Unsolved Murders

Agnes May Walsh

Age: 22

Sex: female

Date: 27 May 1950

Place: Room 12, Laura Hotel, Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London

Agnes May Walsh was asphyxiated in Room 12, of the Laura Hotel in Paddington, London on Saturday 27 May 1950.

She was found battered and strangled with her own nylon stockings in the room which was described as having been in a general state of disorder, indicating that a violent struggle had taken place. There were blood marks found on the wall at the foot of the bed near the wash basin and hairs were found on the carpet in the room which were later sent off for examination. It was said that she had been battered before she was strangled, and her right hand had been damaged defending herself. When her body was examined shortly after it was found it was determined that she had been dead for about four or five hours.

A suspect later committed suicide in Newcastle. He was a 29-year-old man and was found on the man North Road near Durham on 3 June 1950 under a tree at Finchale Abbey in Portobello close to his MG car. It was first reported that he had died from stab wounds to the chest but later found that he had shot himself and that a revolver had been found by his side. The police said that they compared his fingerprints with prints that were found in the room where Agnes Walsh was found dead, and found that they matched.

The verdict in the man's death was that of 'suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed'. It was said that he had died from firearm wounds to the head and brain. The doctor said that he used the word 'wounds' because there was an entry and an exit wound.

The police said that they thought that the case against the man was practically closed and said that they were also considering the man as a suspect for the murder of Helen Freeman and Rachel Fennick who were both described as West End street girls who were murdered in September 1948. However, it was later stated that there was evidence that he was not involved with their murders. At Agnes Walsh's inquest the coroner said, 'Soon after the death of the man there was published, I understand, in certain newspapers, paragraphs referring to the suggestion that he might be in some way connected with certain other murders which were then, and still are, unsolved. I understand from the Chief Inspector that there is, so far from being any evidence to that effect, clear evidence that he was not connected with any other murder. It was also noted that the man's fingerprints did not match either set found in the cases of Helen Freeman and Rachel Fennick. This was a matter which caused great distress to the parents at the time'.

Agnes Walsh was found naked on a bed with a nylon stocking tied tightly round her neck. Her cause of death was given as being due to manual strangulation.

She had signed into the boarding house with an unknown man under the name 'Mr and Mrs Davidson, Co. Durham'. A copy of the man's signature was photographed and published in the hope that the handwriting could be identified and sent to banks and business houses to see if anyone could recognise it. It was also sent to other hotels and boarding houses with the same intent.

They had booked a top back bedroom at the hotel.

Agnes Walsh had lived in Mornington Terrace in Camden Town and was from Galway in Ireland and had worked in London as a waitress.

It was thought that her murderer had gone to London for Whitsun from the provinces, possibly Birmingham or Bristol and that he had met Agnes Walsh in Piccadilly.

The police initially said that they were looking for a 'sad faced' man who was seen with Agnes Walsh, shortly before she was murdered, and the police said that they received hundreds of reports of men answering that description. The reports of the 'sad faced' man were given by friends of Agnes Walsh who had seen them walking around the crowded West End streets.

The description of the man that she had been seen walking about with was that of 32 to 36 years of age, 6ft 5in to 6ft tall, of slight build, with a pale complexion, a thin face, tight lips, clean shaven, with sandy hair believed to be parted on the right side and receding at the temples. He was said to have been wearing a light-coloured raincoat but no hat. He was also described as having had a sad and miserable expression although being of a polite disposition.

A taxi driver said that he had picked the couple up in Piccadilly at 1am and had driven them to the Laura Hotel in Paddington. It was said that he gave a description of the man that amplified the one that was already being used.

One report stated that it was thought that the 'sad faced man' had gone with Agnes Walsh to the hotel and had left a few minutes after she had died at about 6am and had caught an early train from Paddington station which was only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, it being noted that a number of trains left there for the Thames Valley and the West Country between 6.30am and 7.30am.

One of the men reported was said to have been a Polish man from Manchester and the police in Manchester received orders to interview him.

It was also later noted that a Polish man was also found dead under conditions that suggested suicide about ten miles from where the man committed suicide.

The police later stated that they believed that they knew who the man was and where he had been living and said that they were searching the Chelsea and Victoria areas for a man that matched the description of the man that had been seen with Agnes Walsh. The police said that they also searched the West End and Edgeware Road district bars and cafes for traces of the man but found none.

Another clue that was published in the newspapers was one provided by a taxi-driver who said that he had picked up a fare answering the description of the man that the police were searching for some time before 6am on the Saturday near the Load of Hay public house in Praed Street, which was less than five minutes’ walk from the Laura Hotel . It was said that there had been 5s on the clock when the taxi was paid off, but the police did not disclose the address where they said the taxi driver had dropped him off.

However, when the man who committed suicide in Gateshead on 3 June 1950 was later identified as being a suspect in Agnes Walsh's murder his background was looked into and further evidence taken with the police later stating that they were certain that he was the murderer or the main suspect, although the jury at the inquest did not agree that he was.

The man had travelled to London with a cousin and had gone missing in London for a day or so and when he had re-joined his friend he had had scratches on his face and other injuries and after returning home to Houghton committed suicide after it was thought that he had read an account of the murder in a newspaper which detailed his name as the name that Agnes Walsh and her murderer had used when booking Room 12.

A master builder from Camonbie House, Tow Law said that the man was a second cousin of his and that they had arranged to go for a holiday together and had left Houghton-le-Spring by car on 20 May 1950 and gone to Liverpool and then on to Ross-on-Wye and then to Minehead in Teignmouth and finally arrived in London on 25 May 1950 where they booked a room in a hotel in Euston. The man's cousin said that he then left his cousin at a phone box near the hotel at about 6.30pm on the Thursday night, 25 May 1950 and that he didn't see him again until the Saturday morning, 27 May 1950 at about 10.30am. He said that they both had beds in the same room at the hotel and that as far as he knew his cousin didn’t show up at the hotel on the Thursday night or Friday morning.

The cousin said that he first saw the man on the Saturday morning in the hotel lounge and that when he went up to the bedroom that he saw that he had scratches on his face, on both sides, that appeared recent. He added that he also appeared unshaven and that the knuckle on one of his hands was cut, an injury that appeared as recent as the scratches on his face. He said that his cousin was wearing a sports jacket and flannel trousers and added that he didn't notice anything unusual about his manner or demeanour.

He said that they then left the hotel at about 7.30pm and arrived back in Houghton at about 5.30am on the Sunday morning 28 May 1950.

At the inquest the man's cousin was shown a man's brown tweed sports jacket, a pair of grey chalk striped trousers and a gold signet ring. He said that the sports jacket was something similar to the one that he had seen the man wearing, identified the trousers as the one the man had been wearing and said that whilst he did not recognised the ring as belonging to the man, he said that his cousin had been wearing a signet ring whilst they were in London.

When the cousin was asked about the man's nature, he said that he had been 29 years old and that he had known him all his life. However, he said that he wasn't a man of violence and described him as being very, very temperate and said that whenever he drank that he would never have anything stronger than cider or shandy. He added that the man had a normal life with normal recreations and was a keen sportsman and a follower of the local football team. He also said that the man had had a strict upbringing and said that he thought that if his parents had found that he had gone into a public house that they would have been very hurt to have found out.

The cousin said that the man had plenty of money with him for the trip saying that he would normally have had about £25 on him but that he had £40 on him because he had expected some repairs on his car to have been necessary.

It was heard at the inquest that there might have been some evidence that some property was stolen from Agnes Walsh when she was murdered and the coroner asked the cousin whether he could say anything about the man's honesty and the cousin replied, 'I can tell the court that to my knowledge, and it is a life-time's, that the man would not steal or do anything despicable like that. He was one of the kindest-hearted fellows that one could wish to meet'. The cousin then said with some emotion, 'I can't tell you really how much I feel about it, but I know he would not have hurt anyone. It was absolutely against his character'. He added that as far as he knew the man had no worries or troubles.

After the cousin said that, the coroner said, 'In other words he was not the sort of young man really to let loose upon London? You say he had been very strictly brought up and his parents would be hurt if he went to a public-house, to be allowed out alone in London would be a novel experience for him?'. However, the cousin disagreed and said, 'Not necessarily, sir. I don't drink myself, but I was in London'.

However, he agreed that the signature found in the register of the Laura Hotel was similar to the other signature that his cousin had made in another register.

The man's mother said that he was a single man and that he had had charge of a bakery and had served five years in the army but had never been wounded. She said that whilst he and his cousin were on holiday that she received postcards from him and said that he returned on Sunday 29 May 1950.

When his mother was asked whether he noticed anything unusual about him she said that she noticed that he had scratches on his face. She added that he seemed a bit shaky, but said that he told her that it was through travelling too much.

She said that he then went back to work at the bakery and that on 3 June 1959 after she had gone off herself for a holiday that she was first told that he had been found injured and that later that day that he had died in Newcastle hospital.

After the man's mother gave her evidence the coroner acknowledged the difficulty she had had in taking the stand and in identifying his ring and asked her whether he was normally a kind and peace loving man and she said 'Yes, The only thing I have against him is that I had known him to pick up a baby in the shop and nurse it and I had to tell him to get on with his work'.

When a doctor gave evidence concerning ten envelopes that contained fingernail scrapings from Agnes Walsh's hands, he said that he had also examined the man's clothing and had determined that the scrapings taken from Agnes Walsh's index finger and second fingers included two coloured fibres that agreed exactly in colour with the fibres from the man's sports coat. He added that he also found a bloodstain in the man's trouser pocket that was of blood Group O which matched that of Agnes Walsh's blood group, but noted that it was a very common blood group and that it might also have been the blood group of the man, noting that he was unable to classify his blood group. However, he noted that he had been unable to find any bloodstains on the outside of the sports jacket or trousers.

However, it was also agreed that the bloodstain in the trousers pocket could also have come from the hand of someone who had been engaged in a crime of violence, with the blood being that of Agnes Walsh.

The doctor added that he had examined specimens of head hair that had been taken from the carpet in Room 12 of the Laura Hotel and said that some of it agreed exactly with specimens of hair that had been handed to him from the body of the man and that some of it did not agree.

It was noted at the post mortem that injuries to Agnes Walsh's nose could have been caused by a gold signet ring that was known to have belonged to the man which he was found to be wearing when he shot himself.

A policeman gave evidence stating that he had been given a copy of a northern daily newspaper for 2 June 1950 by the man's family in which there was a mention of Agnes Walsh's murder, including the name used in the register, which was his name, and it was agreed that that that might have been the first indication that anyone living in the Houghton-le-Spring area would have heard his name or that someone in the Durham County area was connected with her murder. The inquest also heard that after having read the newspaper that he 'would know that they were looking for him, because it was in the papers'.

A policeman said that when he found the man lying near his MG car on the grass suffering from the gunshot wound with a pistol lying by him, that when he looked into his car he saw a letter addressed to his mother propped up against the windscreen. The letter was passed to the jury at the inquest, but it was not read aloud. However, when the coroner summed up he said that a part of the letter had read, 'I am terribly sorry for causing you such trouble. What I am about to do is the best way out'.

After the man was found dead, the proprietor of the Laura Hotel  in Paddington travelled up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne with a Chief Inspector and identified the body of the man who shot himself as the man that he had seen booked the room at his hotel with Agnes Walsh on 27 May 1950.

At the inquest it was heard that the police had looked for other people during their investigation and that in the early stages they had no idea at all who the murderer was. It was noted that earlier on in the investigation that the police had suspected that her murderer was a Pole and that he was described as being 'Sad eyed', but the police said that that description given earlier on by the man that had seen Agnes Walsh and the man arrive at the hotel and sign the register was obviously a mistake and incorrect.

However, it was also noted that a Polish man was also found dead under conditions that suggested suicide not far from where the man was found, but the police said that after they investigated the Polish man's death that they felt that they were quite certain that it had nothing to do with Agnes Walsh's murder at all.

It was also noted that it was thought that a watch and two rings had been taken from Agnes Walsh when she was murdered, neither of which were found. However, the police said that there was no evidence that she had been wearing any rings before her murder, although there was some evidence that she had been warring a watch.

It was also noted that none of the items or money were found on the man, that he already had money and that he was unlikely to have stolen anything from anyone, let alone murder anyone.

A picture of the watch was published in the newspapers in the hope that it would be found. The rings were described as possibly being a gold signet ring and a platinum ring and the watch as a rolled gold cocktail watch with a snap fastener.

Agnes Walsh's sister also added that she thought that Agnes Walsh would have had about £4 in notes on her at the time she was murdered with some odd silver and copper in her red plastic handbag, but only coppers remained when the bag was later found lying on the dressing table in the back bedroom hotel room.

When the coroner summed up he said that it was perfectly clear that Agnes Walsh was murdered by manual strangulation and said that it was for the jury to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to name the murder or not, stating that if they felt that Agnes Walsh was murdered by the man then it would be their duty to say so, noting that even if they did name a person dead or alive that it would not necessarily mean that that person was guilty of murder, but that it simply meant that, if that person was alive, that there was sufficient evidence to put them on trial.

However, when the inquest into Agnes Walsh's death concluded on Wednesday 14 June 1950 the jury returned the verdict that Agnes Walsh died from 'strangulation by some person or persons unknown.

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

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - MEPO 2/8771

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Wednesday 14 June 1950

see Dundee Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 30 May 1950

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 30 May 1950

see Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 05 June 1950

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 14 June 1950

see Western Morning News - Wednesday 31 May 1950

see Northampton Chronicle and Echo - Friday 02 June 1950

see Northern Whig - Wednesday 31 May 1950

see Daily Herald - Friday 02 June 1950

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 05 July 1950

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 06 June 1950

see Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 30 May 1950

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Wednesday 14 June 1950

see Daily Herald - Thursday 01 June 1950

see Daily Herald - Monday 05 June 1950