Unsolved Murders

Hopeton Clerk

Age: 32

Sex: male

Date: 4 Feb 1956

Place: Sussex Gardens, Paddington, London

Hopeton Clerk fell 60ft from a third-floor flat window into a yard in Sussex Gardens in Paddington on 4 February 1956.

He was a coloured musician, playing saxophone and clarinet, from Jamaica but had been a resident of the United Kingdom since 1949. He had early appeared upset and had told a woman that he was going to leave that day.

When the police examined his flat they found two suitcases packed with clothes and another case containing musical instruments.

Nobody saw him fall and he was said to have had no financial troubles or worries.

His sister, who had lived in Welwyn Garden City said that Hopeton Clerk had played the clarinet and saxophone and that his employment had been fairly regular.

She said that lately he had been playing with a trio in a club but said that he had given that up earlier in the previous month on 7 January 1956. She said that she thought that he might have had occasional jobs since then and had received offers of work but that he had not taken them.

She said that she didn't think that he was worried financially and noted that he did not become unusually depressed. She said that the last time that she spoke to Hopeton Clerk on the phone around Christmas that he had sounded quite cheerful and confident and had told her that he had saved money whilst he was working.

She said that after she spoke to him that, 'He seemed confident and cheerful', adding that 'He was a religious man, and believed in God'.

The landlord's wife said that she had knocked on the door of Hopeton Clerk's room at about 10.30am on 4 February 1956 as she had wanted to change the bed linen and said that when she saw him he had looked very upset and had told her that he was leaving that day. She said, 'He looked upset, nearly in tears. He said he would be leaving that day'. She said that when she later went up to the room two hours later with a plumber, noting that it was a cold period, she had found Hopeton Clerk packing.  She said, 'He was dressed in his ordinary clothes'. She said that at the time that she believed that his window had been shut and that the fire was not on.

She noted that he was up to date with the rent and that she had known him for about five months.

Another resident said that he had looked out of his window and had seen Hopeton Clerk lying stretched out on the ground in the yard with his eyes wide open 'and looking at the sky'. He said, 'I had finished dinner and I stretched across the table to get the sugar. I looked over the window sill. Outside I saw a man on his back, sprawling with his eyes and mouth open, looking up at the sky'.

He said that when he then went out into the yard and checked Hopeton Clerk's pulse he found that he was dead. He said that he was dressed, wearing a pull-over with the sleeves rolled up and that his feet were bear. The policeman said that Hopeton Clerk's bed had been below the window and that when he examined the dust on the sill he found that it had been disturbed.

The pathologist that carried out his post mortem said that he found that Hopeton Clerk's death was due to multiple injuries consistent with a fall on to the back from a great height. He said that Hopeton Clerk had a fractured spine, pelvis and two ribs.

A policeman that was called to the scene said that he found that Hopeton Clerk's room was locked and that when he went in he found that the sash window was open at the bottom giving an opening of about three feet and that the curtain was disarranged. He also noted his two suitcases which he said were on the floor of the room and the third case with the musical instruments. He noted additionally that he found two writing pads in a wastepaper basket in the room.

He said that the window sill was three feet from the floor and that the height of the sill above the ground was 60ft. He said that the bed was under the window sill and a little to one side of it and that Hopeton Clerk's body was found about 12 feet from the wall of the house. It was noted that the mark of Hopeton Clerk's body was clearly printed on the damp ground where he had landed.

When the Coroner summed up he said that there was nothing to suggest suicide and suggested that the writing on the pads might have been rough drafts of notes. When he addressed the jury he told them that they had to decide whether Hopeton Clerk had fallen or had jumped from the window, but after a retirement of 15 minutes they returned an open verdict stating that Hopeton Clerk died after a fall but in circumstances not fully disclosed by the evidence.

*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 17 February 1956, p1

see Marylebone Mercury - Friday 17 February 1956, p4