Unsolved Murders

Helen Stewart

Age: 39

Sex: female

Date: 2 Mar 1941

Place: St Marys Island, Whitley Bay

Helen Stewart was found dead in a waterlogged trench in a field near St. Mary's Island in Whitley Bay on Sunday, 2 March 1941.

Her body was found by a haulage contractor who was also a special constable at about 10.45am on the Sunday morning whilst he was on patrol duty. He said that she was lying in a trench that contained about 3ft 6in of water. He said that he got assistance and helped to pull her out and then later helped to take her to the mortuary in Seaton Sluice.

It was noted that fences would have had to have been climbed for a person to have got into the field where the trench was and that the land was private property with no footpath.

She had gone missing after leaving home on 30 December 1940.

She had lived at 1 Beacon House, Trinity Buildings in North Shields, and it was stated that she had been strange in her mind after recently giving birth to her eleventh child, who died shortly after birth, four months earlier. She had had ten sons, the eleventh child being a daughter.

Her husband, who was a fish porter, said that he last saw Helen Stewart when she left home at about 3.30pm on 30 December 1940 to go and visit her mother's house in Prudhoe Street in North Shields. He said that when she didn't return, he went to see her mother and found that she had not been there and then later informed the police at about 10pm that she was missing. He said that when she had left there had been no quarrel and that she had been in her usual state of mind, saying that it was just the usual going to her mother's.

Her husband said that Helen Stewart had been strange in her mind since her last birth four months earlier. He said that she had given birth to a girl during heavy gunfire but that the child had died 15-minutes later whilst being washed and said that she had not been the same since.

A doctor that examined her body said that there were no marks of violence, but that it was difficult to say when death had taken place. He said that he thought that she had been dead for at least five days and that her death was due to drowning.

It was noted that it was not thought that the trench would have been full of water before the recent snowfall and its melting and that it was thought that it had become full due to the melting snow, which it was heard suggested that her death took place after the thaw took place. It was suggested that there would have been practically no water in the trench before the snow had melted but another witness at her inquest said that he thought that there would have been a good depth of water in the particular trench that she had been found lying in.

The doctor suggested that Helen Stewart might have become lost and exhausted and then fallen into the trench.

The doctor noted that her body was well nourished.

The police stated that when they examined her body they found nothing on her to suggest her identity and that that in her pocket they found 9 1/2d in copper and a bus ticket that indicated a penny fare from one part of North Shields to another that was issued on 30 December 1940 at about 3.45pm.

The coroner said, 'It seems rather strange that within a narrow area such as there is locally this woman has not been traced or seen by any person during two months of time'.

An open verdict was returned with it being noted that there was no evidence available to show how she got into the water.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Shields Daily News - Wednesday 05 March 1941, p3