Unsolved Murders

Hilda Skibbon Edwards

Age: 38

Sex: female

Date: 18 Aug 1951

Place: Stonepit Lane, Normanton, Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Hilda Skibbon Edwards was found dead in a wheat field in Stonepit Lane, Normanton near Southwell, Nottinghamshire on Saturday 18 August 1951.

Her body was found fully clothed under a hawthorn bush at the edge of the cornfield.

Her death was initially considered a murder, but her inquest, which concluded on Wednesday 3 October 1951, returned a verdict of suicide after a spec of white powder was discovered, described as not enough to have covered the head of a pin, and was determined to have been 5/1,000ths of a gram of pheno-barbitone.

She was a state registered nurse but had just started a new job as a cook. It was said that she had decided to become a cook because she didn't like night duty. She had registered as a nurse in 1938 after four years training at Leicester hospital and had the then gone to Nottingham in 1949 where she worked for a nursing agency for a year. After that she moved away but returned to Nottingham in the spring of 1950 and worked for about 12 months before going to St Helier. She was also known to have worked in London for a while and the police said that they were interested in speaking to anyone that might have known her to come forward.

The Chief Constable described Hilda Edwards as a 'plain, prim and proper woman who had little interest in men friends'. She was also described as 'the school marm type of girl'.

She had just arrived in Stoke Bardolph to take up a new position as a cook at the Ferry Boat Inn in Stoke Bardolph on 28 July 1951 and two days later on 30 July 1951 she borrowed a book from her employer and went off for a walk by the river but was never seen again. The book was 'Venetian Blinds' by Ethel Mannin but it was never found. When she had left she had also been carrying two newspapers, but those were never found either.

Her body was found 19 days later in the wheat field in Stonepit Lane which was about ten or twelve miles away from where she worked.

She was identified by the white silk dress that she had been wearing when she was last seen. She had been wearing a white dress with a large flower design in red, mauve and wine colours, a fawn long-sleeved cardigan, brown imitation moroccan sandals with wedge heels and strap and buckle fasteners. She was said to have been without a hat or stockings.

Her employer said that she had interviewed Hilda Edwards on 25 July 1951 when she had met her off a bus and had engaged her the following Saturday. She said that Hilda Edwards appeared to be in excellent health when she came to her and said that she was very capable in her work as a cook.

Her employer said that when she left, at about 3.30pm, that she asked her to be back by 5.30pm or 6pm and said that Hilda Edwards had replied, 'That will be very nice'.

She said that the inn was closed at 2.30pm and that at about 3pm Hilda Edwards asked for the newspapers and then told her that she was going into the lounge to read. However, she said that she saw her again a little later and said that Hilda Edwards had by then changed and was ready to go out and so she gave her the novel to read. She said that Hilda Edwards said, 'I may go for a walk if I get tired of reading', and said that she told her that there was no need to hurry back and that it would be all right if she was in by 5.30pm.

It was noted that everything in her room had indicated that she had intended to return soon.

Her job had paid £3 10s a week.

It was thought that she had previously met a person in Nottingham on 28 July 1951 when she was travelling from her aunt’s house in Walsall by train to Burton Joyce to take up her new position. It was heard that Hilda Edwards had failed to arrive as planned on the train which her employer had arranged to meet at Burton Joyce, which was the nearest station to Stoke Bardolph, and that she instead arrived on the following train.

When she gave her reason for missing the first train, Hilda Edwards told her new employer that she had met a person by chance in Nottingham and had stayed chatting with the person and had consequently missed her train. It was noted that Hilda Edwards had not said whether the person that she had met was a man or a woman or whether there had been one or more people that she had chatted with.

The police appealed for the person or persons that Hilda Edwards was thought to have met in Nottingham to come forward.

A signal man said that he had seen a woman that matched Hilda Edwards description in a car heading off towards the wheat field. He said that he had been on the main Southwell to Normanton road, about a mile from the cornfield at about 4.45pm when he saw a woman that matched Hilda Edwards's description  in a car pass his box from the direction of Burton Joyce. He said that she was sitting stiffly and that her face was pale and rigid.

Another car was also reported as having been seen parked up near the corn field on 30 July 1951. The car was described as being a dark-coloured Morris saloon, a 1939 model. It was seen at about 7.45pm standing in the lane adjoining the field about 20 yards away from where Hilda Edwards's body was found 19 days later.

Another signalman also reported seeing a woman that matched Hilda Edwards's description on the day she vanished. He said that at about 9pm the woman had gone into Southwell Station in an agitated state and was told that there was no train to Burton Joyce and that she had left saying that she didn't have enough money for a taxi.

Another sighting of her was made in Newark by a man who lived in Station Road, Beeston who said that he had seen a woman resembling Hilda Edwards walking in a street there on 4 August 1951, which was five days after she had disappeared.

After Hilda Edwards was found the police searched the wheat field for clues and ordered the cutting down of several square yards around where her body was found. It was said in particular that amongst the clues that they were hoping to find was the novel and the newspapers that Hilda Edwards had borrowed from her new employer before going off for a walk by a river.

The police said that during their investigation into her death at they had extended their inquiries to at least four Midland counties and to London, and had built up a dossier on all aspects of Hilda Edwards's life but could not establish whether she was murdered or how she came to her death.

The police also said that they suspected that Hilda Edwards might have lost her way on her walk and could have accepted a lift from a passing motorist.

Her inquest returned a verdict of suicide after a spec of pheno-barbitone was found on her and subsequent analysis of her organs found 5mg which indicated that she had taken a large dose.

The Chief Constable said that the case had presented him with greater difficulties than he had previously experienced, saying that it 'bristled with problems'. He said, 'It has also been the most difficult autopsy in the professors experience', noting that he had up until the spec of powder was found, been unable to say whether Hilda Edwards had been murdered or not.

It was noted that her death was the third mysterious death that year in the Nottingham area, the others being Florence Weatherall whose death is still unsolved and Mabel Tattersahw who was strangled at Sherwood Vale, Nottingham on 3 August 1951 by a man who was later executed for it.

The investigation into her death involved 2,000 people being interviewed and 1,600 statements being taken. Thirty-two police forces were involved in the hunt for the supposed murderer.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Western Mail - Thursday 23 August 1951

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 23 August 1951

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Monday 20 August 1951

see Western Mail - Thursday 23 August 1951

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 22 August 1951

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 21 August 1951

see Daily Mirror - Wednesday 03 October 1951

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 22 August 1951

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 24 August 1951

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 22 August 1951

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 23 August 1951

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Thursday 23 August 1951

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Monday 20 August 1951