Unsolved Murders


Age: 15

Sex: male

Date: 1 Nov 1959

Place: 352 Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham

A pile of human bones were found in the cellar of what was once a sweet shop at 352 Coventry Road, Small Heath in November 1959.

They were found by a workman.

It was initially thought that the bones were those of an air raid victim but the Coroner later said that there was doubt over the circumstances and an open verdict was returned.

The Coroner said, after a 90-minute enquiry, 'At first sight it might well have been that this was an air raid victim, but there is considerable doubt and I can only return an open verdict'.

The bones were together and near an iron-frame air raid shelter bed. There were no articles of clothing, boots or shoes found with the bones, but a rotting gas mask was found in the rubble.

The inquest herd of the night of 22-23 November 1940 when the city suffered one of its worst raids and in which shops in Coventry Road were burned by incendiaries and then destroyed by high explosive bombs.

A man the lived in Banbury Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, said that his mother had rented the lock-up sweet shop and that the only way into the cellar was through the shop. He added that the manageress that had been at the shop during the raid of 22-23 November 1940 had survived it.

However, he said, 'When I went there the next morning the whole site was levelled to the ground'. The inquest heard that neither the shop owner nor the owner of the shop at 348 Coventry Road remembered anyone mentioning people missing after the raid.

The Head Civil Defence Officer in Birmingham said that he had inspected the site and said that there was nothing now to suggest that there had been a sweet shop there. He said, 'There was no bedstead before the raid, it must have been taken in afterwards. I would be surprised if this was an air raid victim. No one reported missing in air raids remained untraced. If anybody was not accounted for after a raid, we opened the incident again and if necessary, searched the rubble again, brick by brick. In one case we worked on a site for three weeks and eventually found that the man who was supposed to be missing was there watching the proceedings'.

A consultant dental surgeon said that he had deduced from the lower jaw bone that the bones had belonged to a person aged about 15.

A pathologist said that he thought that the bones were most probably male, about 5ft 4in tall and in the mid-teens.

When the pathologist noted that there were a number of bones missing, the Coroner said, ''Then this is the mystery of the missing bones'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 01 December 1959