Unsolved Murders

Harriet Emma Kegg

Age: 34

Sex: female

Date: 3 Sep 1938

Place: 1 Rose Street, Accrington

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Harriet Emma Kegg died from septicaemia due to casual organism of gas gangrene.

It was said that she had been in a certain condition.

During the investigation after her death, it was heard that there was a mystery as to what had happened within a four hour period in which she had gone off to Burnley after saying that she was going off to meet her aunt in Colne.

Harriet Kegg had lived in Rose Street in Accrington and after she was taken ill she was taken to the Bank Hall Hospital in Burnley where she died on 3 September 1938.

Harriet Kegg had separated from her husband about 11 months earlier and had gone to live with a man at 1 Rose Street in Accrington.

Harriet Kegg's mother, who said that she had not approved of Harriet Kegg's alliance with the man at Rose Street, said that at about 6.45 on 2 September 1938 she was informed that Harriet Kegg had met with an accident and was at her sister's home in Varley Street in Colne and so she went there.  She said that when she got there Harriet Kegg told her that she had had a fall. She said that Harriet Kegg had not told her that she was pregnant and added that she had not seen her since June 1937. However, after the man that Harriet Kegg later gave evidence he said that he and Harriet Kegg had been to the mother's house on 27 August 1938 for dinner and the mother said that she then remembered that. After further evidence was given, she also admitted to seeing the man in July 1938 as well.

The mother said that Harriet Kegg had suffered from rheumatism which had resulted in her having a weak ankle that often let her down. She also noted that Harriet Kegg had been a cotton weaver until she was 22 years old and stayed at home until she married.

The mother said that when she got to Varley Street, Harriet Kegg was in bed and said to her, 'Oh, mam, I have had a fall'. The mother said that she immediately sent for the doctor and said that when she saw her again the following day she realised that her condition was much worse. She said that Harriet Kegg then said to her, 'Mam, I am poorley'. The doctor was then called again and said that he was surprised to see Harriet Kegg so much worse. The doctor then went away but came back with another doctor and a nurse and Harriet Kegg was then ordered to be removed to the Bank Hall Hospital in Burnley.

The mother noted that she had never met the man that Harriet Kegg was living with until she went to her sister’s house on 2 September 1938 and said that she didn't know anyone in Burnley and said that she didn't think that Harriet Kegg knew anyone in Burnley either.

When questioned at the inquest, the mother said that she had not asked Harriet Kegg whether she had done anything to prevent a natural birth and said that she was quite certain that Harriet Kegg had told her that she had had a fall in Accrington.

The man that Harriet Kegg had been living with in Rose Street said that he had first met Harriet Kegg about three years earlier when she was living with her husband and he was living in Garnett Street in Barrowford.

He said that after Harriet Kegg left her husband in August 1937 they started to live together in Oswaldtwistle where Harriet Kegg got work as a weaver. However, he said that she had to give that up due to pains in her back and side.

He said that after that they went to live in Rose Street in Accrington and said that in late July 1938 Harriet Kegg told him that she thought that she was in a certain condition. He said that they were both unemployed at the time but nether less said that Harriet Kegg had said that she wanted to keep the child.

The man said that he applied for a position and got a letter asking him to go for an interview. He said that Harriet Kegg suggested that if he got the job that they should both go to live with her aunt in Colne.

The man said that at the interview the firm told him that the appointment would be left in abeyance and so he went to Varley Street and told Harriet Kegg. He said that her aunt then told Harriet Kegg that they could have a room there for 5s a week and said that it was his intention to go and live there with the aunt in Varley Street whether he got the job or not.

The man said that they both went to Harriet Kegg's mother's house on Saturday 27 August 1938 for dinner. The Coroner then asked the man if that was correct, referring to the fact that the mother had said that she had not seen Harriet Kegg since 1937 and did not see her agin until 2 September 1938, and the man replied that he did not think that the mother had understood the question.

The man said that they then stayed for the weekend in Varley Street and then returned to Accrington by train. He said that whilst they returned on the train that Harriet Kegg complained of pains in her stomach and had a greenish cast about her face. He said that when they got home she had some hot tea and seemed more like herself.

He said that on Monday 22 August 1938 they went to Huncoat sidings to pick some coal and said that Harriet Kegg had pulled the truck containing the coal about 100 yards and said that he didn't think that that had done her any good.

He said that on the Friday, 2 September 1938, Harriet Kegg said that she was going to Colne to see her uncle and said that he went with her to the station but that on the way he left her and went to the library but re-joined her later and said that she told him that she had had a shock after her ankle let her down. He said that she frequently had accidents like that but said that she seemed to have recovered by the time that he had left her at the station.

However, it was heard that she went to Burnley by train. When the man was asked whether he would be surprised to find that she had gone to Burnley, the man said that he would not have been utterly surprised. He said that she had no associations in Burnley and said that she would have known that if she had gone to Burnley and then taken the bus from there to Colne, that she would not then have had far to walk when she got to Colne.

The Coroner asked the man whether Harriet Kegg would not have been in the same position when she had got to Colne and the man suggested that Harriet Kegg might have thought that it would be quicker.

The Coroner also noted that after Harriet Kegg had had her fall before taking the train, she had seemed to walk perfectly well from then and asked whether then there would be any reason for her to apprehend that she would have any inconvenience in walking to her aunt's house and the man said, 'I cannot say that there would'.

The man went on to say that he had previously arranged to meet Harriet Kegg at Varley Street in Colne and caught the 7.39 train from Accrington. He said that when he got to Colne he saw Harriet Kegg's mother in Skipton Road and said that she told him that she had just left Harriet Kegg and that she was in a very ill condition. He said that he then went to Varley Street and asked Harriet Kegg what was wrong with her and said that she replied, 'I wish you had come with me. I tried to get back to you'. He said that she also said that there had been a woman at the station who had been very good to her and that she had tried to get a bus at Duke Bar in Burnley for Colne and could not manage it and so had asked the woman to get a car for her. When the Coroner asked the man who the woman was, the man said that he didn't know. Also, when asked, he said that he could not explain why Harriet Kegg had walked from Station Approach in Burnley to Duke Bar, when there were buses passing.

The man said that when he saw Harriet Kegg in the bedroom she had told him that when she had got off the train at Burnley she had been in two minds as to whether or not she should go on to Colne or go back to him in Accrington, but then said that she remembered that there would be no fire at home and so, considering her condition, decided to go on to her aunts. He said that she told him that she had been sat outside Bank Top Station and had felt in a terrible condition and that a woman had noticed her condition and had come to her aid and said that she asked the woman to get her a car so that she could go on to Colne. He said that she didn't tell him any more noting that it had 'nearly killed her' to tell him that much.

He said that the following morning Harriet Kegg was much worse and told him, 'Oh, if you don't get me a doctor, I shall die'. He said that he then immediately went out to try and find a doctor and said that after a three-hour search, at 12.30, a doctor ordered her removal to the hospital.

The aunt at Varley Street said that Harriet Kegg and the man came to see her on 26 August 1938 and said that they told her that the man had an opportunity of obtaining work at Colne and asked her whether they could live there. The aunt said that she agreed but noted that Harriet Kegg had told her nothing about her condition.

The aunt said that at about 6.15 on the Friday, 2 September 1938, Harriet Kegg arrived alone at her house and appeared to be very ill. She said that when she asked her what was wrong, Harriet Kegg told her that she had had a fall in Accrington. She said that when she then asked Harriet Kegg why she had come in a taxi, Harriet Kegg said, 'From Burnley', and then swooned. However, the aunt said that Harriet Kegg soon recovered and then told her that she was in a certain condition.

The aunt said that she then got Harriet Kegg to bed and later asked her if she had done anything to bring about a miscarriage and said that Harriet Kegg answered, 'No, on God's honour, I have not done anything'.

The aunt said that she then immediately sent for Harriet Kegg's mother and that a doctor was then called and said that during the night Harriet Kegg was eased of her pain but didn't sleep and said that the following day, 3 September 1938 she was taken to the hospital where she was informed that Harriet Kegg later died.

When the doctor that had carried out the post-mortem gave evidence, he said that in his opinion, the cause of death had been due to septicaemia due to casual organism of gas gangrene which he said could have been caused by the introduction of a dirty syringe. He added that he found no signs of violence such as were sometimes found when a syringe had been used.

The Coroner said that it was highly desirable that the matter of why she had broken her journey up at Burnley and had gone to Duke Bar with a view to taking a taxi resolved. He had earlier suggested that the reason being that she had had a bad ankle was a concoction.

The Coroner noted that Harriet Kegg’s condition had been aggravated after her visit to Burnley but said that there was no satisfactory evidence that there had been interference and an open verdict was returned.


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


see Nelson Leader - Friday 14 October 1938

see Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 23 September 1938

see Nelson Leader - Friday 14 October 1938