Unsolved Murders


Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 14 Oct 1938

Place: Perranporth, Cornwall

A severed arm was found on the beach in Perranporth, Cornwall by an unemployed chef on 14 October 1938.

However, he didn't think that it was worth reporting to the police and left it there.

A woman later saw it on the beach on 16 October 1938 and later told a doctor about it and went back with a policeman on 25 October 1938 to show him.

It was initially said that a murder theory could not be ruled out because the doctor that initially examined it said he was of the opinion that it had not been severed against the rocks but cut from the trunk. However, a pathologist who travelled over from London later said that there was no evidence of dismemberment.

It was also thought that it might have come from the body of an Australian woman that had fallen off a ship. She had fallen off of the Canadian Pacific steamer Empress of Britain on 1 September 1938. However, it was said that in most cases were bodies were washed up there was generally evidence of them having been eaten by crabs and fish, but that in this case there was not.

The arm was noted as having had a crooked finger which was thought would help in its identification.

The lower part of a woman's leg minus the foot was later found on the beach at Perranporth on 8 November 1938.

Digging was later carried out at the beach in the hope of finding the torso and other parts.

There were also initially reports of a car having been driven on to the beach about a fortnight before the arm was found. The man that saw it said that it was just beyond the Wheal Mary Adit and within a few yards of where the arm was found. He said that he had never seen a car so far along the sands from Perranporth before. He said that there had been three men in the car and a girl and said that he lent them a spade and suggested a garage to them. He said that he later went along and saw that the car had been freed. He said that it was a old two seater car with a hood.

The man that had seen the car described the occupants, saying that the driver was about 6ft tall and very dark. He said that he had a slight stoop and had no collar, tie or hat, and had been wearing a green shirt and grey flannel trousers and was between 30 and 40. He said that the second of the men that he had seen had been standing on the footboard of the car after its release.  He said that he was very tall and was also dressed in grey flannels. He said that there was also another man and a girl in the back of the car and said that he was sure that they were not Cornish, noting that they didn't know the lie of the coast and had no idea that in three-quarters of an hour that they would have been cut off by the tide.

Over 150 statements were taken, including one from a woman that said that she had seen the torso floating in the sea off Perranport.

There were also suggestions that the limbs had been thrown down onto the beach from the cliffs.

A chief inspector at the inquest noted that since 1 July 1938, around the south-west English coasts and south Irish coasts, eight men and a woman had been reported missing from boats and had not been recovered.

The pathologist said that he thought that the body had been in the water for about two months. He added that he thought that they were of a woman about 5ft 2 or 3 in tall.

At the inquest, the pathologist called in from London said that there was no evidence of the body having been deliberately dismembered and suggested that the limb might have been violently wrenched from its trunk by the propeller of a passing steamer.

A verdict of washed up by the sea without any evidence as to the cause of death was returned.

It was said that the beach attracted bodies and it was heard that when 50 bottles had been placed in the Channel off Plymouth, 50% of them came ashore at Perran Beach, taking about 35 days to get there.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 28 December 1938

see The Scotsman - Tuesday 08 November 1938

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 01 November 1938

see Cornishman - Thursday 24 November 1938

see Western Morning News - Wednesday 23 November 1938

see Shields Daily News - Monday 31 October 1938

see Leeds Mercury - Wednesday 02 November 1938

see Portsmouth Evening News - Tuesday 01 November 1938

see Western Morning News - Thursday 03 November 1938

see Gloucester Citizen - Tuesday 01 November 1938

see Gloucestershire Echo - Wednesday 02 November 1938