Unsolved Murders

Alice Barton

Age: 49

Sex: female

Date: 24 Sep 1955

Place: Fender Valley, Woodchurch, Birkenhead

Alice Barton was strangled and mutilated and her body dumped in a wartime pillbox in the Fender Valley area of Woodchurch, Birkenhead, on Saturday 24 September 1955.

It was thought that by the time she was found that she had been dead for two or three days.

The lower part of her body was described as having been mutilated.

It was also said that an obscure three word sentence had been scrawled on her body in lipstick which were described at the inquest as being two letters and an arrow that were on her left thigh. When she was found all of her clothing except her stockings had been thrown over the upper part of her body and face in a pile.

In August 2010 it was reported that the police were investigating new leads into her murder, but nothing more is known of that. It was reported that someone on the internet had suggested that the murderer had been their grandfather.

Whilst her body was found in the pillbox on Saturday 24 September 1955 it was not until her picture was published in the Liverpool Echo on Monday 26 September 1955 that she was identified the following day as Alice Barton by a widower with whom Alice Barton had previously lived with up until a few months earlier. However, several people that had known her had come forward before her identity was determined but it was reported that they had not known her name.

It was also suggested that the publishing of her photograph in the Liverpool Echo in order to identify her was controversial but it is not known exactly why, but it is possible that the photo was taken of her after her death.

The police also later issues a composite photograph of her clothing.

Alice Barton was initially described as:

  • Aged between 50 and 60.
  • 5ft 2in tall.
  • Slight build.
  • Grey eyes.
  • Greying hair.
  • No teeth.
  • Hair around the mouth and chin.
  • Not wearing a wedding ring.
  • Wearing a lemon coloured linen costume with glass buttons, green leather court shoes with high heels, black suede gloves and a dark brown herringbone tweed coat.

Following her identification the police stated that they had found that she had been something of a wanderer and had been of no fixed abode. Shortly after she was named the police said, 'All we can say is that this woman has been known in the name of Alice Barton. She was known from Christmas last year in this locality until March. That is the name she gave. I don't know whether it is a married name, or a single name, but she spoke of having been married and that she had a son of some years. She spoke with a strong Lancashire accent and spoke of Bristol, Wigan and Manchester. I want to trace anybody who knows her and her antecedents, or anybody who can help me as to her activities recently, or any of her associates or persons she may have been seen with'.

Alice Barton was later said to have been a prostitute. It was said that she had turned to prostitution after her husband left her and that she had been taking customers, mostly lorry drivers, to the pillbox for sex. At the time of her murder it was reported that it was thought unlikely that she had been using the pillbox as a place to sleep.

Her body was found in the pillbox by an 11-year-old schoolboy who had lived nearby in Walby Close on the Woodchurch Estate whilst he had been out picking blackberries.

Following the discovery of her body the police combed the area around the pillbox for clues, and used mine detectors in a bit to find the murder weapon.

It was thought that she had been strangled with either a belt or a handbag strap that might have had a buckle that they could detect. No trace of the murder weapons was ever found.

It was also noted that the police never found Alice Barton's handbag or the lipstick that had been used to write on her thigh.

Tracking dogs were also used to search the fields around the pillbox.

The pillbox was said to have been on a lover's footpath that ran from Oxton to Woodchurch Road and it was said that the police were searching all the fields and copses along it for clues. It was on the edge of the railway embankment of the Seacombe to Wrexham railway line and about 500 yards from the main Birkenhead-Heswall Road.

Shortly after her body was discovered the police said that they were looking to trace a man, generally referred to as the 'pointed chin man', whose description was given as:

  • Aged 35-45.
  • 5ft 4in to 5ft 7in tall.
  • Medium build.
  • Dark hair.
  • Clear complexion.
  • Long nose.
  • Dark eyebrows.
  • Pointed chin.
  • Clean shaven.
  • Unkempt appearance.
  • Dressed in dark suit and brown shoes.
  • Wearing or carrying an old mackintosh.

They said that Alice Barton had been seen with the man on the Wednesday in the Woodchurch area. It was also said that the man had been seen on the morning of Wednesday 21 September 1955 in the Moreton and Arrowe Park districts at which time he was heard to speak of being the owner of a coach and had, during the railway strike, conveyed workmen from Ramsgate to Margate. The police said that they had also further determined that the man had spoken of having been in hospital at some point and having lent the coach to another person and that on its return had found that the seats had been slashed.

The police said that they were also trying to trace a man that made an anonymous telephone call to the Central Police station at 8.08pm on the Saturday from a local call-box at the junction of Manor Hill and Grosvenor Road in Birkenhead.

By 5 October 1955 the police said that they had interviewed more than 20,000 people in connection with the murder.

It was also noted that at the time of her murder that there had been more than 200 ships in port across Merseyside and that they had spent a lot of time interviewing crews upon their arrival in Liverpool.

It was also reported that hundreds of building workers on the Woodchurch estate were interviewed.

The police also said that they had visited many garages and coach proprietors in Wirral as well as having visited Ramsgate and Margate to try and trace the man with the pointed chin to see if he had been employed there as a coach driver. They also questioned all Birkenhead bus conductors and drivers as well as those that had worked on the 77 route between Woodside and Moreton which passed Arrowe Park and Woodchurch.

Alice Barton's funeral took place on Saturday 1 October 1955 at Landican Cemetery near Birkenhead about half a mile from where she was murdered.

Her inquest which concluded on Thursday 27 October 1955 returned a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown.

In August 2010 it was reported that a woman on the internet had claimed that she thought that the murderer was her grandfather. The woman, who was 19-years-old, said that according to a story that had been passed on down through her father's family over the years that suspicion had fallen on her grandfather who had frequented a pub a few minutes away from the pillbox and who was said to have come home on the night of the murder with bloodstained clothes. She said, 'One night, he came home wearing blood soaked clothes demanding my nan to burn them. My nan was so horrified and in shock that she went to throw them in the wash immediately, but he ordered her to burn them there and then'. She then added that a few days later the murder of Alice Barton was announced in the press. However, it was noted that the grandfather that the woman was referring to was no longer alive. It was said that the police looked into the information as a viable lead but nothing more was ever reported on it.

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

see www.wirralnews.co.uk

see National Archives - MEPO 2/10015

see Liverpool Echo

see BBC

see Wirral History

see Western Mail - Tuesday 04 October 1955

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 01 October 1955

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 03 October 1955

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 27 October 1955

see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 27 September 1955

see Bradford Observer - Wednesday 05 October 1955

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 26 September 1955