Unsolved Murders

William Pearce

Age: 59

Sex: male

Date: 20 Jan 1943

Place: Queens Bridge, Lacock

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

William Pearce was found lying in the road with injuries near the Queen's Bridge in Lacock.

He had gone out for a walk on the morning of 13 January 1943 and was found on the road at about 11am and was taken to the hospital and died on 20 January 1943.

He was an inmate of the Chippenham Public Assistance Institution.

The distance from the bridge to the road was 35 feet, and it was thought that from his injuries and his position that he might have fallen from the bridge, however, when he was found he denied having been on the bridge.

He had been admitted to the Chippenham Public Assistance Institution on 20 July 1942 having previously been at the Stratton Institution.

His health was described as being fairly good, but he was said to have imagined that he had stomach trouble.

It was heard that he appeared quite normal on the morning he went out for his usual walk on 13 January 1943 and it was noted that he was more often out than in and that he would just come in for meals.

After he was found he was taken to the Chippenham and District Hospital in an ambulance but arranged to be brought back to the Institution.

He was described as being in a very shocked condition and didn't seem to know what had happened and denied having been on the railway line. When he later recovered, he was asked again about having been on the railway line and was said to have appeared surprised that he should be asked, and repeated that he remembered nothing other than that he went out for a stroll.

A doctor that treated him observed that William Pearce did not appear to be the sort of person who might wish to take their own life.

The doctor that examined William Pearce when he arrived at the hospital said that he had a compound fracture of the right elbow, a fractured right femur, a fractured pelvis and other injuries, and added that he was in a very shocked condition. However, he said that after some blood transfusions and shock treatment his condition improved sufficiently to allow him to be transferred to Stratton St Margaret Hospital for surgical treatment which he said was urgently necessary. However, William Pearce later died there on 20 January 1943.

The doctor noted that William Pearce had imagined that he had been suffering from gastric trouble but said that he could never discover anything the matter with him. He added that William Pearce had been rather depressed at one time but said that there was nothing mentally wrong with him.

He said that there were no indications that William Pearce had been run over, but also noted that it was possible that he had been knocked down but concluded that his injuries were consistent with him having fallen from the bridge.

A lad that lived at Showell Cottages said that at about 9.30am on 13 January 1943 he was standing at the road junction with his back to Queen's Bridge when he heard a bang and then somebody groaning. He said that when he then went through the bridge, he saw William Pearce lying on the road. He noted that he saw no traffic passing at the time.

Another person that lived in Queen's Bridge said that he had met William Pearce at about 9.30am on the morning of 13 January 1943 at which time William Pearce had been walking away from the bridge.

A woman that lived at Patterdown House came out after the alarm was raised and brought rugs out to cover William Pearce while they waited for the ambulance. She said that as they waited, she asked William Pearce what had happened and said that he replied, 'No, I think I must have fallen or was hit’. She said that she also asked him whether he had been on the railway line but said that he replied, 'No, I have done nothing'.

A man that examined the place where William Pearce was found said that he had been found directly under the parapet of the bridge and noted that there were no marks on the road or the bridge.

When the coroner summed up he said that it was a rather peculiar case, stating that there seemed to be no sign of any vehicle that might have knocked William Pearce down and no reason for him to have thrown himself over the top of the parapet, and an open verdict was returned stating that William Pearce died from injuries from which he had been suffering when he was found on the highway.


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


see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 30 January 1943, p6