Date: 18 Apr 1945
Place: Eggbuckland, Plymouth
Constance Elizabeth Williams was found strangled on the roadside near her home at 1 Orchard Villas, Eggbuckland in Plymouth on 18 April 1945.
Her body was found by a postman van driver on his rounds on a grass verge by a military road to Fort Austin about 700 yards from her home. The Post Office van driver said that his attention was attracted to something red on the grass verge and when he stopped to look, he saw that it was the body of a girl and summoned an ambulance and the police.
She had left home at about 8.30pm on the evening of 18 April 1945 and screams were later heard near the camp. When she had left, she had told her mother that she was going for a walk to the top of the hill and back. After she had not returned that night, her mother reported her missing to the police the following morning at about 9am.
The road that she was found on was also referred to as Lovers' Lane.
The pathologists said that she died from asphyxia and that when she was found she had been dead for some hours. He said that he examined her body shortly after 9am. It was also noted that she was pregnant at the time.
Her post-mortem was carried out on 20 April 1945. The pathologist said that he thought that Constance Williams had died about 11pm on 18 April 1945 and that she had been strangled by a single hand. He said that the hand had been placed around her neck while she had been lying on her back. He said that there were bruises on her neck indicating that the grip had been one of considerable strength, adding that other bruises on the back of her neck indicated that she had been pressed to the ground at the time. The pathologist noted that Constance Williams was a healthy girl and had been capable of defending herself but said that there was little evidence of a struggle other than a bruise to the knuckle of one of her fingers. He added that there was nothing to indicate any violent interference.
It was also noted at her inquest that the position that she was found in indicated that she would have lost consciousness very quickly.
It was reported that there were no signs of a struggle near to where she was found and it was thought that her asphyxiation had taken place somewhere else and that her body had then been carried to where it was found and then arranged so as to give the appearance that her death had taken place there. Her body was found lying on its back. At her inquest the pathologist said that he thought that it was possible that she had been murdered elsewhere as she had bruises to the back of her neck, but not to the back of her head.
There were no visible marks of violence on her body, but she had been bleeding from her nose and her clothing was described as being considerably disarranged.
It was thought that she might have gone out for a date with the person that murdered her. She was last seen on the night she was murdered sitting in a field as though waiting for someone, not far from where her body was found. Other reports state that she was seen shortly before dark sitting on a bank in the company of a soldier and it was thought that she might have been out on a date with a soldier.
A man that lived in Higher Efford Road said that he saw Constance Williams at about 10pm on 18 April 1945 in a field leading to Hawkins's farm and spoke to her. It was noted that the spot was about 20 minutes’ walk from where she was later found. The man said that when he spoke to Constance Williams, she told him that she was going to have a baby and told him that the locomotive fireman that she had been seeing from Lower Compton was responsible. He said that he walked with Constance Williams for about five or six minutes and then left her.
Another man from Ward Place in Efford said that he had also seen Constance Williams in the field at about 10pm on the night of 18 April 1945 and that later, at about 10.30pm he met the locomotive fireman from Lower Compton who Constance Williams had been seeing and told him that he had seen Constance Williams in the field and also mentioned that there were rumours that he was the father of her child, but said that the locomotive fireman denied it. The man said that the locomotive fireman then went off towards Higher Efford Road which was in the same direction that Constance Williams had gone.
The police said that they were having considerable difficulty handling the case due particularly to the cosmopolitan nature of Plymouth's wartime population. They also said that they were making enquiries at different camps around the area.
It was also noted that it had been fairly light until about 10pm and that as there was no clear evidence as to where she had been, with no sightings of her by passers-by, that as such it was thought that she might have spent some of the time indoors somewhere.
On 27 April 1945 the police made an appeal for a soldier and a woman that were seen between 10.54pm and 11pm standing near the junction of Austin Cottages and the military road to come forward as it was thought that they might have seen something that could help with their enquiries. The junction was just below the scene of the crime.
A locomotive fireman who lived in Lower Compton in Devon who had known Constance Williams for about nine months was questioned but said that he had not seen her on the night that she was murdered. He was 18 years old and had lived in Byland Road, Lower Compton. He said that he had had nothing to do with her from the time that he had known that she was going to have a child. At the inquest he admitted that he had been familiar with Constance Williams, and further admitted that he had denied that to the police.
When he was questioned about his movements on the night of 18 April 1945, he said that he had met another girl with whom he was friendly at about 9.45pm and that he had walked with her to her home at Ward Place, which was a short distance from Blandford Road where he left her at about 10.30pm and had then met the two other men that gave evidence stating that they had spoken to him on that night and had talked with him about Constance Williams's condition.
The locomotive fireman said that he then got home at about 11.15pm.
At the inquest, the coroner noted that from the time that he last saw the two men to the time he got home was 45 minutes and when he asked the locomotive fireman how long it would take him to walk the distance involved he said that it would take about ten minutes. However, the coroner suggested that it was more like a four-minute walk unless a person took it easy. When he was asked why it took him so long, he said that he had spent the time weight lifting stones above his head in a field and said that no one saw him, noting that he made certain that there was no one about before he started. He further noted that the stones weighed anything from three quarters of a hundred weight to one hundred weight and that he lifted the stones about ten times.
It was also mentioned at the inquest that the locomotive fireman had not told the police anything about weight-lifting stones in the field at first and when he was asked why he said that he had not explained himself fully because it was a rather silly thing to do. He added that he had been doing the weightlifting exercises for about two years.
Constance Williams's mother said that she knew that Constance Williams was pregnant and said that it was thought that it was the locomotive fireman who was responsible. Her mother said that when she found out about Constance Williams's condition, she took her to the police over it.
The police said that they spoke to Constance Williams on 16 April 1945 with regards to her condition and said that she told them that the locomotive fireman from Lower Compton was responsible. They said that she also denied that she had been familiar with anyone else.
Her inquest was concluded on 21 July 1945 and a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown was returned. When the jury retired to consider their verdict, they asked the coroner if they could express an opinion on a certain witness's evidence at the inquest, but the coroner told them that it would be wiser if they did not.
Constance Williams was the eldest of five children and had lived with her widowed mother. Her father was lost at sea early in the war.
She had been a pupil at Crownhill Senior School before which she had been a pupil at the village school.
Her funeral took place on Wednesday 25 April 1945 at the Church of St. Edward and was attended by about 300 people, mainly women, with the church being described as full.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/2293
see Evening Despatch - Thursday 19 April 1945
see Western Morning News - Saturday 21 July 1945
see Evening Despatch - Friday 20 April 1945
see Western Morning News - Tuesday 24 April 1945
see Manchester Evening News - Monday 23 April 1945
see Western Morning News - Thursday 26 April 1945
see Daily Mirror - Saturday 21 April 1945
see Western Morning News - Friday 20 July 1945
see Western Daily Press - Friday 20 April
see Western Morning News - Friday 27 April 1945
see Daily Mirror - Saturday 21 July 1945
see Birmingham Mail - Friday 20 April 1945
see Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 19 April 1945
see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Friday 27 July 1945
see Western Daily Press - Thursday 26 April 1945
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 20 April 1945
see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 23 April 1945
see Western Morning News - Monday 30 April 1945
see Daily Mirror - Monday 23 April 1945