Unsolved Murders

Charles Hyde

Age: 62

Sex: male

Date: 17 Oct 1946

Place: 10 Brun Grove, Blackpool, Lancashire

Charles Hyde was found with his throat slit in his scullery with a bloody knife in his hand

It was thought that he had committed suicide but there was doubt over that due to the nature of his wound as he had been nearly decapitated.

His injury went all round his neck bar an inch or so at his adams apple.

When the police first looked into his death, the chief constable said that it had all the appearances of suicide, but a police surgeon and the director of the North Western Forensic Science Laboratory both expressed doubts as to whether it was possible for his injury to have been self-inflicted and police from Scotland Yard were called in to assist in providing a definite conclusion as to whether or not his death was suicide or murder.

However, his inquest returned a suicide verdict.

Charles Hyde had lived with his wife at 10 Brun Grove in Blackpool, and was a butcher. He was described as being a strong, well developed man, 5ft 9in tall, with a slight tendency to obesity. He was of good character and was well known and respected in the neighbourhood.

Until 1945 he had enjoyed good health, but was then forced to give up work owing to him suffering from Neurasthenia and Palpitation, and the illness and subsequent inaction evidently weighed on his mind and on 9 September 1945 he attempted to take his life by cutting his throat with an open type razor. After his recovery he was charged with attempted suicide and as a result was handed over to the custody of his wife.

It was noted that on that occasion, he didn't leave any note before attempting to cut his throat and as such, it was considered unsurprising that no note was found on the second occasion.

It was heard that since September 1945, Charles Hyde had been attending his doctor with his complaint and had not been able to work and had been mopey and worried and depressed as his financial position was not too strong, although his wife said that in the last few weeks he had brightened up a bit.

On Thursday 17 October 1946 his wife went out to do some shopping, leaving Charles Hyde alone in the house, noting that he was in his ordinary spirits. However, when she returned at 11.30am she found him dead lying face downwards on the scullery floor in a pool of blood.

It was noted that the back door was locked.

Charles Hyde's wife then went for the police.

The police report stated that when first considering the nature of the crime, viz, murder or suicide, it was important to take into consideration the dimensions of the room.

The scullery was shaped in the form of a letter 'T', the base being formed by the back door whilst the top left part led from from the kitchen and the outer wall of the house formed the right side. The length of the room, from the kitchen door to the outer wall, was 11ft 6in and the breadth measured at its widest part from the back door to the wall, was 7ft 6in.

Inside the back door on the right-hand side there was a meat safe that was 15 inches wide and on the left there was a chest of drawers, 15.5 inches wide, on which there stood a large cabinet with glass doors. It was noted that that effectively narrowed the available area at that part, the leg of the 'T', to about 2ft 6 3/4in wide by 4ft 5in long.

Then, ranged along the wall on the opposite side to the door was a gas cooker and two tables that reduced the width of the scullery to 6ft 3in.. It was also noted that articles of crockery were placed and hung on shelves around the scullery.

As such, it was noted that there was little room in the scullery and that if any struggle had taken place that it would then have become a shambles.

It was also noted that the chest of drawers had contained a collection of butcher's implements, knives, choppers and steels etc.

The police report noted that no photos were taken of Charles Hyde's body where it was found and that there was a slight diversity of opinion between the police officers and the ambulance attendants that arrived at the scene on a couple of points as to his exact position.

The report stated that Charles Hyde's body was lying on its face, with the top of his head being just beyond the front of the gas cooker, and his feet towards the door. His body was full length with the exception that his right leg was very slightly flexed. His left arm was beneath his body, whilst his right arm was extended slightly above his shoulder line. He had a knife in his right hand which was similar to a ham knife, the blade of which was approximately 10 inches long by 1 inch wide, tapering to a point and covered in blood. The first four inches of the blade were fairly sharp, although not to a razor edge.

It was not certain how he had been holding the knife when he was found. An ambulance attendant said that he had been holding it like a dagger. The ambulance attendant also said that he saw blood on the grass lawn outside the back door and thought that it had been left by someone who had gone out by way of the back door before his arrival. However, the police from Scotland Yard said that they thought that if there had been blood outside on the grass that it was probably caused by one of the police or ambulance attendants before they removed his body.

However, two other policemen that attended said that Charles Hyde had been holding the knife in the ordinary way, pointing away from his body.

There was a large pool of blood beneath and around his body which had congealed. On the top of the chest of drawers there was a second butcher's knife, slightly smaller in length than the ham knife, but with a wider blade. It was noted that the ambulance attendant said that when he saw it it was covered in blood, but the police from Scotland Yard said that they made a careful examination and were definite in saying that he was mistaken. They said that there was one spot of blood on the blade and one on the handle, but on the other parts, where the knife was inserted into the handle, there was no trace. The police said that if the knife had been subsequently washed or wiped that there would have still been traces in those crevices whilst the two visible spots would not have been there.

Charles Hyde's body was fully clothed with the exception of a jacket and over his shirt he had worn a cardigan jacket. A collar and tie was attached to his shirt, but whether that was properly adjusted at the front when he was found could not be ascertained.

Apart from the uncertainty regarding his collar and tie, the police report said that it was certain that no article of his clothing was disarranged.

The police report noted that both of the police officers were emphatic that except for Charles Hyde's body, that the scullery was tidy and that there was no sign of disorder in any way. There were no indications of any footmarks near his body and the blood was not disturbed in any way.

One of the police officers that first attended the scene said that owing to the cleanliness of the back door step and garden path adjoining, and also due to the fact that the entrance to the kitchen bore no blood smudges, that he thought that no person other than Charles Hyde could have been in the scullery at the time or after he received his injury.

The police report noted that it was because of that fact that they were inclined to find that the ambulance attendant had been mistaken when he had said that there had been a blood mark on the grass.

The police from Scotland Yard said that there was no blood mark on the grass when they looked, although there were spots of congealed blood on the path, but said that they could have dropped from Charles Hyde's body when it was being carried out of the house.

The report stated that in addition to the floor, there were blood spots on the wall on the right hand side of the 'T' leg and on the cabinet side and front, and noted that those still remaining gave the appearance of having dropped from above.

The police report stated that Charles Hyde's wife had been very upset at the time and had been wearing her outdoor clothes, upon which no blood was found. She was described as being rather plump and about 5ft 4in tall and, who in the opinion of the police, would not have been capable of inflicting the wound that Charles Hyde had suffered from and that she could be ruled out completely.

Shortly after Charles Hyde's body was found, it was taken away by the ambulance to the hospital where a doctor certified his death. Two police officers remained at the house and cleaned the blood from the floor an walls.

At that stage in the Scotland Yard report, the police stopped to theorise and submitted that they thought that the facts pointed to Charles Hyde having committed suicide.

When the doctor carried out the post mortem at Talbot Road Cemetery Mortuary in Blackpool at 1pm on Saturday 19 October, he found the following injuries present:

  1. Three abrasions and one bruise over the left frontal area of the skull. (These were superficial and could have been caused by Charles Hyde striking his head in falling).
  2. A large wound commencing under the tip of the left ear, around the back of the neck on a line where the base of the head joins the neck, and down the right side to a point just short of the front of the neck. This wound was 15 1/4 inches long and at the back 3 1/2 inches deep. The skin edges were clean cut, surfaces of the wound smooth and regular and the direction of the wound ran forwards and downwards to an angle of 40 degrees. the doctor named various muscles and ligaments but the police in their report said that it was sufficient to say that all such had been severed down to the spinal column together with the right vertebral artery and vein which were protected by the column. The membrane of the atlas and axis bones had been cut and the surfaces of both bones could be seen.
  3. A similar wound 6 1/4 inches in length, and 3 1/4 inches deep was on the left side of the neck commencing 1 inch from the 4th cervical spine and finishing at the left side of the thyroid cartilage. This wound commenced beyond the one first described and ran parallel. It was clean cut and directed downwards and inwards. There were two 'hesitation' cuts visible out of this wound. In addition to muscles the external and internal jugular veins were severed.

The police report noted that there was nothing else of interest in the doctors report regarding the examination of Charles Hyde's body, although it was significant to note that no further bruising was found, although evidence of his previous suicide attempt was present.

It was stated that it was the extensive nature of the two wounds that had caused doubt in the doctor’s mind and whether the larger of the wounds could have been self-inflicted. The lines of argument were:

  1. Which of the two wounds was first inflicted.
  2. If the frontal one then the severing of the jugular veins would not leave sufficient time to cause the second as death would ensue in a matter of seconds.
  3. If the larger wound first, then would not the shock, loss of blood and the severing of all back muscles, preventing the head being held erect, prevent the person inflicting the second wound in the front.

Accordingly, at that stage, both the doctor and the pathologist from the Forensic Laboratory unit in Preston did not feel disposed to make a decision as to whether Charles Hyde's wounds were suicidal of homicidal.

Charles Hyde's inquest was held on 18 October 1946 at 6pm and after identification, was adjourned until 3pm on 1 November 1946.

It was after the adjournment that Scotland Yard was called in, who stated that after visiting the scene, viewing Charles Hyde's body, wounds and examining the photographs, and knives and interviewing several of the police officers, that they arrived at the decision that suicide could be the only answer for the following reasons:

  1. The absence of any struggle at the scene, or significant bruises on the body. Had the deceased been attacked he would have put up a tremendous struggle and the scullery would have been wrecked.
  2. The wound in the back of the neck, could not, in the opinion of Scotland Yard, have been other than self-inflicted. Had there been an assailant it would have taken a different line, probably downward and not directly across. In addition it could not have circled the neck with the same pressure at the sides with one cut, unless Charles Hyde was not resisting.
  3. The wound at the back could not have been inflicted whilst Charles Hyde was lying on the ground.

The police report stated that in attempting a reconstruction, they were faced with a determined man, a butcher by occupation, trained in the use of knives and strong in the arm. His wife said that he had appeared to be better in health recently and it was noted that that was sometimes the condition with suicidal people as their minds were more settled.

It was said that after Charles Hyde's wife left their home that it was possible that Charles Hyde, having made up his mind to take his life, entered the scullery and having secured the back door, selected one or possibly two knives from the drawer. Then, taking one, he placed the other on the chest of drawers. Then, standing with his back to the yard door and using the glass cabinet as a looking glass, he inflicted the wound in the back of his neck, using all force possible with the knife held dagger like. Then, after reversing the knife with the edge pointing towards him, he inflicted the wound to the front of his neck. The police report noted that it was possible that he might have had to have held his head back to have done that. The second cut would have then severed his jugular veins and he would then have fallen forward, with his right arm probably going outward as his body dropped.

A doctor that examined Charles Hyde's wounds admitted that the wound to the back of Charles Hyde's neck was a most unusual position for a suicidal wound, but it was not possible to exclude such having regard to the fact that Charles Hyde was a butcher and had considerable strength. He stated that it was possible that a person armed with a suitable weapon could have inflicted the wound seen themselves. He said that such a wound would have caused a certain amount of incapacity but that it would not make the infliction of the second wound impossible, especially as it would have followed rapidly upon the first. However, the doctor also noted that it would not have been possible to have inflicted the wound at the side, which had opened his jugular veins, firstly.

The doctor also stated hat in his opinion the second wound was self-inflicted and would have rapidly caused death.

After the doctor gave his opinion, he concluded by stating:

'For all the reasons stated above and taking into conjunction my inspection both of the deceased and of the place in which he was found, I am of the opinion that both wounds in the neck of the deceased were suicidal and there was no evidence of a homicidal wound'.

The report that the doctor gave to the coroner stated:

  1. The upper wound was the first to take place. This wound would not cause death for some hours as no vital structure had been cut and no big blood vessels had been severed. The shape, extent and direction of the wound points to the fact that it could have been self inflicted, taking into consideration the build, trade and previous attempt at suicide of Charles Hyde.
  2. The lower and smaller wound was inflicted last. This wound caused death in a matter of seconds due to the internal jugular vein being cut. This wound was self inflicted because of the two tentative cuts on the upper edge of the wound.
  3. His cause of death was syncope due to haemorrhage due to cut left internal jugular vein.

The police report concluded by stating that considerable interest had been shown in the very unusual type of wound inflicted on the back of Charles Hyde's neck and that it was intended to use the case as a subject for lectures, both by the police and the doctors, and the police as such made a telephone request to Blackpool Borough Police asking whether they could be supplied with six further sets of the photographs, or failing that, whether the negatives could be forwarded to them.

In a subsequent note, the police superintendent wrote, 'This undoubted suicide is almost as remarkable as that of the woman who hammered a nail into her skull'.

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

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - MEPO 3/2742