Unsolved Murders

Thomas Ward

Age: 49

Sex: male

Date: 7 Jun 1921

Place: Bow Bridge Fields Farm, Mackworth, Derby

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Thomas Ward was found dead in a barn near Derby.

He was a drover at Bow Bridge Fields Farm and was allowed to sleep in the barn which was where he was found dead a few days after he was last seen alive on the Saturday night.

He was found partially nude although little importance was paced on that. He also had a sack over his head which had blood on it.

However, he had been bound round with rope which was slightly tied so much so that when his body was picked up it fell off. His hands and ankles had been tied with a rope that had been part of a plough line that had been left hanging on the barn wall only a few days previously.

The cause of death was a fractured skull and laceration of the brain. His skull had been fractured from ear to ear.

Another drover was tried for his murder but found not guilty. It was said that he had robbed and murdered Thomas Ward for 15/- but he had an alibi. After he had been arrested he had escaped from the charge room at the police station but was caught after an exciting chase. Whilst in the charge room he had stood up instead of sitting and when challenged by a policeman he said he was going outside for a minute and the policeman accompanied him towards the lavatory but the drover suddenly bolted and ran towards the street. He was then chased by several policemen and some civilians along Jury Street and then Walker Lane and then into Willow Row where he was finally caught by a member of the Borough Police Force. Up until the time he had run off he had not been told why he had been brought into the police station and Thomas Ward's death had not been mentioned.

In the stable near his body police found a 2ft. long block of elm wood and a 3.5ft. long roughly fashioned knobbed stick. It was noted that the wood was wet indicating that it had probably been outside on the Saturday night when it had rained.

Thomas Ward's knife and cap were also missing.

Although a man had looked into the hey shed after the Saturday night it was not until the Tuesday that Thomas Ward's body was found on the hay. There were no bloodstains on the hay nor was there any sign of a struggle.

He was last seen on the Saturday night in the Meynell Arms in Kirk Langley when he had spent about 5s on drink and tobacco which was thought to have left him with at least 15s although no money was found on him when he was found. He had arrived at the pub at 7.30pm and left at 9.45pm during which he had had about 6 pints paying for the first one with a pound note. The landlord said that Thomas Ward was not carrying a stick when he was in the pub.

After leaving the pub a man who lived at South Lodge in Kirk Langley near to the 20 acre field said that he had known Thomas Ward for several years and had seen him at about 11.15pm on the Saturday night heading towards the farm alone.

Staff at the farm included the farmer, the bailiff, a waggoner, a cowman and Thomas Ward who was a casual labourer and drover.

Thomas Ward was of no fixed abode and was allowed by the farmer to sleep in the bing attached to the cowshed. The bing was on the left hand side of the yard going in from the drive and was the middle bing of 3.

Thomas Ward had been at work on the Saturday and was last seen by the bailiff at 6.30pm when he gave him a £1 treasury note for his week's services. The bailiff had then told Thomas Ward to fetch some sheep and lambs from another farm, Top House Farm on the following Monday and said he expected to see him again on the Monday night when he had arrived with the flock of sheep. However, Thomas Ward didn't arrive.

On the Monday night the bailiff went to look for Thomas Ward in his bing and called out his name and opened the door and looked around at about 9pm but didn't see anything. He said that he didn't see him but did see his boots by the door on the left hand side.

When Thomas Ward was again absent the following Tuesday dinner time the bailiff and some other men went to look for him in his bing and pulled back some hay which was 18in. deep and first found his clothing and then found his dead body. As soon as they found his body they called the police.

The bailiff said that he had gone around the farm at 10.30pm on the Saturday night and shut up the poultry and that everything was quiet and safe. He said that there were two dogs in the yard which ran loose but said that they were fussy animals and didn't generally bark at strangers.

The piece of elm found in the bing was of the same type as a few others out in the yard that had all come from the same tree. The bailiff said that he could not account for the block of elm being in the bing and said that he had never seen it in there before.

He went on to say that Thomas Ward generally carried a stick and had a supply of them in the washhouse which were all still there and when he saw the knobbed stick he said that it wasn't Thomas Ward's which he said had been cut with a bill hook and that Thomas Ward didn't have a bill hook and only had a knife. The knobbed stick was spindle wood and had been cut from a fence and not bought from a shop.

No one else had permission to sleep in the bing. There were entrances to it from the front and back and it had 4 windows, the one at the back being shut.

The cowman said that Thomas Ward generally slept in the centre of the bing with his head towards Bowbridge field and his feet pointing to the door. He said that Thomas Ward used a bag and his clothes to cover himself when he went to sleep and usually took off his coat and trousers.


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


see Lancashire Evening Post - Saturday 25 June 1921

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 10 June 1921

see Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Saturday 12 November 1921

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Monday 20 June 1921

see National Archives - MEPO 3/1562