackson went towards the door to go out and he stopped him and said, 'How about paying for the pint?' but said that Eli Jackson tried to push him out of the way with his fists and left the hotel. The engine driver said that Eli Jackson left the hotel at about 2pm and that he himself left at 2.30pm, noting that Eli Jackson didn't return after he left. He said that when Eli Jackson left, he didn't think that he had been under the influence of drink.
A labourer who worked in the Signal and Telegraph Department of the LMS Railway, that had known Eli Jackson for 20 years said that he saw him at Bletchley Railway Station on the Thursday 19 December 1940 at about 1.45pm. He said that he saw him get on to a train to Oxford and saw him in the second coach from the engine. He said that he didn't speak to him, but that having in mind that Eli Jackson had been a bit funny of late, he told the guard on the train to keep an eye out for Eli Jackson. He said that when the train left, he saw Eli Jackson sat in a corner seat by the window.
The guard on the train said that he had known Eli Jackson for 30 years and said that the labourer had spoken to him, telling him that Eli Jackson was on the train and said that he didn't think that he had a ticket. He said that after the train left, he walked along the corridor and said that when he saw Eli Jackson, he said to him, 'Hullo young man, where are you going?' to which Eli Jackson replied, 'Oxford'. He said that he said nothing more. He said that he was certain that Eli Jackson did not get off before Oxford as he would have noticed him but said that when the train arrived in Oxford at 3.12pm he didn't see Eli Jackson get off as he was too busy with the mail etc.
A parcel porter that worked at Oxford Station said that he had been on duty collecting tickets at the station sometime towards the week ending Saturday 21 December 1940 when a man that he described as Eli Jackson came towards the barrier sometime between 3pm and 4pm with other passengers from the Bletchley train without a ticket. He said that when he asked Eli Jackson for his ticket, Eli Jackson replied, 'You know me, I am a company's servant. I do the greasing. I have left my ticket at Leighton Buzzard'. The parcel porter said that he asked Eli Jackson if it was a Pass and said that Eli Jackson replied that it was and so he allowed him to go through, telling him to send on the ticket which he said Eli Jackson promised to do.
The parcel porter said that later that evening, about 7.30pm, he was in the Parcels Office when a policeman came by with Eli Jackson and said, 'I found this man wandering about, he wants to find a fellow'. The parcel porter said that he thought he knew the man Eli Jackson was looking for, and after some time the policeman wrote down an address, in Magdalene Road, for Eli Jackson and then put him on an omnibus, paying his fare.
The policeman said that he had been on duty at the LMS Coal Yard at Oxford Station sometime between 7pm and 7.30pm when he had seen Eli Jackson enter the yard from the direction of Rowley Road. He said that when he stopped him and asked him where he was going, Eli Jackson told him that he was looking for his brother-in-law. He said that he then took him to the parcel’s office where the parcel porter and the station foreman were and said that as soon as they got there the station foreman said, 'Hullo Eli, what are you doing here?' and said that he told him that he was looking for his brother-in-law. The policeman said that he asked the station foreman about Eli Jackson who told him that Eli Jackson was the black sheep of the family and had caused the police a lot of trouble in Bletchley. The policeman said that he made some enquiries with his headquarters to see if Eli Jackson had been reported missing and also to find the exact address of the brother-in-law and that as he had not been reported missing, he gave him the address. He said that he then asked Eli Jackson whether he had any money, and said that Eli Jackson replied, 'Not a penny. My wife will be wondering where I have got to'. The policeman said that he then asked why, and said that Eli Jackson replied, 'I often wander off like this. The police have been after me several times for wandering away'. The policeman said that he then agreed to put Eli Jackson on the bus, saying that he took him to the No. 1 bus service for Cowley Village leaving from outside the LMS Station, paying his 2d fare and instructing the conductress to put him off at Magdalene Street.
The bus conductress, who worked for the City of Oxford Motor Services on the 2pm to 10.30pm shift on the No. 1 Service known as 'Stations to Cowley Village' said that whilst she could not remember the exact date, she remembered the incident clearly saying that a policeman had approached her between 8pm and 9pm at the LMS Station with Eli Jackson and that he had asked her to ensure that Eli Jackson got off at Magdalene Road and paid his fare. She said that when the bus reached Magdalene Road she called out, 'Magdalene Road and Regal Cinema', but said that Eli Jackson didn't attempt to move. She said that she then went up to him and said, 'This is the stop you require', but that he just mumbled something that she didn't hear and then got up and she shewed him off the bus and onto the pavement with her lamp. She said that it was very dark and that she explained to Eli Jackson that Magdalene Road was on the opposite side of the road but said that she could not say whether Eli Jackson crossed the road or not.
When the police made enquiries with Eli Jackson's relatives including the woman who lived at Warwick Road who was the wife of the man that owned the lock-up barber's shop in Magdeline road, as well as others, none of them said that they had seen Eli Jackson on the night of 19 December 1940.
The following day, a tractor driver who lived at the Red Lion Inn in Chalgrove said that on the Friday 20 December 1940 between 12 noon and 1pm he was having his meal in a field at the side of the Thame-Little Milton Road at Little Milton when he noticed an elderly man, thought to have been Eli Jackson walking from the Thame direction, saying that he cross the road twice whilst he was in his view. He said that the direction that Eli Jackson had been heading in would, without difficulty, take him to Stadhampton.
A woman from Warren Hill said that on the Friday, 20 December 1940, just before 6pm, she left the grocer's store of Upstones near the junction of the Stadhampton-Oxford Road-Newington Roads when she saw someone thought to have been Eli Jackson who she described as an old man wearing long dark coat. She said that she saw him turn into the Newington Road and said that as he walked in front of her on the other side of the road, she saw that he was carrying what appeared to her to be a rabbit in his right hand. She said that she thought it was a rabbit because a dog had gone up to it to smell it and Eli Jackson swung it at the dog and the dog whimpered and left him. It was noted that although the woman had only seen Eli Jackson for a short while, she had lived nearby for 18 years and noted that Eli Jackson, or the man that she had seen was a stranger to her in the district. She said that she thought that he was a tramp.
It was thought that Eli Jackson was also seen by a man that had lived in the Bungalow in Newington at about 6pm on 20 December 1940. He said that he had been cycling home from work at Cowley on the Stadhampton Newington Road when about 3/4 of a mile from Stadhampton on the Newington side he saw Eli Jackson in an overcoat that reached below his knees, walking towards Newington on the left side of the road. He said that as he passed him, he saw that Eli Jackson had something half in and half out of his overcoat pocket, and said that it struck him at the time as to where Eli Jackson was going as he was a stranger and it was a very cold night.
The police report noted that the man seen by the tractor driver, the woman and the other man as no doubt Eli Jackson.
Eli Jackson was found dead the next day by an agricultural contractor from Warborough in Oxfordshire who said that on the Saturday, 21 December 1940, he went to Holcombe Farm in Newington to shoot with the farmer there and some others. He said that he was in Green Lane with the others at about 12 noon when he noticed a man lying on the ground about 15 yards away.
He said that he caught hold of Eli Jackson's left wrist to feel his pulse as he didn't know whether or not he was alive or dead but said that he knew something was wrong as his eyes were open. He said that he then discovered that Eli Jackson's body was cold and concluded that he was dead. He said that Eli Jackson had blood on the right side of his face and scratches as if caused by brambles or barbed wire. He said that he saw no bruises on the parts of the body exposed to his view and that with the exception of a few fly buttons being undone his clothing had not been disturbed. He said that he then saw Eli Jackson's overcoat about 35 yards away but didn't touch it. He said that he and another man then went off to get the police whilst another man stayed in charge of the body. He said that when he returned with the police, he picked up the overcoat which he found had been wet and was frozen stiff and took it over to the police at the site of the body. He said that he then saw a rabbit in the overcoat body, saying that it didn't look like it had been freshly killed and noting that its eyes were bulging, suggesting that it had been taken from a snare. He said that they then helped to take Eli Jackson's body off to Holcombe Farm on a hurdle.
When a doctor went to Holcombe Farm on 21 December 1940 at 4pm he was shewn the body of Eli Jackson who was lying unclothed on a hurdle in a shed. He said that when he examined him, he found no wounds or bruises but found that his head was extraordinarily moveable on the neck, suggesting to him a dislocation. He said that there was no rigor mortis present and said that because of the frosty weather it was hard to say how long Eli Jackson had been dead but suggested about 48 hours. It was said that the doctor had known nothing about the history of the case and had formed his opinion that Eli Jackson had died from a broken neck because of the easy way in which his head moved.
When a doctor later carried out a post-mortem of Eli Jackson's body on Sunday 22 December 1940, he found that the upper part of his cervical spine was fractured and stated that that lesion was the cause of death. The doctor also examined the discharge from the urethra but did not find any spermatozoa. He estimated that Eli Jackson had died about 36 to 48 hours prior to the time of his examination.
However, when a further, fuller post-mortem was carried out by a doctor at the West Midland Forensic Science Laboratory in Birmingham he said that Eli Jackson had not died from a broken neck, but from a combination of natural causes including heart failure. He said, 'This old man was breaking up, as shown by the condition of his heart, kidneys, coronary arteries and lungs. Further, from the general cerebral atrophy I should expect that he might quite well have shown peculiarities of conduct prior to his death. The condition of the heart was such that he was liable to sudden death at any time, even without exertion, whilst in bed, or even asleep. The superficial scratches and abrasions in this case were slight and were of the type such as are sustained from thorn bushes or bracken. Death in this case was sudden, as shown by the fluid state of the blood, there being no ante-mortem clots indicating a slow cardiac failure. Such sudden death could occur from sudden cardiac failure such as this man was liable to or from some sudden catastrophe to the spinal cord as in a fracture dislocation. In this case I rule out the injury to the neck as being the cause of the sudden death for the following reasons:
It should further be borne in mind that a partial dislocation or subluxation as it is termed, can occur from a fall on to the point of the shoulder.
It is my opinion that this man died from:
The injury to the neck did not cause or accelerate his death'.
An item that the police said raised some queries was the matter of Eli Jackson's black cap which was found about a quarter of a mile away from Holcombe Farm. However, the police report later said that it seemed plausible that his hat had been picked up by a dog and carried to where it was found, noting that the farmer had stated that there were quite a large number of dogs that roamed about on his farm and that he himself also owned a spaniel. The police report also noted that whilst on the scene, they had seen a black retriever dog in close proximity to where Eli Jackson had been found.
The police report added that the theory of the dogs was further strengthened by the fact that the dead rabbit that had been found in the pocket of Eli Jackson's overcoat and taken out and left on the ground could not later be found and it was also thought that it had been taken off by a dog. The police report noted that it had also been suggested that it might have been taken off by a fox, but it was thought that foxes seldom removed dead animals, especially when there was poultry and other animals in the area that it could catch itself.
The police report concluded by saying: 'There is no doubt that the old man came into Green Lane from the Chalgrove Road and walked along in the darkness until he came to the cross ditch on the right side of the ford, which at this point contains a foot and a half of water. This is accounted for by the bottom part of his overcoat from the crutch downwards being wet when found. He scrambled out and took off his overcoat, which he dropped a short distance away, no doubt whilst suffering from shock by the immersion, then went a little further on, about 35 yards, and collapsed'.
The police report noted that after getting his pension, Eli Jackson had given his wife the £1 note and that he had probably spent the rest on beer, leaving him with no money when he was found. The report noted that that was further evidenced by the fact that when he had met the policeman at the station he had had no money on him and the policeman had paid his fare to Magdalene Road.
Footnotes in the main police report go over the sequence of events, noting that the first doctors had stated that Eli Jackson's cause of death had been due to a fractured/broken neck based on the ease with which his head had moved and that that had effectively misled the Chief Constable into conducting a murder investigation. However, the footnotes state, 'It cannot be said that time spent has been wasted in investigating the cause of this man's death as the Chief Constable will now know what procedure to adopt in the future in a similar case'.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/2175