Unsolved Murders

Mary Helen Stacey

Age: 85

Sex: female

Date: 26 Sep 1952

Place: Ifield Road, Kensington, London

Mary Helen Stacey was found dead in her two-room top floor flat that she had shared with her son on Friday 26 September 1952.

However, she was found to have been dead for over a year.

It was said that she had been left sitting in a heavy Victorian leather armchair dressed in an ankle length black dress with two shawls round her shoulders.

It was said that her neighbours missed her but that they did not worry as they knew that her 62-year-old son was looking after her.

However, when one of the neighbours noticed that the milk and mail had not been taken in they called the police and when they went into the flat they found that Mary Stacey was dead and that she had been dead for over a year.

At the time her son was not at the house and the police made enquiries to find him. On 30 September 1952, in an effort to trace him, the police released his description, saying that he was about 62 years old, short, with a fresh complexion and that he usually wore a brown cap and an old brown raincoat. They noted that he had last been seen at the flat on the Wednesday 24 September 1952.

Mary Stacey's daughter who lived in Belsize Park Gardens in Hampstead said that she last saw Mary Stacey in September 1951. She added that until she was told that Mary Stacey was dead, that she was of the opinion that she was still alive.

Mary Stacey's neighbours said that her son had been visiting her flat in recent months and that they had seen him there as recently as Wednesday 24 September 1952.

However, one of the neighbours said that after an advertisement that had been put in Mary Stacey's letterbox remained untouched for two days and her son had not fetched the milk as he usually did, that she asked the woman who lived in the basement flat to go upstairs with her.

She said that when they went up, they broke in. After they went in she said, 'In the armchair by the fireplace in the kitchen I saw what looked like a bundle of rags. I went over and felt what I thought was the old lady's head. Them I found the body. She was wrapped up in a dark brown blanket'.

The woman said that Mary Stacey's son used to fetch his groceries and that she presumed that he had his meals there since in the room where the body was found there were cups and saucers and a gas stove.

She added that on two recent occasion surveyors had been in the top flat in connexion with war damage and they they had commented to her on a smell.

A doctor carried out a post mortem but could not determine a cause of death although stated that he found no evidence of violence. He said that her cause of death was unascertainable' but added that he found nothing to arouse his suspicions.

He said that he thought that she had been dead at least six months and probably twelve months. He said that her body was partly mummified.

It was further noted by the police that Mary Stacey's pension had continued to be drawn up until 23 September 1952. Her son later admitted living in their flat from March 1952 to September 1952 with her dead body whilst drawing her pension after her death. He was brought to the inquest into Mary Stacey's death from Brixton prison where he was on remand for three charges under the forgery act.

Mary Stacey's son said that after he went to live with Mary Stacey he drew her two pensions and a National Assistance grant for her but added, 'She stopped signing her name some time in February. Her cross and my signature were accepted by the Post Office after that'.

The owner of the house said that she had gone to the house in May 1952 with a war damage surveyor and had seen Mary Stacey sat in the chair. She said, 'I saw Mrs Stacey in the armchair. Her son told me she was asleep, and he had covered her with a blanket so that she wouldn't be disturbed'.

She said that she suggested to Mary Stacey's son that they could not stay in the rooms while repairs were carried out. She then said, 'I went over last Tuesday and asked him if she had gone and he replied, 'No, next Thursday'. He said that he was going on Friday and had a job as a night watchman at a Victoria cinema. He also said that he had a room in Seymour Place nearby'.

When the coroner asked Mary Stacey's son when Mary Stacey had died, he replied, 'Sometime in March. I remember her telling me I was 63 on my birthday, March 18'.

The coroner then asked Mary Stacey's son whether Mary Stacey had any injury and he said, 'Not at all'.

An open verdict was returned at her inquest. The coroner described it as 'a most extraordinary case in which a man had been living in two rooms with his mother's corpse for months'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see West London Observer - Friday 31 October 1952

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 30 September 1952

see Northern Whig - Thursday 30 October 1952

see Northern Whig - Tuesday 30 September 1952

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 30 September 1952