Unsolved Murders

Mary Elizabeth Woolley

Age: 18

Sex: female

Date: 7 Dec 1954

Place: Sonning, Berkshire

Mary Elizabeth Woolley was found dead on a railway line under a bridge on Tuesday 7 December 1954.

An open verdict was returned at her inquest.

She had been due to appear in court in Romsey, Hampshire, on housebreaking charges but it was thought that she had not acted alone and would have required a car to have got to the places she broke into as well as getting to the place on the railway line where she was found. She was found dead two days before she was due in court.

Mary Woolley was described as an attractive red-haired girl and had lived in Sherfield English near Romsey in Hampshire. Her mother was the headmistress of the Sherfield English Church of England primary school.

Her mother said that Mary Woolley had told her about a friendship she had with a mystery man who she described as 'a free-lance artist' in Maidenhead. She said that Mary Woolley told her that the man had needed money and that she had thought about a neighbour that she knew in Sherfield English who had plenty and that the man had driven her from Southampton to Sherfield English and that when they had got there that the man told her to break the neighbours door down but that she had refused and they had had a quarrel.

Mary Woolley's mother said, 'I am convinced she didn't take her own life. I told the police the night she died, she was missing at the time for four hours, that her life might be in danger because she was the only witness to a man who was with her while allegedly breaking the law'.

Mary Woolley's mother later said, 'I was not told about the man by Mary until last weekend. I think he was a hypnotist, and I believe that Mary was under some hypnotic influence of his for she told me what a wonderful subject it was. She may have been hypnotised as she plunged to death over the bridge'.

However, the man was never traced.

Mary Woolley had described the man as being:

  • Aged about 33.
  • 6 foot tall.

After hearing Mary Woolley's mother's evidence at the inquest, the Coroner told the jury, 'Whether the man is real or not we don't know. She was strong, but that would not prevent anyone from tipping a girl over the bridge. I'm not suggesting that it was done, but...'. The Coroner also said, 'Whether this man is a real man or not we don't know. I am inclined to believe there was someone leading her into this. She had to have a car to get to these places'. He noted that Mary Woolley presumably had little money and had been found twelve miles away from home.

The Coroner added, 'My opinion is that she did not get there by bus but in a car. I don't say it was this illusory man, but someone else might have given her a lift. There was nothing to prevent anybody coming along and tipping the girl over'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 11 December 1954

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 11 December 1954

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 07 December 1954