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Unsolved Murders

Herbert Joseph Potts

Age: 78

Sex: male

Date: 16 Sep 1956

Place: Lyne Sands, Newbiggin

Herbert Joseph Potts was found dead in the sea near Lyne Sands at Newbiggin on 16 September 1956, 16 days after he disappeared.

He had disappeared from the Old Ship Inn in Newbiggin on Friday 31 August 1956.

His body came ashore on 16 September 1956 about 200 yards north of where the police found a haversack, stick and two diaries that had belonged to Herbert Potts two days after his disappearance on 2 September 1956.

His inquest, which was held on 20 September 1956 in Ashington, returned an open verdict, with the medical evidence stating that Herbert Potts had died from a dislocated spine. The doctor said that there was no evidence of drowning and that his body was so badly decomposed that he had been unable to say whether Herbert Potts had received a blow on his neck.

Herbert Potts said that he thought that Herbert Potts's neck could have been dislocated in one of two ways, either by a blow on the neck, or by his head coming into contact with a padded surface such as clay or sand.

He was a retired draughtsman that had lived in Burlington Road in Leeds but had married ten weeks previously. The woman that he married had been a widow for 27 years and although they had known each other 20 years earlier, they had not renewed their friendship until Easter 1956. After their marriage they moved to Burlington Road where Herbert Potts used the front rooms to continue his work as a draughtsman.

His new wife said that she was mystified over his disappearance.

Herbert Potts was described as being nearly 6ft tall, thin, with a slight stoop and grey hair, and it was noted that he had lived near Northallerton before he went to Leeds.

When he had left Leeds on Friday 24 August 1956 he had not told his family where he was going except that he was having a holiday.

After his family failed to receive any card or letter they became worried and when they made a search they found a holiday guide book that showed that Herbert Potts might have chosen Newbiggin as his holiday centre. His stepson said, 'Today I found a railway guide book with two markers in it. One was of a map showing a hotel at Newbiggin and he other was a description of the place'.

On 3 September, nearly two weeks before his body was found, a newspaper article was published about his disappearance. He stepson was reported as having said, 'He did not say a word beforehand, but a week last Friday morning he announced that he was going on holiday for a fortnight. He left without saying where he was going and we have had neither card nor a message from him since'.

He added that he had been told by the police that Herbert Potts had been missing from his hotel since Friday, stating that he had booked until the Saturday and had left all his luggage behind.

His haversack was found on a ledge near the sea and had contained, among other things, a tide table with the tides marked for the day that he disappeared.

A short distance from the ledge there were two gullies that dropped 25 feet down to the sea and which were only free of water at low tide.

The only articles that were found on him were a pocket knife and a visiting card, there being no purse containing money. However, his step-son said that Herbert Potts usually carried coins in a purse.

It was said that there was no suspicion of foul play and no evidence of a fracas or assault on the cliff top.

When the Coroner summed up he said, 'There are three patent possibilities in this most mysterious case. It may have been an accident or he may have gone out there determined to throw himself over the cliff, although evidence suggests he was quite cheerful. I am certainly far from satisfied as to motive', however, he added that he could not exclude a third possibility, that being that he might have been assaulted at the lonely spot.


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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Bradford Observer - Thursday 20 September 1956, p6

see Shields Daily News - Monday 17 September 1956

see Bradford Observer - Monday 03 September 1956