Unsolved Murders

Barbara Mavis Ann MacWilliam

Age: 29

Sex: female

Date: 17 Oct 1949

Place: Waverley Road, Rustington, Littlehampton, Sussex

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Barbara Mavis Ann MacWilliam was found shot in the cab of a van at a workshop in Waverley Road, Rustington near Littlehampton on Monday 17 October 1949.

Her body was found shortly after the body of a man was found shot dead at the workshop. She had gunshot wounds to the head.

An open verdict was returned after it was heard that it could not be determined who fired the shot that killed Barbara MacWilliam. A verdict of felo de se was returned against the man.

They had been seeing each other but Barbara MacWilliam's husband had found out and it was thought that they were going to meet to sort things out.

The man was a 41-year-old builder who had lived in Worthing Road in Rustington and was a partner in the firm that owned the workshop in which he was found dead.

When he was found, a note was found pinned to the workbench that led to Barbara MacWilliam's body being found in the van.

The note read, 'Bobby shot herself while playing about in the van. Unable to factorise this. Should be unable to prove'.

Barbara MacWilliam had lived in East Preston, Sussex and was married with a one year old boy. Her husband said that they had been married in February 1942 when they were both in the services. He said, 'My wife told me she was very lonely and said that the man had offered to take her across to the Three Crowns to cheer her up. I wrote back and said I saw no harm'.  He said that later, when he was discharged from the army in 1945, that Barbara MacWilliam had nothing more to do with the man.

However, he said that two or three months after the birth of their son in April 1948, that Barbara MacWilliam began to meet the man again during her walks, although he said that at first she had told him that she had tried to avoid him. At the inquest the coroner asked Barbara MacWilliam's husband whether anything was done about it, and Barbara MacWilliam's husband replied, 'I did not approve, but she was so strong willed that I did not know what to do'.

He said that on the Friday he told Barbara MacWilliam that the man was the cause of all the bad feeling between them. He said, 'I said he was a lousy swine, and it was lucky I had not killed him'.

He said that when he returned home on the Friday night at about 10.20pm he found that the man was with his wife and said that he told the man, 'You won't come to this house again'. He said, 'He tried to make conversation with me, but I would not answer as I was afraid of myself. As he was leaving, I said, 'How much longer is this going on?'. I said that he was a rotten swine to break up the marriage and told him that he would not come to this house again'.

Barbara MacWilliam's husband said that later during a walk on the Saturday afternoon with Barbara MacWilliam that she told him that she was going to see the man that evening and intended asking him what he was going to do about the situation.

However, he said that Barbara MacWilliam told him that she could not drop the man and that if the man suggested her joining him that she was going to ask him to look after her and her boy.

The man had been married for twenty-two years and had a son aged 20. However, the man's wife said that she knew nothing about his association with Barbara MacWilliam.

However, she said that when her husband left their home on the Saturday evening, taking with him a .22 rifle and a box of ammunition that she asked him, 'Why on earth are you taking that?' and said that he told her that he was going to get a 'pot' at some pheasants. She said that she didn't see him again but did say that before hearing of his death on the Monday that she had two telephone calls from Barbara MacWilliam's husband who thought that Barbara MacWilliam was with her husband.

At the inquest, the coroner said that it was clear that the bullets removed from the two bodies had come from the same gun and that the wound that had caused Barbara MacWilliam's death had been inflicted before that which caused the man's death as the gun was found lying on his body. He added that it was obvious that Barbara MacWilliam would have been in 'a state' about the situation at the final meeting with the man.

An open verdict was returned.


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


see Daily Herald - Friday 21 October 1949

see Hull Daily Mail - Thursday 20 October 1949

see Portsmouth Evening News - Friday 21 October 1949