Unsolved Murders

Unknown Male

Age: 40-50

Sex: male

Date: 25 Feb 1935

Place: Waterloo Station and Grand Junction Canal, Brentford

Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

A pair of human legs were found in a parcel on a train at Waterloo Station on 25 February 1935 and a torso was later found in the Grand Junction canal at Brentford on 19 March 1935.

They were determined to have belonged to the same person.

The train, a Southern Railway passenger train, had arrived at Waterloo Station at 2.03pm on 25 February 1935 and following the usual practice, after the departure of the passengers, the interior of the train was inspected by railway officials during which a cleaner found a brown paper parcel in a third class compartment, pushed well back under a seat. He then took the parcel to the Lost Property Office and whilst making the journey there he examined the parcel and found that it contained human feet. He then gave it to a clerk in the Lost Property Office who examined it. He said that it was tied with ordinary string, lengthwise and across and that its approximate size was 20 inches by 9 inches. He said that the parcel contained two human legs around which a quantity of newspaper had been wrapped that bore bloodstains on it.

The Railway Police were then communicated with who then informed the police.

When the police attended the railway station with a pathologist they found that the legs were quite fresh in appearance and that the dissections had apparently been carried out with extraordinary precision. It was said that there were no scars on the legs but that there were unusual features regarding the toes and it was said that it appeared that the person that the legs had belonged to had been accustomed to wearing tight fitting footwear which had given the toes the appearance that they had been crushed together.

The pathologist said that in his opinion the separation had been effected in each limb by a clean cut through the soft tissues and across the joint, just below the level of the patella. He said that the legs were freckled and bore traces of hairs of a light colour. He said that in his opinion the limbs had been severed hours, or possibly several days, after death and that from the absence of drying of the cut surfaces he concluded that the severance had been effected not more than 48 hours before his examination.

The limbs were then conveyed to Southwark Mortuary and the police decided that they wanted a permanent record of the feet because of the unusual condition of the toes, and obtained the services of two mechanics from Madam Tussaud's Limited in Baker Street, to prepare plaster casts of them.

After the pathologist completed a more detailed examination he concluded that the legs belonged to the same person and that they were from a man. He said that he thought that they had been separated from the trunk before the trunk was in an advanced state of putrefaction and said that death might have taken place as long as ten days before the legs were found.

It was noted that it was first thought that it was possible that the limbs had been deposited on the train in the parcel by a medical student as a hoax, but the pathologist said that the unwashed condition of the feet and legs rendered it unlikely that death had occurred in a hospital and added that the absence of 'skin flaps', such as seen in surgically amputated limbs strengthened his conviction.

He also said that the good development of the muscles and the condition of the bones indicated that they were not the limbs of an old man, but those of a healthy, vigorous individual. However, he said that the age could have been anywhere between 20 and 50 years old, but probably earlier.

The pathologist said that he calculated the height of the man to have been from 5ft 9in to 5ft 10in with a possible margin of 1.5in above and below those figures. He also said that based on the light coloured hairs on the limbs that the individual had light complexion and hair.

The pathologist also took an X-ray and said that the absence of Harris Lines suggested that the man had had no serious illnesses up until he was 18 years old.

He also said that from the manner that the limbs had been severed he thought that there was a strong presumption that it had been carried out by someone with anatomical knowledge.

The train that the parcel was found on ran a circular route which started and ended at Waterloo Station. However, it was noted that after each days journeyings it was parked in a siding at Hounslow which was skirted by a low fence that gave easy access to the nearby roadway.

The train started its journey at 6.48am on 25 February 1935 and it was thought that if the railway servants had carried out their duties that it was safe to assume that the parcel had not been placed on the train before it commenced its days work but that it had been put on the train during its journey that it had completed before the parcel was found. As such, the police report stated that their enquiries concentrated on the 22 stations at which the train stopped at on its route, but with no useful information being found other than a statement from a bookstall attendant employed by WH Smith & Sons at Hounslow Railway Station who said that he had seen three men in the booking hall at the station at about 1pm on 25 February 1935 and a parcel of similar dimensions to the one found on the floor by them. He said that he then saw one of the men join a Waterloo train carrying the parcel and said that the other two apparently, after seeing the train depart, left the station. The bookstall attendant said that he was unable to describe the other two men but said that the man that he had seen carrying the parcel onto the train was about 28 years old and with a medium height and fair hair.

The police report stated that the bookstall attendant’s statement was somewhat confirmed by another man that was employed by the Southern Railway at Hounslow who said that he saw three men at the station, one of whom boarded the 1.06pm train for Waterloo and said that he thought that they were Welsh miners, which it was noted many of whom were employed by Messrs. McAlpine upon road construction and sewage work. The police report stated that the sighting of the Welsh miners seemed a most likely clue and that some investigation was carried out with Messrs. McAlpine but it was concluded that the labourers employed by the company were the flotsam and jetsam of Ireland and Wales who drifted from one district to another with no fixed address and nothing further was found.

When the wrappings on the parcel were examined they were found to have consisted of one sheet of brown paper as well as a complete issue of the Daily Express dated 21 September 1934 and two sheets from the News of the World dated 20 January 1935. The brown paper was of an ordinary type and bore a figure '5' in black crayon on the bottom left hand corner and on the right hand corner there appeared the figures '14'. The police later made investigations with newsagents and drew up a list of all missing people and started to look for places such as open spaces for the other parts of the body.

Then, on 19 March 1935, the upper portion of a male body, minus the head and forearms, was taken from the Grand Junction Canal at Brentford. It was found by three youths who had been playing on the canal bank who observed a sack containing something floating in the water. They had secured the sack with the aid of a stick and drew it towards the canal bank and said that whilst they were doing so something fell off the top. When they pulled the sack ashore and saw that it contained human remains they informed the police.

A post-mortem on the remains was carried out on 20 March 1935. They consisted of the chest and the upper part of the abdomen of a man to which were attached the greater part of the neck and the arms down to the elbows. The body was clothed in a brown woollen vest that was complete apart from a portion of the upper edge in front and on the left side which included the top two button holes, which had apparently been cut away. There were ten cuts in the vest on the upper part of the front of the left chest which corresponded in size and position to ten wounds that revealed themselves on the left chest, which themselves gave every appearance of stab wounds. It was concluded that the wounds gave every appearance of stab wounds and from the outward appearance it seemed clear that the man had either met his death as a result of the stab wounds or that the injuries had been inflicted with a knife after death.

When the pathologist opened the trunk of the body he found that the chest had been severely crushed and that most of the ribs had been fractured, however, he concluded that the body had been crushed by a barge.

When the pathologist considered both the legs found at Waterloo and the torso found in the canal he concluded that they both showed good muscular development, both bore hair of a light colour, that freckles were found on the limbs and other remains, and that for those reasons he said that in his opinion there was a strong presumption that the legs and trunks were from the same body.

He then estimated that the man's death had taken place on 15 February 1935 and he built up a description of the man as follows: Age 40-50, 5 feet 9 or 10 inches, fair hair, large freckles at the back of the neck reaching up to the hair and well built.

It was noted that a very significant feature of the case was that the pathologist stated that anatomical knowledge was clear in the method of dismemberment, which was striking in the Brentford discovery as the elbow joints were particularly difficult to disarticulate.

The sack and vest were then taken away for examination to try and find out who made them. The vest bore a tab on the back and it was found that it had been manufactured by Messrs. Harrott and Company Limited of 50 Rose Street in Aberdeen. They said that the vest was of a common type and that it retailed at two shillings and six pence and that they distributed many thousands of them to London and Provincial wholesalers. The police report stated that the only reason that could be advanced for the cutting away of the portion of the vest at the top left side, or to be more explicit, the button hole side, was that it had born a laundry mark or some character that might lead to identification.

When the sack was examined it was found that it was one that had been in use for a considerable time and the police said that they were able to distinguish that it bore the name of OGILVIE, Flour Factors of Flour Mills, Montreal, Canada. It was noted that Ogilvie had a London agent and it was determined that the sack had been manufactured in Canada 1929 and that it was one of a huge number that had been sent to the United Kingdom containing flour.

The police report noted that they were unable to find the item which the children had said had fallen off of the sack when they had pulled it in. The police said that they considered draining the canal but said that it was impractical and said that they carried out dragging operations along three miles of its length and search specifically at various locks, sluice gates and induction pipes but found nothing.

The police noted that a part of the newspaper that had been used to wrap up the legs had been cut out and it was determined that the piece that had been cut away had born a number that could have been used with others in a gift book scheme run by the newspaper. Enquiries were made with the offices of the newspaper who confirmed that the missing part had been used for that purpose and the police said that they obtained the names and addresses of all the participants that had taken part in it around that time within a four mile radius of Brentford which amounted to several hundreds of people being interviewed but nothing of any value resulted.

The police report stated that the publicity for the case had led to many communications being received but it was stated that nothing of any useful character was found.

The railway companies also assisted in searching every cloakroom throughout the country, but the rest of the body was never found.

The police report also stated that the records relating to male persons reported missing was also overhauled, but that no case that fitted the description was found.

It was also stated that many efforts were made to connect the case to the 1934 Brighton Trunk Crime No.1 but stated that there was no possible connection. It was however noted that in the Brighton Trunk Crime No.1 that the letters FORD were found on the sheet of brown wrapping paper that had been used to wrap the torso in which had caused considerable speculation in the light that the torso was found in BrentFORD.

The police report stated that in both cases the identity of the victim was unknown and added that in this case there was also no known motive which made it difficult.

The police report concluded that in review of the whole situation, and in having regard to the definite statement of the pathologist to the effect that anatomical knowledge had been displayed, that the murder had been carried out either at a mortuary, institution, or a medical school. However, it was also noted that it was said by a person that stated that they could speak with some authority on the matter that it could not have happened in any of the public hospitals or institutions without detection. The police report added that other evidence supported that notion in that the vest that the man had been wearing, if it was part of his usual clothing, was not one that would have been issued by any public body or hospital, and that the condition of his feet, which had not been washed in several days were not in the sort of condition that a hospital patient's would have been in.

It was also noted that the pathologist found clotted blood in the hair of the armpit which he had stated in his opinion suggested death from wounding, more probably from a head injury, and that if his deductions were correct, that there could then be no doubt that it was a case of murder.

The police report stated that the barges that operated on the Grand Junction Canal travelled between Coventry and London and that all the crews on them were interviewed but could throw no light on the case.

It was stated, moreover that it appeared that whoever had been responsible had become panicky, because there was a considerable risk in placing the limbs in the train. It was also stated that how it was possible to also dispose of the head, forearms, lower portion of the trunk and upper parts of the legs without detection was also perplexing.

The inquest on the remains was opened on 10 April 1935 and on 6 June 1935 an open verdict was returned.


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


see National Archives - MEPO 3/1698