Unsolved Murders

Fred Singleton

Age: 54

Sex: male

Date: 10 Sep 1956

Place: Woodhead Tunnel, Derbyshire

Fred Singleton was found dead in Woodhead Tunnel in the Peak District..

It was said that he had fallen from a travelling express train in the Woodhead Tunnel on 10 September 1956.

The police said that they had been unable to find anyone that had witnessed him falling out although it was noted that there had been another man with him in the same compartment just before the train had left Manchester.

He had been a foundry worker and had lodged at 36 Meakin Street in Hasland, Chesterfield.

His sister said that he had visited her at 33 Warrington Road in Ashton-in-Makerfield on the Saturday, 8 September 1956, and that he had stayed with her until the Monday afternoon, 10 September 1956. She said that she had noticed that he had been worrying about something that she didn't think was there.

She said, 'He was on about his eyes, and was polishing eye glasses which he had only had a fortnight. He said there seemed to be a mist in front of them. I told him I didn't think they were any use to him. I think he was worried too, because they had raised his percentage of compensation. He took it as a bad sign. I made him promise me that he would either get his doctor or see him'.

She said that at 4.05pm she saw Fred Singleton into the express train at London Road. She noted that he had travelled on the same train numerous times over the years for Chesterfield. She said that he had had a paper carrier that she had put on the rack in the compartment in which he had his collar and tie which he was not wearing because he had said that his collar was tight.

She said that he had been in the first compartment and that before she left him he had said to her, 'I feel a lot better than I did on Saturday'.

She said that he always carried a lot of money on him and it was heard that there was evidence that he had had £54 13s 3d in his pockets.

She said that she had had to leave him about ten minutes before the train was due out but that when she had left him there had been another man in the same compartment.

She said that the last that she saw of Fred Singleton was when he was standing near the carriage door waving to her. She added that she knew of no reason why he could be tired of living.

A railway ganger who had lived at 142 Main Road in Hadfield whose sole work was inside the 3 mile 66 yards long tunnel said at when he had walked the length of the tunnel on the morning of 10 September 1956 that he had found everything in order. He said that he had left the tunnel at about 4.30pm and that the train had passed him just as he got out.  He said that he didn't notice anything unusual.

However, he said that when he walked along the line the following morning at about 9am he found Fred Singleton's body lying near the up line. He said that he also found some heels that appeared to have been ripped off Fred Singleton's boots about 20ft away from him. He noted that the tunnel was well lit.

At the inquest, the Dunford Bridge Station Master who had lived in Windsover, Don View, Dunford Bridge, said that when he made an examination of the line in the tunnel he found that the distance between the sleeper ends and the wall of the tunnel was approximately three feet which he said was sufficient enough for the carriage door to have swung open without it touching the tunnel wall.

A guard on the train, who had lived in Smalldale Road, Sheffield, said that the train had entered the tunnel at about 4.36pm and that it was clear of the tunnel about three minutes later. He said that the speed of the train averaged about 58mph and that he didn't notice anything unusual as it passed through and that neither was anything unusual reported to him after the train was examined at the Penistone stop.

The guard said, 'You have got to put your hand outside to open the carriage door', and noted that the carriage was quite different to and could not be mistaken for the lavatory door. He also added that one could not fall out of the train accidently and that he thought that it would have been difficult to have opened the door in the tunnel because of the air pressure.

The relief station master at Guide Bridge, who had lived in Parry Lane, Eccles, said that when the train left his station that there had been no doors open.

The police said that they had carried out enquiries into his death but that they had found nothing to throw any light onto the matter, noting that they had found no messages on his body or at his lodgings.

When the Coroner summed up he said that it appeared from the evidence that Fred Singleton had seemed somewhat worried about his health and his sight and that he had got glasses that did not seem to suit him, noting that his sister had said that they were no good.  He noted that Fred Singleton did not appear to have any money worries and that there was no suggestion that he had wanted to end his days.

The Coroner went on to note that Fred Singleton's sister had said that there was no indication that Fred Singleton had been suicidal when she had left him on the train and that beyond that there was little evidence about what had happened.

The Coroner said that obviously Fred Singleton had come out of the train in the tunnel and that it was not possible to open the carriage door from the inside and that it would have been difficult to have fallen through the window accidently.

He then concluded that just how Fred Singleton got onto the line did not seem clear but that there was no reason to think that he should have wanted to take his life purposely and that he thought that the jury should return an open verdict which they did.

At the time the Woodhead Tunnel consisted of three parallel tunnels, the first of which was opened in 1845 and the third in 1953. The last passenger train ran through it in 1970 and the tunnel was closed in 1981 after which it was used for carrying power cables for the electric grid. The tunnel that Fred Singleton was found dead in would have been Woodhead 3, the third tunnel as that tunnel was noted as having been substantially longer than the other two at 3 miles 66 yards.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough & Swinton Times - Saturday 20 October 1956

see Wikipedia