Unsolved Murders

Ruth Schmerler

Age: 20

Sex: female

Date: 27 Sep 1944

Place: Counslow, Cheadle

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ruth Schmerler was found stabbed to death in a gravel pit in Counslow, Cheadle on 27 September 1944 after having gone missing whilst hitching rides north from Bromsgrove and Birmingham for Manchester on 21 September 1944.

She had three stab wounds which were thought to have been inflicted with a bayonet.

However, it was reported that it had not been ascertained definitely that the murder was committed in Cheadle as the amount of blood found at the scene was not as much as might have been expected from the large wounds to her body.

The post-mortem stated that her death was due to internal hemorrhage and shock from stab wounds after non-fatal strangulation. She was also found to have bruising at the top of her windpipe and at the top of her head. The pathologist said that he thought that she had been dead for about a week.

Her suitcase and ruck-sack was later found at Shap Fell, Westmorland, near Kendal, about 130 miles away.

Her wristwatch had stopped at three minutes past three.

The police said that they didn't think that the motive was robbery as her purse was found to still contain 1s and 3d, and she still had a gold wristlet watch on her wrist and was still wearing a gold necklace when found.

She was a Jewish refugee from Cologne. She had spent the time before she disappeared on holiday at several farms across the country where she worked as a land girl.

She was described as being about 5ft 2 in tall, well developed and with dark hair. At the time of her death she had been wearing a blue gabardine raincoat, a blue shirt-blouse flecked with white and blue and a royal blue skirt with a zip fastener on the left side. She was said to have also been wearing wine coloured ankle socks and brown willow calf shoes that were laced up at the side. She was noted as also having been hatless.

It was thought that she had taken a series of lifts after leaving Bromsgrove, heading for Manchester, and the police said that they were attempting piece them together to understand how she ended up in Counslow and her luggage ended up at Shap Fell.

Ruth Schmerler had been staying at a hostel in Bromsgrove and had recently been on a farming holiday, staying at various farms across the country, working as a farm girl. She was said to have left the last farm on 21 Septemeber with the intention of heading to Manchester.

It was said that she had been given a lift by a woman driving a green van from Bromsgrove where she had been staying in the hostel to Selly Oak, where she was dropped off at about 11.30am. The van driver said that Ruth Schmerler had told her that it was her intention, after leaving the van, of going to Lewis's in Birmingham and then getting a lift to Manchester.

The police said that it was next known that she had travelled on a Birmingham tram, travelling from Selly Oak to Navigation Street. She had boarded the tram at 12.10pm and left it at its city terminous at 12.30pm. When she was seen on the tram she had been carrying a large black leather suitcase with maroon edges and a green twill rucksack.

It was determined that a lorry driver later gave her a lift from Warley to the Birmingham-Dudley boundary on the Birmingham New Road.

It was said that when Ruth Schmerler was picked up at Warley she was alone and appeared to be perfectly normal.

After being dropped off by the lorry driver, Ruth Schmerler was later seen to get into a four-seater Army car at about 1pm on 21 September 1944 that was driven by a soldier on the outskirts of Birmingham near Dudley. The police said that the soldier was thought to have been Allied, aged about 30, 5ft 10in tall, with a slim build and to have a rough complexion and a full but not flowing moustache. He was also said to have had refined speech and to be wearing battledress and a helmet that was similar to a crash helmet.

It was reported that a youth said that he had seen an Army vehicle back into the quarry on the Sunday morning, but it was also noted that army vehicles frequently pulled in there to turn around.

The police noted that what happened to Ruth Schmerler between leaving the tram at Navigation Street in Birmingham at midday on 21 September 1944 and her arrival at Warley, was one of the missing links in the chain of her journey.

It was noted that the murder investigation was the first one in which mine detectors were used. They were used at the gravel pit where her body was found in a search for the murder weapon. The police said, 'The mine detectors did a great job of work for us. It would have taken scores of men a long time to have covered the same ground, and I doubt whether they could have done it so effectively. A lot of old iron and tin was unearthed by the detectors, but the weapon was not found'.

It was later reported that a typewritten and unsigned letter that detailed Ruth Schmerler's movements was found around 28 September 1944 and later forwarded to the police at Cheadle. The letter bore no address and consisted of one typewritten sheet. It was said that there was nothing peculiar about the characters and that it had been posted in Hanley near Stoke-on-Trent about ten miles from Cheadle. The police said that they were desirous of interviewing the writer about the letter.


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


see Staffordshire Sentinel - Thursday 26 October 1944

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Monday 02 October 1944

see Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 02 October 1944

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 21 November 1944

see Newcastle Evening Chronicle - Saturday 14 October 1944

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Tuesday 10 October 1944

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Saturday 30 September 1944

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Monday 16 October 1944

see Manchester Evening News - Thursday 05 October 1944

see Manchester Evening News - Saturday 07 October 1944

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 03 October 1944

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 04 October 1944

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Tuesday 03 October 1944