Date: 25 Aug 1961
Place: Bordesley Green, Birmingham
Jacqueline Mary Thomas went missing after visiting a fun fair in Ward End Park, Ward End on 18 August 1961. Her body was later found on 25 August 1961 in allotments in Bordesley Green near her home.
The allotment where her body was found was about half a mile from Ward End Park.
The pathologist that carried out her post mortem said that she appeared to have been strangled. When she was found she had what appeared to be a scarf round her neck. The pathologist said that he had formed the opinion that Jacqueline Thomas had been dead for approximately three days, noting, 'By that, I mean she had been dead at least three days'.
A man was charged with her murder in 2008 but the judge said at 70 he was too old to be tried as he was already serving life imprisonment. The man had previously been convicted for the murder of Sylvia Whitehouse who he had stabbed to death with a screwdriver after picking her up in his car. The man died in prison in December 2011. The man, who had been 24-years-old at the time, had been a key witness at the initial inquest and a possible suspect at which the Coroner noted that he had told lies and brought about a lot of suspicion being cast on him.
When the 24-year-old was first questioned in 1961 the day after Jacqueline Thomas was found dead he had told the police that he had been out 'screwing', trying to break into some factories. However, he had also asked his mother to give him an alibi stating that he had been outside his house at 11pm and when he was later questioned again he admitted that what he had said was a pack of lies and that he had in fact gone to the funfair where he had met a girl and gone off and kissed but that she had afterwards returned to the funfair and he had gone home.
When the Coroner summed up he said that the jury had the choice of bringing in a verdict of murder against a known person or a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown. They returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown.
The Coroner had said, 'It may be a very important matter for us to ascertain, if we can, the day she actually came to her death, whether it was Friday, or some other time. You may hear some of the teenage girls say that they think they saw her on the Saturday, the Sunday, or even on the Monday or Tuesday. The last person who can definitely be identified as being with this girl is the 24-year-old man'. However, the Coroner later adjusted his statement after it was heard that a woman had said that she had seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Monday 21 August 1961 at Ward End Park at which time she didn't know that she was missing. The Coroner then said, 'What I should have said was that the 24-year-old man was the last person seen with her on the night in question, Friday, August 18'.
The man had lived in Kellett Road in Nechells.
Jacqueline Thomas had lived in Everton Road, Alum Rock, Birmingham and had seven sisters.
Jacqueline Thomas had gone to the fair and the last time she was seen alive was about 11pm or 11.25pm by a woman. She had gone to the fair with her sister and another girl after tea.
When the man was first questioned at 1am on 25 August 1961 at Bordesley Green, a detective said to him, 'I understand you walked off with this girl (Jacqueline) at about 10.30pm. You put your arm around her and kissed her', to which the man replied, 'No'. When he was then told what Jacqueline Thomas had been wearing he said, 'No, I never saw her. I went home early from the fair and went straight to our Mum's'. He said that he had reached his mother's house before 11pm and later left at about 2am.
The police questioned the man again on 26 August 1961 when they told him that the position was most unsatisfactory as his mother had told them that he had come home on the Friday during the evening and stayed until about 11.30pm, to which the man said, 'All I know is I called on her on Friday night like I said. It might have been later than that because I remember now, I did have a chat at the fair with that girl you described. I did give her a kiss, but it didn't go any further than that.
When he was questioned again on 27 August 1961 at about 2am, he said, 'Yes, what I have said up to now is not really the truth. You have probably seen Mum, and I don't want her to get into trouble. I never called on her at all on the Friday night. I asked her to tell the police, if they called, that I had been in a fight at the fair and had kicked a bloke and knocked some of his teeth out'.
It was noted that the knuckles on the man's hands were skinned and the police said to him, 'In spite of that injury to your hand, from our enquiries you were not in a fight at the fair that Friday night', to which the man replied, 'I did this at work a week after I had started at Geests. I might as well tell you what I did that night. You may find out anyhow'. He then went on to say that after he left the fair that he had looked for places to break into, stating, 'because I was skint'.
He also said, 'I have something to tell you. I took a motor-bike from the Beaufort Cinema on August 9. I am going to tell you about what I did on Friday, August 18, as well. That's the date you are interested in, isn't it? I went screwing, and that's the truth'.
He added, 'I am telling you the truth about this, but I never went with that bird down the fair. I never got anywhere with her. I kissed her like I said, but it was standing down by the pool. We didn't even lie down on the grass because she would not have it'.
When he later made a statement, he said, 'A week ago I was at the fair in Ward End Park. I left about 11 o'clock at night and went in Ward End Park Road, up Alum Rock Road and into Highfield Road. Then I went down the back of Lucas's. I was after a bit of money. I tried to find a way in, but I did not find it. I climbed over a fence, but had no luck'.
He then went on to say that he also went round the back of Great Lister Street Post Office and tried to open a window but couldn't get a grip and that after walking round a block of flats he went home, arriving about 'two-ish'.
However, the police went back to see the man on Thursday 31 August 1961 at the central lock-up and told him that he had checked on the premises that he had said he had tried to enter and could find no sign of anyone trying to break in. The man then said, 'Well, that's what I did that night. I didn't get in anywhere, but I went to try'.
The police saw the man again on 6 September 1961 when he was serving a two-months' prison sentence for the motorcycle offence. A detective said to him, 'I have had to see your mother and take a statement from her as it appears that you asked her to give an alibi for you for Friday night, August 18. That is, you asked her to tell the police, if they enquired about you, that you were outside her house at 11pm on Friday August 18 talking to a man. She says you told her it was because you were in a fight at the fair, but you told me that you were trying to break into premises that night'.
The man replied, 'I don't know why I told you lies. I have told a stack of lies about that night. I wasn't in a fight really. I was just kidding our Mum that I was tough'.
He then later said, 'I will try to tell you the whole story about this affair as I want to be out of suspicion as it gets on my nerves'.
He then went on to say that he had left his house at about 8pm and gone to the Pelham Arms and had some drinks, 'with the other fellows' after which they had all gone to the fair where he broke away from them.
He then said, 'I was walking round. Then I sees this girl. I didn't know her. I asked her if she was coming for a walk, or something like that. She was wearing jeans. I was a bit puddled from the beer and told her I was the Scarlet Pimpernel, or something. I caught hold of her and she walked along with me. I kissed her a couple of times. Then I sat down and she came down with me. We lay down necking. She stopped me because she had to go. I asked if I could take her home, but she said she had to meet someone in the fair or was looking for someone. I just called her 'Sugar'. She left me and went back into the fair. I didn't see the girl again after that'.
On 7 September 1961 the man said, in answer to questions, that it was the first time that he had met Jacqueline Thomas at the fair and that he had never seen her before.
However, it was noted that he maintened that he had gone out that night to 'screw' premises.
It was noted that the motorcycle offence had resulted in him being sentenced to two-months imprisonment for stealing the motorcycle, driving whilst disqualified and driving without insurance.
On 7 September 1961 the man agreed to go on an identity parade and on the same day he took part in three at which five or six people were asked to attend, but no one picked him out.
At the inquest, the Coroner asked the detective, 'It is correct that, whatever he may have told you about the other matters, he has maintained throughout that he had nothing to do with the murder of this girl?' to which the detective replied, 'Yes'. The Coroner then added, 'And furthermore, that he didn't have sexual intercourse with her?' to which the detective again replied 'Yes'.
When the detective was asked about Jacqueline Thomas's moral character he said, 'It was very low indeed'.
When the man's mother gave evidence she said that she lived in Couchmman Road and that her son had come to her house on the night of the fair and that on the following day he had asked her to say, if the police came, that she had heard him talking to someone outside the front door at 11.30pm. She said that when she asked him what time he had got home that he said 2am but didn't at that time tell her that he had been out trying to burgle places.
She said, 'During the following week he seemed tired but quite happy. I noticed nothing unusual at all about his behaviour'.
It was noted that before the man gave evidence on his own behalf that his counsel had given considerable thought to whether or not he should but said, 'He has instructed me throughout that he wished to be called so that, though he may not be an angel, this finger of suspicion which is laying at him may be cleared'.
Before the man gave evidence the Coroner then pointed out to him that he didn't have to but the man said that he wanted to.
When questioned he agreed that he had said that he had not seen Jacqueline Thomas when first questioned, even though at that stage he knew perfectly well who the police were inquiring about and knew that he had kissed her and had behaved indecently with her in the park. When he was asked why he had done that he said, 'Because I was trying to hide the fact that I had been attempting to break in'.
When the Coroner asked, 'Surely, even if you had said you knew the girl and had kissed her, that would not have led to your being suspected of breaking in?', the man replied, 'I have got a wife, and she was expecting a baby at that time'.
When he was asked why he had made up the false alibi, he said, 'I was trying to keep that I had been larking about away from my missus'.
When he was questioned be admitted having lain on the grass with Jacqueline Thomas but said that he had not told the police that 'because it sounded bad'. He said that he had lain with her near the boating lake but that there were too many people about to have intercourse with her.
When he was asked whether he had been under the influence of drink he said, 'I'd had a few drinks', He also agreed with the fact that he had wanted to have intercourse with Jacqueline Thomas.
When he was asked about his attempts to break into premises, he said that he had tried four or five places, having left the fair at about 10.30pm.
When the Coroner asked, 'And reconnoitring these places took you until 2am?', the man replied, 'Yes'. The Coroner then said that that seemed like a long time and that the man said, 'I sat on a bench and had a smoke. I sat on the railway and had a smoke, and just generally hung about'.
When he was asked whether he reckoned that that took him 3½ hours the man said that it must have done.
When he was asked about asking his mother for a false alibi, the man said that he had suggested it out of bravado and had not at that time known that the police might be coming, saying, 'I didn't say it in the way people will take it to be in here. I said it jokingly'. He added that it was not the case that he had said it in case Jacqueline Thomas had been found because he didn't know anything about it at that time.
He went on to say that he had carried out similar reconnoitring expeditions before.
He also said that when he left Jacqueline Thomas that she had been alive and well and added that he had not been anywhere near the waste ground that night or even that year, stating that the last time that he had been there was about 1956.
A 22-year-old man who lived in Bordesley Green East that had been at the fair who saw Jacqueline Thomas at about 10.30pm said, 'I saw the man walking along by the tents and I called him over. He came up to us, speaking, and they both intermingled then and started speaking'. He said that after they had been kissing that the man and Jacqueline Thomas then walked on the grass. He said, 'When I left them, they were on the grass where all the tents were'. He added that they had still been standing when he left them.
A 28-year-old man that had lived in Ralph Road, Saltley, said that he saw Jacqueline Thomas at the fair on the Friday night at about 10.30pm. He said, 'We called her over and started talking, and the next thing I knew she was going away with the man'.
A woman that had lived in Washwood Heath Road said that she didn't know Jacqueline Thomas very well but used to see her in the Met Cafe. She said that on the Saturday, 26 August 1961, that she had been in the cafe when a press reporter had come in and shown her a photograph of Jacqueline Thomas and that she then remembered having seen her the previous Saturday, 19 August 1961. She said that Jacqueline Thomas had gone in with another girl with ginger hair. She said, 'I noticed she was very scruffy, as if she had been sleeping rough. I spoke to her and said, 'You look as if you've had a rough night. Look at your legs'. She said she had been at the fair all night looking for somebody'.
The woman, and another woman were also shown a black coat with a white fur collar and they both identified it as the one that had been worn by Jacqueline Thomas when they had seen her on the Saturday.
However, Jacqueline Thomas's mother, who also identified the jacket as belonging to Jacqueline Thomas, said that when Jacqueline Thomas had gone out on the Friday night she had been wearing a green suedette jacket. She said, 'I had her coat on at the fair on Friday and on Saturday when I went to the MET looking for her. Nobody in the cafe said anything to me about being dirty or needing a wash'. She added that she had never seen either of the women that had been in the Met Cafe and said they had seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Friday night.
A man that had lived in Frederick Road, Stechford said that he had first met Jacqueline Thomas in April 1960 in a cafe and that on the Friday 18 August 1961 he had been walking around the fairground at Ward End Park with his dog when Jacqueline Thomas came over and made a fuss of his dog, noting that he was sure that it was Jacqueline Thomas.
He said that at about 10.25pm or 10.45pm that he saw Jacqueline Thomas again when he was at the corner of Belcher's Lane and Cotterill's Lane. He said, 'She was coming from the Pelham accompanied by a chap. It appeared to me the chap was a yard or two in front of her. They appeared to be shouting at each other. It was a loud conversation'.
He described the man as:
He said that the couple were going off towards the allotments.
After Jacqueline Thomas was discovered murdered the man was shown a photograph of her which he said he recognised. However, he also said, 'I more or less recognised the name more than the photograph'.
The man later attended three identification parades in one day where he picked out a man 'as being of similar build, but not as being the man'.
He added that he thought that he heard Jacqueline Thomas refer to the man as Jimmy or Johnny, but did not think that it could have been Tony or Anthony.
Jacqueline Thomas's mother said that her husband had been a patient at Windon Green Hospital since 1949. She said that Jacqueline Thomas had been a very good girl until about the middle of July 1961 when she had started to mix with teenagers who went round cafes. She said, 'She was going out every day, as I thought to go to work, and returning in the evening. I have since found out that she had not been going to work, but had been spending her days hanging round the cafes'.
She said that Jacqueline Thomas went out just after 6.30pm on the Friday 18 August 1961 and that that was the last time she saw her alive.
Jacqueline Thomas's15-year-old sister said that Jacqueline Thomas was 13 months older than her. When she was asked whether they had looked alike, she said that they did but that Jacqueline Thomas had dark hair whilst she had light hair. She added that she had been mistaken for Jacqueline Thomas before.
She said that she went out looking for Jacqueline Thomas on the Saturday whilst wearing Jacqueline Thomas's black coat with a white collar, noting that she saw several of Jacqueline Thomas's friends whom she told that Jacqueline Thomas was missing.
She said that she went out again on the Sunday, again wearing Jacqueline Thomas''s black coat to look for Jacqueline Thomas and that in the afternoon she went to the fairground where she again saw some of Jacqueline Thomas's friends and told them that Jacqueline Thomas was missing but said that none of them said that they had seen her.
The pathologist that carried out the post mortem said that the ligature around Jacqueline Thomas's neck had been a floral underskirt that had been put around her neck twice and pulled tight. He said that her death was due to strangulation and that she appeared to have been raped either immediately before or after death.
He said that he thought that her death had occurred at least four days before her body was discovered, and most probably a week, stating that her appearance was consistent with her having been murdered on the night of 18 or 19 August 1961. However, the pathologist said that he could not possibly be exact as to whether her death had occurred within 48 hours on either side of the dates he had given.
A doctor that examined the 24-year-old man on 28 August 1961 said that he found two small abrasions on his right hand and one on his upper lip, all of which were days old, however, he said that it was impossible for him to form an opinion as to how they had been caused. The 24-year-old man told him that the hand injuries had been caused by a knock at work and the lip injury whilst shaving.
When the 24-year-old man's clothing was examined at the West Midlands Forensic Science Laboratory, nothing was found on them to connect the 24-year-old man with either the allotment or Jacqueline Thomas.
One of the people that said that they saw Jacqueline Thomas after the night of the fair was a 16-year-old girl that had lived in St Agatha Road, Ward End. She said that she had been standing on a corner when she had seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Tuesday night 22 August 1961 in a bus next to a young man. When she was cross-examined, she said that she knew Jacqueline Thomas's sister and was quite sure that it wasn't her, noting that she had not known that Jacqueline Thomas had been missing at the time.
Another 16-year-old girl said that she had known Jacqueline Thomas for a year and that on the Friday 18 August 1961 she had gone to the fair where she had seen her between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. She said, 'I went to the fair again on Monday night and I saw Jacqueline there'. When the Coroner asked the girl if she was sure, she replied, 'Yes', adding that she had been wearing white drainpipes and had been by herself and that it had been about 6pm. She added that she had not known that Jacqueline Thomas had been missing from home at that time. When the girl finished giving her evidence the Coroner noted that she was the girl that the police had been trying to find in the newspapers and asked her why she had not come forward, but she didn't reply. When the Coroner asked her if she was shy or afraid or whether there was some other reason, she said, 'No'.
It was noted that a 16-year-old girl that had lived in Pelham Road, Alum Rock said that she had given Jacqueline Thomas a pair of white jeans.
A 14-year-old girl that had lived in Belchers Lane said that she had been at the fair with Jacqueline Thomas on the Friday night and had left together at about 9.15pm. She said that when they had gone down Sladefiield Road with her younger brother that they had met 'a big gang of teddy boys'. She said that as they came towards them that she and her brother ran across the road and that the gang 'got Jackie over by the railing'. She said that a few minutes later that Jacqueline Thomas caught up with them.
She said that Jacqueline Thomas later asked her and another girl if they would go back to the fair with her but that they both said no.
She said that the last time that she saw Jacqueline Thomas was as she was going down Pelham Road towards her home by herself at about 9.35pm.
The inquest heard that a 15-year-old boy that had lived in Sandbourne Road, Alum Rock had initially said that he had seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Tuesday 22 August 1961 but later said, 'But I have since checked up with my mates and I have decided I didn't see her then'.
A 15-year-old girl that had lived in Gressel Lanne, Tile Cross, said that she thought that she had seen Jacqueline Thomas going out of the park with a boy on the Friday, making off towards the railway. She said that the boy was tallish with blond or ginger hair and had been wearing what looked like a leather jacket and blue jeans. She said that she thought that she had seen the boy again in Ward End Park about a week later. However, she failed to pick anyone out at a police identification parade. When she was asked at the inquest to look around the court to see whether the boy was present, she said, 'No, I don't see him'.
She noted that she had initially told the police that she had also seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Sunday night and the Monday but decided that that was a mistake.
A woman that had lived in Treaford Lane, Alum Rock, said that she had seen Jacqueline Thomas on the Friday night at about 8.40pm sitting on the floor in the doorway of the Pelham Arms with another girl and two boys, and that Jacqueline Thomas left at 9pm. She said that she saw Jacqueline Thomas again at about 11.20pm 'hurrying down home' in Belchers Lane by herself, running from the direction of the allotments. She added that she had no doubt that the girl that she had seen was Jacqueline Thomas.
When the case was re-examined in 2007, the 24-year-old was by that time 70 years old and in prison for the murder of another 16-year-old girl Sylvia Whitehouse. He again denied any involvement in the murder but when the case was heard at Birmingham Crown Court on 19 August 2009 the judge ruled that the 70-year-old man should not stand for trial as it had been too long and the police had not turned up any new evidence. The judge further noted that 21 witnesses had since died and that others could not be traced or were too ill to attend. He also noted that many of the witnesses would be unlikely to recall events with sufficient clarity for them to be reliable. It was also heard that the police had disposed of much of the evidence from the case and had disposed of records.
It was heard that the 2008 case had relied on two points, the fact that the 70-year-old man was the last person known to have seen her and her time of death.
The judge said, 'I am aware of the strong pubic interest in bringing a killer to justice. I am aware that this must be the very last chance to bring someone before a court for the death of Jacqueline Thomas but I must not let these pressures compound one injustice on another. In my view any trial which was to follow, in this case, would not be balanced and fair'.
The 24-year-old man (70-year-old man) died on 6 December 2011 following a long term illness.