Unsolved Murders

Beatrice Smith

Age: 17

Sex: female

Date: 13 Oct 1945

Place: Sunny Bank Esate, Marlow

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Beatrice Smith died after she was taken home by a 23-year-old US Corporal after having drinks.

He was tried for her murder by an American court-marshal in the chapel of Wycombe Abbey, but after an hour's deliberation in camera and a secret ballot, he was found not guilty and discharged.

It was claimed that he had strangled her on the way home after a night out, but his defence said that whilst they were larking about, he had introduced air into her body by blowing and that she had died from an air embolism.

The US Corporal and another soldier said that they had been out at a pub and had met Beatrice Smith and her sister around closing time, noting that they had never met before, and said that they all then started off for their homes.

However, Beatrice Smith's sister was unable to identify the US Corporal as the man that Beatrice Smith had gone off with.

They had been near a man's house on the Sunny Bank Estate in Marlow. The man that lived there, a clerk said that he heard groaning whilst he was in bed and said that later , the US Corporal called and asked for a glass of water for Beatrice Smith. He said that when he went to see he found Beatrice Smith about 30 yards away on the ground apparently dead. The man said that when he remarked to the US Corporal that Beatrice Smith appeared to be dead, he said, 'Good God, what shall I do?'.

The man said that the US Corporal then told him that he had been intimate with Beatrice Smith by mutual consent. He later told the court-marshal that he had blown into Beatrice Smith's body because he thought that it would give her a thrill.

In his defence he said that at no time did he grasp Beatrice Smith by the throat.

Beatrice Smith had lived in Seymour Court Road in Marlow.

The term 'embolism' was defined as a stoppage of the blood flow in an artery usually caused by a blood clot but in the case of Beatrice Smith by an air bubble.

The doctor that carried out the post-mortem on Beatrice Smith said that she had marks on her neck and that her death was due to strangulation.

However, two US Army doctors stated that they found no evidence of strangulation and both agreed that Beatrice Smith had died from an air embolism.

One of the US Army doctors added that he had given the US Corporal some penthotal, which was a 'truth drug' that he said caused the patient to reveal facts hidden in the subconscious mind. He said that when he gave the US Corporal the penthotal, his story tallied with his own conclusion of an air embolism.

He added that Beatrice Smith was shortly due to become a mother and noted that the risks of the introduction of air in her condition were great.

The judge said, 'There were only two people who knew exactly what happened on that night of July 24 when the Corporal and Beatrice Smith were lying on the ground together. One of those persons is dead, her lips are sealed forever, and we shall never have her version of what happened'.

After the evidence was heard at the trial, the court went into camera to consider its findings and on resuming, the judge announced a verdict of not guilty 'upon a secret, written ballot'.

After the US Corporal was discharged, he said, 'It is a great load off my mind'. Whilst he had been on remand, three weeks before the trial, the US Corporal received a telegram saying that his mother and father had both been killed in a motoring accident in Missouri.


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


see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 13 October 1945

see The People - Sunday 14 October 1945

see Birmingham Mail - Thursday 11 October 1945

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 11 October 1945