Unsolved Murders

Annie Elizabeth Nichols

Age: 67

Sex: female

Date: 27 Jan 1945

Place: Broad Lane, Bramley, Leeds

Annie Elizabeth Nichols was found dead in her small shop on Saturday 27 January 1945.

She was found strangled in a chair in her living quarters and it was initially thought that robbery had been the motive. She also had severe injuries which were said to have been caused by a heavy instrument.

It was thought that she had been strangled by a tea-towel, scarf or stocking. The police sid that when they went in they found Annie Nichols in her chair bleeding from head wounds and with a tea towel tied tightly round her throat. They said that there was no evidence of any struggle.

Her cause of death was given as asphyxia by strangulation.

It was noted that when she was found Annie Nichols was fully dressed and it was thought that she had got ready to serve her early customers as usual at about 6.30am. However, it was not fully known whether she had served any of her customers by the time she was murdered, other than the one young man that later said he had bought some cigarettes from her.

However, the police later stated that they didn't think that robbery was the motive. They said that apparently the stock in the shop had not been touched and that the small amount of money, which was thought to have been her day's takings, had been left.

Her shop, which was situated near a mill, was near the junction of Broad Lane and Waterloo Lane. It was noted that on the opposite side of the road to her shop there was a high wall beyond which there was a field that looked down onto the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey and anew housing estate. The junction was described as isolated. The block of houses was surrounded by a narrow passage and a high wall and on either side of the block were stretches of waste land, which the police later searched.

Neighbours said that they heard no calls for help and could not recall any suspicious strangers having visited her shop recently.

During their investigation, the police said that they were trying to trace anyone who had bought a bottle of mineral water from her shop on the Friday and anyone who had brought back an empty mineral water bottle on the Saturday.

The police added also that they were keen to speak to anyone who had seen anyone enter the shop between 8.15pm on the Friday and Saturday morning, to come forward.

The police noted that her murder was similar to the murder of another shop-keeper in Sheffield a couple of weeks earlier on 13 January 1945 in which a drapery shop owner, Eleanor Hammerton, was murdered, but her murder was later solved and a man convicted.

Her sister said that she thought that Annie Nichols would have had more money in the shop than was accounted for, saying that the sum that Annie Nichols put aside for her tobacco account may not have been large, but that she knew that some money was put by and that Annie Nichols always liked to be on the right side of that. It was also noted that Annie Nichols had been in the habit of settling an account with a Leeds tobacco firm's traveller monthly and that he had been due to call on the weekend that she was murdered.

Annie Nichols was found dead after an Alderman, an ex-Lord Mayor of Leeds, had called at her shop in the usual way on the Saturday morning to purchase some bread and found that the next door neighbour had taken in the bread on account of her shop not being open. The Alderman said that he then went away, but that when he later returned and found that the shop was still closed, he informed the police who effected an entrance.

When the police went in they found Annie Nichols sat in her chair in her living quarters between the counter and the fireplace.

It was noted that the shop was almost opposite the Wellington Mill and that many of the workers there were regular customers and so the police interviewed many of the men, women  and juvenile employees in the hope of finding someone who might have seen someone enter Annie Nichols's shop between 7am and 8am on the Saturday morning, which was when the police said they thought that Annie Nichols had been murdered.

The police said that one of the people that they interviewed was a young man who said that he had gone into Annie Nichols's shop as late as 6.25am on the Saturday to buy some cigarettes and said that as he walked out he heard the door click behind him. As such, the police said that they thought that someone had followed the man inside and then concealed himself behind the door.

The police later revealed that they had extended their search for Annie Nichols's killer outside of Leeds.

Annie Nichols had lived alone since her husband had died 15 years earlier. Her house had three storeys and was one of a block of four and she had turned her front room into a shop in which she sold cigarettes, confectionary and groceries.

It was noted that her shop was for the convenience of the hundreds of workers at the nearby mill and that she was known to many of them as 'Auntie Annie' and had been well liked.

She was described by neighbours as an inoffensive little woman who was always ready to do anyone a good turn. She was also described as being somewhat deaf and very short-sighted.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Nottingham Journal - Monday 29 January 1945

see Evening Despatch - Monday 29 January 1945

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Thursday 01 February 1945

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 29 January 1945

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 31 January 1945

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 30 January 1945

see Newcastle Journal - Monday 29 January 1945

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 30 January 1945