Unsolved Murders

Ethel Winifred Bliss

Age: 39

Sex: female

Date: 7 Nov 1938

Place: River Nene, Northampton

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ethel Winifred Bliss was found dead in the River Nene on 17 November 1938.

It was stated that there was no sign of struggle on the river bank or any signs of violence on her, but her hat and her handbag were both missing and could not be found, even through the dragging of the river.

Ethel Bliss had lived at 127 Milton Street in Northampton and had been in domestic service in Far Cotton at a property in Towcaster Road. Her employer said that she had carried out her duties very satisfactorily and had told her so.

She had gone to visit her sister in Milton Street on the Wednesday after which she then went to the Exchange Cinema. After going to the cinema, Ethel Bliss then went back to her sisters house in Milton Street where she stayed for a while and then left to go back to her employers house for the night leaving at 9.15pm. Her sister said that Ethel Bliss had made her home at her home while she was in service in Northampton and said that when she left she said, 'I must go now to catch my bus to be in by 10 o'clock'.

Her sister said that she seemed quite bright, noting that she seemed brighter than she had been for some time, noting that she had been very depressed at times.

She said that when she had left she had had a black handbag with her but said that she didn't know what was in it. When the sister was asked whether it was a heavy handbag that might have sunk, the sister said that it was a light handbag.

The sister noted that Ethel Bliss had been ill about a month earlier and had seemed to make trouble at her mother’s death, saying that she was not the same after their mother died two years earlier.

It was heard that she had allowed herself about three quarters of an hours to get back to her place of service in Far Cotton where she was expected in by 10pm, but however, never arrived.

Her body was later found far away from any point that it was thought that she might ordinarily have gone to get from Milton Street in Kingsley to Far Cotton.

At the inquest, the Coroner asked Ethel Bliss's sister whether Ethel Bliss would go to Midsummer Meadow if she had missed the bus and the sister said that she would not. It was also noted that Midsummer Meadow was not on a short cut, and also noted that it had been a rainy night, although not foggy.

Her body was found by a commons keeper who was employed by the Northampton Estates Committee whose duty it was to patrol the river bank. He said that at about 7.45am on the Thursday, near the Midsummer Meadow bathing place, he saw the body of Ethel Bliss submerged in the water about seven or eight yards from the bank. He said that her body was fully clothed except for her hat.

He said that he then went and informed the police.

It was said that examination of the bank revealed no signs of a struggle or marks of any kind.

The police surgeon also noted that there were no marks of violence on her body, which he said had been in the water for some hours.

He said that her cause of death was due to drowning.

A doctor that had attended Ethel Bliss from 7 September to 18 October 1938 said that she was rather simple minded but said that there was no mental deficiency and said that she was not the sort of girl that he would have thought would have taken her own life.

The Coroner said that although Ethel Bliss had been ill recently, it was not thought that she would have taken her own life and an open verdict was returned. He said that that would also give the police time to find her hat and handbag.


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


see Northampton Mercury - Friday 25 November 1938

see Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 17 November 1938

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 17 November 1938

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Thursday 17 November 1938