Unsolved Murders

Lavinia Barker

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 29 Nov 1927

Place: Denscombe Valley, Quantock Hills, Somerset

Lavinia Barker was found dead in a stream on Tuesday 29 November 1927.

She was said to have vanished after climbing out of the window of her bungalow on the night of 18 August 1929.

Nothing more was known of her until her headless body was found in a narrow stream three miles away in Denscombe Valley. The body was found a couple of days after a lad found a human skull on a sheep track. He had taken it home and his mother had washed it up and put it on a shelf in their parlour. However, two days later it was taken to the local police station by the lad and his parents after which the police began a search of the Quantocks until the headless body was found although an arm was also missing. However, fifty yards upstream from the body the lower part of the jaw was found.

She was identified by her sister who recognised a pair of brown shoes found on the body.

A police constable said that during a search of the Combe some articles of women's clothing were found some distance from her body including a stocking and a pair of corsets which were fastened up.

A doctor that examined the remains said, 'It is impossible to give an opinion as to the cause of death because of the condition of the body. I found no signs of injury on the skull or on any parts of the body it was practical to examine. It was plain that the body must have been there for a considerable time, certainly two months or more'.

When the Coroner summed up he noted that certain phases of the case needed a good deal of explanation, noting that the finding of her garments up-stream and somewhat in the water was a curious feature. He pondered on why Lavinia Barker might have divested herself of clothing in the loneliness of Densecombe on an August morning. He also questioned how her corsets came off her body and were then fastened, noting that it was impossible that they could have been washed off fastened in four inches of water.

He further pondered on how her jaw bone came to be up-stream, stating that it was highly improbable that she could have fallen or entered the stream higher up and been carried down to the spot where she was found partly in and partly out of the water. He further noted that according to the doctor Lavinia Barker must have lain where she was found for at least two months.

He said that the theory that an animal carried away the skull was likely, but that it was not reasonable to suppose that animals carried away her jawbone and dropped it in the stream and scattered her clothing up and down the Combe.

He further noted that when Lavinia Barker had gone missing a full description of the clothes that she had been wearing had been circulated, but that there had been no mention of any coat or mackintosh, noting that she had gone out of the house in a grey dress, without her coat or hat. However, he noted that when her body was moved that part of her coat or mackintosh was found underneath by the police.

An open verdict was returned.

It was said that the mystery had been exciting the whole of West Somerset.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ballymena Weekly Telegraph - Saturday 03 December 1927