Unsolved Murders

Mary Terris

Age: 31

Sex: female

Date: 14 Oct 1949

Place: Roughcastle Brickworks, Camelon, Falkirk

Mary Terris was attacked in an office at the Roughcastle Brickworks in Camelon, Falkirk on 14 October 1949 and died on her way to the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary.

The office was also robbed and approximately £186 that was there to pay the wages of the employees at the brickworks was stolen. The money was mostly in small denomination notes.

It was thought that she had been hit from behind whilst having her lunch and after a search of the rough moorland in the vicinity of the works an iron jemmy wrapped up in newspaper was found hidden in a clump of bracken which was thought to have been the murder weapon.

The police were also searching for Mary Terris's brown leather shopping bag which they thought that the murderer might have used to take the stolen money away in. The bag was described as being a lady's brown leather message bag with double handles, a zip fastening and with a brown leather thong. It was known that Mary Terris had been in possession of the bag shortly before she was murdered.

Friends of Mary Terris were questioned with regards to identifying the probable contents of her missing shopping and said that they thought that it probably contained a half-knitted jumper in navy-blue wool. Her friends said that they would recognise the garment by the intricate type of stitch that Mary Terris, who was an expert knitter, had used.

The search for the shopping bag on the moors ended on Tuesday 18 October 1949 and the police said that they thought that the murderer must have taken it away with him and possibly destroyed it.

Reports were also made of a man in dark clothes who was seen running away from the scene of the crime. He was seen running across a field in a northerly direction across a field between the Forth and Clyde Canal and Camelon at about 2pm on the Friday 14 October 1949. The man was described as being aged between 25 and 30, of medium height and build and to have been wearing dark clothing.

Following the murder the police, assisted by scores of civilians, mainly from the Camelon area, carried out an intensive search of the moorland around the brickworks, but it wasn't until the search was almost at an end on the Sunday when a policeman saw a long newspaper parcel tied up with fine wire at either end in a bed of withered bracken about 200 yards from the scene of the crime, in which there was an iron bar. After a preliminary examination, the parcel was lifted in two large envelopes and taken away to Glasgow for scientific examination. After examination it was found that the parcel had bloodstains on it and the metal crowbar was a 21.5 inch steel crowbar which was wedge shaped at one end and flattened by hammer blows at the other. It weighed 4lb 11ozs.

The newspaper that the bar was wrapped up in was a Glasgow newspaper which was about a month old, dated 16 September 1949 and which was determined had been despatched to the Falkirk area on the same date. The ends of the parcel were neatly tied with thin galvanised wire commonly used by gardeners. The police added that the bar had been placed diagonally in the newspaper and wrapped up very neatly and that the wire used to bind the parcel appeared to have been cut off with pliers. The bar itself was described as the type of crowbar used for drilling holes in masonry as well as by miners to bore holes in rock prior to inserting explosive charges for blasting. The police took it round many of the local factories, collieries and clay mines to see if any workers recognised it. The crowbar was stated to have been technically known as a 'jumper'.

The police said that because of the flattening of the head of the bar, that it might have been discarded by its previous owner and appealed for anyone that might have discarded one for that reason to come forward and see if they could identify it. The police said that the hammer blows appeared to have been struck from one particular angle with the result that the metal had splayed out into a definite lug at one side. It was said that the tool might have been discarded because further continued hammer blows might have been likely to have broken part of the head off altogether or to have caused the hammer to slip and thus cause injury to the person using it. It was also noted that the bar had score marks on the sides which were bright and unrusted which suggested that it had recently been fastened in a vice.  The police said that it was possible that the bar had been fastened in a vice by the legitimate user of the implement in order to remove the turned-over lugs caused by repeated hammer blows on the head. It was noted that as it was thought that the continued use of the tool for its legitimate use might have been dangerous for the user, that the legitimate owner had put the tool in a vice and attempted to remove the lugs and that after failing to do so had considered it beyond repair and discarded it.

The police said that they thought that the newspaper was a valuable clue and that it pointed to the murderer having been resident in the Falkirk area on 16 September 1949.

The police also appealed for the assistance of people that had travelled to the Falkirk district by bus or train on the day of the murder in the hope that some passenger might recalled having seen a man with a newspaper parcel with him on their journey.

Fingerprints were found in the office and the police later took finger and palm prints from every employee at the brickworks for elimination purposes. A mobile finger-printing unit was set up in the new office at the brickworks which was due to be brought into operation on the Monday following Mary Terris's murder. Employees were taken into the office in groups of three to have their fingerprints taken and they were all later interviewed by the police.

The police also interviewed ex-employees and appealed for anyone to come forward who had been questioned about the situation at the brickworks and the lay-out of the works or the normal routines carried out by the office staff.

There were about 100 employees at the brickworks.

On the Monday afternoon, 17 October 1949, the police kept a watch on the narrow road that led to the Roughcastle Brickworks and all vehicles were stopped and the drivers questioned in the hope that they might find someone that used the road regularly and who might have seen or heard something suspicious on the day of the murder.

The police also questioned boarding house keepers and householders that took in lodgers as well as hostel wardens to find anyone that might have taken the murderer in. The police said that they thought that it was possible that the murderer might have given up his lodgings on the day of the murder or immediately afterwards. The police added that it was possible that the murderer might not have been in possession of a ration book and might have had to change his residence frequently. The police added that their appeal to Landladies was not confined to the immediate Falkirk area, but also to any place across Central Scotland where the murderer might have sought lodgings.

Mary Terris had been a clerkess and had lived in Wallace Street, Grangemouth. She was also known as Molly Terris.

Her funeral took place on Tuesday 18 October 1949 at Grandsable Cemetery. Hundreds of people, mostly women, crowded the rain-swept street bordering the canal basin in the Old Town to see the cortege go from her house in Wallace Street to the hall of the Christian Brethren. They were said to have waited patiently during the hour-long ceremony even though few of them had umbrellas. Following the service, during which the mourners were said to have taken off their hats with the rain coming down, bowed, the hearse that carried Mary Terris's body left for Grandsable Cemetery, followed by 57 cars, going by way of South Bridge Street, Station Road and Earl's Road, a distance of two miles. It was described as the largest funeral to have ever taken place in the town. It was reported that after arriving at the cemetery, mourners congregated by the graveside, standing ten-deep for a service that lasted half an hour during a storm of wind and rain.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Falkirk Herald - Saturday 22 October 1949

see Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 19 October 1949

see Dundee Courier - Monday 24 October 1949

see Western Morning News - Monday 17 October 1949

see Falkirk Herald - Saturday 22 October 1949

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 17 October 1949

see Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 26 October 1949

see Scottish Brick History

see Express

see Deadline News