Unsolved Murders

John Hancock

Age: 26

Sex: male

Date: 21 Dec 1947

Place: Mitre Bridge, Scrubs Lane, Hammersmith

John Hancock was found decapitated on the railway line at Mitre Bridge, Scrubs Lane in Hammersmith at about 2.30am on 21 December 1947.

It was thought that he might have been knocked unconscious and that his body had then laid deliberately on the line.

He was from Ipswich but had volunteered to serve in the mines in 1947 and had been living in a miners' hostel in Pontypridd. In July 1947 he had gone back to Ipswich to spend a week at home where he said that he would be having a further week's leave which he proposed to spend in London.

John Hancock's father said that John Hancock was of good education and was a deep thinker. He added that he didn't know him to have any money troubles and said that John Hancock always carried a wallet containing money and papers.

John Hancock was found on the down engine and carriage line near Mitre Bridge which was not a main line. It was said that at the sidings there was a boundary wall with iron railings, although they had certain gaps in them, and anyone could get through and on to the line and cross the track.

A policeman that went to the scene said that when he got there, he saw that John Hancock's head was completely severed from his body and that his left foot was also severed. He said that there were no other injuries that could indicate that there had been any attack on John Hancock and added that he could definitely exclude a fall from a train as having been the cause of John Hancock's death. He said that if John Hancock had fallen from a train, he would have expected to have seen bruises or marks on his head after death.

He also said that he was satisfied that there had been no foul play.

The policeman noted that John Hancock's wallet had not been found and suggested that as John Hancock's overcoat was also not found that his wallet might have been with his overcoat.

A doctor that had been called to the scene at 2.30am on 21 December 1947 said that he formed the opinion that John Hancock had been dead for more than five hours. However, he said that from his examination he saw nothing to arouse any suspicion of foul play.

A pathologist said that John Hancock's head had been decapitated and his left foot severed and that he had an injury to his right foot.

However, he said, 'The nature of the injuries suggests that the body was deliberately laid across the line. There was no alcohol in the stomach and his death was due to decapitation. he injuries are consistent with his having been run over by a train. Just prior to the accident he was alive'.

Relatives of John Hancock asked the pathologist whether if John Hancock had been struck a blow with a fist and became unconscious it would leave a bruise after death and the pathologist said that he found no evidence of such an injury during his examination.

Evidence at the inquest showed that John Hancock had been missing from the miners' hostel in Pontypridd since 17 December 1947.

A railway official said that they searched the line for about 200 yards in both directions but found no items of clothing, including John Hancock's coat. He also said that when John Hancock was found he had had on two pullovers and a shirt but had had no jacket or top-coat on. He added that it was a very cold night.

When the coroner summed up, he noted that John Hancock had not been seen anywhere in the time before he died and that it was not known who the last person to see him was. He told the jury that they needed to consider whether they thought that John Hancock might have been first knocked unconscious and placed on the line or whether they thought that he had fallen from a train into the four-foot way. He added that there was no evidence that he did fall from a train, but that they could not exclude the possibility. He also noted that there was no evidence that he had taken his own life.

The jury returned an open verdict, stating that John Hancock was killed when he was struck and run over by a train at the sidings in circumstances not fully disclosed by the evidence.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see West London Observer - Friday 09 January 1948