Unsolved Murders

Christopher Weatherill

Age: 84

Sex: male

Date: 20 Feb 1949

Place: Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Christopher Weatherill was knocked down on the Todmorden Road on 7 February 1949 and later died in Victoria Hospital on Sunday 20 February 1949 without regaining consciousness.

His injuries included a fractured skull.

It was said that the driver of the vehicle that knocked him over failed to stop.

The inquest heard that there was a conflict of evidence over whether he was knocked down by a car or a van. One of the witnesses, an agricultural worker who had lived in Fair View Road, initially said that he thought that the vehile involved had been a car, but later said that he thought that it was a small van.

A woman that had lived in Todmorden Road said that she saw a black saloon car of about 12hp travelling towards Towneley. She said, 'When the car had just passed me, I saw a man in the front of me, who shouted, 'Stop Stop! Stop! and at the same time I heard a bump. I then saw a man lying in the centre of the roadway'.

She said that she was of the opinion that when Christopher Weatherill was knocked down, at least two vehicles were passing each other. She added that the rear number-plate of the car was well illuminated, but that she didn't notice the number.

However, the man that said that he saw a small van said that he looked for a rear-light, but didn't see one. At that, the coroner said, 'There is a conflict of evidence' noting that at the inquest the man had said that he had seen a van with two doors but that twenty minutes after the accident he had said that it was a car that he had seen. The coroner said, 'It is rather strange that you should give a clear account at the time, which was confirmed by the woman, and now, some time afterwards, when you have had some time to think of it, you say it is a motor van. The only thing I can say is that you don't seem to have a clear account of what you did see'.

A policeman noted that the man had gone so far as to say that it was 'a four-seater'.

The police said that they had carried out inquiries to trace the driver, which included a broadcast appeal and a search of garages, but without success. They said that three witnesses who had seen the accident were traced but said that none of them had been able to assist in the identification of 'a small dark saloon'. The police said that every effort was made to locate it, but without success.

A police inspector said, 'This is the best illuminated stretch of road in Burnley and there was no excuse for a driver failing to see a man crossing the road'.

When the coroner summed up he said that in the absence of the driver, it would be quite impossible to come to a clear decision, noting that it was all surmise, and that in the absence of some concrete evidence that they could only record an open verdict which would allow the police to continue their investigations.

After the jury returned an open verdict, the coroner assured Christopher Weatherill's relatives that no effort would be spared by the police to trace the driver. He said, 'Putting a charitable construction on the matter, it may be he was entirely ignorant that he had knocked anyone down. At the same time if he knew he had knocked anyone down it was his duty to come forward. If he is traced, he will be called upon to give a satisfactory explanation'.

Christopher Weatherill was a retired cotton cloth-looker and had occupied furnished rooms in Fair View Road, Burnley.

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

see Burnley Express - Wednesday 23 March 1949

see Manchester Evening News - Monday 21 February 1949