Unsolved Murders

Harry Smith

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 13 Jul 1900

Place: Royal Albert Dock, London

Harry Smith was found dead in the Royal Albert Docks.

He had come down with other men to London to replace the strikers at the docks.

However, his body was later found in the water and it was noted that no trace of the other eight men that he had been with could be found.

When he was found his body was described as having been putrefied.

He and others had been brought from Birmingham to London with about 70 other men by the Atlantic Transport Company and he was to be employed on the Manitoba unloading grain. However, he disappeared on 27 June 1900 and was later found drowned in the Royal Albert Dock.

A foreman stevedore with the Atlantic Company said that Harry Smith had been one of a gang of nine men and that the other eight men were also still missing.

It was noted that a clerk had overheard some of the strikers say:

We'll soon get rid of these Birmingham chaps.

It was stated that the eight other men that he had been with had completely disappeared, leaving not the slightest trace of their whereabouts.

The inquest heard that during the strike the Atlantic Company sent a foreman to Birmingham to obtain men to take the places of the strikers, amongst whom he picked Harry Smith. Harry Smith signed an agreement to go to London and stay in the top room of a little beer house in Bath Street and in due course he and the other men went to London by train.

It was said however that their movement on the part of the company naturally excited the indignation of the strikers and extraordinary precautions were taken by the agents of the company to surreptitiously convey them from their lodgings to the dockyard and they were taken there in a darkened train in which not a light was permitted and about which the utmost secrecy and silence was observed. As such, the train passed through the pickets and into the yard without the suspicion of the strikers being aroused.

Good wages were offered the men, and in addition they were fed and quartered on board the ships, in connection with the loading of which they had been engaged.

It was said that the Birmingham contingent buckled to their work and that the measure of their industry was the measure of the resentment of the strikers. They were intimidated at every turn, but stuck to their work.

However, it was not long before Harry Smith went missing and following the threats made, it was not long before rumours of foul play went speedily about.

Further, it was said that the rumours were not groundless as Harry Smith's dead body was found some days later, bruised and disfigured in the water of the docks.

However, his inquest was unable to determine a cause of death, or even positively that the dead man had been Harry Smith and an open verdict was returned.

Further, shortly after the verdict was reached, seven or eight of the other Birmingham men also disappeared, with it not being clear whether they had suffered the same fate as Harry Smith or had fled the district due to the intimidation and gone harvesting in the Home Counties.

The Coroner noted that the fact that the other men were missing did not justify the supposition that any harm had befallen the missing men or that Harry Smith had met with foul play, noting that most of the men that had come down from Birmingham had returned and that it was more probable that the other eight men had returned with them.

However, in summing up, the Coroner said that there must have been foul play.

The police carried out enquiries at both the London Docks, the Home Counties and in Birmingham.

Harry Smith had been nicknamed 'Strong 'Un'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Gloucestershire Chronicle - Saturday 21 July 1900

see Monmouthshire Beacon - Friday 13 July 1900

see Norfolk News - Saturday 07 July 1900

see North Devon Gazette - Tuesday 10 July 1900

see Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 18 July 1900