Unsolved Murders

Clifford Francis

Age: 33

Sex: male

Date: 18 Aug 1961

Place: Coleshill, Birmingham, West Midlands

Clifford Francis was found dead in a pond behind a church.

The pathologist said that he thought that Clifford Francis had been in the water for about seven days and that his death was due to asphyxia due to drowning.

Clifford Francis was a long distance lorry driver and had lived with his mother in Homestead, Winchmore Hill where he played for the village team. He was described as a devoted cricketer and was said to have told friends, 'If I ever win the Pools I'll buy a beautiful cricket pitch'. He was a bachelor.

His mother said that on 30 July 1961 Clifford Francis had gone out to see a cricket match at Spratley's Meadow after which he returned home just before 8pm. She said that he then went out for a drink and then on to a party for one of his friends who was going to Spain. She said, 'Clifford thoroughly enjoyed himself and was quite happy when he came home at midnight'.

She said that the following morning that Clifford Francis left early to load up his lorry at Slough because he was going to go to Leicester the next day. She said, 'He was quite normal that evening except that he was last up to bed which is an unusual thing'. She said that she never saw him alive again.

She said that when she awoke the following morning that two things struck her as strange. First a friend of Clifford Francis told her that his lorry had not been moved and secondly, she said, 'When I looked in the corner where he used to put his slippers they were not there. He had them upstairs before, and I realised there was something wrong. Again, there was some money on the dressing table'.

She said, 'He liked his work and loved sport. He used to tell his friends, 'If I won the pools I'd buy a beautiful cricket pitch'.

She added, 'I can't think why he walked out of the house. There was no letter. This was to be his holiday week. He always had his holidays when there was no Test match'.

The police were informed on 1 August 1961 a little before 11am that Clifford Francis was missing and tracker dogs were used in an extensive search around Winchmore Hill and Colehill.

His body was found on the following Sunday morning at 11am in Coleshill pond at the rear of the church.

A policeman said that he paddled out in a canoe and got his body to the bank. He said, 'He was face down in the water and was held by the weeds. He was wearing carpet slippers'.

When the Coroner summed up he said that he had to decide whether Clifford Francis's death was due to murder, manslaughter, accident or whether he took his own life.

He said, 'There were no marks of violence on him and there is nothing to show in the evidence that any other person was concerned in his death'

The Coroner then said that an accidental verdict could not be brought in on the evidence, adding, 'It is easy to jump to the conclusion that he took his own life but that is supposition. From the village gossip, one might say he took his own life but it has to be proved that he went into the pond with that intention'.

An open verdict was then returned.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Buckinghamshire Examiner - Friday 18 August 1961