Unsolved Murders

Willie Starchfield

Age: 5

Sex: male

Date: 8 Jan 1914

Place: North London Railway

Source: www.thecnj.com

William Starchfield was murdered on a North London Railway train on 8 January 1914.

He was found dead under a railway carriage seat of the 4.04pm train from Chalk Farm to Broad Street on the North London Railway. His father was tried for the murder but the trial collapsed. He died two years later in hospital but denied the murder.

The only evidence against the father was statements from four witnesses that said that they had seen William Starchfield with him on the afternoon that he was murdered. The judge described the evidence so flimsy that the trial collapsed on the second day before William Starchfield's father was even called upon to say anything.

William Starchfield had been strangled with a thin cord which was found still tightly tied around his neck.

His father sold newspapers outside the Horseshoe Hotel in Tottenham Court Road in London. In September 1912 chased and caught Stephen Titus who had just shot the assistant manageress of the Horseshoe Hotel, Esther May Towers. During the struggle he was injured but held on long enough to Stephen Titus for the police to arrive and arrest him. At Stephen Titus's trial the judge warmly praised William Starchfield's father and awarded him £50 as some compensation for his injuries. The Carnegie Heroes Fund later awarded him £1 a week. When William Starchfield's father died, he died as a direct result of the injury that he had received when he had grappled with Stephen Titus.

In his statement he said:

I am the father of William Starchfield. He will be 6 next birthday. He did not live with me, he lived with my wife at 191 Hampstead Road. I don't know how many rooms she had. I have never lived with her there. I believe she lived there alone with her son. I have been away from her for about 5 months. She had no employment whilst I was at home. She is a tailoress by trade. I have allowed them £1 per week since I left home. I got it from the Carnegie Hero Fund. It was supposed to start on the 1st of July but I got it on the 8th of August. It was for trying to capture a murderer. It was £1 a week, and I always gave it to my wife. I kept myself by selling papers. I last saw deceased 3 weeks before his death, which I heard of last Thursday. I did not see my wife either during that 3 weeks. The police told me of his death at 12.30 midnight. they found me in the lodging house just after midnight. I had been at home about half an hour. I had not gone to bed. I had just left a public house in Oxford Street. On Thursday I got up and left my bedroom at 3.30pm. I was a bit queer. I had been in bed all day because I was not well and I had been ill the day before. I still feel the bullet wound. I left my bedroom, came down to the kitchen to have a wash and went upstairs again to put my clothes on. I then went direct to a coffee shop in Endell St. I asked the waitress the time and she said 3.45. I could not see the clock in the shop from where I sat. I left the coffee shop at 4pm and saw the children coming out of school at Endell St. I went to my stand in Oxford Street and asked a boy if he had seen a man to takes over my stand and he said 'No'. I got papers and sold them as usual. A man got up just after 2pm and asked me the time and I said 'It is gone 2 o'clock'. When he went out he said it was 3 o'clock. There was no one else in bed at 3 o'clock. If you are ill the manager will let you lie after 10 o'clock. According to the time the man got up, gone down to the kitchen and come up again, he must have got up about 20 to 3. I had slept up to that time. I did not see the boy that day. I did not send anyone up to my wife or boy. I had the last sum from the fund last Saturday; I had 15/ instead of £1. I went to the coffee shop with another man. He lives in the same lodging house and in a sense, is a friend of mine. I don't know where he had been. I saw him walking down the street and I said 'The papers will sell to-night, as the 'Spring Entries are out' I had not been up to see my wife. The other man knows her and the boy. I have never seen the third man before. (The third man was asked to stand up).


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


see National Archives - MEPO 3/237B, CRIM 1/145/3, MEPO 3/1832

see True Crime Library

see British Transport Police

see Advertiser

see A Companion To Murder, E Spencer Shew