Unsolved Murders

Austin Brown

Age: 42

Sex: male

Date: 1 Apr 1952

Place: Gough Street, Holloway Head, Birmingham

Austin Brown was found dead gassed in his house.

A 51-year-old man was tried for his murder after it was claimed that he had attempted to commit suicide by leaving the gas on. However, he was acquitted.

After the man was initially charged attempting suicide, the prosecution noted that it was held in a case in 1912 that killing another man in an attempt to commit suicide might be murder.

It was claimed that he had told a third person in the house that he was turning on the gas tap with the purpose of killing himself.

Austin Brown was known as 'Blind Jack' and had been blind since he was 14, but was a well-known character in Birmingham where he sold almanacs.

Austin Brown had been the tenant of the house in Gough Street and the 51-year-old man and another man had been staying with him.

After someone called 999 the police arrived to find that the 51-year-old man on the floor in the kitchen and Austin Brown and the other man in another room. The other man was drowsy and was taken to hospital, but Austin Brown was dead.

A post mortem on Austin Brown the following day revealed that Austin Brown died as a direct result of coal-gas poisoning.

It was said that Austin Brown and the 51-year-old man often went about together and frequently quarrelled after they had been drinking.

It was said that Austin Brown was a rather bad-tempered man and that on the afternoon of 31 March 1952 that he and the 51-year-old man had quarrelled over the fact that some money was missing from the gas meter.

At the trial the prosecution said that whilst Austin Brown was in another room, with the other man, that the 51-year-old man turned on the gas stove taps which resulted in Austin Brown's death.

The other lodger said that Austin Brown and the 51-year-old man had both had a good deal to drink when they came home and had been shouting and swearing at each other. He said that when he went to sleep in the armchair both Austin Brown and the 51-year-old man were arguing and that when he woke up he was in hospital. However, he said that just before he went to sleep, he heard the 51-year-old man say good night to him, noting, 'I thought it was strange that he said that in daytime'.

It was said that the 51-year-old man had told the police that he had been fed up because Austin Brown was 'on all the time that he had done the gas meter'. It was said that the contents of the gas meter had gone missing. It was alleged that he then added, 'I had been boozing since Thursday and I wanted to finish myself'.

However, after the jury retired for five hours and twenty minutes of deliberation, they returned a verdict of not guilty against the 51-year-old man. The judge then directed that the second indictment charging him with attempted suicide should remain on the files.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Tuesday 01 April 195242

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Friday 25 July 1952

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 04 April 1952

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 01 May 1952

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Friday 02 May 1952

see National Library of Scotland