Unsolved Murders
Samuel Fell Wilson

Samuel Fell Wilson

Age: 40

Sex: male

Date: 22 Sep 1930

Place: Forest Road, Warsop

Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Samuel Wilson was found murdered in his motor van at Warsop on 22 September 1930.

He was a provision merchant’s manager for his father’s store, who had lived and worked at 2 Sherwood Road in Warsop.

He was found in his motor car at Forest Road in Warsop at 12.35am on 23 September 1930. It was a small Morris Cowley Index No.NU-3396, open 4-seater touring body. When it was found it's hood was up and there were mic screens all around except by the drivers seat.

He had left the shop at 3pm on 22 September 1930 to do what was called the Clipstone Round which was a route through Edwinstone, Ollerton, Mew Ollerton and Clipstone for the purpose of collecting orders and payments for goods previously supplied. Ordinarily he would have returned at around 9.30pm. However, he was found dead in his car at 12.45am on 23 September 1930 by a policeman that was cycling along the Forest Road after returning from duty, about a mile from Samuel Wilson's house.

He had been shot and it was first thought that he had committed suicide.

Further examination found that he had been shot with a sporting gun at very close range.

When the car was searched, only about £5 in silver etc., was recovered and it was thought that the motive for his murder had been robbery.

The police investigation revealed that shots had been heard in the area at about 9pm and it was thought that he had been dead since about that time.

Initial suspects included various local poachers.

When the car was examined it was found to have blood in the inside windscreen and a lot of blood on the upholstery of the front seat, but none could be seen on the mic screen of the near side door which led police to think that the door had been open when the shot was fired. It was also noted that it would not have been possible to use a full sized sporting gun whilst sitting in the car beside the driver.

Forest Road went from a crossroads above an old disused windmill down into the village of Warsop where it joined Sherwood Street at the bottom. The road from the windmill descended towards Warsop and was of a winding character. It had a fair amount of traffic passing up and down it including foot passengers, cyclists and cars. There was also a bus service that passed along the top of the road by the cross roads where there was also a wooden refreshment hut. Near to the spot where Samuel Wilson was found there were several cottages, bungalows and van dwellers. The spot where Samuel Wilson was found was on a bend in the road and tyre tracks that corresponded to Samuel Wilson's car were found leading 72ft off behind it. The roadway there was macadam and had a grass verge to either side rising sharply in places but flat in others. The hedges were covered in blackberry bushes and near to the bed where Samuel Wilson was found there were some trees. Little attention was generally paid to cars parked up in the area as people were used to the grass verges being used by courting couples in parked up cars.

Some men that lived nearby and who were poachers said that they heard some gun shots at 9.14pm. He had said that he was talking to a friend at about 9.10pm when he saw the lights of a motorcar coming down from the windmill very slowly. He said that the car only had on its side lights. He said that the pace was unusual and that he remarked on that. The man had been sat at a table whilst his friend had been stood on the steps of his van leaning over the bottom of the door with his head inside. He said that when the car got close to some waterworks gates they heard a shot. The man said that he said to his friend 'That’s a 12 bore', and that his friend had replied 'Yes it is'. They then heard another shot and the man said that he thought it was a double barrelled gun because there had not been sufficient time to reload the gun. The man then said 'That’s funny there's nothing to shoot at tonight'. He said that they then heard the grinding of gears and then saw the lights of the car go out. The man's friend then said 'It sounds as if someone has broken down'. They then heard some heavy footsteps going down the road and the man's friend then said 'Perhaps it is someone broke down and running to catch a bus at Warsop'. However, he said that before the steps reached his van that they had stopped running. The man said that he then looked out of his van window facing the road but said that he could see no one and said 'That's funny he's vanished'. He said that his friend then went to the gate and said 'Ah there's a big chap going past the lamp with an overcoat on his arm'. The man said that he didn't see the big chap himself but did look at his watch and saw that it was 9.21pm although noted that his watch was 7 minutes fast which would have made it 9.14pm.

When the man was asked why there would be nothing to shoot that night he said that no poacher would have been out on the Monday night as it was a gammy night in that it was a damp, dark, windless night with a heavy due on the grass.

The other man that had been there agreed with most of the things his friend had said but said that he thought the shots had happened at a few minutes past 9pm. He said that he had seen the man walking past the lamp and said that he was about 5ft 10in tall and had been carrying an overcoat over his right arm. He said that the man could have been carrying a gun but he had only seen him by the light of the street lamp and that it had been at a distance of about 100 yards. He said that the time between the shots being heard and him seeing the man was about 10 minutes. The police noted that the man was not very intelligent.

A list of the places that Samuel Wilson had visited on his round was made up and it was found that he had been practically fully occupied with his round until his last call at Clipstone at 8.50pm. It was determined that Samuel Wilson would have had £21.14.5 made up of 12 £1 notes, 5 10/- notes and £7.4.5 in silver which included 50/- in cash that he would have started out with in the evening. The police also found £4.15.1 of Samuel Wilson's own cash in his trouser pocket.

A woman that he had visited in Clipstone at 73 Forest Road, at 8.30pm said that when Samuel Wilson was dealing with her she had seen him pull out a roll of notes that she thought was over £40 and that she saw him put it back into his hip pocket. After leaving that woman he went on to 29 Forest Road where he collected 12/-.  He had left that address at 8.50pm and was due to go to his last address on Forest Road which was lower down from where he was found, however, he never made it. The family at the address carried on business as ice cream merchants and one of the sons was known as Burglar Bill.

After leaving the last address that he had visited he had gone via Old Clipstone and Gorsethorpe Cottages and then past the refreshment hut at the crossroads near the windmill where his car was seen by three people and his voice recognised by the refreshment lady who heard him say 'Good night'. The refreshment lady said that she had been talking to a lady that had been waiting to get a bus towards Edwinstone that was due at 9.05pm. She said that the bus was a little late that night but had drawn up shortly after Samuel Wilson had passed. The refreshment lady said that she didn't see anyone else in the car with him and said that she didn't notice it going noticeably slow and said that it was going at an ordinary speed.

Another man that was blind in one eye said that he had been at the refreshment hut where he was filling his bicycle lamp with carbide that he had just bought from the refreshment hut when he saw Samuel Wilson's car approaching. He said that as it came from Clipstone the driver had switched his lights on and off twice as it approached the crossroads. He said that he thought the car was a Morris Cowley with its hood up. He said that he heard someone shout 'Good night' but could not see the driver or whether there had been anyone else in the car.

It was said by a few people that Samuel Wilson was in the habit of switching his lights off when he got to the crossroads and if he could not see the beam of another car when his lights were off he would take it that it was safe to cross.

Another man said that whilst he was walking back from Edwinstone to Warsop at 9.05pm he saw a motor car approaching the crossroads with its lights going up and down and then saw the car go down Forest Road and then stop opposite, or a few yards below the old windmill. He said that he could not hear the engine but said that he saw the car then go on again and then when it stopped he heard between one or three reports which he said he took for being mechanical trouble. He said that the car was not out of his site during the time that he had seen it. He said that he continued walking and said that he passed the car about 80-100 yards further down saying that he didn't see anyone in it. He said that it was drawn up on the grass verge and had it's lights out. He said that he had not passed anyone between the refreshment hut and the car and neither did he see anyone until he passed the Warsop side of the Railway Bridge, which was about a mile from the car. It was later noted that the man was probably wrong in his estimation of how far off the car was as it was noted to have been 400 yards. He also said that he had been carrying a coat over his left arm at the time.

Another man that lived next door to the men that had heard the shots from their van said that he had been in his field at the time attending to his fouls between 6.30pm and 9.40pm and that he too heard two shots go off quickly at about 9pm. He said that as he heard them he turned and saw the reflection of the lights of a motorcar which he said went down after the second shot. He said that he was sure that the shots were from a shotgun, probably a double-barrelled gun, and not a rifle.

Nothing happened after that until a policeman on his way home cycled past Samuel Wilson's car and saw him dead. He said that when he looked in he saw Samuel Wilson lying across the front seat with his head near the near side and his right hand on the steering wheel. He said that he thought he was asleep but then saw blood under his head on the seat with his flash light. When he was pulled out of the car his body was cold and stiff.

When his body was examined it was found that he had been shot in the chest and his lung could be seen. His 1st, 2nd and 3rd ribs were broken as well as his clavicle. His lung was full of shot. The wad was at the bottom of the lungs and the pellets were at the root. 35 pellets were removed from his chest wound. He also had a head wound by his left eye which was bulged forward through which his brain could be seen. Several bones were broken in his head and it was said that the injury would have caused instant death. The police found 91 pellets in his head. The police said that they were satisfied that Samuel Wilson had received a full charge from the gunshot to his head and that the gun was almost touching him when it was fired.

The shot was later examined and it was determined to have been from a No.5 .12bore cartridge. The police looked again for paper discs that would have come from the shot that might have told them who had made it but the paper they found could not be read.

The police examined the car for fingerprints but found none that they could not identify other than a single print on the bonnet.

It was later stated by the police that on 24 September 1930 whilst there were speaking to one of the men that they had first spoken to about the shooting that he had pointed out to them that he had seen some lights in a field the previous evening and after determining the exact spot the police had gone to have a look and found some old cartridge cases. The police said that the cartridges were very old and had been seen before by them in their search and determined to have had nothing to do with the murder. However, the police said that it was felt that the man might have possibly been trying to divert suspicion away from himself by mentioning that he had seen lights in the hope that the police would find the cartridges and then think that the murderer had gone off in that direction which was a favourite route for poachers returning to Warsop avoiding the roads. It was also noted that no one had a better opportunity to commit the crime and then complete an alibi than the two men and that it was them that had both suggested that the gun had been a .12 bore.

It was also noted that the men could easily have got a shotgun from a nearby shed where one was kept and had known that Samuel Wilson carried money with him. It was also noted that they usually assisted broken down motorists, however, even though they had seen the lights of the car go off they had not gone out to see if they could help. It was also noted that rumours in the village against one of the men were rife. However, it was also noted that the main suspect had the demeanour of an innocent man whenever he had been questioned or spoken to. Both the men volunteered to give their fingerprints which proved fruitless.

Another suspect in the murder was a poacher who was suspected of a number of other offences by the local police. He was known to frequent the Working Men's Unity Club in Sherwood Street, Warsop which was described as a notorious meeting place for undesirable characters in the locality. He had been seen in several pubs and was heard at one point, between 8pm to 8.30pm, to say that he was going out poaching and that he would shoot this, that and anybody. However, the man said that he had been at the Unity Club until 8pm and that he had then gone to the Hare and Hounds and then gone back to the Unity Club at 8.30pm and stayed there until 10pm before he went home. The police investigated the man and later came to the conclusion that he knew nothing about it and could have only committed the offence if he had had access to some fast transport for which there was no evidence.

It was also heard that a man had owned Samuel Wilson some money and a judgement had been taken out in connection to it. However, it was also noted that the debt was very old and no action had been taken over it for a considerable time. However, it was found that the man had been in the company of several notorious poachers on the night of the murder and so they were all brought in for questioning. They said that they had all been at one of their houses on Sherwood Street in Mansfield Woodhouse from about 8.30pm to 11pm and had planned on going poaching but instead stayed in on account of the night being unfit. It was noted that the men admitted making a good living from poaching and as such their stories were believed. They were noted as having called it their 'work' and referring to the rabbits as 'our rabbits'.

Another suspect was an ex-game-keeper to The Duke of Portland. A man matching his description was seen carrying a gun between Forest Town Church and Sherwood Hall in Forest Town and investigations determined that he had a double-barrelled shotgun. The ex-game-keeper had said that he had been home from 8.30pm onwards. However, his address had been at 49 Hall Street in Mansfield and it was noted that the place where he had been sited was directly on a line between his home and the scene of the crime and that it would have been the only bit of road that he would have had to have gone along on that journey. The ex-game-keeper was questioned and gave his fingerprints but no progress was made.

Another suspect considered was Samuel Wilson's brother. It was found that his older brother, who had been made bankrupt twice, might have been jealous of Samuel Wilson's success. Samuel Wilson's wife said that the relationship between Samuel Wilson and his brother had been strained for some time and that they had not seen each other for many months. She noted that she was surprised at the inquest when she heard Samuel Wilson's brother say that he had seen Samuel Wilson a fortnight before his murder. The police report states that Samuel Wilson's brother had been very persistent in putting the blame on one of the men that had initially been questioned and had heard the shots from their van, and was peculiar in his manner but the police said that they put that down to the grief.

The police reports conclude that the only viable theory was that Samuel Wilson had picked someone up and had had an argument with them and that they had then shot him and taken his money. It noted that they had determined that Samuel Wilson would pick people up if he knew them. They noted that it was true that the people at the cross roads and the refreshment stall who had seen his car had not seen anyone inside but that did not prove that there was no one inside. It was thought that the motive had been robbery and the reason that £4.10.0 in silver was found on him was because it had been in a pocket on his left side and that after he had been shot he had rolled over onto that side and concealed it from the killer. It was thought that the reason that the car had been seen going slowly was because Samuel Wilson and his killer had been arguing and that the argument had come to a head when he had pulled the car up on the grass verge. It was thought that the killer had then switched off the lights and that whilst searching for money had ground the gears and had possibly caused the car to then move forward again as noted by one of the witnesses. It was thought then that the man might have run off or hidden as the man that had walked past the car shortly after 9.10pm had passed by.

Another theory was that Samuel Wilson had been held up at the waterworks gates by someone that had been waiting for him and that he might have driven up onto the grass verge to avoid them and then been shot by the robbers whilst remonstrating with them.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.
Samuel Fell Wilson
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see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 28 Jan. 1931: 9. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

see National Archives - MEPO 3/1658