Date: 29 Aug 1940
Place: 2 Raleigh Street, Plymouth
Beatrice Loveday Brown was strangled.
She was found dead at her basement flat in Raleigh Street, Plymouth, on 29 August 1940 having been strangled with a silk stocking in her bedroom.
A 24-year-old man who she had shared her flat with was tried for her murder but acquitted. It was heard that a statement that he had made to the police had been ruled as inadmissible.
After the man was arrested, he said, 'I can trace my movements on that night'.
Beatrice Brown and the man tried had been lovers and had been living together for three years.
The prosecution said that a silk stocking that had been tied in a loop and then cut away and was found under Beatrice Brown's neck had been put there by the man after he had strangled Beatrice Brown in some other way.
The defence said that the man had found Beatrice Brown dying with the silk stocking tightly knotted around her neck and that he had then cut the stocking before informing the police.
The man also said that he had seen a second man dressed in light flannels leave their flat earlier that night.
He added that it was within his knowledge that Beatrice Brown would receive men in her flat.
The man said that from the age of 16 until November 1939 he had served in the Royal Navy but had been discharged on the grounds that he was medically unfit. In December 1939 he then got work at the dockyard in Devonport until Whit Monday 1940 after which he was unemployed for about a fortnight. He then became a traveller in brushes for about ten weeks and then in order to improve his position he took up employment with Messrs Taylors' Clothing Club doing collections.
He said that he had known Beatrice Brown for about three years and that they had only had one serious disagreement and that was in April 1940 when he told her to go. However, he said that she left him but that she came back a week later. He said that on 17 April 1940 he sent Beatrice Brown a birthday greeting telegram and said that just after that he received a note through a barman from her asking about ration cards and other things. He said that he put the note in his waistcoat pocket and said that when he left off his waistcoat because of the warmer weather he transferred the note to a pocket inside his coat. He said that he did not know how it had come to be on the mantelpiece in the dining-room at 2 Raleigh Street, but said that it might have dropped out of his pocket and that it might have been put there by a policeman.
A woman who said that she had known Beatrice Brown and the man for about 12 months said that she had been in the Victoria Hotel in April 1940 when Beatrice Brown had asked her for a piece of paper. She said that she tore off a piece from a letter on the back of which she believed to be her husbands and said that Beatrice Brown wrote a note and gave it to the barman to give to the man. The woman said that she later identified the note that was found by the police as the note that Beatrice Brown had written in April 1940.
The note was fairly relevant at the trial as the prosecution had said that it had indicated that Beatrice Brown was going to leave the man, but the man's defence said that it had no significance as it had been written many months earlier and that Beatrice Brown and the man had since made up.
The man stated that on the night of 29 August 1940 he left his place of employment after about 6.45pm and that it was getting on for about 11pm when he left a fish and chip shop with twopennyworth of chips. He said that when he approached 2 Raleigh Street, he saw a man closing the door of the flat at the floor of the steps and walk off in the direction of the taxi office. He said that he noted that the man had been wearing a light pair of trousers, but no hat.
The man later added that he had earlier been playing darts at the Shades Hotel and left between 10.30pm and 10.45pm. He said that he then walked to the Victoria Hotel looking for Beatrice Brown but said that it was dark, and he didn't see her. He said that he then waked from there down Athenaeum Lane and stood for a time beside the door of a pawnshop in Queen street where he saw a barmaid that he knew at the Athenaeum leave that public house by the side door, saying that she was accompanied by another girl. He said that he made two attempts to speak to the barmaid but said that she didn't answer him and that he then went to get some chips.
The man said that he then went into the dining-room and switched on the light and then called out, 'Jean' but got no answer. He said that he then went upstairs to the bedroom and switched on the light and saw Beatrice Brown lying on the floor by the bed. He said that he then bent down to shake her but got no response. He said that there was a stocking or stockings tied round her neck and that he tried to untie it, but that the knot was 'jammed', and so he ran into the scullery and came back with a knife that he used to cut off the stocking. He said that he first inserted the blade flatwise and turned it and caused part of the stocking to come away without the need for pressure and that when he inserted the knife a second time it came away.
The man said that he then filled a water jug and lifted Beatrice Brown's head and gave her a sip of water. He said then that as he laid her head back down it fell to one side. He said that he was not sure whether it was then that he dipped his hand into the water jug and rubbed some water over her forehead. However, he said that he then ran to the taxi office and spoke to a man there who was standing in the doorway and then went back to the house and gave Beatrice Brown another drink and then went back to the taxi office and inquired about an ambulance.
When he was questioned about his condition at that time, he said that he was a little bit upset, but said that he did nothing to cause her death.
When a Plymouth City Police Analyst examined the stocking, he said that the cuts on it were consistent with it having been cut by something like a table knife.
A policeman said that the police surgeon arrived at the house at about 11.45pm, and the man was then sent into the dining-room. The policeman said that there was no one else in there with him, but that a policeman stood outside at the door. He said that after, he took the man to police headquarters in a car, arriving at about 12.45am and then interviewed him at 1.25am. The policeman said that he told the man that he intended to ask him several questions about his movements the previous night and also about his relationship with Beatrice Brown.
However, when the judge asked the policeman whether he cautioned the man, the policeman replied, 'I did not, my Lord'. When asked why, the policeman said that at the time there was no suggestion that he would be charged or arrested for the offence and that he was being treated as a witness would have been treated. The policeman said that the man was not arrested and not searched. At the trial, the judge then noted that the man had been searched in the dining-room, but the policeman said that the man had simply been asked to turn out his pockets, and that he volunteered to do so. He said that he was searched in case he might have had an instrument that might have been connected with the death of Beatrice Brown and that he was not searched by force.
The policeman then said that he had made it clear to the man that he was not being taken into custody, but that because he thought that it would be necessary to interview him at some length, he thought that the best place to do that was the police station. He added that the policeman was placed at the door to the dining room in the man's interest who he said was in such a bad state that he might have attempted something on himself.
The policeman said that the man was questioned for about fo minutes after which he was told that he would be detained pending further inquiries. He said that the man was then arrested but said that no charge was made. He noted that if the man had said at the beginning of the interview that he had wanted to go home, that he would not have been able to stop him.
The policeman said that following further questions and inquiries it was fund that some of the things that he had said did not agree with what they had established.
The man's defence then submitted that the man had been under detention from the start and that he should have been cautioned before he was questioned and said that the statement that he made to the superintendent was therefore inadmissible.
The judge then said that although the Deputy Chief Constable was perfectly right in inviting the man to make a statement as to his movements and as to any information he could give about Beatrice Brown and the cause of her death, he said that the man should have been told that he was not bound to make any statement and that if he did so that it would be taken down in writing and might be used in evidence. He also added that he should have been asked to sign it. The judge then ruled that he thought that both the questions and answers at the trial were inadmissible.
At the trial, the man that was on trial noted that there was a man that he said, 'used' the Victoria Hotel and said that Beatrice Brown had told him that he had threatened to murder her. He also added that when the Victoria Hotel closed at night, that Beatrice Brown and the other girls used to go across to the Royal and wait outside.
Whilst it was said that the man was willing to give evidence under oath at the trial, his defence stated that they didn't think that there was a case to answer and went through the evidence, noting that the man had been kept waiting at the fish and chip shop and would not have had the time to commit the murder. The defence also noted that the man had bought two packets of chips which he had taken home and asked whether it was likely that he would have bought two packets if he had the intention of going home and murdering Beatrice Brown.
His defence then concluded that the man had nothing to do with the crime.
In summing up at his trial, the man's defence said that it was desirable in murder cases that the prosecution should indicate with certainty what the cause of death was and also how in fact the crime was committed, stating that following the evidence heard throughout the trial, were both matters left in doubt, noting that the man had not been at the flat when Beatrice Brown was murdered.
The defence also stated that there was no motive for the man in murdering Beatrice Brown. He said that the prosecution’s case was that the man was being turned out but said that that was untrue. The defence said that the note that was found by the police that suggested that Beatrice Brown was going to leave the man, which was stated to have been the motive for the murder had been written in April 1940 and that whilst Beatrice Brown and the man had parted for some four days at that time, they had since got back together and as such, said that the note had nothing to do with the events at the end of August 1940 and that as such, the motive for the murder had entirely disappeared.
When the judge summed up he told the jury that they were not to allow a very unhappy picture of degraded life in Plymouth to influence their verdict, but to judge the facts dispassionately, calmly and judicially. He said that the first question that they had to ask themselves was whether Beatrice Brown had been murdered, noting that the doctor had stated that she had died from asphyxia due to strangulation. He then asked the jury whether they could have any doubt that her death was caused by the ligature around her neck, adding that if they had no reasonable doubt about that, that the next question they needed to consider was whether it was the man on trial that had murdered her. He said, 'It is a case of circumstantial evidence, and I give you this direction, which you will find a safe guide in dealing with this and all other cases of circumstantial evidence. You must not convict the prisoner merely because the evidence is consistent with his guilt, you can only convict him if, in your opinion, the evidence is inconsistent with any other rational conclusion'.
After the man was acquitted at the trial, the judge said, 'I am bound to say, I always consider that a police officer is in very great difficulty, or may be, in abiding by what are erroneously called Judges' Rules, in taking statements from what I might call 'prospective accused person's', and that sometimes it is very difficult, I think I should have difficulty myself, in deciding the moment at which it becomes necessary for the police officer to warn a person who is making a statement when he need not say anything more than he wishes. I appreciate that in this case, where there was some anxiety as to the state of mind of the person who has just been discharged, there may have been some misunderstanding as to whether he was under arrest or not. That being so, especially if the Deputy Chief Constable was not aware that the person had been searched, he might not be aware that the person must be regarded as a person in custody. The matter is one of great importance, because it is of great importance that in our administration of justice there should not even be any suggestion that the police are taking advantage of a man for the purpose of procuring evidence against him. I think in this particular case, the Deputy Chief Constable would have been perfectly entitled, indeed, I think it would have been his duty, to invite a person to make a statement if he desired to do so. But, in view of the suspicion which he actually attached to the person, and, of course, having regard to the fact that the person had, in my view, actually been placed under arrest, I think the Deputy Chief Constable should have warned him that he need not make a statement, and if he did make a statement, that statement ought to have been taken down and signed by him. I won't say any more than that about it, but I quite appreciate that in this particular case, owing to the circumstances, it may have been a misapprehension, indeed, more than a misapprehension, by the Deputy Chief Constable as to the position of the accused, complicated as it was by the doubt as to whether the accused person might not do some injury to himself'.
see Hull Daily Mail - Saturday 16 November 1940
see Western Morning News - Saturday 28 September 1940
see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 31 August 1940
see Western Morning News - Friday 15 November 1940
see Western Morning News - Saturday 16 November 1940
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Saturday 16 November 1940
see Western Morning News - Friday 13 September 1940
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 15 November 1940