Unsolved Murders

Ann Eleanor Barker

Age: 65

Sex: female

Date: 28 Dec 1948

Place: Rose Cottage, Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Yorkshire

Ann Eleanor Barker was found dead in a pool of blood at her cottage, Rose Cottage, in Ling Lane, Scarcroft on 29 December 1948.

She had severe head injuries, mainly to the left side of her face and head, which were thought to have been caused by a sharp instrument such as a knife. It was suggested that the weapon had been a commando-type bayonet.

It was reported that she had also been criminally assaulted and that it was thought that the crime had been carried out by a sadistic maniac.

Her post-mortem reported twentytwo wounds and the pathologist said that she died from shock and loss of blood following multiple injuries. He said that her skull was fractured in two places and that her jaw was broken and that he thought that her wounds were consistent with her having been stabbed and that they had been caused by a triangular instrument. He said that he thought that very considerable force must have been used to inflict some of her injuries and that some of her fractures and bruising might have been caused by blows with a fist.

The pathologist said that all of her injuries had been inflicted before her death other than some fractures to a number of her ribs on the left side and that he estimated that the time of her death was sometime between 9pm and midnight on Tuesday 28 December 1948.

During their investigation, the police appealed for five people to come forward:

  1. A man seen by at least three people in Ling Lane near Rose Cottage at about 10.35pm on the night of the murder.
  2. A soldier who was seen in Wellington Hill walking towards Leeds at 10.15pm with a pack on his back.
  3. A man seen at the bus stop near Woodlands Cottage on the Wetherby Road at about 8pm.
  4. A man who after alighting from the 6pm Boston Spa to Wetherby bus at Thorner Church, asked the way to Scarcroft.
  5. An escaped patient from a mental hospital, although he was later found and eliminated from the police enquiry.

It was thought that the back door to her cottage had been forced. Her cottage was oil lit and described as tiny.

The police said that they didn't think that her murder was motivated by robbery as they found between £1 and £2 in the cottage that had not been taken.

It was thought that Ann Barker had put up a fierce struggle and around her body shillings were found scattered along with feathers from four geese that she had been plucking.

Her body was discovered by a jobbing gardener and one of her neighbours after they became suspicious after seeing the window blind still down and a newspaper protruding through the letter box.

The police said that they also had reports of a man that was seen by a woman who was out with her husband and daughter in Ling Lane. The woman said that the man had been walking very quietly and had appeared suddenly out of the darkness. The woman said that some minutes later she passed Ann Barker's cottage again alone and saw the man again just below the cottage, noting that he was stood at the side of the road and neither spoke nor moved.

The woman said that on a subsequent day she noticed that Ann Barker's blinds were still drawn, which she said she had never seen before and so she tried the door to her cottage but found it locked. She said that she went back a while later and called out for Ann Barker but got no answer.

She said that on the first two occasions that she called at the cottage she saw Ann Barker's cats in their usual place in the bedroom window. She said that she tried to climb over the gate to get to the back door but couldn't because of barbed wire that had been placed on top of it.

The woman said that she then saw the jobbing gardener who was going off to the village and asked him to see if Ann Barker's blinds were still drawn.

The jobbing gardener said that when he climbed over the fence and went to the back door of Ann Barker's cottage and looked in he saw Ann Barker on the floor in a sitting position with her back against the settee.

The woman said, 'There was a big wound on her head and numerous marks on her neck and face. On the floor beside her was a blood-covered cushion. There was blood on the carpet. I was certain she was dead'.

A missing mental patient from Menston Mental Hospital near Otley was also investigated, but after he was found it was determined that he had not been involved. He had escaped from the hospital on 30 November 1948. The man was described as being middle-aged, between 5ft 5in tall, with a medium build, brown hair turning grey and with deep set eyes and a protruding forehead. He was also said to have had a tattoo of a nude woman on his left thigh.

The police also appealed to motorists who might have seen a soldier who was said to have been seen in the area on he night of the murder and calling at several houses and begging for accommodation. It was noted that he had also been seen attempting to stop north-bound motorists.

The police also appealed for information about a man, described as having a 'very surly demeanour', who was given a lift by a lorry driver near the New Inn on the Leeds-Wetherby Road at Coal Road, about a mile nearer Leeds. He was described as being between 45 and 50 years of age, 5ft 7in or 5ft 8in tall, with a slight build, clean shaven but badly in need of a shave, with a square forehead and a pale complexion. He had been wearing a dirty belted overcoat and a dirty cloth cap and had been carrying a parcel.  He was described as having a surly manner and a Yorkshire accent.

The police later drained a pond near her cottage in a search for the murder weapon but found nothing. The pond was behind the Yorkshire Electricity Board's headquarters and about 200 yards from Rose Cottage where Ann Barker lived. It was 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep and was part of the sewage system for the nearby EVW camp.

Electro-magnets were also used to search road drains for any weapons.

A pond near the Wellington Inn, which was said to have been between 20 and 30 feet deep, was also drained after a man that lived in a nearby garage said that he had heard footsteps outside his house on the night of the murder at about 10.30pm and that when he had gone out to look he could not see anyone.

The police said that they also searched every house, cottage, farm and outbuilding in the area.

An instrument was later reported as having been found in a field about 200 yards from Ann Barker's cottage on 18 January 1949, although it was later thought that it was only a gardening implement and was not the murder weapon. It was described as one of many articles that had been sent to the laboratory to be tested for bloodstains during the investigation.

Ling Lane was described as a quiet, unlighted country by-lane, and led from the Leeds-Wetherby Road west over Black Moor to Shadwell and Wike. Her cottage front door was no more than five yards from the road.

Ann Barker was described as 'an inoffensive old woman' and she made her living dressing poultry for local farmers and small allotment holders. The woman that found her said that Ann Barker didn't have an enemy in the world and said that she didn't have many visitors and that most of her visitors were women, adding that Ann Barker had made no complaints to her about being pestered.

Ann Barker was described as being tall and slender and to have dressed in the Victorian clothes that her mother had given her fifty years earlier, consisting of an ankle-length black dress, black button boots, and a black poke bonnet. It was said that her neighbours had known her as 'The Old Lady of Ling Lane'.

Another woman that had known Ann Barker for the previous two years said that she had never seen a man call on her and that as far as she knew she had no enemies.

Ann Barker was said to have had three cats, two of which vanished after her death. One was reported to have possibly scratched the killer as he had struggled with Ann Barker. One of the cats, a ginger and white cat, that had returned to the house had spent some time at the front door and was then later seen at an upstairs window but attempts to catch it failed.

The police said that they thought that Ann Barker's attacker might have left bearing traces of goose-down and with cat scratches as they said that they had been told that Ann Barker's cats had been known to attack strangers on the slightest provocation.

A gardener said that Ann Barker had complained to her twice recently that attempts had been made to break into her cottage and so he had provided her with wire netting for her windows and had topped off her garden fence with barbed wire. Ann Barker had nailed the wire netting over her ground floor windows.

Although Ann Barker had an upstairs bedroom, it was thought that she had recently been sleeping downstairs.

A neighbour said that Ann Barker had told her about the attempts to enter her cottage, saying, 'I was concerned for her, but she did not seem particularly afraid. The attempts were made about 11 o'clock at night. Each time a man first knocked and then demanded admittance'.

It was noted that there was an EVW (European Volunteer Works') agricultural camp nearby at Scarcroft with Poles, of whom the local people were said to have spoken well of. It was noted that some of them helped as jobbing gardeners and were described in general as quiet, unassuming and good workers. Notices were printed appealing for information and offering a £100 reward by the West Riding Police, some of which were also printed in Polish and distributed at the camp. It was said that in the notices printed that the printers had to use the letters 'z' from other font sets due to the high frequency in which the letter was used in the Polish language.

The police also examined a water tank at the Polish camp. They initially attempted to search it with an electro-magnet, but because of restrictions, they eventually decided to drain it, but found nothing.

A person that knew her said that she was sure that Ann Barker would not have had any money or valuables in her cottage, saying, 'In fact, I should imagine she would find it hard financially to live'. It was noted that a few days before Christmas that she had received a cheque for £3 4s 2d from the chairman of the parish council which was an annual gift.

Following the murder, it was said that considerable alarm had been caused in the neighbourhood, especially amongst the womenfolk and the police said that they had found that some of their knockings had gone unanswered.

The police said that they had taken over 600 statements and that the rewards for information had reached £1,100 but that no further leads had come about.

The police said that many people in the Scarcroft area had made suggestions as to who the murderer might have been, but that they had been unable to establish any evidence as to who had killed Ann Barker. They said however, that they had not discounted the possibility that the murderer might have still been in the Scarcoft neighbourhood.

Her estate was settled on 7 May 1949 when it was reported that she had died intestate, leaving an estate valued at £164.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see West Yorkshire Police

see True Crime Library

see Shields Daily News - Friday 31 December 1948

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 18 January 1949

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 30 December 1948

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 31 January 1949

see Manchester Evening News - Thursday 30 December 1948

see Belfast News-Letter - Saturday 01 January 1949

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 18 January 1949

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Monday 31 January 1949

see The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 January 1949

see Gloucester Citizen - Thursday 30 December 1948

see Western Morning News - Friday 07 January 1949

see Belfast News-Letter - Thursday 30 December 1948

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 07 January 1949

see Dundee Courier - Thursday 06 January 1949

see Hull Daily Mail - Friday 31 December 1948

see Nottingham Journal - Tuesday 11 January 1949

see Northern Whig - Tuesday 04 January 1949

see Gloucestershire Echo - Saturday 07 May 1949