Unsolved Murders

Gordon Irlam

Age: 6

Sex: male

Date: 17 May 1955

Place: Rochdale Canal, Cartmel Crescent, Chadderton, Oldham, Lancashire

Gordon Irlam was found in the Rochdale Canal near the back of his home.

He was last seen alive shortly after 4pm on the Monday afternoon 16 May 1955 when he went out to play whilst his mother was preparing tea.

It was said that after having had a meal at midday Gordon Irlam had gone out with his stepfather and that they had returned at about 4.20pm and that Gordon Irlam had then gone out whilst his mother was making the tea.

His 48-year-old mother said that when she looked for him fifteen minutes later he had disappeared. Following his disappearance the police started dragging operations in the canal with grappling irons and Gordon Irlam's body was later pulled out of the canal on Tuesday 17 May 1955.

Following his post mortem it was found that he had had a meal two hours before he died, but it was not known where that had been and it was noted by the Coroner that that left unanswered questions over his death.

Gordon Irlam had actually lived with his grandmother in Grundy Street in Oldham but had been staying with his mother and stepfather in Cartmel Crescent at the time for the weekend.

When he vanished Gordon Irlam had been wearing a blue suit and a blue check shirt. His mother said that he was 'motor car mad'.

It was said that Gordon Irlam had been away from school on the Monday so that he could spend an extra day with his parents who were off work due to short time in the cotton mills.

His mother said, 'He never played near the canal and has never wandered from home before. He had no money on him'.

Following his death the police carried out investigations around the housing estate where Gordon Irlam had lived asking residents, 'Did you see Gordon on Monday afternoon or evening?' On Saturday 21 May 1955 they extended their enquiries to a large area around the estate, sayng that they were trying to solve the mystery of the meal that Gordon Irlam had eaten two hours before he died.

An eleven-year-old boy who had also lived in Cartmel Crescent said that he had seen Gordon Irlam on the canal bank at 6.30pm and that Gordon Irlam had told him that he had not been home for his tea.

At the inquest the police said that 'foul play could not be ruled out while there are mysterious circumstances', and that they were trying to discover who gave Gordon Irlam his last meal.

The pathologist that carried out the post mortem said that he thought that Gordon Irlam must have either had a meal after 4pm or had died within two hours of his midday meal stating that Gordon Irlam had died two hours after having had a meal.

When the Coroner summed up he said that they were several unanswered questions, noting that the differing evidence about the meal that Gordon Irlam had eaten was one of them. He said, 'There are a number of other questions that will have to remain undecided' and added that, 'There are many ways one can drown or be drowned. The probable reason for his drowning was that he fell while playing. But there are other possibilities'.

He said that just because Gordon Irlam was only 6-years-old and had been playing onthe canal bank that it would be wrong to assume that he had fallen in. He said, 'We must admit there are other possibilities'. The Coroner then returned an open verdict stating that Gordon Irlam was found drowned but that there was insufficient evidence to show how he had entered the water.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Saturday 21 May 1955

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 20 May 1955

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 17 May 1955

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Wednesday 18 May 1955

see Liverpool Echo - Saturday 21 May 1955