Unsolved Murders

Lily Sharples

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 5 May 1905

Place: Ramsden Dock, Barrow, Cumbria

Lily Sharples was found dead in Ramsden Dock on Saturday 23 April 1905.

She had left home at 10pm on 30 March 1905, three weeks earlier, and was never seen alive again.

After her body was removed from the dock a post-mortem was carried out by several doctors. Three doctors said that her body had been in the water for too long to say whether she had drowned or not, but the fourth doctor said that there was no evidence of drowning.

Her slippers were found near the dock on 6 April 1905 some hundreds of yards away from where her body was later found.

Her husband, who was a plumber, was charged with her murder but later discharged after the prosecution said that there was no evidence against him.

They had lived in Afton Street and it was heard that Lily Sharples had left her husband several times over money matters. Their neighbour said that Lily Sharples's husband once threatened to stab Lily Sharples and their child and had also cursed them and his mother-in-law. However, she said that she had never heard any disturbance.

Following her disappearance her slippers were later found on 6 April 1905.

The inspector of the Furness Railway Co.'s dock police said that he first heard that there was a woman missing from Afton Street around 31 March 1905 after which he paid particular attention to the docks area to see if there was any trace of her body but noticed nothing. He said that he passed around the docks twice each day during 2 to 5 April 1905 and that on the Sunday 2 April 1905 he had been at the spot on the jetty where Lily Sharples's slipper was later found, but said that he didn't see it there on that date and that if it had have been there that he was sure that he would have seen it. He said that it was on the south side where the new jetties were being put up for the oil boats.

Lily Sharples's brother said that after he found that Lily Sharples was missing, he and the man that he worked for went looking for her and that during their search they dragged the timber pond in the dock and that on the Sunday 2 April 1905 between 9.30am and 12.30am they went round the timber pond and Ramsden Dock, saying that they got over the barbed wire there and climbed onto the jetty and looked all about but saw nothing and then left at the Buccleuch Bridge end. He said that his search included the place were Lily Sharples's slipper was later found and said that he was certain that it was not there when he had searched on 2 April 1905.

A foreman stevedore said that he went to Ramsden Dock at about 1.30pm on 6 April 1905 with another man with the intention of looking for Lily Sharples and said that he went to the Timber Pond and then crossed the bridge and went to the south side of Ramsden Dock from where they crossed where the Isle of Man boats were laying and then went round by the Buccleuch Dock Bridge and then onto the north west side of Ramsden Dock.

The stevedore said that when they got to the south side of the jetty, at about 3.30 or 4pm, that the other man that he was with said, 'What is them slippers? They look like ladies' slippers'. He said that they then got over the barbed wire there and picked them up, saying that they were both dry but that one of them was a little bit dirty. He said that they had been lying about 8 inches apart and about 4 feet from the jetty in the south west corner.

The stevedore said that they then left by the dock side and crossed by the timber yard and that as they were going home along Athol Street that they saw a police sergeant who asked them whether they had been round the docks and that when they replied 'Yes' that he asked whether they had found anything and then told him about the slippers, but said that they had left them where they had found them.

It was noted that the day was very windy and a good day for drying, with a wind blowing hard from the west, which might have dried the slippers.

A woman that lived with her parents who kept a grocers shop at 1 Afton Street next door to Lily Sharples and her husband said that they had lived there for the previous six or seven months and that she became friendly with them and that she used to go back and forwards between their places. She said that Lily Sharples was generally a cheerful person except when her husband was either sulking in bed or had been drinking, noting that he was generally in drink at the weekends and whilst not always drunk, he was the worse for drink.

She said that she had never seen any unpleasantness between Lily Sharples and her husband but did say that Lily Sharples left her husband about five or six weeks after they first arrived in Afton Street saying that she thought that it was over money. She added that Lily Sharples told her that her husband would not give her enough money and so they had quarrelled. She added that Lily Sharples had left on several other occasions too, usually for a couple of days and would usually go to her mothers, but that she would go back when he went for her.

The neighbour said that there was another time on a Saturday night at about 6.30pm when Lily Sharples had brought her baby to her house after which she couldn't get back into her house as her husband had locked her out. She said that when Lily Sharples went back to her house she found the door locked and when she knocked, she got no response. The neighbour said that she knocked on the window with a stick and then got their steps and went over the yard wall but found the back door locked too. She said that she was sure that when they first knocked that Lily Sharples's husband was in then. The neighbour said that Lily Sharples then stayed with them at their house for about three quarters of an hour and that they then went off to her mothers and that on her way back she found Lily Sharples's husband standing at on his doorstep and said that he asked where Lily Sharples was and said that she told him that she had gone to her mothers. She said that Lily Sharples's husband then asked why Lily Sharples had gone to her mother's house and said that she told him it was because he had locked her out and said that he denied that, but then later admitted to having locked the door, but said that he hadn't heard anyone knocking. She said that he had had some drink at the time but wasn't drunk.

The neighbour said that Lily Sharples left her husband again about a month or five weeks before she went missing, on that occasion saying that her husband had told her that he would put a knife through her and the baby if she didn't clear out. She said that she later saw Lily Sharples's husband on the following Sunday when he called into their shop for some groceries, noting that he cursed his wife and mother-in-law when he was there.

She said that she last saw Lily Sharples on the night of Thursday 30 March 1905 at about 10pm when she came in and asked her for change for a sixpence saying that she wanted some coppers for the gas, noting that she had her baby with her at the time. She said that Lily Sharples looked sleepy and told her that she was just going to undress her baby and said that after she heard her go in she heard her poking the fire.

The neighbour said that she stayed up until about 11.30pm playing the piano and that she left her door open for her mother to come in at 11.10pm and that she went to bed herself at about 11.40pm, but that her mother didn't go to bed until about midnight. However, she said that neither of them heard Lily Sharples during that period.

The neighbour said that she could hear pretty well through the wall but said that they had to shout quite loud. She said that she couldn't hear what they said, but said that they could hear noises.

She said that she next saw Lily Sharples's husband the following day, Sunday 2 April 1905 at about dinner time, around 1.20pm.

When the neighbour was cross-examined she was asked about whether she had ever seen any unpleasantness and said no, and admitted that she had gone in and out of their house daily and had played cards with them. She also agreed that the unpleasantness that she had referred to was based on what she had been told and not what she had seen and agreed that from her personal observations that they had lived comfortably together. She also agreed that she had only seen Lily Sharples's husband drunk about 8 or 9 times and then only at weekends, which was noted as being about every other weekend, and then only at the weekends.

The coroner noted that it was common ground that that there was trouble between Lily Sharples and her husband and that she left him from time to time and that when he promised to behave that she would return. However, Lily Sharples's representative disagreed with that stating, 'I don't know that it is common ground', to which the coroner replied, 'I thought it was'. Lily Sharples's representative then said, 'It is common ground that there had been bits of tiffs between them and that she ran away on the slightest provocation and then came back again'. The coroner then replied, 'We have it in evidence that he went and whistled to her and that she came back again. I think the jury and I have sufficient common sense to know what passed between them'.

It was also claimed that Lily Sharples was hysterical and that she would go home to her mother on the slightest provocation.

When the neighbour was further questioned, she agreed that she had never seen any marks or bruises on Lily Sharples's face or ever saw Lily Sharples's husband strike her.

It was also noted that it was unusual for Lily Sharples to leave her husband and go by the docks, it being noted that whilst she might go that way in the day, she would not do so at night.

A woman that lived at 4 Annan Street that adjoined Afton Street at the back said that she remembered the night before Lily Sharples went missing, 30 March 1905, saying that she saw a light on in her kitchen at about 12.30am when she went to bed but said that she heard nothing unusual.

A police sergeant who lived at 12 Athol Street in Barrow Island said that he knew Lily Sharples's husband by sight but not Lily Sharples and said that he went to Lily Sharple's house after she went missing at about 3.45pm on 31 March 1905 and said that he spoke to Lily Sharples's husband and asked him if his wife was missing and said that he told her that she was, saying that they had had a few words about money and that she had left, as he thought, to go to her mother’s house, which he told him she had done before.

The sergeant said that Lily Sharples's husband then told him that they had both been in town that night and that whilst there Lily Sharples had gone home to her mother's house, leaving him there and that when he returned home at about 10pm that she was already at home. He said that she then undressed their baby and put it to bed upstairs and then came back down and stood in front of the fire and dressed her hair while he was sitting on a chair at the fire. He said that he must have then gone to sleep as when he woke up he found that she had gone and that the door was open. He said that he then went upstairs and saw their baby but said that Lily Sharples wasn't there.

He said that he waited for some time thinking that she had gone to her mothers and said that it wasn't until the following morning that he found that she wasn't there.

When Lily Sharples's husband was asked whether Lily Sharples had any friends on Barrow Island where she could go he said 'I do not know that she has any'.

The sergeant said that he next saw Lily Sharples's husband the following Monday night when he called at his house with his brother and asked whether he had heard anything about Lily Sharples. He said that he told them that he had not and said that they told him that they had been dragging the dock in the day looking for her but without success.

The sergeant said that Lily Sharples's husband then told him that he had gone to live with his mother in Hartington Street and asked him to call on him there if he heard anything and said that he didn't see him again until 20 April 1905 when he saw him at about 12.45pm in Michaelson Road and asked him whether he had any news about his wife and said hat he told him that nothing had been heard further than that a pair of slippers had been found that were identified as belong to her. He said that Lily Sharples's husband then told him that he wished something would turn up as he was miserable as it was.

When the police sergeant was asked whether he had felt that there was any suspicion during the conversations he had had with Lily Sharples's husband, he said 'No', stating that he had seemed as a man might be if his wife was missing and being anxious to know what had become of her. He added that Lily Sharples's husband answered his questions without reservation or hesitation.

When Lily Sharples's mother was questioned, she said that when Lily Sharples came to see her on 30 March 1905 that she told her that her husband had refused to give her her fair there and said that Lily Sharples told her that she only had 6d on her and that she owed 5d to the laundry and borrowed 2d from her.

When she was asked whether she had anything else to say, she said that she wanted to talk about her injuries, two black eyes, saying that Lily Sharples's husband had thrown Lily Sharples into a chair and that when she stepped in between them that he hit her, supposing that it was meant for Lily Sharples, and knocked her to the floor. She said that she got two black eyes and that her side went lame and that she went to see her doctor about it. She noted that Lily Sharples's husband didn't apologise for hitting her and that as soon as she came round again that he started 'saucing' her as usual.

A shipwright that lived at 50 Athol Street said that he had known Lily Sharples's husband for about 18 months and had been to his house on a few occasions and said that when he had done so they had always seemed to be on very good terms and said that Lily Sharples’ husband always appeared to be a kind husband and a kind father and that he had never seen him the worse for drink.

He said that he saw Lily Sharples's husband on the night of 30 March 1905 after he had been out on the town saying that it was when he got the car back from the Town Hall at about 10.05pm. He said that they talked during the car ride and that they walked back to his house, 50 Athol Street, where they said goodnight, adding that when he left him Lily Sharples's husband was perfectly sober.

The police said that they made enquiries in Athol Street and determined that none of the women that lived in the street had left their houses on the night of 30 March 1905.

A policeman then gave evidence to say that he had been in Athol Street at about 11.20pm on the night of 30 March 1905with a lamplighter when he saw a woman at the end of Athol Street, saying that she came out of the end of Athol Street, having come off the footpath into the middle of the street. He said that she then returned as though she was going towards them and then turned towards St Andrews Street. He said that she appeared to be dressed in the ordinary way of knocking about the house, but that he was sure that she had no hat on. However, he said that he didn't stay very long and could not see what colour her clothes were, noting that she was about 70 yards away, and could not say whether she was a short or tall woman. He added that he didn't know Lily Sharples.

The police said that they had examined the slippers and found that one was covered in mud, inside and out and that the other was perfectly clean. They said that they also found mud on Lily Sharples's stockings.

The police also found two slight wounds near her knee, one of which was large enough for a finger to be put in.

After the coroner heard the evidence, he summed up and said that he thought that Lily Sharples and her husband had had a quarrel and that Lily Sharples had then left the house and had either fallen into the dock or had thrown herself in.

The jury retired for 23 minutes and when they returned, they returned an open verdict, stating that 'Lily Sharples was found dead in the Ramsden Dock, but as to how she came by her death we have not had sufficient evidence to show, or what was the cause of death'.

Lily Sharples's husband, who was at the time of the coroner’s inquest on remand for Lily Sharples's murder was discharged the following day after the Public Prosecutor intimated that there was no evidence against him.

Lily Sharples was buried in Barrow Cemetery.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Millom Gazette - Friday 05 May 1905

see Soulby's Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer - Thursday 04 May 1905

see Staffordshire Sentinel - Friday 05 May 1905

see Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Tuesday 02 May 1905