Unsolved Murders
Agnes Kesson

Agnes Kesson

Age: 21

Sex: female

Date: 5 Jun 1930

Place: Horton Lane, Epsom

Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Agnes Keason was found in a ditch at Epsom the day after Derby Day.

She had been strangled. She had not been outraged.

The cause of death was given as asphyxia, due to strangulation by a ligature. The ligature appeared to have been a double one, and to have been tied on the left side where an irregular brown mark was found. The pattern around the next left in the depression suggested strands of rope. She had a number of bruises on her which were all recent. Some were distinctive whilst others were only found when the skin was cut through. The most serious bruise was one to the right side of the head which was produced by a blow or blows with some blunt object which might had rendered her unconscious. She had other bruises that might have been caused by blows with a fist. The post-mortem concluded with a note that there were no signs that she had been sexually outraged.

She was a waitress and had come from Falkirk, Scotland. She had been working at the Nook Tea Rooms and Garage in Burgh Heath, Epsom for six to twelve months. The owner of the tea shop also ran a garage and a general provision shop.

She was last seen by her employer, the tea-shop owner, and his wife, on the afternoon of 3 June 1930, when she had had a meal with them and then walked out. Although she had worked at the tea-shop, she had just packed her trunks and had them sent on to Carshalton where she had secured a new job, and ended her employment at the tea-shop. She was expected in Carshalton for the new job the next day by afternoon or evening.

She was later seen by a woman on 4 June 1930 at 8am on Derby Day in the company of a man but the man was never identified. There was also another siting of her at 4.30pm on 4 June 1930 but it was thought that the man she was said to be with was a different man.

It was heard that Agnes Keason didn't get along very well with the tea-shop owner or his family. It was heard that the tea-shop owner's wife was quite uncomfortable in Agnes Keason's company, as was his son and daughter. However, it was said that the tea-shop owner used to go out of his way to be nice to Agnes Keason.

It was also heard that a woman had said that the tea-shop owner had told her that he had been out late at night in his car on the night of the murder and had asked her to to say that he had gone to meet someone that she was expecting. It was thought that it was more likely that he had been to pick up Agnes Keason who might have missed her train and that when he had done so he had killed her.

When she had left the tea-shop she had only taken the clothes that she was wearing. She was going to work in a bar in Carshalton with a friend. Her friend became worried after her trunks arrived but she didn't.

It was said that she loved dancing and she might have gone to a dance and fallen in with some companions with whom she had stayed and not returned home. Agnes Keason had said that she was looking forward to getting to Carshalton because she said that Burgh Heath was very dull.

When her body was found, some of her clothes were missing, including a shoe. The police said that they were unable to say whether or not she had been killed at the scene or elsewhere.

When her friends examined her trunk they said that her favourite costume was missing. They said that it was a skirt of Macdonald tartan, a red jersey, a long, navy blue coat and a dark felt hat. Her friends also noted that Agnes Keason had had a nice little gold wristlet watch and a handbag that were also both missing.

Her costume, which had been burnt, was later found in some dustbins and a rubbish heap. The police also found a piece of string in the back of a car.

Later, at her inquest an unemployed fitter said that he had seen Agnes Keason speaking to a man that had got out of a car and then forced her in and drove off. However, he had not come forward with his evidence until about 14 August 1930, saying that he didn't read the papers much. The police concluded that they thought that he was looking for notoriety and had mixed his experience at the races with information from the newspapers to create a story that he could then gain some fame through. He also identified the man at the inquest, Agnes Keason's employer, the tea-shop owner, as the man that had driven away with her. He said that on Derby Day he had met a young woman who he described as of middle height, ten or eleven stone in weight and very dark and with a fine set of teeth. He said she had a red tam o' shanter, a coat over her arm, a blue jumper and a pleated skirt to match. He said that they had kept together most of the afternoon until about 7.15pm when they were walking along the London Road and called at a cottage near Ewell Church for some water because the woman had felt a little faint. He said that after getting the water they had walked up the London Road and then a Hackney Carriage car drove up and a fellow jumped out and grabbed hold of the girl and took her away, driving off towards London. He said that the man and the woman exchanged some words, saying that the man had said 'I have just had enough of you' to which he said the woman replied 'I am fed up with you'. He said that the man had dark and rather piercing eyes, and his shirt was open at the neck. He said that it was difficult to tell whether he was clean shaven because he was dark and rather dirty looking'.

The unemployed fitter had identified the man to a police sergeant outside a garage and also identified the man at the inquest. The unemployed fitter had claimed that he had not read about the case in the newspapers which the police found hard to believe. They also said that they went to speak to the woman at the cottage where he had said he had got the water from but said that she could only remember giving water to the man and said that she couldn't remember seeing a woman with him and noted that he had stayed close to the door for the whole time that he had had the water. The police said that after the unemployed fitter had made his statement they had taken him to Epsom where he showed them where he said they had gone and that later they went to the Nook Garage, however, they didn't tell him. They said that when they got there they saw the tea-shop owner and his son and the unemployed fitter became quite excited and identified them immediately.

The police also said that in the unemployed fitter's story he had said that he had asked a policeman the way to a place where the girl had wanted to go which sounded like Coulsdon or some place ending with a 'ton' and that the policeman had told them to take a three-penny ride on a bus. However, when the police questioned all the policemen that had been on duty in the area they could find none that remembered speaking to the unemployed fitter. It was also noted that the description that the unemployed fitter had given of Agnes Keason didn't coincide with her real description but that when he was shown some photos of some women he had picked the photo of Agnes Keason out as the woman that he had been at the races with. It was also noted that in all the other statements taken, none of them indicated that the owner of The Nook had been away from the tea-shop at the time that the unemployed fitter had said he had seen him and his son take Agnes Keason away in a car.

The police said that the unemployed fitter's demeanour throughout the interrogation was that of a person seeking notoriety and publicity. They said that his readiness of identification of the tea-shop owner and his son, although he was a stranger in the district and could have had no idea he was even at Burgh Heath or its vicinity, was itself suspicious. They said that the man had claimed that he had not seen a newspaper or even heard of the murder until 14 August 1930 when he was in Romford Market which they said was more than improbable, particularly when according to his own story he had been at Epsom during the nights of 5th and 6th June, sleeping at the railway station there and talking with the railway staff. The police said that there was little doubt in their mind that he had acquainted himself with the details of the case through the newspapers and then fitted the facts with his own movements and come forward, no doubt with a monetary object in mind. They said that his evidence was exaggerated and dramatic and noted that neither the Coroner or jury at the inquest were impressed by it.

It was also noted that the unemployed fitter was an ex-soldier in receipt of a disability pension and of no fixed abode.

It was also heard at the inquest that a stable hand said that he had seen Agnes Keason at the races on the Tuesday. He said that he had earlier been to the tea-shop, where he was staying, on 3 June 1930 where he had been served by Agnes Keason at about 9.30am. He then said that on 3 June 1930 between 3.30pm and 3.45pm he had been at the races in St Dunstan's marquee when he had seen Agnes Keason with a man. He described the man as being dressed in a grey suit and wearing a soft collar and tie, brown shoes and fancy socks. He also said that the man had very dark hair.  He said that after the race he strolled up to Tattenham Corner and went along the new road to a stile where he stopped to wait for some friends when he saw Agnes Keason and the man again. He said that Agnes Keason and the man then crossed the stile, had a short conversation, and then walked off. The stable hand said that he stayed the night at the tea-shop.

At the inquest, the tea-shop owner was questioned about going to look into Agnes Keason's box to find an account book that he had said was missing. He said that he had gone to find it on the Tuesday, 3 June 1930, because it had gone missing some days before and that he had also wanted to see if there were any other things of his in there including photos and money. A short-hand typist said that the tea-shop owner had told her on 31 May 1930 that the book was missing but that he had told her that he had found it on 1 June 1930 burnt in the grate although still intact. She said that she had been doing his books since Easter and that it showed the amount due from a particular customer. The tea-shop owner said that the short-hand typist was lying.

He also said that on the Wednesday night he had heard some mysterious taps at his window and had then gone out to pick up a woman in Sutton. However, he was reluctant to say who had made the taps but suggested it was a person who was in opposition to him and that he had been sent out on a wild goose chase.

In the police report, they stated that the tea-shop owner was probably the most likely suspect. They said that he had undoubtedly lied in his statements. They said that his story of getting a tap at his window and then going off to Sutton during the time that Agnes Keason was said to have been murdered could not, under any circumstances, be accepted, They said that it didn't seem reasonable that a man of his knowledge and experience would go on a journey after midnight in response to a knock on his window from a person that he neither knew or saw. It was said that the person that he had said that he had gone to see was in poor circumstances and in receipt of Parish relief and that there was no evidence to indicate that he was on such terms with her that he would be obligated to undertake such a journey. Is was noted too that the tea-shop owner had also taken the earliest opportunity to go and see the woman, explain his predicament, and then ask her to say that she had been expecting friends that night that were coming for the races. It was also noted that the tea-shop owner had also admitted that he had been the victim before of people playing practical jokes on him and sending him off on journeys and that he had made no effort to take more care in ensuring the instruction was proper and seeing who was giving it.

It was then considered that if the message was real that given the location of the window, which was along a narrow path at the side of the tea-rooms and covered with ivy that had no light shining from it or on it that a stranger would have been able to find it to deliver such a message. It was then considered that if the person had known the tea-shop owner and played a practical joke then surely that person would have come forward considering the predicament that it had placed the tea-shop owner in as a murder suspect.

When the tea-shop owner had left his garage, he had been seen by a policeman who gave the time as 12.40am on 6 June1930. The policeman had said that the tea-shop owner had driven off at a fast pace towards Tadworth which was the opposite direction to which he had said he had taken. It was suggested that after seeing that he had been seen by a policeman that the tea-shop owner had picked up a bus driver who had been on his bike in order to create an alibi for himself and tell him the story of going out on a wild goose chase and having picked up some passengers at the station to help pay for his wasted petrol. It was noted that the tea-shop owner had said he had left his garage at 12.45am and returned at 1.45am. However, the police tested the journey and found that he could not have taken an hour to go where he said he had gone. The police said that they drove a car at a moderate speed from the garage at Burgh Heath to Sutton Railway Station via the main Brighton to London Road and then to the corner of Stanley Road, Mulgrave Road, Sutton and then returned to Burgh Heath via Sutton Railway Station and the California pub, Belmont, which, allowing for stoppage of three minutes at Banstead Bridge where the tea-shop owner adjusted his lighting set, three minutes at Sutton Railway Station and then another three minutes, and then three minutes to pick up and take some passengers to Stanley Road and then picking up a bus driver, the journey totalled 32 minutes.

Another test was carried out from Burgh Heath to Horton Lane via Tadworth and Epsom Downs which was found to have taken 44 minutes without time for stops.

The police said that the tea-shop owners car was a big Daimler and capable of going at 55-65mph and said that even the tea-shop owner had admitted that he generally drove fast.

The police also discredited the tea-shop owners story about having had his account book stolen. They said that he was heavily in debt and although the money had been missed on 28 May 1930, nothing had been said  to Agnes Keason or any of his family until after Agnes Keason had left on Tuesday 4 June 1930. It was also heard that the accounts lady had not been told of the missing money even though she had been informed of the missing account book on 31 May 1930. Further, when the tea-shop owner had told the accounts lady about the missing accounts book she said that he had blamed his wife for it and not Agnes Keason and the accounts lady said that the tea-shop owner had told her on 1 June 1030 that he had found the book in the fire and had said then that Agnes Keason had burnt it even though he denied that fact before the Coroner.

The police said that the actions of the tea-shop owner on 3 June 1930 when Agnes Keason left his employ were almost inexplicable. They said that if you accepted the fact that the story of the loss of the account book and money was untrue then it indicated that he was driven by malice in an attempt to discredit her in the eyes of her new employer and leave her with no alternative but to return to The Nook.

It was noted that Agnes Keason was a clean and tidy person and that it was not in her habit to sleep out. When she had spoken of going to Carshalton she had said that she would be there on 4 June 1930 and if not, then she would be there on 5 June 1930. The police inferred that she had had at lease some idea of where she might stay on the night of 4 June 1930.

The police said that it might have been the case that Agnes Keason had stayed out and passed the time until it was too late to go to Carshalton and then finding that she had nowhere to go and being alone she had returned to The Nook, slightly repentant and had tapped on the window, and that it was that tap that had led the tea-shop owner out on his wild-goose chase.

The police noted that Agnes Keason's sweetheart had been a suspect too but later concluded that there was not a shred of evidence against him.

At the inquest it was heard that it was thought that Agnes Keason had died 4-8 hours before she was found at 6am on 5 June 1930 and that she had had a meal about two hours before that making the approximate time of her death being between 10pm on 4 June 1930 and 2am on 5 June 1930.

The Coroner summed up saying that there was no evidence to say how Agnes Keason had been killed. He also said that it was clear that she was alive late on in the night of 4 June 1930 as she had had a meal and that at the time she was effectively a free agent.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.
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see National Archives - MEPO 3/1655

see Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 20 September 1930

see Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 06 June 1930

see Londonderry Sentinel - Tuesday 10 June 1930