Unsolved Murders

Gladys Margaret Irene Hanrahan

Age: 35

Sex: female

Date: 1 Oct 1947

Place: Cumberland Green, Regents Park, London

Gladys Margaret Irene Hanrahan was found strangled on Cumberland Green in Regent's Park on the Wednesday night 1 October 1947.

She had been strangled and gagged with a man's handkerchief that was found still in place when she was found. She had also been battered about the face and her nails were broken, but there were no other signs of a struggle and she was fully clothed.

When she was found her handbag was intact and she had not been sexually assaulted. When the police showed a picture of Gladys Hanrahan lying on the ground at the inquest, they said that 'It looked as if she had been laid down and her bag used as a pillow before the murderer left her. Neither her outer clothing nor her underclothing was in the least disarranged'.

The handkerchief that she had been gagged with had a laundry mark on it and the police visited nearby laundries in an attempt to trace it, and sent out letters to about 2,500 laundries in a bid to identify its owner. It was also heard that the police had asked the Institute of British Launderers to circularise a description of the handkerchief to its members.

The police said that they were trying to determine what she had done in the time between 5.30pm when she left her home and 10.30pm when her body was found. The police surgeon said that he thought that Gladys Hanrahan had been murdered about an hour before her body was found. It was thought that she might have left her home at 5.30pm to meet a man.

Her father said that when Gladys Hanrahan left home on the Wednesday evening, he thought that she had been going to spend the evening at the united Dairies sports club at Wembley or at a film show. However, she didn't arrive in Wembley.

A sighting of her was made at some time in Baker Street earlier in the evening, but it was not known when she had met the man or whether they had left together from the spot where they were seen. It was also said that she had been seen in the Prince of Wales public house in the bar with a man on the evening of the murder.

During their investigation the police made extensive inquiries at tube stations, bus garages and cafes in the Regent's Park and North London area.

The police said that they thought that the murderer was either:

  • A man she knew and trusted. The police added that it was possible that she had had a rendezvous with a man who had killed her in his car and then dumped her body in the park.
  • A stranger that had suddenly attacked her. The police added that she might have gone for a walk through the park in the moonlight and then been attacked by a stranger and dragged on to the grass from the footpath about five yards away from where she was found.

However, they said that they thought that the first option was more likely, and it was later reported that that it was almost certain that she had known her killer. It was also noted that against the second theory was the fact that there had been several couples near the spot where she was found at the time who had not noticed anything and the fact that there were no signs of a struggle. The police appealed for any couples that had been in the park near the spot where Gladys Hanrahan was found between 9.30pm and 10.30pm to come forward.

They said that robbery might have been the motive and that her assailant might have fled without stealing anything after seeing a couple on a nearby bench.

The police also suggested that Gladys Hanrahan might have formed an acquaintance recently with a man, or that she had encountered a man whilst walking home and had not refused his company when he spoke to her.

The police said that they received reports of a man and a woman that might have had a black saloon car with them having been seen in the area where Gladys Hanrahan was found and appealed for them to come forward.

Gladys Hanrahan had been employed as a bookkeeper at the Mayfair branch of United Dairies and had lived in St Ervans Road in North Kensington with her uncle. Her uncle described Gladys Hanrahan as 'an attractive girl with a pleasant nature'.

She was also described as a quiet and reserved girl with few known men friends.

A close friend that worked with Gladys Hanrahan at the dairy said that she had had the slightest inkling that Gladys Hanrahan had for some time been meeting a man. However, it was said that she had not told her father or uncle, with whom she lived, of any relationships. It was reported that Gladys Hanrahan had been a shy girl and that it might have been her shyness that might have prevented her from mentioning to her relatives that she had a man friend.

At the inquest, her neighbour, a grocer, was questioned over her murder. He said that he had not seen Gladys Hanrahan on the afternoon or evening of 1 October 1947 and that he had gone to Brighton on the afternoon of 1 October 1947 on the 'impulse of the moment' and that upon his return he had been in the company of a woman until 10.30pm. However, it was heard that more than one person had seen him in London on the day of the murder, with someone saying that they had seen Gladys Hanrahan in his company earlier on in the morning. An employee of he grocer said that she had seen the grocer standing behind the counter of his shop with his wife at 5.30pm on 1 October 1947.

The grocer said that anyone that said that they had seen him in London on the afternoon was wrong.

It was further heard that the grocer had been seen with Gladys Hanrahan at the United Dairies sports club in Wembley about two weeks before her murder by the dairy’s depot manager. The depot manager said, 'There was a very heated argument going on between them'. The depot manager said that he last saw Gladys Hanrahan on 30 September 1947 when she left work, noting that the following day, 1 October 1947, was her day off.

A barmaid at the Prince of Wales public house in Harrow Road said that she saw Gladys Hanrahan come into the bar on the evening of 1 October 1947 with a man. It was reported that she didn't recognise the grocer as that man whilst in court but said that she later recognised the grocer as the man she had seen with Gladys Hanrahan whilst outside the court building after the hearing had been adjourned.

It was also reported that Gladys Hanrahan had told one of her friends that the grocer 'was always chasing her to go out with him'. One of Gladys Hanrahan's friend said that Gladys Hanrahan had told her that the grocer was always chasing her and that she didn't like it.

However, at the inquest, the police noted that the grocer could provide no one who saw him between 1.30pm and when he arrived back at the Metropolitan public house in the evening.

It was also heard that on the day after the murder, the grocer, who used to visit Gladys Hanrahan 's house every weekday, had gone to see her father and had said to him, 'I intended to be in last night, but did not get back in time'. It was also said that he had told Gladys Hanrahan's father that he had had a couple of drinks with Gladys Hanrahan on the day she was found dead.

When the coroner addressed the jury at the inquest in regards to suspicions regarding the grocer, he said, 'There is no evidence which I can see which would justify you, the jury, in saying that the grocer, putting the worst case against him, must have been the person who murdered her'. He noted that if the account given by the grocer of his movements was correct, that it took him 'right out of the picture until after the event, but if it is not true, it doesn't take the case very much further from your point of view'. When the coroner referred to the evidence given by the people that said they had seen the grocer in London, he said, 'Even if you were to accept that evidence, and come to the conclusion that he did not go to Brighton, that is a very different thing from having any constructive evidence that he was with the girl in Regent's Park. That is the sort of state of affairs that is the unsatisfactory feature of the case'.

It was reported that one of the police theories was that Gladys Hanrahan's murderer might have copied a crime committed in the British film 'Wanted for Murder' in which a man takes a girl into a London Park and waits for the moon to cloud over and then strangles her. It was noted that 'Wanted for Murder' was last shown in the London area on 26 September 1947 at a cinema in Tottenham Court Road.

Her cause of death was given as being due to asphyxia due to strangulation and gagging.

An open verdict was returned at her inquest on 3 December 1947.

Gladys Hanrahan 's funeral took place on 8 October 1947.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Daily Mirror - Thursday 04 December 1947

see Shields Daily News - Friday 03 October 1947

see Daily Herald - Friday 03 October 1947

see Belfast Telegraph - Saturday 04 October 1947

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 19 November 1947

see Western Daily Press - Thursday 04 December 1947

see Gloucestershire Echo - Wednesday 19 November 1947

see Dundee Courier - Friday 03 October 1947

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 03 December 1947

see Dundee Courier - Friday 07 November 1947

see Gloucestershire Echo - Wednesday 03 December 1947

see Daily Herald - Wednesday 08 October 1947

see Hull Daily Mail - Saturday 04 October 1947