Date: 14 Mar 1936
Place: 29-31 George Street, Hull
Oswald Fisher Walker was beaten to death at his lock-up shop in Hull.
He was found dead at about 12.35am with his head battered in at his lock-up tool merchant's shop at 29-31 George Street in Hull.
When the police arrived at his shop on George Street, a main thoroughfare, they found the body of Oswald Walker in the rear of his premises dead.
The premises consisted of a double-fronted shop with a long workshop at the rear, 96 feet by 9 feet wide, with shelves, racks and cupboards on each side. At the end of the workshop, down a flight of six stairs, there was a door leading to New Garden Street that ran parallel with George Street. Another door on the left towards the end of the long workshop, a few feet from the six stairs, led to a second and much larger workshop that also had an exit onto New Garden Street on the same ground level as the other. Inside the door was the wall on the right that divided the two workshops and another on the left at right angles, separated by the door. Then, just inside the door and on the same level as the long workshop was a landing some four feet square. From there there were two flights of steps that led down. One set of six steps was on the opposite side of the landing from the entrance and the other was a set of five that was on the right, at a right angle to the others.
It was on that landing that the body of Oswald Walker was found. He was fully dressed, including an overcoat, but with no headgear. He was lying on his back, close up against the left wall with his feet overhanging the second of the six steps and the crown of his head was nearest the door.
Oswald Walker had many head injuries that had been caused by several savage blows to his head with a blunt instrument. His upper right arm had also received a heavy blow.
It was noted that although his head wounds had bled profusely, there was a surprising absence of blood splashes on surrounding objects. Blood had drained from his head, down through planks of the landing somewhat extensively on to the floor below, but not more than half a dozen tiny spots could be discerned, despite microscopic examination, on the door and walls around.
Oswald Walker had been wearing a heavy gold watch and chain that was quite visible as he lay in the shop with his overcoat and jacket apart. He had also had a black wallet containing six 10/- notes that was slightly protruding from his inside right jacket pocket. It was later found that he would have had a second personal wallet on him at the time but that when he was found that was missing. Broken portions of a pipe, spectacles and dentures were also found under and around his body.
An extensive search of the premises was made but little was found. The only fingerprints found were on the saw bench that Oswald Walker had been selling, which itself was thought to have been central to the case, but the fingerprints were later determined to have belonged to Oswald Walker himself. The police were also unable to find the murder weapon. It was noted that the premises were full of thousands of implements such as hammers, mallets, axes and iron tools, all of which could have been used to inflict the wounds found on Oswald Walker but that even though they were all minutely examined, no murder weapon could be found.
When the body of Oswald Walker was taken to the City Mortuary, a thorough examination of his clothing was made, but absolutely nothing was found to assist in the enquiry. His clothing had contained 13/6 1/2d in cash, keys, tobacco and pouch, a diary, a silver cigarette case, a railway season ticket, four handkerchiefs, a pair of gloves, a penknife, some matches and some other personal effects.
Oswald Walker's post-mortem was carried out the following day at 11am Sunday 15 March 1936. His cause of death proved to be from a fracture of the skull, contusion of the brain with haemorrhage from the vessels of the skull, asphyxia and shock. The doctor said that he was otherwise a healthy well-nourished male.
Particular extracts from the post-mortem report stated that the neck showed bruising, the bruises being transverse and separated by lines of light coloured skin, giving the appearance of some two or three layers of ligatures having been tied round the neck. This line was mainly marked at the front, there being very little sign at the back.
There was also a bruise about one inch in length under the chin on the right side and numerous small scattered bruises just above the ligature marks, one of which would correspond to that left by the front edge of the left wing of the collar that Oswald Walker was wearing.
There was a wound 2 1/4 inches long at the top of the forehead on the left side, extending transversely from the middle line towards the ear. The wound was incised and showed bruising for one eighth of an inch all round the edges. It reached down to the bone in its centre and the bone was fractured at the bottom of the wound.
There was an incised wound, two inches above and slightly behind the left ear. It was divided into two parts by a strip of skin and was three quarters of an inch long, the upper of which showed a round punctured wound one eighth of an inch in diameter.
Blood extended vertically from both of the wounds, showing that bleeding had occurred while he was lying on his back.
The biceps of his right arm appeared to be divided in two. There was almost complete severance of the muscular belly of the inner head of the biceps muscle, but no bruising.
The base of his tongue was round and inside of the larynx, below the vocal cords, and showed marked bruising. There was also a fracture on the left side of the thyroid cartilage.
In connection with the fractures of the skull, it was noted that one fracture ran right down into the roof of the left orbit and that there was a small fracture of the roof of the right orbit. Both orbits showed bruising as seen from inside the skull. The other fracture on the left side extended right down to the level of the ear in the temporal bone.
There were also extensive fractures of the vertex of the skull, rather worse on the left side than on the right side.
It was also noted that Oswald Walker had been wearing false teeth and that the left central and left lateral incisors of the upper denture were broken.
In conclusion, the doctor that carried out the post-mortem stated that the wounds had been inflicted from the front and behind and said that he thought that Oswald Walker had been on his back when he was struck. The doctor went on to say that he thought that the head wounds had been inflicted after partial strangulation. He added that the injury to the jaw could have been caused by a fist or the blunt end of an instrument, considerable violence having been used. He also said that he thought that the wounds had been inflicted with a blunt instrument that was pointed at the end, one portion of the wound being circular.
The police report stated that from the position of Oswald Walker's body and the injuries, it was reasonable to suppose that Oswald Walker had been attacked from behind as he was descending the steps leading to the bottom workshop. The report stated that his neck injuries were possibly caused by someone gripping his collar and jerking him backwards and asserted that that theory was supported by the fact that there were no strangulation marks at the back of the neck. The report then stated that the other injuries might have been caused while he was falling, when he was pulled to a sitting posture or while he was lying on his back. The police report added that these theories were also upheld by the police surgeon who said that he was of the opinion that there had been two assailants. It was said that the attack was obviously sudden and unexpected because Oswald Walker was apparently wearing his spectacles and had a pipe in his mouth. The broken stem of the pipe, portions of his spectacles and his bottom denture were almost under his body. A tooth was also found on the first step down and portions of the broken spectacles and the pipe bowl were scattered several yards from his body.
The police report noted that the only possible clue that resulted from the examination of the premises was a part of a patterned footprint that was not Oswald Walker's, on the bottom step of the set of six steps. It was noted that the stairs and also the vaults of Oswald Walker's skull were retained by the Hull City Police for further examination.
Oswald Walker had employed four staff, a 20-year old female clerk, a 35-year old saw repairer, a 20-year old shop assistant and a 15 -year old errand boy.
The clerk said that she left the premises at 5pm on 13 March 1936, leaving the other three employees and Oswald Walker on the premises. Then, at 6pm, the errand boy secured the rear door leading to New Garden Street by turning the key in the box lock, leaving the key in the lock on the inside, and placing an iron bar against the inside of the door. He said that he omitted to bolt the rear door at the bottom, as was his usual practice, but said that the door was otherwise secure. He said that he then left the premises.
Then, immediately afterwards, the saw repairer and the shop assistant left the premises together leaving Oswald Walker in his office that was situated between the shop and the George Street end of the workshop. It was noted that the shop door in George Street, which was fitted with a Yale and box locks, was left open.
It was known that several customers were served by Oswald Walker between 6pm and 7.15pm, the last, so far as was known, being a man that had gone to the shop at 7.05pm. He said that when he went to the shop he found the door latched and said that when he rattled the door it was opened by a youth that had been in the shop. The man said that when he went in he saw Oswald Walker and two customers. The youth was one of the customers and he bought a hammer and the other customer was a man who bought a bricklayer's hod. The man said that the two other customers then left the shop after making their purchases and that he then bought a spirit level bulb and left the shop at 7.15pm. The man said that as far as he was aware, when he left, Oswald Walker had been the only person left in the shop and also said that he was quite definite that he had latched the shop door behind him. He also said that Oswald Walker was at that time dressed in his overcoat and apparently ready to leave the premises.
It was noted that Oswald Walker's first wife had died around 1932 and that he had married again in March 1934. He had two children by his first wife, a son, then aged 38 who was married with two children and a daughter who was also married.
Oswald Walker lived at Danecroft on Cliff Road in Hornsea, a small seaside town about 20 miles from Hull. When he failed to return home the police were called, and at 12.15am in the early morning of 14 March 1936 a policeman went to the shop. He said that he found the shop door and also the rear of the premises to be secure and could see no lights inside. The policeman then returned to the police station but went back to the premises at 12.35am with Oswald Walker's son, Oswald Walker's daughters husband and another policeman fireman. When they went back they found that the George Street door was only latched and not locked as usual and so the son suggested forcing the door which was done by the police fireman.
When they went in they found that the premises were in darkness and when they switched on the lights individually they were on, showing that the current had not been switched off at the mains. Then, as they went further into the premises, the policeman discovered Oswald Walker's body, at which point the others were some distance behind him. It was noted that Oswald Walker's daughters husband saw the body, but that his son chose not to.
The policeman then communicated with the police headquarters and senior police officers attended and the police surgeon was summoned at 1am and who attended immediately. It was noted that when the police surgeon examined one limb he noticed that rigor mortis had set in. and said that in his opinion that death had taken place four or five hours previously which would fix the time of the murder as being between 8pm and 9pm the previous evening, 13 March 1936.
It was noted that there were two sets of keys to the front door shop, one that was held by Oswald Walker and the other by the shop assistant who opened up the shop each morning prior to the arrival of Oswald Walker. One set was found on Oswald Walker and the other set did not leave the possession of the shop assistant on the evening of the murder. It was also noted that as far as was known, that there was only one key to the rear door of the top workshop and that was left in the lock by the errand boy but was found to be missing after the murder.
It was noted that there had been a second key for the top workshop lock that had been stolen in November 1935 by two lads both aged 14-years who admitted to having broken into the premises on numerous occasions. One of the youths was at the time detained at the Castle Howard Approved School. The other youth said that the stolen key had subsequently been thrown away. It was noted that the doors to the bottom workshop were secured from the inside with a bar and padlock and that the key was found in its usual place in the top workshop.
However, when the police examined the door to the top workshop they found that both the key to the lock left there by the errand boy was missing and that the iron bar that had been placed against the door had also been moved away.
As such, the police report concluded that there was no doubt that the murderer had made his exit by that door and had taken the key after having locked the door behind him.
The police report noted that whatever the motive might have been for Oswald Walker's murder, it was quite clear that his body had not been properly searched as there was a wallet found on him with cash although it was later found that a second personal wallet on him was missing. The police report noted that, as such, their first impression was that the murderer had become frightened and not taken the wallet or fully searched Oswald Walker after killing him and had hurried away. However, they said that that theory was not supported by the fact that the murderer must have turned out the electric lights between the shop and the lower workshop and that he must have re-locked the New Garden Street door from the outside with the key that was still missing.
The police report noted that all members of staff were interrogated and their accounts of their movements on the evening of 13 March 1936 were satisfactorily corroborated.
The report noted that suspicion was centered to some extent on the son who had not been on the best of terms with Oswald Walker for some time, but the report stated that their suspicion was unfounded.
Oswald Walker was noted as being a man of somewhat peculiar habits. He was an ardent Methodist, as was his wife, and although he had been generous to Church charities, he was mean in other respects, paying his employees less than the usual rate for the positions they held. He was very secretive and at the time of his death none of his relatives knew his financial position.
Oswald Walker had been in business at 29/31 George Street in Hull for many years and until July 1935 his son had worked for him in the capacity of an employee at a weekly wage of £7-0-0. the son had been in charge of a branch of the business that had dealt with commercial vehicles and heavy machinery which he had carried out from a yard at Anlaby, a suburb in Hull.
Oswald Walker was described as being very old fashioned in his business methods whilst the son was said to be a keen business man with up-to-date ideas and was more pushful. It was heard that the son would occasionally suggest certain deals to his father who would not accept them. However, it was heard that the son would accordingly carry the deals through on his own account and then retain the profits which it was heard led to Oswald Walker accusing him of pocketing profits from the business and as such there were frequent arguments between them.
It was also heard that the son would frequently approach Oswald Walker with a view to receiving a partnership or controlling interest in the business, but it was said that Oswald Walker would not listen to him owing to the differences in their business methods. It was then stated that matters came to a head between Oswald Walker and his son in July 1935 when Oswald Walker gave his son a week's notice to leave his employ. The son then worked out his weeks’ notice, during which period he completed one or two jobs that he had in hand and then opened a tool merchant's business in Silvester Street, only two streets away, in opposition to Oswald Walker. It was said that the son's business was a success and that he secured some two-thirds of Oswald Walker's customers.
It was heard then, that shortly after, Oswald Walker advertised the Anlaby Yard business for sale and after negotiations through solicitors lasting some two months, the son purchased the Anlaby Yard concern for £650, which he arranged to pay by quarterly instalments of £26.
It was stated that the son did not visit the George Street premises after he had left the business until the discovery of the murder although it was noted that Oswald Walker had visited his son several times at the Anlaby Yard.
It was also noted that although their personal relations were strained, their business connections were amicable and that they bought stock from each other.
The police report stated that by courtesy of Oswald Walker's solicitors, they were confidentially enabled to see copies of three wills that Oswald Walker had made in recent years which they said illustrated the gulf that had been widening between Oswald Walker and the son. They stated that in the first will that they saw, Oswald Walker had left his son a third share of his estate, whilst the last will, which was proved after Oswald Walker's death, left the son nothing but the gold watch and chain that were found on his body in the workshop.
The police report stated that the last time that the son saw Oswald Walker was two weeks before the murder and that the son had accounted for his movements on the evening of 13 March 1936 and that throughout the investigation he had been frank about his differences and dealings with Oswald Walker. The report also stated that the son's movements on the night in question were verified to the minute and that the police were satisfied that the son was in no way connected to the crime.
It was noted that Oswald Walker had been dilatory in his business methods and kept no record of cash sales, instead, all moneys received over the counter were placed in the tills and no entry was made in any book. It was then Oswald Walker's practice before leaving each evening to clear the two tills in the shop and replace a float of 20/- and 10/- in each respectively. He would then enter the total day's takings in pencil in a small notebook that he kept and as such, it was therefore difficult to determine the true sequence of customers.
After the police made an examination of his premises they stated that they had revealed that Oswald Walker had cleared the tills on the night of the murder, made the requisite entry in his notebook, and replaced the floats. The tills were actually drawers in the counters and were found by the police intact in their usual hiding places in the shop.
It was also noted that Oswald Walker used a cash box that he always kept hidden beneath a desk in his office in which he would keep money that had accumulated from his cash takings. It was reported that the cash box was kept locked and that only he held the key for it. The report stated that the money from the cash box was seldom banked unless the amount reached about £15-0-0 and no record was kept of the money in the box. During their examination of the premises the police found the box intact and locked in its usual hiding place with over £3 in it and some personal papers.
Later on in the investigation the police stated that it transpired that Oswald Walker was in the habit of carrying two wallets, one for business and the other for personal use. The police report stated that the wallet that was found on Oswald Walker was a black one containing six 10/- notes, which was identified by the clerk as being the one that he used for business purposes. It was also noted that the staff had been paid that afternoon from the wallet that was found on Oswald Walker, in 10/- notes.
Another wallet was found in the locked cashbox which was very old, torn, and dirty, and Oswald Walker's wife, who was familiar with Oswald Walker's personal wallet said that that old wallet was definitely not his personal wallet.
It was believed that Oswald Walker had carried up to £20 in his personal wallet and noted that it was his unfailing practice to hand his wife £5 house-keeping money from his personal wallet every Friday evening, and as such it was considered that he should have had at leasrt that amount in his pocket when he met his death.
The police report concluded that as such, there was no doubt therefore that Oswald Walker's personal wallet had been stolen by the murderer and that it tended to show that robbery was the real motive. It was stated that in addition to the money, his personal wallet had contained his motor driver's licence, photographs, and a quantity of correspondence, and was said to have been fairly bulky. It was noted that considerable difficulty had been found in obtaining a good description of the personal wallet. It was described by Oswald Walker's wife and family friend as being black or very dark and one person had said that they thought that it was embossed with the unknown name of a firm of Sheffield toolmakers.
Later on during the police investigation it became known that Oswald Walker had remained in the shop after business hours to keep an appointment with an unknown customer, and it was said that that was the most important clue in the investigation. It was stated that the customer had made enquiries about a saw bench upon which the initial examinations in the premises had found the fingerprints of Oswald Walker.
One person that had known of the interest in the saw bench was the shop assistant who said that at abut 8.30pm on 7 March 1936, the Saturday prior to the murder, Oswald Walker had instructed him to put the outside blinds up, remarking, 'I don't expect there’ll be many more customers now'. The shop assistant said that there were no customers in the shop at that time. He said that he put up one of the blinds and that when he returned to get another, he saw Oswald Walker serving a customer. He said that after he had put up the other blind, he saw three persons in the shop, stating that Oswald Walker was attending to two of them, a man and his wife who were later accounted for. The shop assistant said that he then approached the remaining customer to service him, saying, 'Yes, sir?', and said that the man said, 'Mr Walker', whilst at the same time pointing to Oswald Walker with the index finger of his right hand, indicating that he desired his attention. The shop assistant said that he then walked behind the shop counter and that as he did so, the first two customers left the shop and Oswald Walker attended to the third customer, a man the police referred to as the suspect.
The shop assistant said that he then switched off the electric fire, motor and window lights and said that he could see Oswald Walker with the man in the office. He said that they were talking about a saw-bench and said that he heard the man say that that one was too big and that the other in the workshop was hardly big enough. He said that he didn't hear any further conversation and then awaited in the top workshop until the man left at about 8.40pm. The shop assistant said that he heard the man say as he left, 'I'll call and see you later'.
The shop assistant described the man as:
Age 36 or 37 years, 5ft-8ins,. dark complexion, dark hair, clean shaven, round chin, round face, slightly scowling, unkempt dirty hands, medium build, dressed in working-class clothing, dark colour, dirty grey cap, believed wearing a dirty mackintosh with belt.
The man and wife that had been in the shop at the same time as the man and were served by Oswald Walker were unable to provide any more information on the suspect, the man saying that he could not describe him at all whilst his wife gave a very vague description of him. She said that she had no idea about his age having only seen the back of him but said that he was about two inches shorter than her husband who was 5ft 8in, and that he had been wearing a light fawn raincoat or mackintosh, but said that she didn't think that it had had a belt.
It was noted that there had been two other men in the shop at about the same time, a man that had purchased a bricklayer's line and another that had bought a pair of tin snips, but neither of them were able to give any information about the man that had enquired about the saw-bench.
The police report stated that what it amounted to was that the shop assistant was the only person that could describe the man that had enquired about the saw-bench but that he had said that he was doubtful that he could identify him again.
The police report stated that it was usual for Oswald Walker to arrive home at 7pm on weekdays, except Thursdays and Saturdays, and it was heard that on the Wednesday 11 March 1936, he had not arrived home until 8pm, telling his wife that he had been kept talking at the shop by a man that had called to buy some machinery. He went on to tell her that the man had not bought the machinery and that he was coming to see it again. The police report stated that although the word machinery had been used, that they were in no doubt that he was referring to the saw bench and the man that had enquired after it.
On the following morning, 12 March 1936, Oswald Walker told his wife that he would not be home as usual at 5.30pm as he proposed going to Anlaby to collect a debt.
It was also noted that on the journey to work, Oswald Walker had told a man who he usually travelled with that he had had to stay later in the shop the previous night to meet a customer for tools.
Later, at the shop, at about 12.30pm that same day, Thursday 12 March 1936, Oswald Walker said to his shop assistant, 'A gentleman has been in, he kept me talking last night about the saw bench until about twenty minutes past six and never came to an agreement and said he was coming in again about Friday next about six o'clock'.
The police report stated that there was no doubt that Oswald Walker had been anticipating the sale of the saw bench for that day and had sent the errand boy to a local firm for a length of shafting, hangers and bearings with which he constructed a countershaft to drive the machine, and that he had been working on it all afternoon.
A saw repairer that saw Oswald Walker working on the saw bench that afternoon said that he said to him, 'Have you sold that saw-bench, Mr Walker?', and said that Oswald Walker replied, 'Yes, a chap from Beverley is coming to see me tonight and it will be late again before I get home. He came the other night and spent twenty minutes looking at the jolly thing. I've not got paid for it yet, you know what these country fellows are, tight fisted person. It takes a lot to get money out of these jokers'. The saw repairer said that that was the first time that he had heard that there had been an enquiry for the saw-bench, and said that during the conversation, Oswald Walker had told him that the man could not get to the shop in business hours because he had to come from Beverley where he worked.
The police report stated that Oswald Walker might have had an appointment with the man on the evening of Thursday 12 March 1936 and as such they checked his movements as far as possible. They said that they found that Oswald Walker had left his shop at 4.30pm and that his movements were satisfactorily covered until 5.45pm when he was last seen at the Cecil Cinema Cafe. It was next found that he had returned home at 10pm and as such, it was not known with certainty where he had been between 5.45pm and 9.05pm, at which time it was assumed that he caught the train from Hull to Hornsea.
It was stated that Oswald Walker had previously made reference to his wife about going to Anlaby to collect a debt in the afternoon and on the following morning it was found that Oswald Walker had handed his clerk three letters, two of which were requests for payment of outstanding accounts. The clerk also said that Oswald Walker had mentioned that he had called on one of the debtors to collect the account, but said that she didn't know which one it was but believed that Oswald Walker had said that he had called on the previous evening and said that she had the faint recollection that Oswald Walker had told her that the lady of the house had answered and said that the gentleman he wanted to see was out. She said that she thought that he had said that it was then gone 6.30pm and that he had said that he didn't call back at the address.
It was later determined that one of the debtors that Oswald Walker had gone to call on was a man that had purchased an article on 13 July 1935 and that the account of £1-9-10d had not been paid. The man said that on the day of the murder he saw one of Oswald Walker's cards on his mantlepiece and said that although he did not remember picking it up from inside the front door, he said that it must have been delivered by hand as it was not stamped and added that he and his wife had been out between 5.45pm and 9pm that previous evening.
the police report went on to note that it was thought that Oswald Walker had known that his wife was attending a church social function on the evening of Thursday 12 March 1936 and that it was quite possible that he had seen an opportunity to endeavour to collect an account due. The report noted, that, as previously stated, Oswald Walker was described as being of a mean nature in some respects and was happy to remain in the City after business hours to collect accounts or to stay in the shop after the staff had left and other shops had closed in the hope of transacting business, however small.
It was stated that the man who Oswald Walker had called on lived some 15 minutes by bus from the City and that it was highly probable that Oswald Walker had gone there after leaving the Cinema Cafe at 5.45pm on the Thursday evening.
On the Friday 13 March, the day of the murder, Oswald Walker had left home as usual, remarking to his wife that he would be home later that evening as the man who had visited his shop on the Wednesday was calling again. It was said that he had gone to work on the train, accompanied to the City as usual by his friend. The man that he usually travelled with on the train said that Oswald Walker remarked to him that he would have another late night and that it would be his third in succession as the man about the tools was calling to make the final purchase and payment. The man on the train said that it was clear that the Wednesday and Friday visits were not connected with the business of the Thursday, although he said that he was under the impression that Oswald Walker had had an appointment after business hours on the Thursday in connection with the machine. The man on the train said that at no time did Oswald Walker give him any information as to the man that he was meeting or his business occupation.
It was said that later, at about 10am on 13 March 1936, Oswald Walker left the shop in his motor car that he usually garaged in the lower workshop, to deliver a bath that he had repaired for his daughter, and that he returned at about 12 noon. He was said to have then remained in his shop and then gone to lunch at Hammond's Cafe at about 1pm where he lunched with his daughter and two other men. One of the men that had lunch with Oswald Walker said that during the lunch, Oswald Walker casually mentioned that he would not be going home at his usual time as a man was calling after six o'clock about some tools.
After Oswald Walker returned to his shop after lunch he gave his shop assistant a slip of paper to take to the clerk with instructions on for her to type out an account, saying, 'It's for £30-5-6d and if he buys the lot, meaning the saw-bench and the countershaft, I shall give him back the 5/6d'. However, no name was mentioned. The shop assistant said that he then took the note to the clerk who then typed out the invoice. On the paper was written, 'One circular saw bench and one second-hand circular saw'. The prices were also mentioned, the total being £30-5-6d. The shop assistant said that the clerk asked him what name to put on the invoice but the shop assistant said that he told her that he didn't know.
The shop assistant said that he then took the invoice back to Oswald Walker who then put it in an unaddressed and unsealed envelope after which he put it on the left side of his desk.
Later the staff left the shop, with the man that had purchased the spirit bulb being the last person to have seen him alive at 7.15pm.
When Oswald Walker was found dead, his hat and a neatly folded newspaper that was beneath it were found on the front of his desk as though he had been in readiness to leave. The police said that they made a thorough search for the invoice that had been typed out but said that they could find no trace of it.
As such, the police report stated that the matter of the saw-bench then became a definite line of enquiry.
The police report stated that the saw-bench was one such that would be used by a timber merchants or firewood dealer and so enquiries were made at once to trace all such persons in the district. In particular, the police interviewed all such persons in Beverley as well as all timber merchants and firewood dealers in and surrounding Hull, but without success.
The police report stated that it it was borne in mind during the investigation for the possible purchaser of the saw-bench that it had probably only been a ruse to induce Oswald Walker to remain at his shop after business hours when the staff had left and to lure him to the rear of the premises.
The police stated that the description of the saw-bench man was widely published and as a result of press appeals, numerous persons came forward and spoke of suspicious person and occurrences in the vicinity of the shop, all of which were said to have been pursued to the uttermost. Amongst the happenings reported, the police said that in particular, a Corporation omnibus driver came forward and said that he had been driving his vehicle in George Street at 5.55pm when he had seen a man standing well back on the pavement on the opposite side of the street to the shop, saying that the man had been staring intently at Oswald Walker's shop and that when he had passed the shop again at 7.25pm the man was still there. The omnibus driver said that he took particular attention of that and looked across the road to see what the man was staring at. The police report stated that the description that the omnibus driver gave of the man that he had seen was somewhat similar to that given for the saw-bench suspect. As such, the police report stated that it could well have been that the man was keeping observation to see the staff and customers leave the premises.
Also, it was found that a cinema attendant at the Princes Hall Cinema that was immediately opposite the George Street entrance to the shop said that at 7.25pm he had been collecting tickets there from patrons when he saw a man enter Oswald Walker's shop. He said that the lights were on in the shop and that he was certain of the time because he had not commenced his duty until 7.20pm. The cinema attendant said that he continued with his work and that half an hour later he saw a woman at the shop door. He said that the shop was then in darkness and said that he saw the woman kicking at the door with her left foot and at the same time was looking through the glass panel in the door and trying the door handle. The cinema attendant said that no one opened the door and that the woman then walked away after a few minutes. He said that he was first attracted to the woman by the noise that she was making by kicking the door. He said that the man had been wearing a khaki overall coat, but said that owing to the darkness, he could have been mistaken and it could have been a mackintosh.
The police appealed for the woman to come forward, but without success.
Another person that came forward after hearing the appeal was the son of the Coroner for the East Riding of Yorkshire. He said that he was passing the shop in George Street at 7.30pm when he had seen a man standing in the doorway facing the street. He said that he thought that he recognized the man as an acquaintance that he had known some years before and walked towards him but said that he then realised that he was mistaken, but still passed within an arm's length of the man. He said that a few minutes later he saw the man leave the doorway and enter a motor car that was outside the New Manchester Hotel that was a few yards from the shop.
He said that the car was an Overland 4-seater tourer with no hood, and was either a 1926 or earlier model, painted a very dark colour and in a very dilapidated condition. He said that he could not distinguish the registration number as the Index plates were muddy and rusted. He said that the man approached the car and drove away in a leisurely manner. the description that the man gave of the man that he had seen in the doorway was said to have answered somewhat to that of the saw-bench man and he was said to have been wearing what the man described as a military pattern trench-coat.
The police said that they tried to trace the Overland car but without success.
Another woman came forward to say that at 7.55pm she saw a man that had answered the description of the saw-bench man wearing a fawn coloured raincoat, standing on the pavement outside the shop doorway. She said that the man was looking towards a motor car that was stationery on the kerb. It was noted that the description of the motor car was similar to that given by the Coroners son, however, she had said that she thought that it was a saloon car. The woman said that she passed the shop a few minutes later and said that the car was still there but that the man had gone. She said that she saw no lights on in the shop.
The police report noted that whilst they thought that the murderer had left by the New Garden Street door, there could have been two people involved, and also noted that if other statements were accepted that Oswald Walker had not met his death at the time that the people that had come forward with siting’s of the man and car had stated.
A 15-year old youth came forward to say that he had been to the shop at 8pm in George Street to look at the fretwork sets in the window. He said that there was no lights in the windows and that he had looked through the glass panel of the door to see if there were any fretwork sets inside the shop. He said that he was certain that there were no lights in the shop but said that he could see one in the rear of the room on the left side. However, he said that he saw no one in the shop and said that he heard no sound from within.
Another man came forward to say that he saw a smartly dressed man standing in the shop doorway with his back to the door at about 8.20pm and said that when he later passed the shop again at 9.20pm the man was still there.
Another man said that he passed the shop at 8.25pm and saw two men inside. He said that he had been walking slowly and that as he had glanced into the shop he had seen the two men inside, opposite and facing the door. He said that there was a bright light on in the shop but no lights in the windows. The police report stated that from the description that he gave of the two men, that one of the men was without doubt Oswald Walker. However, the man said that he didn't get a good look at the other man but said that he thought that he was nearly 50 years of age and about 5ft 10in tall. He said that one of the men had been wearing a dark overcoat similar to the one worn by Oswald Walker, but said that he could not remember which of the men it was. He also said that the other man had been wearing a greyish khaki coloured raincoat and said that it appeared that they were talking but said that he could not hear their voices.
Another man said that at about 10pm he saw a man aged between 30 to 40 years and about 5ft 8in, with a medium build and dressed in a loose fitting fawn coloured mackintosh standing in the doorway of the shop with his back to the street. The man said that he thought that the man that he had seen was just closing the shop. The police report noted that they thought that by that time Oswald Walker was dead.
The police report stated that all lodging houses and hostels in the district were visited and enquiries made and all known criminals of violent dispositions were interrogated and their movements during the material periods thoroughly checked, but without any developments. The report also noted that none of the police on duty that night reported anything unusual or saw anybody near the shop.
The report noted that Hull was the third largest seaport in the country with seven miles of docks and that extensive enquiries were made amongst seamen and shipping companies wharves etc, but without any vital information forthcoming.
The police said that they also set about to trace all known criminals and other likely persons that had left the city at about the time of the murder. They said that numerous persons were traced, all of whom were able to satisfactorily account for their movements at the essential times. However, the report stated that there were two criminals that had left the City but who could not for a considerable time be traced.
The first of the two criminals was a seaman and a native of Cork who had obtained 8/- from the Hull Public Assistance Committee on the day of the murder and had been due for a further grant on 18 March 1936 but failed to apply for it. He was known to have stayed in a common lodging house on the night of 14 March 1936 but had since vanished. However, he was later traced and his statement as to his movements was accepted by the Hull Police.
The other man who was known only as Canadian had stayed in a common lodging house in Hull until the day of the murder. He was described as a roamer and to have begged from town to town. It was stated that he was thought to have served two years in a Canadian jail as well as undergoing a short sentence in Winchester Prison in 1928. It was said that his description was somewhat similar to the saw-bench man but the police said that they had nothing material against him and said that they were unable to either identify him in the Criminal Record Office or at Winchester Prison, or to find him.
The police offered a reward of £100 on 21 March 1936 and reward bills were dispatched throughout the British Isles and prominently in the Hull and surrounding districts. The reward was then increased to £250 a few days later but still without the desired effect.
Later, on 7 April 1936, a communication was received from the Glamorganshire Constabulary at Barry Dock to say that they had a suspect that had been in the possession of a wallet and who refused to give an account of his movements on 13 March 1936. It was found that the man had been convicted in Hull on four occasions. When he was interrogated, the wallet proved to be a small folding notecase and although he could not give any corroboration regarding his movements on the day of the murder, the police said that they were satisfied that he had no connection with the crime.
The police report also stated that on 14 April 1936 a man confessed to the murder, however, the report stated that he was undoubtedly mentally defective. He was 29 years old, had six previous convictions for fraud and had been sentenced to two years hard labour at the Worcestershire Quarter Sessions on 2 October 1933 for obtaining money by false pretences. He had been arrested in Manchester on 14 April 1936 and handed over to the police in Tettenhall, Staffordshire, on a charge of obtaining a pony by false pretences, and it was also thought that there were other charges against him. However, whilst at Tettenhall police station on 14 April 1936 he made what practically amounted to a confession to the murder, however, subsequent enquiries and Manchester and Doncaster not only failed to corroborate his story but tended to disprove it. He was interviewed by the police involved in the murder investigation on 21 April 1936 after being cautioned and his long statement was described as mainly comprising two portions.
It was said that whilst making the first part of his statement he appeared quite rational but it was quite apparent that he was romancing as his description of the premises, the position of the body, together with the hour of the crime did not conform with the true facts. However, the report states that after completing the first portion of the statement he was asked to sign it and then became apparently greatly distressed and between intermittent bursts of crying, made disjointed statements which were reduced to writing and formed the second part of his statement.
The first part of his statement detailed how he disposed of the 'cosh' with which he had said he had inflicted the injuries with, the wallet that he said he had stolen and the mackintosh. He reiterated these details in the second part of his statement but went on to say that he had wrongly described the lay-out of the shop and the time that the murder was committed.
In the second part of his statement he said that he had had a confederate and his details coincided more accurately with the facts as they were known, but after reaching a certain point he refused to give any further information and would not disclose the identity of his alleged confederate beyond saying that he had met him in Birmingham Prison in 1935 when the confederate was serving a short term and the remnant of a licence. The prison governor of Birmingham Prison said that he did his best to try to determine the identity of the man but said that he could not do so and said that he was doubtful that such a person existed.
The police report concluded that they got the impression that it was possible that the man had:
The man then went on to say that he had met his confederate in Manchester on 11 April 1936 when the confederate had shown him £20 in cash and a revolver, telling him that they were the proceeds of a case of office-breaking near to Manchester Police Station. The police report noted that subsequent enquiries were made that revealed that such a case of office-breaking did in fact occur when £16 in cash, a revolver and 12 rounds of ammunition were stolen.
The police said that they interviewed the man again on 23 April 1036 but said that on that occasion he appeared to be a totally different man and was obviously suffering from sever mental stress and no sensible information could be gleaned from him. However, they said that they wer able to get a name from him for the confederate and said that when they checked with Birmingham Prison they found that whilst the man that he had mentioned was serving a prison sentence there, that he had been serving a sentence in Liverpool at the time of the murder.
The police later went to see the man that the man said he had given the cosh to after murdering Oswald Walker. The man was in Manchester and when the police questioned him about the case, he emphatically denied all knowledge of the implement and the police report stated that they were led to believe him. The police noted that further enquiries also failed to locate the mackintosh and the wallet. The police report stated that not one single point of the man's story could be corroborated other than the fact that the cash and revolver had been stolen from an office near to Manchester Police Station and it was therefore thought that his entire confession was a pure fabrication.
It was also noted that the man continued to assert that he was responsible for the murder and wrote a letter to his mother, wife and the Chief Constable of Hull saying so. He also gave a surname for the man that had been his accomplice that was different to the forename that he had given that led to the association with the man that was found to have been in Liverpool prison at the time of the murder. The police said that enquiries were still being made to identify the confederate with the new name as well as to the man's previous mental history.
The report concluded that it had confined its focus to material facts and stated that well over 1,000 people had been interviewed, with 700 of them being filed as immaterial. It added that in pursuance of the inquiry, men had been interrogated in various parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Durham, Northumberland and Leicestershire as well as London, Cardiff, Swansea, Salford and other places. It stated that they were unfortunately far from solving the case, but added that it was not due to lack of effort by all concerned, adding that everyone had worked whole-heartedly with a common object and that on looking back, it was concluded that not a single avenue had not been fully explored.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/796
see Glasgow Herald
see Hull Daily Mail - Wednesday 18 March 1936