Date: 28 Apr 1960
Amelia Elizabeth Peplow was found strangled with a stocking on waste ground.
A verdict of suicide whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed was returned at her inquest.
It was heard that she had been infatuated with a 19-year-old youth that had lived in Corbridge Avenue, Kingstanding. It was said that she had told people that they were engaged but the youth denied ever having shown any attachment to her or ever having taken her out or having become engaged to her.
Amelia Peplow had lived in Merling Avenue West Bromwich with her mother but had worked in Kingstanding at a grocers.
Fifty witnesses at her inquest were called, many of whom gave evidence to Amelia Peplow's infatuation and imagination.
When the Coroner summed up he told the jury that their verdict was obviously a matter for the most serious consideration, saying, 'If you bring in a verdict which turns out to be wrong, it might possibly have serious consequences if there be a man who committed the crime of murder. On the other hand, if it is not murder, it is only right that you save the police from efforts to trace a non-existent murderer. It is very important too, I think, from the 19-year-old youth's point of view because, after all, he has been mentioned time and again in these matters'.
The Coroner noted that there had been some talk that Amelia Peplow had not always been as loved as she would like to have been at home and that she was unwanted and that her mother had wanted to get rid of her. He said, 'I am sure that you will be satisfied beyond the slightest doubt that she was completely infatuated with the 19-year-old youth and I think you will also be satisfied that it was completely unreciprocated. Indeed, not only was she never seen with him she was never seen with any boy, and witnesses have said she was too shy to approach them. You know the romantic stories which she built up about her engagement to the 19-year-old youth and all the other little lies to support her story, stories about the wedding taking place in June, on Boxing Day and in March, they have all been mentioned, and the reasons for its postponement'.
He went on to say that Amelia Peplow had been living in a make-believe of her own and trying to manufacture somebody else's love and affection which she had not got to keep her loved and warm'.
The Coroner noted that there had been evidence that no signs of a struggle had been found at the place where she was found dead in Ryan's Field, Kingstanding on 27 April 1960. The Coroner noted that the stocking that was found wrapped twice round her neck and tied with a double knot was one of her own and pointed out that although that method of suicide was rare, that it been used before.
The Coroner noted that the detective in charge of the case said that if it had been a case of murder that he would have expected to have seen signs of a struggle.
At the inquest Amelia Peplow's mother said that Amelia Peplow lived with her, noting that her husband had died a little over two years earlier and that Amelia Peplow was an only child.
She said that after Amelia Peplow left school that she had a job for a short time and then went to work at a grocery firm in Kingstanding, Newmans (Midland) Ltd.
She said that in December 1959 that a friend asked her if she knew that Amelia Peplow had a boyfriend which she did and said that she then tackled Amelia Peplow about it and said that Amelia Peplow told her the name of the 19-year-old youth and that he worked on the vans at Newmans (Midland) Ltd.
Amelia Peplow's mother said that she told her that she was not old enough for a boyfriend. She said, 'She was often late home on a Wednesday night and I said it was not right for a young girl to come all that way home from Kingstanding on her own. She told me the 19-year-old youth saw her to the bus and after that she was all right to get home. I had often asked my daughter to bring her boyfriend home but she never did. She always made excuses that he was doing something else'.
Amelia Peplow's mother said that about three months earlier that Amelia Peplow had not returned home until about 1.45am and told her that she had missed the last bus through fog and that a policeman had put her on an all-night bus. When Amelia Peplow's mother gave that evidence the Coroner asked her, 'Did you give her what might be described as a tanning?', to which Amelia Peplow's mother replied, 'Yes'. When the Coroner asked her whether she had had to strike her on other occasions because of her behaviour, Amelia Peplow's mother replied, 'Not a lot. Only concerning going about with this boy'.
Amelia Peplow's mother added that Amelia Peplow had been loved and welcome at home.
She said that just before Christmas that Amelia Peplow had started to wear a three-stone engagement ring. She said, 'I asked her where she got it from and she said that she had bought it herself'. She said that she ordered Amelia Peplow to take the ring off, but said that she later saw her wearing it again.
Amelia Peplow's mother said that she had left Amelia Peplow at home to go to work on 27 April 1960 and that when she arrived back home between 5.30pm and 6pm she found that Amelia Peplow had gone out.
She said that Amelia Peplow came back at about 7pm saying that she had been to her granny's and was in a very great hurry, saying that she had to see someone in Dartmouth Square at 8pm. She said that Amelia Peplow went out at about 7.30pm and that when she told her not to be late back Amelia Peplow replied, 'I shan't be, anyway, if I am too late, I will stay with my friend'. She added, 'At that moment she was as happy as I have ever seen her. She went out in a blue-green two-piece suit'.
However, she said that Amelia Peplow never returned home.
She said that at times she had the impression that Amelia Peplow had been running after the 19-year-old youth and said that once she had asked if she could have a party when she got engaged and if her uncle could make her a wedding cake.
She added that on one occasion her mother had told Amelia Peplow to stop running after the 19-year-old youth otherwise he would strangle her, adding, 'I told my mother off for saying that' and when she was asked whether that might have put ideas into Amelia Peplow's mind, her mother replied, 'I am convinced she would never commit suicide. She was too busy making plans for August and Christmas'.
When Amelia Peplow's grandmother, who lived in Whitehall Road, Great Bridge, gave evidence she said that Amelia Peplow and her father had been very attached. When she was asked whether Amelia Peplow's mother gave her affection, she replied, 'Not as much as I thought she might have done at times. It was before last Christmas that Beth (Amelia Peplow) started to talk about her boyfriend. She was absolutely full of him, said she was going out with him and even sent me a Christmas card signed by both of them. Two weeks before her death Beth showed me an engagement ring. She was absolutely full of it. She asked me what I would be buying her for an engagement present'.
She said that Amelia Peplow had been with her for the whole afternoon on 27 April 1960 and when the Coroner asked her whether she had mentioned marriage she replied, 'My word she did. All afternoon she was talking about it. She said the wedding had been fixed for Boxing Day, 1961'.
However she said that during the last few weeks that Amelia Peplow had seemed very unsettled and unhappy.
However, she noted that Amelia Peplow's mother had told her that she had thought of having Amelia Peplow put in a home as she was 'out of control'.
Amelia Peplow's other grandmother who had lived in Spout Lane, Walsall, said that when Amelia Peplow used to visit her that she could talk about nothing else but her boyfriend and told her that they were getting married in June. She said, 'She showed me an engagement ring and I laughed when I saw it. I said it was a fake. Then she said she had bought it at Woolworths and her boyfriend had given her half the price. I told her I didn't believe she was engaged, but she insisted she was'.
She said that the last time that she saw Amelia Peplow alive that she had shown her some bruises on her arm and told her that her boyfriend had caused them. She said, 'I told her that if she did not keep away from him he would strangle her with a stocking. She said, 'He loves me too much to do that. Nothing will part us, only death'. I told her if she did not keep away from Kingstanding, they would find her dead body there'.
When the Coroner asked the other grandmother why she said that she replied, 'I seemed to have an idea he would do it'.
Amelia Peplow's family doctor described Amelia Peplow as, 'Shy, withdrawn intracted, unsure of herself and lacking in confidence', adding that she had a marked desire for sympathy.
When the stocking that she had been strangled with was examined it was found to have been torn at the top and that part of the foot was missing. It was noted that a double knot had been tied in it.
The 19-year-old youth said that he had been employed as a driver's mate by Newmans (Midland) Ltd and had worked at a West Bromwich branch of the firm.
He said that Amelia Peplow was pointed out to him by a married woman that had lived in Sheldon Avenue, Wednesbury. He said, 'She asked me if I would like to take her cousin (Amelia Peplow) out and I asked who she meant. She pointed out a girl standing down the road and having looked at Amelia Peplow, I said, 'No thank you'. The woman tried to persuade me and said she was a lonely girl and if I took her out it would cheer her up. I told her I lived too far away for a start and, in any case, I didn't want to'.
He said that while Amelia Peplow had been at Newmans (Midland) Ltd before leaving because of a leg complaint, she sent him presents such as sandwiches, cakes and a bottle of beer and also sent him six or eight letters, some of which he destroyed, noting that one of them had been a 'filthy letter'. He said that he had once threatened to take them to the police if she didn't stop pestering him and added that about Christmas time she started following him home from work every day.
When the 19-year-old youth gave his evidence the Coroner asked him, 'Was she pestering you in her attempts to get a date with you?', to which the 19-year-old youth replied, 'She was a bit. She was a bit of a nuisance'.
The 19-year-old youth went on to say that he also told Amelia Peplow to stop spreading rumours that they were engaged but said that he was not annoyed when he heard that she had said she was pregnant by him.
He said that he saw Amelia Peplow on 27 April 1960 on the bus when he left work and that when he walked from the Circle, Kingstanding, across Ryan's Field, he glanced behind and saw that she was still there.
He said that he got home at about 6.45pm and never saw her again.
He said that he stayed indoors that evening playing records and listening to the wireless and that at about 9.45pm he went out for about 20 minutes to get some cigarettes, but didn't see Amelia Peplow.
He said that his parents were out but that his elder sister was at home.
He said that it wasn't until the following evening that he realised the dead girl found on Ryan's Field might have been Amelia Peplow at which point he went to the Kingstanding police station with his father.
The inquest also heard evidence from other witnesses who said that Amelia Peplow had told them that she was engaged to the 19-year-old youth and that they were to be married in June, in March and on Boxing Day and that they had quarrelled and that she was expecting a child baby him and that she would kill herself if the 19-year-old youth did not go out with her.
The manager of the High Street, West Bromwich branch of Newmans (Midland) Ltd said, 'She lived in a dream world of her own imagination'.
The jury spent fifteen minutes deliberating before returning their verdict of suicide.
see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 04 June 1960, p7 and p28