Unsolved Murders

George Arnold

Age: 58

Sex: male

Date: 10 Feb 1939

Place: Cotesbach

George Arnold was found lying injured on the side of the road and was taken to the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby where he soon died.

He was a roadman and had worked for the Leicestershire County Council.

It was said that he was found lying in a curious position in the road giving the indication that he had been placed there.

He was found by a sound engineer from Lawrence Road in Rugby at about 10.15am as he was driving from Rugby. He said, 'He was lying between the two bends, on my off side, and there would be a clear view of the spot from the village. His body, from the hips to the head, was on the grass, his left leg was stretched out into the road, and his right leg was doubled up underneath him. His brush was lying alongside with the handle on the grass, and the shovel was on the grass nearby'.

When questioned by the Coroner about whether the shovel looked as though it had been laid there he said that it looked as if it had not been used.

The sound engineer said, 'There was a pool of blood, which had come from his mouth and nose, and there was a little pile of sweepings where he had been working. I went across to see him, his position was so curious that I thought it was silly for a man to be lying in such a position that traffic would go over his leg'.

When the Coroner asked him whether he saw any traffic after he had crossed the Watling Street, the sound engineer said that he had, saying that he had seen a small car driven by a lady wearing horn-rimmed spectacles, saying that she must have passed him lying there unless the accident had happened after she had passed. He said that as she would have been coming up the hill towards Rugby the sun would have been shining in her eyes, saying that it was shining very brightly. He added that it was possible that she could have been involved in the accident in some way, but that he could not say whether or not she was.

When the Coroner asked the sound engineer whether or not he was curious enough to try to visualise what had happened he said, 'I got a doctor and the police. There were no marks on the road'.

When the Coroner asked the sound engineer whether he thought that George Arnold had fallen there or been carried, the sound engineer said, 'I could not say. There were no marks to indicate anything. He was just lying on the roadside'.

When the Coroner asked the sound engineer whether he could conceive of a normal man dropping in that way, the sound engineer replied, 'He could have done'. He also noted that there was no blood on the road.

The Coroner then said, 'As Alice in Wonderland said, this is getting curiouser and curiouser'.

When the sound engineer was asked whether he examined his brush and shovel he said 'No', and when he was asked whether he thought that he had been run over he said, 'No, there was no indication of that. His cap was about six feet from him, on the edge of the bank, and had not been run over'.

When he was asked whether he thought George Arnold had been dragged into the position that he was found in, the sound engineer said, 'No, it looked as if he had dropped down. I would not say he had not been hit by a car'. He added that George Arnold's clothes looked quite normal.

When the sound engineer was asked whether he thought a car had struck the sweeping part of the brush causing the handle to spring up and hit him he replied, 'I cannot visualise that happening'.

The sound engineer added that as well as the woman in her car, he saw some cattle trucks nearer to Rugby at the top of the hill this side of Coton House.

A policeman that arrived at the scene said that the road at the spot where George Arnold had been sweeping was 20 feet wide and said that he could find no marks at all. He said, 'I  am satisfied that he was sweeping towards Rugby, and fell where he had been sweeping. In the bank I found the imprint of a shoe, but I do not know whose it was. With regard to the car driven by the lady, I am satisfied that it was not involved. A cyclist going towards the village says he saw Arnold at work after the car passed. I cannot trace any other car. I have interviewed practically everyone living at Cotesbach, and bus drivers and other people. There was nothing about Arnold's clothing to indicate that he was knocked down. He certainly was not run into and carried. He just fell'.

The policeman was asked whether his head injuries might be accounted for by a trailer having swung out and hit him and the policeman said 'Yes, but there is no evidence of that'. It was further noted that if he had had been struck that way that the driver might not know anything about it.

A doctor who was at the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby when George Arnold was admitted said that George Arnold was deeply unconscious when he was admitted to the hospital and had a bruise and laceration behind his right ear consistent with a blow by a blunt object. He said that the base of his skull was fractured as a result of the blow and that he died soon after, just after noon.

He said that George Arnold had no other external injuries or anything else that might have caused his death.

After the evidence was heard the foreman of the jury said that it looked as though there was some evidence missing as though there were a person that had put him in the position that he was found in. When the Coroner asked the foreman whether he thought that George Arnold had been assisted into the position that he was found in he said, 'Yes', and that he thought that his tools were put beside him.

The Coroner then asked the doctor whether he thought that if George Arnold's shovel had been lying on the ground and a wheel had passed over it whether it was possible that the handle might have been jerked up and could have caused the wound that George Arnold had, and the doctor said that it could have.

The Coroner then said, 'If it had, a blow of such magnitude would undoubtedly have thrown him, and that would cause the graze on the face. If we assume that we must go a step further and assume that someone put him on the bank because he was unconscious, and he would not arrange himself with one leg doubled underneath his body. We have really no evidence at all, and it seems to me there is no room for a great deal more inquiry. You can, of course, return an open verdict, but I am certain you do not like to leave things. It is a great many years since we returned an open verdict'.

The jury retired for a short time and then returned to pronounce a decision to adjourn the inquest for a fortnight.

When the inquest resumed on 22 February 1939 a fresh witness was called although it was said that it did not clear up the case.

The fresh witness was a traveller who had been driving from Lutterworth to Rugby and said that he saw a small black saloon car pass him at about 10.30am going towards Lutterworth on the side of the kennels. He said then, that as he entered a straight piece of road in Coteshach he noticed a lorry turning out of the village about 250 yards ahead of him. He said he then glanced left and saw a man lying on the grass bank, apparently asleep and in quite a comfortable position with one foot in the gutter. He said, 'I thought after I had gone round the corner that he might have been ill and I ought probably to help him, but by then I had caught the lorry up, so I went on. The lorry driver beckoned me on'.

He said that vehicles had overtaken him, but that he did remember having met two motorists between Lutterworth and Cotesbach.

He admitted that he had heard that there had been an SOS but said that he thought that he could be of no assistance. When the Coroner noted that he had not appeared to have communicated with the police over the matter, the traveller said, 'No, because I thought I could say nothing to them that would help them very much. Then I went to them and told them about this cattle lorry'.

The Coroner noted that that was after the police had been to see him and the traveller accepted that saying that he had intended to go to the police. The Coroner noted that he had had from Monday to Friday to do so and the traveller agreed.

When he was cross examined he said that he had seen a saloon car near Lutterworth golf course.

He added that he was quite sure of the time that he had passed the spot because of the timing of his various other calls in Lutterworth before leaving for Rugby.

When the traveller was asked why he had not noticed the lorry on his way from Lutterworth before he got to Cotesbach he said that it might have been that it had started up in Cotesbach.

The policeman said that since the previous adjournment he had examined George Arnold's clothes but found nothing useful. He also said that he had traced two cyclists that had been travelling in the direction of Rugby toward Lutterworth and had taken statements from them.

He said that he had also been told of whispers in a public house that a motorist travelling from Lutterworth to Rugby had passed and seen the man and that as a result of enquiries he made at the pub he found the traveller.

He also said that on three different days he had stopped all the traffic from Rugby to Lutterworth and had taken statements from all persons likely to be of help and had visited every house and seen everybody in Cotesbach, but to no avail.

The cyclists had given evidence at the earlier hearing at which they had said that they had passed George Arnold at about 10.10am at which time he was sweeping the road with his back to the traffic coming from Lutterworth. They then said that when they later passed the spot where they had seen him after hearing of the accident they saw blood on the road and estimated that the distance from there to where they had originally seen George Arnold was about 12 yards.

The foreman said, 'We have held many inquiries in this court and we have always been able to arrive at something definite. The police have done all that is possible. I know that for a fact, because they stopped a vehicle in which I was travelling at the time.'.

He then added that the jury were sure that everything had been done in the interest of George Arnold but that all they could say was that he had died from a fractured skull and that how, or by whom it had been caused they could not say.

The Coroner then expressed the view that that was the only true verdict that they could give. He noted that there had been the suggestion of an accident, but that it might equally well have been done on purpose.

An open verdict was then returned. However, the Coroner said that he thought that if everybody had been frank then they would have had no difficulty in arriving at a proper verdict.

George Arnold's funeral took place on 9 February 1939 at Lutterworth. He was noted for having been in the grocery trade in Lutterworth for the previous 20 years and had been in the service of the County Council for the last six months. He had also served throughout the war in the RASC and his coffin was covered with a Union Jack which was born by members of the British Legion of which he had been a member. Poppies, in accordance with Legion ceremonial, were also dropped into his grave.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Rugby Advertiser - Friday 10 February 1939

see Rugby Advertiser - Tuesday 21 February 1939

see Rugby Advertiser - Friday 24 February 1939