Unsolved Murders

George Wilson

Age: 42

Sex: male

Date: 8 Sep 1963

Place: Fox and Grapes, Southwell Road, Sneinton, Nottingham

George Wilson was stabbed to death outside the Fox and Grapes public house in Sneinton, Nottingham in the early hours of 8 September 1963, shortly before 1am.

He had been the licensee of the public house. The Fox and Grapes public house was also known locally as 'The Pretty Windows' because of the indicate design of its tall windows and the coloured glass that used to be in them. Several years earlier, market traders used to hang rabbits for sale on the iron spikes of the window-sills.

His murder was described as motiveless with robbery being ruled out. George Wilson was described as a very popular man, and it wasn't thought that he had any enemies.

A file was prepared by the police for the Director of Public Prosecutions, but no further action was taken.

He had taken his collie dog, Blackie, out for a work after having closed up his pub when he was attacked and stabbed about 12 times. It was thought that his dog might have bitten his killer and the police toured hospitals in the Nottingham area in their search for the killer.

It was reported that his dog, a mongrel sheepdog, had been the only witness to the murder and the police spent 19 minutes examining his speckled coat for clues. however, it was reported that his coat revealed no clues.

Twenty minutes after George Wilson had gone out with the dog, his wife heard barking and whining at the door and when she went to see she found George Wilson clutching at the doorpost, having been stabbed in the face, chest, stomach and back and he died minutes later in his arms.

George Wilson was soon after taken to the Canal Street mortuary.

He was found by the police lying below a lamp-post near the side doorstep of the pub. It was thought that he had been stabbed just as he was returning to the pub and was entering.

After the discovery of the crime, the police sealed off the building and the place where George Wilson was found was screened from view by a green tarpaulin, and on the other side of the market avenue from the scene, the police set up mobile headquarters in a caravan.

It was reported that by mid-morning, a large crowd of spectators had gathered outside the pub and the police had to keep people back from the murder spot.

It was also reported that the saloon and public bar customers had to wait three-quarters of an hour after the 12 o'clock opening time before the premises opened. After the pub opened, it was reported that customers at the bar discussed the possibility that his murder had been a case of mistaken identity, stating that they thought that the killer might have mistaken him for the previous landlord as they were both of a similar build and both owned dogs.

A 52-year-old cleaner that had turned up for work at the public house at 9am was not allowed inside. She said of George Wilson:

He was such a nice fellow. He was kind to everybody and especially good to his staff.

His wife was soon after treated for shock and their two children given a calming drug after being told their father was dead.

Soon after the murder, the police questioned inmates of Sneiton House, the corporation hostel nearby which it was noted could accommodate more than 300 people. The hostel manager there who lived on the premises, said that he was called out at 2am and that the inmates were then interviewed in their cubicles.

THe police also went to the Salvation Army hostel in Aberdeen Street, Sneiton, and interviewed the 120 occupants, one by one in a ground floor office. The 73-year-old man in charge of the hostel whilst the hostel officer had been on holiday, said:

They called me out at 3am and searched the building all over. They questioned every man about what time he arrived back last night and what time he went to bed. They finished the search about 7.30.

The knife, which was found about ten days after the murder, had been ten inches long and had had a bent guard and it was thought that it might have been recently sharpened. One side of the brass guard was bent back and the other was twisted out of alignment. It had been a double edged sheaf knife and pictures of it were shown to millions of Midlands TV viewers and the police called at shops throughout the Nottingham area trying to trace where it was sold.

The police set up a temporary headquarters in a caravan in Avenue B of Sneiton Market next to the Fox and Grapes public house. Scotland yard were called in on 11 September 1963 to assist with the investigation. It was noted that it was the first time in the cities history that Scotland Yard had been sought in a murder hunt.

During their house to house inquiries, the police asked householders:

  1. Has anybody been missing since Saturday?
  2. Was anybody out all night on Saturday night and Sunday morning?

The police also circulated posters about the city and slides were flashed on to cinema screens. A loudspeaker van also toured the city appealing for assistance.

It was noted that although £20 takings had been missing on Saturday night at the pub, the police said that they were not suggesting that robbery had been the motive. They said that it was not suggested that the £20 had been taken that night, and that it might have been the result of an accumulated deficiency.

It was noted during the police investigation that some licensees had been threatened by anonymous phone calls, with two having received menacing phone calls on 9 September 1963. It was further noted that there were several coincidences regarding the two other public houses that had received the calls and George Wilson:

  1. George Wilson and the two threatened licensees had all been miners.
  2. All three public houses had been owned by the same brewery.
  3. All three men had owned collie-type mongrels, although one of the threatened licensees had had his dog destroyed three years earlier.

The landlord of the Traveller's Rest in Lenton, who had received a threatening call, said that the man that called had had a refined and intellectual voice. He said:

We are hoping it was a practical joker.

The landlord of the Barly Mow in Clarence Street said that eh had also been threatened. He said that a person with a seemingly disguised voice told him:

You are next on my list.

However, there were no hints of trouble at either the Traveller's Rest or the Barly Mow.

The police appealed for a man in a light-coloured coat to come forward, stating that he had been seen knocking on the side door of the public house between 11pm on the Saturday and 12.30am on the Sunday. He was later described as having been wearing a white raincoat and a 'Frank Sinatra' hat and to have been running off from the public house, and it was thought that a motorist might have given him a lift.

George Wilson's wife said that she had heard knocking at the door at 11.20pm, but that when she had gone to see, there had been no one there.

They also appealed for a man and a woman to come forward that had stopped outside the pub in a small black car at 12.50am and asked a road sweeper for the way to West Bridgford, when the time George Wilson came by in a hysterical condition saying that her husband was injured. It was heard that when they found that George Wilson's wife had already called for the police and an ambulance, they moved off. They turned around and then the drover of the car got out and examined the radiator, which was boiling, after which a small cream coloured van driven by a stocky man about 30 pulled up and gave them a tow. However, it was thought that they later reported to the police but had been unable to help.

The police also appealed for witnesses to two other incidents. The first occurred between 10.45pm and 11pm on the Sunday night when a man threw himself under a car in Southwell Road near the public house. The man was said to have been hit by the numberplate of the car and to have then lain in the road with his arms folded, but that when the driver of the car got, the man walked away. The second incident was said to have taken place at 1am, ten minutes after the murder, about 200 yards away in Carlton Road near Handel Street when a man was seen waving his arms in the air and shaking them. He was then seen to run off, for no apparent reason, along Carlton Road and that was the last that was seen of him. The man was said to have been wearing battledress.

The police said that the two descriptions could indicate the same man and they appealed witnesses to come forward and help identify him.

The driver of the car was said to have been a man aged 20 to 25 and wearing a whitish jersey with a blue pattern. The girl was said to have been about 20 with fair hair and wearing light coloured jeans.

In their search for the murder weapon, the police said they found about a dozen knives down drains and on waste ground and had sent them away for examination. The police were also being assisted by the fire service and the engineer's department in the search of roof's and drains for the murder weapon. However, a sheath knife was later determined to have been the murder weapon and enquires were made to try and trace its own.

The police said:

It is quite possible that somebody has their suspicions about who the offender may be. We want them to come forward. Any information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Scotland Yard, who had been called in to assist in the murder investigation on 11 September 1963, returned to London on 30 December 1963, and the special murder headquarters was moved to Bath Street police station.

George Wilson had served in the RAF and had been an ex-miner from Doncaster. Before he went to Nottingham he had the licence of the Walton Hotel in Chesterfield for 12 months.

He had taken up the Fox and Grapes public house in May 1962. The pub backed directly onto Sneiton vegetable and fruit market.

He had had two children.

His widowed mother said:

I am surprised that Blackie did not appear to have gone for the attacker. He would certainly have gone for anyone interfering with the family. He was a fairly fierce dog. George would not carry a lot of money on him. He wasn't a wealthy man, he was an ordinary working man. His wife is severely shocked.

At the time George Wilson had been teaching a 42-year-old City Transport employee the running of a public house as the man had hopes to become a licensee on the outskirts of Nottingham, and the man and his wife had been helping in the bar on the Saturday night. The man said:

It had been a quiet evening. We had no trouble at all. Everything was in order when we left after closing time. Then at 2.45am this morning the police came and told us what happened. It was terrible.

He said that after hearing the news that he and his wife went to the Fox and Grapes public house and looked after the children.

In September 1963 it was noted that both of the victims of what were known as the cardon copy murders, the murders of William Elliot and George Stobbs, had both been occasional the Walton Hotel in Chesterfield and it was suggested that the killer of George Wilson might have been the same person. However, the carbon copy murders, also known as the bubble car case, was later solved.

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

see www.sclomax.co.uk

see National Archives - DPP 2/4125

see BBC

see Nottinghasm

see Nottinghasm

see Belfast News-Letter - Tuesday 17 September 1963

see Daily Mirror - Monday 09 September 1963

see Nottingham Evening Post - Monday 09 September 1963

see Nottingham Evening Post - Friday 13 September 1963

see Nottingham Guardian - Monday 09 September 1963 (photos)

see Nottingham Evening Post - Tuesday 10 September 1963

see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 21 September 1963

see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 10 September 1963

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 21 September 1963 (picture of knife)

see Illustrated London News - Saturday 21 September 1963 (photo of police searching for knife with electro-magnet)

see Halifax Evening Courier - Saturday 07 September 1963

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 10 September 1963

see Leicester Evening Mail - Saturday 28 September 1963

see Belfast News-Letter - Monday 30 December 1963