Unsolved Murders

Sarah Ellen Philbin

Age: 59

Sex: female

Date: 13 Mar 1955

Place: Red Bank, Cheetham, Manchester

Sarah Ellen Philbin was found dead on a demolition site in Red Bank, Cheetham, on 13 March 1955 about 200 yards from her home.

She was found unclothed and with head injuries with her clothes scattered about her.

An open verdict was returned. The inquest heard that her's was 'a most unusual case'.

Shortly after her body was found it was reported that she had been murdered and several people were questioned, including one man who was questioned for more than a day. Her relatives said that they thought that she had been murdered for her money, noting that she was known to have carried a money belt that she would wear under her clothes.

Soon after the discovery of her body, it was reported that working on the theory that she had been murdered at her home, the police took possession of a pair of bloodstained white shoes that they found there and a hammer which they took away for forensic examination.

The police also took her clothing that was found scattered around the waste ground away for examination. It included  a two-piece brown herring-bone costume, a brown pullover, a black cardigan, underwear and lisle stockings. It was further noted that a small amount of money was also found on the ground near one of her articles of clothing.

However, at her inquest, the Coroner said that the evidence was that she had probably thrown off all her clothing and herself scattered it about, noting that there had been no apparent attempt at interference.

The Coroner added that no charge of murder or manslaughter was to be made on the evidence.

The inquest heard that her cause of death was cerebral haemorrhage due to head injuries, exposure to the cold and carbon monoxide poisoning. It was noted that the investigation into her death was initially hampered due to the pathologists inability to determine the cause of Sarah Philbin's death, it being heard that although she was found to have had wounds to the back of her head, that it was not believed that they were serious enough to have killed her.

It was further noted that the police said that they were satisfied that no weapon had been used to attack Sarah Philbin and that robbery was not a motive.

The police said that they believed that Sarah Philbin had been carried, either dead, or dying, some distance to the place where her body was later found.

It was said that she had been dragged a short distance along the ground by an unknown man and that she had then herself moved about 150 feet along an old channel to the place where her body was found a few hours later.

A detective inspector at the inquest said that Sarah Philbin's husband had died in May 1953 and had left her several hundred pounds, but said that Sarah Philbin had spent it all by the following December.

The detective inspector also noted that there was no indication of a struggle on the derelict land where her body was found.

A Gas Board official said that when he examined the area that he found a fracture in a gas main that had been sealed off when the houses on the site had been demolished. He said that gas had escaped into a pipe that led to a spot several inches below where Sarah Philbin's head had been found lying.

A woman that lived nearby said that during the night before Sarah Philbin's body was found that she heard a person scream twice, 'For God's sake, help me'. She said that she looked out of her window but didn't see anyone.

A man said that he had been on the derelict land late on 12 March 1955 when he had seen a couple together. He said that he saw that the woman was bending down and that he then saw the man seemed to make a grab at the woman, causing her to fall. He said that he then saw the man walk away but then go back and pick the woman up and drag her off towards some waste land.

Sarah Philbin's body was found by a 15-year-old boy who said that soon after finding her he saw a coloured man and asked him to go to the police but said that the coloured man just walked off without doing so.

Sarah Philbin had lived in Elsworth Street in Cheetham, Manchester. An Irishman that lodged with her said that he didn't see Sarah Philbin again after he left her in her house on the evening of 12 March 1955.

It was noted that Sarah Philbin had been in the habit of visiting public houses near her home and the police said that they were anxious to trace her movements around the time of her death, in particular, her movements on the Saturday.

Sarah Philbin was noted as having been partially blind and was known as 'Little Sally' as she was only 4ft 6in tall.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 15 March 1955

see Birmingham Daily Post - Friday 01 April 1955