Unsolved Murders

Theodore Sylvanus Taylor Prowse

Age: 27

Sex: male

Date: 18 Jan 1949

Place: St Levan Road, Plymouth

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Theodore Sylvanus Taylor Prowse was found in St Levan Road, Plymouth under the viaduct at 9pm on 18 January 1949. He was taken to the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital, Freedom Fields, where he was pronounced dead.

It was thought that he had either fallen from the viaduct or been hit by a car.

He was an ordnance artificer stationed on HMS Drake.

It was said that naval men had been using the viaduct as a short cut when returning to the barracks. It was further noted that nearly two years earlier a naval man on the embankment near the viaduct had had his legs severed by a train.

At his inquest the coroner held that Theodore Prowse had met his death by falling from the railway viaduct, but his father said that he thought that he had been hit by a car.

The coroner said that it was clear that Theodore Prowse had died from multiple injuries caused by falling from the viaduct, but that there was no evidence to show how the incident occurred.

The pathologist said that Theodore Prowse died from cerebral haemorrhage, a fractured skull, multiple fractures down the right side, haemorrhage of the lung and liver and that in his opinion his injuries were consistent with him having fallen from a height. He added, 'I am convinced no impact with a vehicle could have caused such injuries'.

Theodore Prowse's father said that he had visited his son's house on the Tuesday evening between 8pm and 8.20pm and that they had then called at a public house. He said that he noticed that Theodore Prowse was quiet and would not eat his supper. He said that Theodore Prowse then left the room and noted that when his wife thought that he had been gone for a long time his daughter-in-law went out and that he then heard her shout and that when he went out to see he saw Theodore Prowse lying there.

At the inquest, Theodore Prowse's father said that Theodore Prowse was in good health and had everything to live for and had never had a quarrel with anyone, adding that he had no occasion to use the viaduct that night.

Theodore Prowse's father added that Theodore Prowse had that evening filled up a football coupon and had prepared his uniform and polished his boots for the next morning. He then said, 'I suggest he never went out on the viaduct, but that he was hit by a passing vehicle. If he had fallen, he would have had more than three cuts on his head. He never had time to get to the viaduct'.

A woman that lived in Alexandra Road in Ford said that at 8.50pm on the night of 18 January 1949, she had left a train at Dockyard Halt and gone down St Vincent Street to St Leven Road which was practically opposite St Levan Inn when her attention was attracted by a 'terrible thud' behind her. She said that she then noticed something lying in the road beneath the viaduct but added that there were no vehicles whatever in the vicinity. She said that first to arrive was a motorcyclist who telephoned the police whilst she then held up subsequent traffic.

A policeman that arrived soon after said that Theodore Prowse was lying 10ft 9in from the St Vincent side of the viaduct and 6ft out from its perpendicular. He said that he later examined the viaduct and noticed that there was a 5ft parapet but said that he could find no marks on it or any sign that a struggle had taken place there.

The policeman noted that he had since learnt from naval authorities that Theodore Prowse had recently qualified for chief artificer and had been recommended for promotion.

An open verdict was returned.


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


see Western Morning News - Saturday 22 January 1949

see Western Morning News - Wednesday 19 January 1949