Unsolved Murders

Letitia Douglas

Age: 41

Sex: female

Date: 18 Jan 1947

Place: The Bungalow, North Cerbey Downs, Whiteway, Cirencester

Letitia Douglas was found shot in her bungalow on 18 January 1947.

An open verdict was returned.

She was found dead by her husband when he returned home after being away on business. He was an engineer and had been away on business in connection with the Ministry of Supply.

The bungalow stood in woodland in its own ground and with the exception of two small farm cottages some 200 yards away, was completely isolated.

Her husband said that Letitia Douglas had no worries to his knowledge and said that they had been living on happy terms. He said that his business often took him away from home but said that Letitia Douglas was fond of an open-air life and had made no complaints to him of loneliness.

He said that they had a ten-year-old daughter, but that at the time she had just returned to school on 15 January 1947.

He said that he last saw Letitia Douglas on 17 January 1947 when she met him with his car previous to him starting a business trip to Salisbury on which he was accompanied by his secretary. He said, 'After taking my secretary back to her father's house, I left Cheltenham at 10.05pm and arrived at the bungalow at 10.30pm. There were no lights and a window was opened'. He said that when he went into the sitting-room that he saw Letitia Douglas lying on the floor in the light of the electric fire and that after touching her head that he realised that she was dead. He said, 'There was no sign of disorder or of blood'. He added, 'Not appreciating what I saw I grabbed a .22 rifle lying in a corner and about two feet from her feet' and said that when he broke the gun, he found a spent cartridge in it.

He said that Letitia Douglas had never threatened to take her life and said that it would surprise him if it was proved that she had.

The doctor that examined her body said that she had a bullet wound in her chest with an upwards and backwards track and said that her death was due to a gunshot wound through the heart and lungs and that her death would have been instantaneous. He noted that there was a burn round the entrance wound.

However, when the doctor was questioned by the coroner, he said that he would not like to pass an opinion on whether the wound could have been self-inflicted.

However, he did say that a chest wound from a .22 bullet would not be as certain to bring instantaneous death as a head wound.

The doctor said that when he saw Letitia Douglas's body at about 11pm on 18 January 1947, he formed the opinion that her death had taken place at least six hours earlier.

A personal friend of Letitia Douglas who lived in Stratton Park in Cirencester said that she had met Letitia Douglas in Cheltenham on the day before her death, and said that she had appeared rather vague about matters and depressed and said that she had complained that her daughter had gone back to school, saying that she was unhappy about it. She said that Letitia Douglas had on occasions spoken of the loneliness of the bungalow.

A postal worker who lied in Lawrence Road in Cirencester said that he had called at the bungalow on the Saturday morning 18 January 1947 and handed a postal packet to a woman who he took to be Letitia Douglas, saying that she appeared to be quite normal.

A man that occupied one of the cottages nearby who used to visit the bungalow to stoke the boiler said that he remembered seeing Letitia Douglas in the middle of the previous week, but said that he had not seen her since even though he said she was generally in the habit of passing the time of day with him quite often through the window. He said, 'She was passionately fond of horses and we often saw her riding in the lanes hereabouts'. He added that, thinking that the horses had been left unfed, and knowing nothing about the tragedy, he had attended the animals during the weekend. He said that they included a small bay pony that Letitia Douglas's daughter, whilst she was at home, was in the habit of riding.

The police said that when they went to the bungalow, they found that Letitia Douglas had an electric table lamp flex caught round her right ankle and said that it was possible that she had caught her foot in the flex and had fallen.

A doctor from Bristol said that he carried out a laboratory examination using Letitia Douglas's clothing and the rifle and said that it was clear that the bullet had passed through from the front to her back. He also said that when he fired ammunition into her clothing he found that, as there was no scorching or powder blackening round the holes in her clothing, that he was of the opinion that the shot must have been fired from a distance of no less than 18 inches from her clothing.

He said that the rifle had been in perfect order and that it had a trigger pull of four and a half pounds.

When the doctor was asked about the possibility that Letitia Douglas might have committed suicide, he said that the only way that he could conceive of her doing that was by pulling the trigger against a cord passed through the trigger guard.

He added that it was possible, but unlikely, that the trigger had been cocked and that the rifle had been discharged accidently.

When the coroner summed up he mentioned the possibilities of suicide and accident, and ruled out the possibility, in view of the lack of motive and lack of evidence, any third party involvement.

The jury then returned an open verdict.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 13 February 1947, p1 and 4