Unsolved Murders

Stephen Emerton

Age: 68

Sex: male

Date: 3 Jan 1943

Place: North Wharf, Harrow Road, Paddington

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Stephen Emerton was found dead in the canal five days after he went missing.

He had lived in Purves Road in Kilburn and was an ARP rescue worker at the North Wharf depot. He was found dead in the canal by North Wharf at Harrow Road in Paddington. His wife said that he had left home on the morning of 28 December 1942 to go on duty for 24 hours, saying that she expected him home at about 8.30am the following morning. She said that when Stephen Emerton didn't return home, she contacted the depot and said that they told her that he had left the depot for home. When he hadn't returned by later that evening his wife reported him missing and his body was later found on 3 January 1943.

It was thought that he had been in the water for at least two days.

His post-mortem revealed that his death was not due to drowning, but from crushing injuries to his chest and it was thought that he might have been crushed between a barge and the canal bank.

The police surgeon that went to examine his body by the canal at 2.30pm on 3 January 1943, said that he had multiple injuries and thought that he had been dead for at least a couple of days.

Stephen Emerton's wife said that Stephen Emerton didn't suffer from loss of memory and said that he was on good terms with everybody.

The man that was in charge of the North Wharf rescue party said that Stephen Emerton had done his job satisfactorily and that he was on good terms with all the other men there. He said that Stephen Emerton had been engaged on special duties which included the distribution of blankets at the depot and that because of his special duties he was exempt from roll call. He said that he came on duty at 8am on 28 December 1942 and that the last time he saw him was at about 7pm.

The man said that the depot premises were alongside the canal but that there was a 10ft high fence along the canal although it did have gaps in it through which access to the canal could be gained. However, he said that Stephen Emerton's duties would not have taken him to the canal bank.

Another rescue worker that was on duty said that during the 24 hours between 28 December and 29 December 1942 that Stephen Emerton had seemed as usual and described him as a happy man.

He said that he would sleep in the store and would go off duty at 8am on 29 December 1942 and that Stephen Emerton came along at about 7.40am and called to him that it was time to get up.

A party leader with the rescue party said that he saw Stephen Emerton leaving the depot yard at 8am on 29 December 1942, saying that he was going out of the lower gate that led into Harrow Road. He noted that Stephen Emerton had not been wearing his uniform coat when he left.

Another rescue worker that came on duty that morning, 29 December 1942 just before 8am said that he saw Stephen Emerton by the lower gate cross the yard and go into the road. However, he said that he could not say whether Stephen Emerton had had an overcoat with him at the time.

When Stephen Emerton was found in the canal on 3 January 1943, the police dragged the canal by North Wharf where his body was found. They said that he had been wearing trousers, a shirt and a pullover when he was found, but that there was no overcoat, and none was found.

The police said that they made enquiries with barge-owners but said that they could find no reason why Stephen Emerton would have gone to the canal.

When the coroner returned an open verdict at his inquest, he said that Stephen Emerton had died from multiple injuries that had been sustained under circumstances not fully disclosed by the evidence.


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


see West London Observer - Friday 15 January 1943