Date: 23 Dec 1942
The remains of a girl were found in a house on Potter Street in Northwood, Middlesex.
The girl’s skull was found by one of the new owners of the house, the wife, who had moved in a year earlier. When she found the skull, she called the police and when they arrived they unearthed the rest of her body.
It was heard that the previous owners had been a couple, the man being in the RAF. They were described as reserved and it was said that the wife had a daughter from a previous marriage born in 1939.
Neighbours said that about two years earlier the couple had told them that their daughter had been sent away to friends or relatives in Bristol or Wales, but it was said that they later claimed that their child had been killed in an air raid there.
Shortly after the first child went away, the couple had another child. Later at the inquest it was heard that the wife was convicted of the attempted infanticide of the baby that was born in 1941 and she was bound over.
When the couple were later found they refused to give evidence at the inquest and an open verdict was returned. The RAF man said that he was exercising his right to not give evidence against his wife that might incriminate her. The wife said that she declined to give evidence that might incriminate herself.
The police said that they were still trying to identify who the child was, and when and by whom was it buried in the garden. They said that during their investigation they had made exhaustive enquiries in not only Middlesex and Hertfordshire, but also Wales, Bristol and other parts of the country, but without luck.
When the police gave evidence at the inquest, they said that they dug up the skull on 23 December 1942 and on the following day what looked like human ribs and other human remains were found buried about 11 feet away from the skull. They said that the skull was buried to a depth of about ten inches under the soil whilst the body parts were nine inches under a grass path.
When the remains were examined by a pathologist at St Mary's Hospital, he said that the upper jaw was broken and that he formed the opinion that it was not a natural division.
He said that he estimated the child’s age to be not less than 18 months and not more than 36 months old.
He said that the skull and other remains were all part of the same body and that he thought that they had been in the ground for at least a year.
He said that he could not ascertain the sex of the child or its cause of death.
A senior Home Office analyst said that he had examined a number of articles that he found in the garden shed for traces of human blood but found none. He said that he examined articles such as pieces of food, rag, lino, a tablecloth and a piece of brown paper. He said that he did find traces of blood on the paper but that he could not determine whether they were human or not and said that the paper could well have been used to wrap up meat.
He said that he also analysed soil but found no traces of poison.
When letters were read out that the RAF man had written, a letter dated 30 December 1942 by him read, 'I have no knowledge whatever of the body of the child found in the garden. I did not bury it there and have no knowledge of any person who did'.
In a second alleged statement he wrote, 'I was told by my wife that the older girl was killed in an air-raid. I was called up in the RAF on August 10, 1940. I had been living with my wife but was not then married to her. I took her to Potter Street and continued to live with her there. About six months later her girl came to live at the house'.
It was heard that when he was called up he left the girl and his wife, who was at that time expecting a child by him, at the house.
It was then heard that the husband then received a letter from his wife suggesting that the girl should be evacuated because of air raids and that a couple had agreed to take her to Wales. It as heard that the RAF man knew nothing of the couple in Wales other than they were friends of his wife.
It was then heard that when the RAF man came home on leave that his wife told him that the girl had gone away in a car to the couples place in Wales and that later a man from Bristol had told her that the girl had been killed during an air-raid in an air-raid shelter there.
It was also heard that the RAF man, after being interviewed by the police, had begun to doubt whether the girl had gone away to Wales and twice asked her whether she had told him the truth about the girl or whether she had put her in a home but had said that his wife had told him that she was adamant that she had told him the truth.
In another letter found that had been written by the RAF man he said, 'I am sorry to hear she is going away. Perhaps when I get you settled here, we can have her back again because I love the little devil and should be sorry to lose her'.
The police also read a statement that the wife had made on 10 March 1943 in which she gave her age as 26 and the birthday of her daughter as 9 October 1940. In her statement she stated that the girl had been killed in Bristol on 9 October 1940 and that she had been informed of that by the brother of the man who, with his wife, took the child to Wales. She said that the couple had lived in a block of flats at Warwick Gardens in Thornton Heath where she had lived from 1936 to 1939 and who she used to visit from time to time. She said that they did not tell her where they were taking the girl but told her that they would write which she said they never did. The wife said that the brother of the man that had taken the girl away later told her that his brother, his brother's wife and the girl were all later killed in Bristol, saying that she was told that 78 people were killed in the air raid shelter and that she believed it and did not make any enquiry about the girl. The wife said that she didn't register the girls death or had been told by any official of the child's death.
However, in a later statement, it was heard that the wife had told the police, 'I want to tell you the truth of this matter. All I have told you before has been lies. It was my husband who sent the child away and he told me to tell you those lies'.
The wife said that when the air raids started she asked her husband if he could not do something to get the girl away. She said then, that on a Friday in October 1940, her husband came home on leave and said he had made arrangements for the girl to go away with friends whilst her other baby was born. She said that he didn't say where. She said that on the day after he arrived, she asked him to look after the girl while she went to a flat to collect some things. She said that he grumbled at being left alone with the 'snivelling brat' and was left in the house with her while she went out. However, she said that whilst she was out there was an air raid and that she had had to go into an air raid shelter near Pinner Station until after midday and that when she got back there was no sign of the girl. She said that when she asked her husband about the child he said, 'She's gone. I thought it best to send her away whilst you were out of the house, as saying goodbye would upset you'. The wife said that she asked her husband where the girl had gone and said that he replied, 'Don't worry. She's gone a long way where raids will not hurt her'.
She said that her husband subsequently told her that the child had been killed in Bristol and said that she believed him.
However, the police said that they had made enquiries in Bristol and said that there was no record of the death of the girl or the couple that the husband claimed had taken the girl away to Wales.
The police also said that they had also found out that in fact, there were no air raids in Bristol in October 1940.
The police said that they had not been able to make any trace of the girl.
When the coroner summed up, he noted that the wife had claimed in one of her statements that her husband had made away with the girl. However, he noted that no one could doubt that the girl had disappeared before the husband came home on leave on 19 October 1942, and yet the wife claimed that the girl disappeared on the morning after he came home on leave.
The coroner then said, 'It is, perhaps, unfortunate that both these witnesses had not given evidence. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the letters give the correct impression that the wife's statement to the police is not true. Perhaps that is why she took full advantage of the privilege claimed for her'
He then returned an open verdict.
see Liverpool Daily Post - Friday 08 January 1943, p1
see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 30 December 1942
see Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette - Friday 22 October 1943