Unsolved Murders

Barbara Mary Grice

Age: 17

Sex: female

Date: 17 Oct 1955

Place: Billinghay Feast, Sleaford

Barbara Mary Grice died from a ruptured liver after having been out to Billinghay Feast on 17 October 1955.

She had collapsed on a roundabout, Noah's Ark, at the feast and died soon after.

Barbara Grice had lived at 4 Playgarth Estate in Dorrington and had gone to the Billinghay Feast with two sisters and six other friends on the night of 17 October 1955 where she had gone on a number of rides.

Her initial post mortem showed that her death was due to haemorrhage from a ruptured liver but that there were no signs of external injury. Following the initial post mortem her inquest adjourned so that full inquiries could be made.

However, at the resumption of her inquest on 5 November 1955 the Coroner returned a 'reluctant' open verdict, stating that there was insufficient evidence to determine how her injuries were caused.

Evidence was given by a showman that lived in Fengate, Peterborough who had been managing the Noa's Ark ride. He said that as he got on the ride, which had just started and was increasing in speed, he saw Barbara Grice slip from one of the animals and fall to the floor. He said, 'I did not notice her hit her body at all. I supported her until the machine stopped, holding her head in an almost upright position. She seemed to be making a groaning noise but the music was playing fairly loudly and I don't know whether she was trying to say anything or whether it was just a groaning noise. When the machine stopped I and two of her friends assisted her to her feet. She seemed to walk off naturally towards the steps, I believe unattended, and then she just fell on to the extension part of the machine as if she had fainted. She fell on her back'.

The showman said that he had not been in a position to give anyone the signal to stop the roundabout after Barbara Grice fell because he had been supporting her.

When her sisters and friends gave evidence at the inquest, they all said that they knew of nothing that had happened to Barbara Grice on the way to the fair that could have caused her injury.

Two of her friends that had accompanied her on the dodgems said that whilst riding them that Barbara Grace did not complain to them about receiving any violent blow to any part of her body. Her other friends noted that additionally she never made any complaints about being in pain during any part of the evening.

Barbara Grice's friends that had gone on the Noah's Ark ride with her all said that they agreed with the showman's account of events.

One of Barbara Grice's sisters, who was a factory worker, who was with Barbara Grice after she fell said, 'I asked her if she was all right and she just grinned'.

Barbara Grice's other sister, a domestic help, said that Barbara Grice did not speak to her after she collapsed.

A farm worker that had also been on the Noah's Ark ride said, 'I was close to her when she fell getting off. I caught her so that she did not fall heavily'.

The Coroner asked another farm worker, who had lived in Council Houses, Dorrington, 'Did you see her involved in any horse-play during the evening?', but the other farm worker replied, 'No'.

A third farm worker that had lived in Bloxholm Lane End in Dorrington said, 'She was quite cheerful during the whole evening'.

Three of her other friends also gave evidence, a schoolgirl from Tower Farm in Dorrington, a farm worker from Main Street in Dorrington and an incinerator attendant who also lived in Main Street in Dorrington.

A policeman that gave evidence said that he had examined property at the fair and said that when he examined the seat that Barbara Grice had been sat on on the Noah’s Ark ride, that he found nothing y which anyone falling on it could have injured themselves. He noted additionally that when he examined the dodgem car ride he found that there were thick bumper cushions around the base of each car and that when they bumped only the cushion material came into contact.

After hearing the evidence, the Coroner said, 'When this matter was first reported to me it would have been very easy to have jumped to the conclusion that this unfortunate girl had fallen on this roundabout and sustained some injury which would have caused her death, but a post mortem examination reveals that her death was not due to any sort of injury one would expect from a fall, such as a fractured base of the skull, but from a very grave and severe injury to her liver. In spite of the closest possible investigation and the evidence of no less than nine people who were with Barbara Grice during the last two or three hours of her life, and the pathologist expressing the opinion that her injury must have been sustained not more than an hour, and probably less, before her death, so far as is known during those last few hours there is nothing to which one can point as being the cause of her receiving this injury which was so severe that it cost her her life. One must of course, accept the evidence of these people and assume that this girl received this injury somehow while in the crowd at Billinghay Feast which passed unnoticed to bystanders and people around her, and according to the pathologist, it may not have caused her any particular pain at the time, and certainly not until the moment of her collapse. It is my duty to determine not merely the cause of death but how that injury was sustained. There are all sorts of reasons one can think of but I don't think it right that one should choose a reason about which no evidence has been given, however intelligently one might guess, it would not be right. So, although I don't like open verdicts I must assume something happened of which none of the witnesses have spoken about. I must, with reluctance, return a verdict that she died of a ruptured liver and that there is insufficient evidence to determine the cause'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian - Saturday 05 November 1955