Unsolved Murders

Michael John Lydon

Age: 58

Sex: male

Date: 6 Jun 1942

Place: Chichester Post Office, West Street, Chichester

Michael John Lydon was found shot at his post office.

He was the head postmaster of the Chichester postal area and had ben since 1931.

He was found soon after 1am on the Monday, 10 June 1942, in his room on the first floor of the Chichester Post Office with a bullet wound in his head. However, his inquest said that it was impossible to determine how the fatal wound was caused.

His wife, with whom he lived in Melbourne Road, Chichester, said that they had lived happily together for 21 years and said that he had no disease of any kind, to her knowledge.

She said that on the Sunday they had gone for a walk in the afternoon and had then had high tea at 6pm after which she said Michael Lydon played with the children until about 8pm and then left home to go to the Post Office, which she said was his usual practice. She noted that one of their children went off with Michael Lydon to as far as Priory Park, and that she understood that they had 'played and fooled' along the way. She said that Michael Lydon had had a great deal of extra work during the war, but that he had never seemed to be worried about it.

His wife noted that Michael Lydon had never had a firearm of any kind at home and said, 'He was not at all used to firearms, in fact, I think he was afraid of them'.

The doctor said that when he examined Michael Lydon's body at 2.20am on the Monday at the Post Office he found that he had a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead, about an inch above his nose, but said there was no exit wound. He said that he thought that Michael Lydon had been dead for probably about three or four hours.

The doctor said that there was some blackening round the wound which was probably caused by the explosion, but the coroner at the inquest noted that the blackening had since been removed from Michael Lydon's body and noted that there was no scorching of the skin which would otherwise have been caused by a very close discharge of the revolver.

A 61-year-old motor mechanic at the Post Office said that he was on duty on the Sunday night at  the Post Office with the Home Guard between 8.30pm and 10.55pm and had been in the guardroom near the Chapel Street entrance after which he went to the rest room. He said that he then returned to duty at 12 midnight.

He said that at 1am, he was informed by the girl on night duty that there was still a light burning in the Postmaster's office and said that he then took the keys, thinking that the door would be locked, and went upstairs to the room. He said that he knocked on the door but got no answer, and then tried the handle, and found that the door was not locked and entered and then saw Michael Lydon sitting at his desk but facing the window that overlooked West Street. However, he said that he then realised that something was wrong and then noticed blood on the floor and saw the wound to Michael Lydon's forehead.

The motor mechanic said that there were three live bullets lying on the table.

He said that he then left the room, locking it behind him, and went to summon another member of the Home Guard and then went back to the room with him. He said that when he returned he then noticed a revolver on the floor.

The motor mechanic said that nobody entered the Post Office from Chapel Street while he was on duty, and said that he didn't hear the report of the shot.

Another man that had been on duty that night between 8.30pm and midnight between the guardroom and the door said that during that time he saw no one go upstairs or heard anyone go into the Postmaster's room or heard the report of a firearm or anything else to attract his attention.

It was heard that there had been a firearm in Michael Lydon's room which had been given to the Post Office for the protection of the telegraphists in the event of an emergency. The Superintendent at the Post Office said that the gun had been locked away in a steel press for approximately two years during which time he said that he had only seen Michael Lydon take it out twice.

The superintendent added that everything at the post office was fine and that there were no financial troubles, noting that the accounts were checked by headquarter staff and were found to be right to a halfpenny.

The superintendent also noted that Michael Lydon had been in the habit of jotting down notes regarding the immediate work to be done and said that notes of that kind were found on his table.

A night telephonist said that she took Michael Lydon a cup of tea at 9.15pm on the Sunday night and said that he had been in his usual spirits then and had been smoking a cigar. She said that he asked her for a cigarette because he had no other cigars, and she said that they joked because he had wanted to pay her for the cigarette.

A sorting clerk and telegraphist said that she had been on duty in a room near Michael Lydon's office and had gone down for some tea at about 12.15am and said that when she returned she thought that he heard someone coughing, but said that nothing else occurred to attract her attention and said that she heard no shot. She said that she did notice that there was a light on in Michael Lydon's office and so told the motor mechanic who then found Michael Lydon dead.

A policeman that went to the scene said that he found Michael Lydon in the room with a .45 revolver lying between his legs. He noted that there had been a good deal of noise in West Street about 10.30pm when the last buses were leaving, which he suggested might account for the shot not being heard.

When the coroner summed up he said that it was very difficult to say what really happened, adding that there was nothing in the evidence upon which they could give a definite verdict. He said that as far as it went, that it was impossible to say whether it was a case of suicide or accident. He said that it was plain that death was due to the revolver shot, but noted that it was curious that nobody heard it, although acknowledge the fact that at the time of the shot, according to the doctors evidence, that there would have been a good deal of noise outside in West Street.

The coroner said that there was no evidence that Michael Lydon had intentionally shot himself and noted that he was in reasonably good health and that there was no suggestion of any mental disorder, and absolutely no motive for him taking his own life. He observed that it was a possibility that because Michael Lydon was at that time no longer a member of the Home Guard that he might have been contemplating handing the revolver back to them and that it might have gone off while he was fingering it about. He also mentioned the demonstration that the inquest had seen showing the awkward position that Michael Lydon would have had to have been holding the pistol in, with his thumb on the trigger, in order to have shot himself, and concluded that there was no direct evidence either way and that he was going to find an open verdict.

It was noted that Michael Lydon had been in the service of the Post Office since 1904.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Chichester Observer - Saturday 06 June 1942