Unsolved Murders

Bertha Mary Lord

Age: 28

Sex: female

Date: 16 Sep 1938

Place: 78 Marsden Hall Road, Nelson

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Bertha Mary Lord died from an abortion.

She was a cotton weaver and a widow and lived on Marsden Hall Road with her mother.

After becoming ill she was taken to Burnley Municipal Hospital on 6 September 1938 where she died on 16 September 1938.

Her mother said that they had been listening to the radio at about 8pm when Bertha Lord had asked that the radio be switched off. She said that when she asked Bertha Lord why, Bertha Lord replied, 'I feel tired, that's all. I just want to go to bed'. The mother said that Bertha Lord then went to bed at about 8.30pm and that she shortly afterwards took her a cup of tea and saw that Bertha Lord's face was very swollen and so called the doctor. She said that when the doctor arrived he asked Bertha Lord what she had been doing and said that Bertha Lord replied, 'I have been using a syringe and taking some stuff'.

Her mother said that shortly before she went in to hospital she had become suspicious about Bertha Lord's condition and said that when she questioned her over it, Bertha Lord replied, 'Yes mother, I will tell you. I am pregnant. I did not like telling you'.

Her mother said that when the doctor left the house after seeing her, Bertha Lord had told her that she had got the syringe from another woman at Nelson and the mother said that when she went to look in a drawer she saw the syringe there. The mother said that Bertha Lord had told her the previous day that she had been to see a certain woman in Nelson.

The mother said that Bertha Lord had gone out on the morning of 6 September 1938 at about 10am saying that she was going out to buy some stockings and that when she returned at about 1pm she said that she had been to see a woman in Nelson. She said that later that day, after dinner, Bertha Lord told her all about it, and told her that there was nothing to worry about. She said that Bertha Lord was quite lively because the woman had told her that she would be all right in three days or a week. She said that when Bertha Lord told her, she started to cry, but said that Bertha Lord kept saying, 'Don't worry, mother'.

The mother said that when she went to the hospital on 9 September 1938 to see Bertha Lord, she also saw the young man who Bertha Lord had said was responsible for her condition. She said that he gave her a lift in his car, but that they stopped short of the hospital and had a talk. She said that he admitted that he was responsible for Bertha Lord's condition, but that he had been in a delicate state of health and could not afford to marry her. The mother said that she reminded him that it was costing her 36s a week to keep Bertha Lord at the hospital and that he then told her about paying £20 to a woman.

Bertha Lord's mother added that around April 1938 Bertha Lord had been attended to by the doctor for abscesses in the mouth and had to have her teeth extracted. She said that she was medically attended to for about three months and then signed off to go back to work but said that she didn't go. She said that it was about a month after that that she became suspicious about her condition.

The young man, who was a clerk from Hufling Lane in Burnley said that when Bertha Lord had told him that she was pregnant in August he had suggested that she should go and see a certain woman. He said that Bertha Lord told him that she had been to see a woman with her friend from Nelson, saying that she had full confidence in the woman and said that she had added, 'If this thing goes through £30 will be the price'. He said that he tried to persuade her from going to see the other woman but that on 4 September 1938 he met Bertha Lord and he took her out in his car to see her.

The young man added that he was strongly opposed to the proposition of her getting an abortion and said that he met her three or four times to put forward counter-proposals and that she should go away to have the child which she could then have adopted or accepted into some home. He said that he had previously written a letter to a children's home asking them what their arrangements where but said that Bertha Lord said that she didn't want to worry any longer. He said that Bertha Lord told her that the woman in Colne was a retired nurse or midwife and that there was no reason to worry.

He said that he told Bertha Lord that he wanted to see the woman in Colne before anything happened and said that Bertha Lord agreed. He said that on 4 September 1938 he arranged to pick both women up in Nelson and said that they went for a drive to Fence and Higham and then later towards Cowling. He said that they later stopped near Barrowfield to have a discussion and that either then, or later in the afternoon he handed £20 to either Bertha Lord or the woman.

When the Coroner asked the young man what he thought he was paying the £20 for, he said that Bertha Lord was determined. He said that she laughed at his fears and regarded them as unfounded.

Bertha Lord's mother said that the young man had said to her that he had agreed to pay expenses after Bertha Lord left the hospital and had said that he had paid £20 to a woman, saying, 'She wanted £30, but I gave her £20 and promised another £10, but she won't get it'. At the inquest, the young man said that he gave the £20, agreeing to pay the further £10 later, thinking that it would not be acceptable and that more time would be given to them to think about the matter, but said that both of the women appeared to laugh away his fears. The young man added that Bertha Lord had told him that she had been to see other women as well, one of whom, he said that she told him, had been indignant about her visit. The young man also said that all the time he had been against an abortion and said that he now realised how foolish he had been in paying £20 but said that when he had paid the money he had done so thinking that if he had not done so that it would have been worse for him.

The mother said that the young man wrote her a letter in which he said that he was going away and wrote, 'Keep Bertha cheerful and help her to be happy. Mention no names, however. Things will turn out very well. I wish I could see her but will have to look forward to her letters'.

A woman in Nelson said that in early August she had lent Bertha Lord a syringe saying that she was her companion. She said that she later wrote to her mother asking for its return. She said that on 31 August 1938 she had gone with Bertha Lord to see another woman in Colne to 'see if she could help her'. She said that Bertha Lord told her that the young man that was responsible for her condition had told her that he wanted her to go away to await confinement.

Bertha Lord's friend said that she had known the woman in Colne all her life and said that when they went to see her they went into the kitchen and that after a little while Bertha Lord went into the living room with the woman and she stayed in the kitchen. She said that after five or ten minutes, Bertha Lord came out and they went to the front door and said that the woman said to Bertha Lord, 'I'll see you on Monday'. The friend said that Bertha Lord then told her that the woman had told her that she would be all right, and the friend said that she then told Bertha Lord that it would be better if she had the child instead of endangering her life, to which she said that Bertha Lord replied, 'I could not go through with it'.

The friend said that Bertha Lord then came to her on the Sunday 4 September 1938 and said that she was going to see the young man to see if she could get the money for the woman in Colne, the amount being £20 down. The friend said that Bertha Lord seemed determined.

When the woman in Colne was questioned, she said that Bertha Lord had come to see her with her friend and that they had all gone into the front room where Bertha Lord asked her what she could do. The woman said that she did not examine her and did nothing to her. She said that she told Bertha Lord that the best thing to do was to get married. However, she said that Bertha Lord told her that she didn't want to be married yet. However, she said that she looked ill and asked her what she had been doing and said that Bertha Lord told her that she had been taking all sorts of stuff and had been syringing. She said that she told Bertha Lord not to take any more stuff as she was poisoning herself.

The woman said that Bertha Lord came to see her on a second visit on the Monday morning, during which she had told her that the young man was responsible for her condition. She said that on that visit she sounded her heart and took her pulse. She said that neither Bertha Lord nor the young man gave her any money.

At the inquest, the woman from Colne admitted to making certain false statements to the Coroner's Officer and admitted that she had been in the young man's car at the request of Bertha Lord but said that she had only gone for a ride. When the Coroner asked the woman whether she had been out for the ride for the benefit of her health, or the benefit of her pocket, the woman said that it was for the benefit of her health. The coroner then asked the woman, 'You want the jury to believe that the young man was inspired to help you because you were run down?' and the woman replied, 'Yes, it's the truth'. The Coroner then asked if she had received any money from the young man or anyone else and the woman replied, 'No, I have not received any money at all'. The Coroner then said that the young man had said that he had given Bertha Lord some money in her presence and the woman said that he could not have done so in her presence. The Coroner then reiterated that the young man had said that he had done so, and the woman said, 'Well, it is not true'. When the Coroner asked the woman why the young man had come back later, the woman said that he had come back to see how Bertha Lord had got on, and when the Coroner asked her what she had done, she said nothing, but test her heart.

The Coroner then asked the women whether Bertha Lord had come to her for any specific purpose and the woman said that Bertha Lord had come to see her to see if she could do anything for her, but said that she told Bertha Lord that it was too late and that she also told her that she had poisoned herself with taking stuff. She said that when Bertha Lord came to visit her, she had had no syringe in the house and that when she had examined her she had used a heart tester, which she showed at the inquest.

When the Coroner summed up he noted that he thought that the young man had done nothing to escape his responsibility and that he had seemed to have acted fairly with Bertha Lord and with her mother.

He said that he thought that the circumstances of the case were very suspicious and advised the jury to return an open verdict, noting that at the time there was a direct conflict of evidence between the woman from Colne and the young man.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Nelson Leader - Friday 14 October 1938

see Nelson Leader - Friday 23 September 1938

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 15 September 1938

see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 10 October 1938