Unsolved Murders

Mary Adams

Age: 55

Sex: female

Date: 31 Dec 1938

Place: Braintree Road, Terling

Mary Adams was found on the Braintree Road near Terling, having been run over.

She was found by a man from Wakerings Farm in Little Waltham as he was cycling home from a dance at Great Leighs at about 11.35pm lying on her side in the road with her handbag and purse lying nearby. He said that it had been raining fairly heavily at the time and said that he then telephoned the police.

She was seen at the Rayleigh Arms in Terling on 31 December 1938 at about 10pm. A man at the pub said that he had not known Mary Adams to have excessive alcoholic habits. He said that she arrived at the pub at about 7pm and left at about 10pm and was quite normal. He said that she had left for a barn that was about two miles away and noted that the spot where she was found was about half-a-mile away from the pub. He said that she was a slow walker and so would have probably arrived at the spot where she was found at about 10.30pm.

He said that he wished her a happy New Year and that she wished him the same and said that he then saw the lights of a car approaching from the direction of Wass's Farm and said to Mary Adams, 'Look out, there's a car coming down the road', and said that she replied, 'All right, I can see it', and then went on along the side of the road. He noted that he could not identify the car.

She was later seen at about 10.40pm by a blacksmith who said that he had left Fairstead at about 10.05pm with two other men heading for Terling. He said that when they saw Mary Adams at 10.40pm she was about 300 yards from the spot where she was afterwards found. He said that he had stood and spoken to her and said that she seemed quite alright.

The last man that was thought to have seen hr alive was a man that had been to Wass's Farm on the evening to get his bicycle that he said he had previously left there, and said that he left the farm at about 10.45pm and that on his way home he saw Mary Adams, a short distance from the far, lying in the middle of the road. However, he said that he carried on, thinking that she had had much too drink and had fallen. He said that he had seen hr by the side of the road before but never in the middle. The Coroner noted to the man that she might have been in need of some assistance.

It was heard that two vehicles had passed down the road and that either of them could have run over her body.

Of the two drivers that could have run her over, one of them was said to have been quite drunk at the time, and marks were found under his truck. However, the Coroner said that he didn't think that they could pin responsibility for the accident on any particular person and added that he thought that the evidence was insufficient for a verdict of accidental death.

A policeman said that when he arrived at the scene where they had found Mary Adams, a spot about 250 yard down on the Terling side of Wass's Farm, she had by then already been taken to Chelmsford Hospital, but said that he saw a large pool of blood about six feet from the side of the road facing Terling, marking the place where her head had been lying.

He said that the road was eighteen feet wide and that ten feet on from the blood, further towards Wass's Farm, he found Mary Adams's beret that she had been seen wearing that evening.

After hearing witness statements, the policeman went to see the driver of a van on 2 January 1938 and examined it and said that it was plain that it had come into contact with something. He said that the front number plate was bent back and that there were traces of blood on the vehicle as though it had passed over something.

He said that when he then looked at the other car that had been stated as having been seen he found no marks on it.

The policeman added that when he examined Mary Adams’s coat he found oil marks on the back of it.

When the van driver gave evidence, he said that he had nothing to hide and admitted that he had had a glass of wine here and there, but said that he wasn't under the influence.

He said that he remembered leaving Wass's Farm at about 11.20pm and arrived home at 11.40pm. He said that he remembered coming round the bend, the last one coming to the Wash, stating that it was raining at the time and that his vision was limited beyond the range of the windscreen wiper and said that he saw what he took to be either a piece of paper or a parcel and eased down a little. He said that he could not swerve to the right of it to get round it, nor pass it very nicely on the near side and so he drove over it with the wheels on either side. He said that he felt no bump and said that he then remarked to the boy that had been in his van with him, 'Did you see that?' and said that the boy replied that he didn't. He said that he did consider stopping but thought twice of it as he said that he had a good bit of money on him and thought that it might have been a trap. He added that if he had thought that it had been a person that he would have certainly stopped.

When the boy was questioned he said, 'I am employed by the van driver, hardware merchant, of Hatfield Peverel, and I accompany him on his rounds, selling, oil, etc, from a motor van. During the evening of Saturday, December 31, 1938, we were delivering in the Fairstead district. The van driver kept on drinking home-made wine at different houses, and his driving frightened me, as he hit the bank on the side of the road once at 9pm at Great Leighs. He had some more wine after that in a house near Daisy Lane, Great Leighs, and I heard a woman ask him to have some more. We called at several houses in Fuller Street, Fairstead, and as it was getting late, and the van driver was shouting, I was frightened as to what would happen. If I could have got my bicycle from the top of the van I should have ridden home and left him. Our last call was at Wass's Farm, Terling. We left there. I don't know what time it was, as I don't carry a watch. Just after turning a left-handed corner I was watching the near side bank to see if we ran into it. I then felt a bump, and I knew we had run into something or run over something. It was a heavy bump, and the van driver ought to have felt it as much as I did. The van driver said, 'Oh', and spat on the windscreen. He slowed down a little and asked me if I saw anything on the road. I said, 'No', but I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye something black in front of the van just before the bump. The van driver did not stop, but drove on, and we arrived home just before midnight. He lifted my bicycle off the van and fell over it'.

The driver of the other car was thought to have been a man that said that he had left Wass's Farm at about 10.10pm as he had been delivering goods there. He said tha as he drove along the Braintree Toad, he took a sharp-angled bend and saw Mary Adams walking towards him. He said that he recognised her, saying that he had been acquainted with her for a number of years, and said that she backed into the bank, a thing that she always did, when he passed her'.

The body of Mary Adams was identified by a friend from London who said that he had last seen her on 15 June 1938 when she had left London to do some pea-picking. He said that he had written to her every week and sent her sums of money.

The doctor that carried out her post-mortem said that she had a laceration of the scalp with abrasions and bruises on her hands and knees. He said that her thigh was fractured and that she had haemorrhage of the brain. He said that death was due to broncho-pneumonia, secondary to the haemorrhage.

When the Coroner summed up he said that there were three options, manslaughter, accidental death or an open verdict. The jury then returned an open verdict.

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