Unsolved Murders

Elizabeth Thomas

Age: 78

Sex: female

Date: 11 Jan 1953

Place: Clifton Street, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Elizabeth Thomas was found injured in her cottage on the evening of Saturday 10 January 1953 and taken to hospital where she later died at 9.10am on the morning of Sunday 11 January 1953.

She had been beaten about the head with a stick and stabbed in the front and back and had died from shock. The stick was left behind in the hall and was found to have had human hair on it, but the knife was never found.

A deaf and mute man was tried for her murder but acquitted. His trial at Cardiff Assizes started on 25 February 1953 but when his trial later resumed on 24 March 1953, the prosecution offered no further evidence and the judge instructed the jury to find him not guilty.

The prosecution said, 'It was inevitably a case of considerable difficulty. Having investigated the matter, it does seem that in all the circumstances the right course to pursue is not to proceed with the case and to offer no further evidence'. The judge then said, 'That is a very proper course'.

The judge then said to the jury, 'There appears to be nothing in the circumstances of the case to point to the accused. The evidence comes down to the fact that the man was seen before and afterwards and the fact that he had previously had a knife in his possession. These things coupled with certain statements said to have been obtained from a man with whom communication was almost impossible. You could never have been asked to convict on evidence of that sort'.

The judge also noted one other matter that he said disturbed him, noting that the man had been taken to the police station on 10-11 January and kept there until 14 January with no charge of any sort being made against him. The judge said, 'It may be that this man has civil rights which had been infringed, but it is obvious that to detain a man three nights in a police station without being charged is something that is open to misconstruction'.

Whilst the man was in custody a woman from the deaf and Dumb Institute in Llanelly acted as an interpreter for him.

The deaf man had lived in Ferry House with his three uncles and had worked in the district as a gardener. He was unable to read or write and had no knowledge of the deaf and dumb sign language.

He had been deaf and dumb since birth.

It was heard that his only movements in the dock at his trial was the shaking or nodding of his head and the shrugging of his shoulders in response to signs used by the court interpreter. It was heard that several attempts had been made to convey the evidence presented at the trial to the deaf and dumb man but that they were abandoned following unsuccessful efforts by the interpreter to interpret the evidence of two early witnesses.

At the first hearing the judge said, 'I think it is only right that I should say from my observations of accused and upon the advice given to me by people who know him that it is believed to be impossible for any interpreter to convey to this man anything but the most elementary phrases and signs. In the event of this case going for trial it may well be that a certain plea will be put forward. So that it may not be held against the defence then at no objection was made at the lower court I request a note be taken that it is impossible for the evidence to be interpreted to him. But to facilitate the hearing of the case now I do not make any objection at this stage'.

It was also noted that it was possible that the other certain plea could be that the deaf man could have been found unfit to plead as he could not talk. However, it was noted that that would have meant that he might have spent the rest of his life in Broadmoor even though he might have been innocent.

At the trial the judge also said, 'The law requires that a man should plead by his own voice and if this man is mute by the visitation of God, then he cannot plead by his own voice'. When the Clerk of Arraign then asked the deaf man what his name was, the deaf man just stood there unmoved and silent.

When further evidence was presented to the deaf man, the court interpreter said, 'It is simply useless trying to put this evidence to him. He said he does not know the witness and in order to interpret the address of the witness the deaf man would have to be taken there'.

It was heard that there were 46 witnesses due to give evidence at the trial.

Evidence at the trial included statements detailing his movements during the day of the murder after he finished work at about 4pm up to about 6pm and then again between 6.15pm and 6.40pm.

When Elizabeth Thomas was attacked in her home she screamed, and the scream was heard by a laboratory worker that had been passing by between 6.06pm and 6.15pm.

It was said that he had been seen in the vicinity of Elizabeth Thomas's cottage, on the other side of the road up until 6pm and then again at 6.15pm coming away from it through a field which meant that he had the opportunity to have been able to go into Elizabeth Thomas's house, the door of which was not thought to have been locked, and to have assaulted her and to have then fled out of the back door and through some gardens to a field and then onward home.

However, there was no forensic evidence linking him to the scene and whilst he denied any involvement in the murder in his initial statements, a confession that he made some days later was considered unreliable due to the difficulty in communicating with him.

A man that knew the deaf man said that he lived in a world of his own and that he had never known him to lose his temper. He said, 'He lives in a world of his own and the only way he can be made to understand is by the simplest of signs'.

The laboratory worker said, 'I am a Laboratory Worker and I live at the Glen Laugharne. On the evening of the 10th January this year, I left the house at approximately 2 minutes past 6 to go to the Belle Vue Garage, Clifton Street, Laugharne. To go to the garage, I had to walk down Clifton Street. I knew the deceased woman Miss Elizabeth Thomas. I walked that night on the left-hand side down the main road until I got to the water pump, and I then crossed the road diagonally. Looking at the Photograph No. 1 the pump is just beyond the tree on the left hand side. On crossing the road, I got to the other side by the window of the Dentists house. It is shown in the photograph No. 2 just further back than the Telegraph Pole. That brought me into the same side as the Belle Vue Garage. I then proceeded to walk to the Garage on that side of the road. When I got to within 5 yards of the deceased woman Miss Thomas' house, I heard screams'. 

The laboratory worker noted during cross-examination that he remembered leaving his house at about 6.02pm, noting that he had been listening to the Light Programme on the radio and that the football results had been on and that they had finished at 6pm and that he then listened to the World of Jazz which he said he believed was playing an orchestra which he said was playing when he left. He said that his radio was in his kitchen and that he was dressing whilst it played and that he thought that the first piece had finished when he had left. He said that The Glen was 400 yards from Elizabeth Thomas's house and that it would take him about 4 minutes to have got there.

He went on to say, 'The screaming came from the passage of Miss Thomas's house. It was shouting not to hurt her and appealing. The shouting was loud. I went near to the door of Miss Thomas's house shown in Photograph 3 to hear better. I was there about 15 seconds. I also heard her shouting for help and a name mentioned and scuffling feet. I am not certain what the name was'

The laboratory worker noted during cross-examination that he thought the name he heard was Harry. He said, ''I listened, and I heard her mention a name of which I am not certain. I won't say it was any name. It was something to the effect of Harry. I am not going to say it was the deaf man's name. The name Harry is the one I have always mentioned as the name being uttered by Miss Thomas'.

He went on to say, 'The scuffling of feet came from the passage. I then ran for help to the Garage about 75 yards away. I there saw the garage proprietor and a police sergeant. They returned with me to the front door of No. 3. When we got back, I did not hear any noises. I then shouted to someone across the road. The sergeant was standing in the door and the garage proprietor by the window, and I was between them. I did not hear anything in the house. I saw the sergeant rattling the door and he shouted. I heard no reply from inside. When I first passed No. 3 I saw a light in the 1st room as I approached the house, that is the room on the right hand side of the door, when facing the door. The light was still there when I got back with the police officer. The light went out while we were standing outside. I could not see through the window as the curtains were drawn. I saw the sergeant try the door. I then saw him pull the window on the right down, the window where the light had been. He then went in. After he had gone into the room I looked in through the window and by the light of the sergeant’s electric torch I could see her head lying in the doorway from the passage into the kitchen. The sergeant went and opened the front door. I went in. I saw Miss Thomas lying on the floor. Miss Thomas was still alive, and I helped the sergeant to take her in the kitchen. Apart from the sergeant’s torch there was no light on in the house. I lit the lamp after carrying Miss Thomas in. It was a lamp very similar to the one shown me. I lit the lamp myself. I got hold of the lamp and shook it for paraffin and struck a match to light it. I had to turn the wick up. The globe was warm when I put it back on. Shortly after that I left and went to the Belle Vue Garage and telephoned. I then returned to No. 3 and I was present when the doctor examined Miss Thomas and also when the ambulance arrived.

The police sergeant said that when he got to the house there was a light in the room on the right of the door when facing the door. He said, 'I could not see in as the curtains were drawn. The top of the window was about 4 inches open. I heard nothing when I got to the house. I tried to open the door and rattled it, but found it locked. I then knocked and shouted to the occupier to open the door. I shouted 'Miss Thomas and Lizzie' but not Miss Lewis. I had no reply and went to the window and shouted 'Lizzie, open the door', but had no reply. I then returned to the front door and knocked again but had no reply. I heard some fumbling noise in the passage, and what sounded like buckets being moved. I then saw a keyhole in the right hand side of the front door and looked through it, and in faint light reflected from a lamp in the living room I saw a person who I made out to be in a bent position and wearing a light coloured man's cap. The crown of the cap was facing the front door. I cannot say whether this person was a man, woman or child'.

He then said, 'After I rose my head from the keyhole. I noticed the light had gone out in the room. I heard what I made out to be faint groans from the passage. I went to the window and forced down the top sash and entered the room. The place was in darkness when I entered, I had a torch, but the top of it fell off, and I found a small torch on the bed. I shone the light across the room, and found nobody there, and I went to the passage. Lying in the centre of the passage, I saw an elderly woman on her back with her head facing the front door, and her legs towards the back door. The head as near the edge of a mat at the entrance to the living toom door, her body was slightly inclined to the left and her legs were in a slightly bent position. She was moving her arms about but was unconscious. Her clothes were not disarranged. Her hat was by her head, on the left side in the centre of the passage. There were two hat pins in the hat'.

The police sergeant said that he then moved Elizabeth Thomas into the kitchen with the help of the laboratory worker.

The garage proprietor said that he had gone with the police sergeant and the laboratory worker back to 3 Clifton Street and said that whilst there he noticed a light in the room on the right hand side of the door and then saw it go out.

He said that he remembered seeing the deaf man earlier in the afternoon at about 4.45pm outside Ebsworth’s Garage which was practically opposite his garage, noting that there had been no one with him at the time. He noted that that was the only time he saw him.

A doctor that lived in Green Gables Saint Clears said that on 10 January 1953 that as a result of a telephone message he received at 6.21pm he went to 3 Clifton Street, arriving between 6.30pm and 6.35pm, where he saw Elizabeth Thomas. He said that he could see that her injuries were serios and so he arranged for her removal to the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen.

A surgeon at West Wales General Hospital said that he was present when Elizabeth Thomas was admitted to the hospital at 7.30pm, saying that she was in an unconscious state at the time. He said that on preliminary examination he noticed that she was suffering from wounds in the scalp and bruising over her right eye and a fracture of her right forearm. He said that a further examination disclosed 7 incised wounds on her chest and back, a small abrasion of her left knee and a scratch on her right calf, noting that the last two injuries were recent. He said that Elizabeth Thomas was under his supervision until 9.10am the following morning when she died.

A Home Office pathologist carried out a post mortem on Elizabeth Thomas's body on 12 January 1953 at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen.

He said that on external examination he found an injury to her scalp, stating that it was a tear on the side of her scalp above the right ear measuring 3in in length and with much associated bruising. He said that her right eye was blacked and that there were superficial brises on her right forehead and cheek and below her right ear. He said that the bruise below her right ear had a linked layer of skin attached to it from the lower margin.

He said that there were three superficial puncture wounds on her chest, two in the skin on the breastbone, and one in the abdominal wall immediately above the waistline and to the left of the middle line. He said that they had penetrated into the subcutaneous fat but had not reached the underlaying bone or muscle.

He said that the right forearm was much bruised, swollen and deformed due to the breaking of the shaft of both its bones above the wrist joint.

He said that turning to her left flank there were four more puncture wounds that were deeper than those at the front that had sharp edges that had tapering extremities.

He said that there was a superficial bruise on the left knee outside of her left ankle.

He said that on internal examination he found a fracture of her skull on the right side that split the roof of the right eye socket and broke the side of the skull above the right ear into fragments. He said that there was also a collection of blood between the broken nose, and the thick covering membrane of the brain which was intact.

He said that the fractures to her forearm were recent and from about the same time as the injuries to her head.

He noted that there was no laceration of the brain.

He said that there was deep bruising in her abdomen where her intestines were freed to the posterior abdominal wall that spread to her kidneys, but no injury to the backbone. He said that he thought that the bruising could have been caused by a falling or by a knee forced into her stomach. He noted that they would have been caused by a blow rather than pressure.

He said that there were two wounds to her chest which had perforated the chest wall, the tracks of which were a depth of one inch from entry to the end. He said that the upper one had reached the lung and pricked it and the lower one had to separate openings into the pleural cavity about 1/3rd of an inch apart but with no corresponding wounds in the lung.

He said that he thought that the wounds on her chest and back had been caused by a similar instrument such as a sharp pointed knife which he thought would have had a double edge near the point.

The pathologist concluded by stating that he found that Elizabeth Thomas had died from shock resulting from the cumulative effect of the multiple injuries that she had received, the most serious of which was the fracture to her skull.

A fitters mate who had been a friend of the deaf man for between 25 and 30 years and who lived in Newbridge Road, Laugharne said that he had seen the deaf man on 10 January 1953 first on the morning at Mariners Corner where Newbridge Road joined King Street at about 4pm. He said that he was going to Laugharne Church at the time and that the deaf man showed him two torch batteries and signified to him that he wanted to buy two new ones and said that he told him to go to the garages up the road. He said that he could not tell him which garage and said that the deaf man went into Ebsworth Garage for the batteries whilst he stayed out on the road. However, he said that the deaf man then came out and signed that there were none there, shaking his head and that they then both went to Belle Vue Garage where he told the attendant that the deaf man wanted two batteries which were then supplied.

The fitters mate said that they then went off towards the church together but that he left the deaf man at the church gate and that he went to do the church fire. He said that the deaf man didn't go into the church and that he was there for about 3 or 4 minutes and that he then went back along Clifton Street and caught up with the deaf man between the Memorial Hall and Ebsworth Garage. He said that he walked with him for about 20 yards and that the deaf man then went into a woman's house, noting that the door was open and that it was by then about 4.30pm. He said that he then went off and didn’t see the deaf man again that day.

A boot repairer who lived in Ryegate House in Laugharne that had known the deaf man for about 25 years said that on 10 January 1953 that he saw the deaf man with the fitters mate between 4pm and 4.15pm in King Street, Laugharne just outside his house which was next door to the Dragon Hotel on the right looking towards Clifton Street. He said that when he first saw them they were walking towards Clifton Street. He said that he had to cross the road at which point they were about 10 or 12 yards ahead of him. He said that they were still ahead of him when he went into Williams' shop

He said that the deaf man had been wearing a light cap and a mackintosh at the time and that they were in his sight for between 2 to 4 minutes.

A woman that lived in Plaspant Clifton Street in Laugharne  said that she had known the deaf man all her life and said that from time to time he had worked for her chopping sticks and thrashing, saying that he last chopped sticks about 8 weeks before Elizabeth Thomas was murdered. She said that he had come to her house on 10 January 1953 at about 4.30pm saying that he just walked in and didn't knock and said that from her knowledge of him she knew why he had come. She said that he showed her his gloves and explained to her that the lady that he worked for had given them to him as a Xmas box. She said that the deaf man described the lady he worked for by her glasses and by her smiling and bowing which she did when she gave presents. She said that he only came into the passage and that he wasn't there a second and said that she thought that he was catching a bus to Carmarthen. She said that the deaf man had told her before that he'd had the gloves but that she had not seen them before. She said that he had taken the gloves from the right-hand pocket of his Burberry Coat, the colour of which she could not describe and said that he had a cap on his head. She said that after he left he turned right towards Ebsworth Garage.

A packer that lived in Swan Cottage in Gosport Street, Laugharne said that she had known the deaf man for about 30 years. She said that on 10 January 1953 that she saw Elizabeth Thomas between 3.30pm and 4pm when she was fetching water from the pump, going from her house to the pump. She said that she had been pruning a tree in the street at the time. She said that she later saw the deaf man at about 4pm, after she had seen Elizabeth Thomas, saying that he was going up towards the church with the fitter’s mate. She said that she finished the trees at about 4.45pm at which time she saw the deaf man again standing outside Ebsworth’s Garage alone.

A woman that lived with her husband at Clifton Stores said that her shop was practically opposite Elizabeth Thomas's house. She said that on 10 January 1953 that Elizabeth Thomas had been in the kitchen of her house for about 15 minutes, saying that she left at about 5.15pm, but that she didn't see her leave. She added that she also saw the deaf man that evening, but was not sure of the time, saying that it was either before or after Elizabeth Thomas left her house. She said that she saw him from her shop window outside her shop standing and looking across the road. She said that she then went straight to her door and said that the deaf man was still there and said that she watched him for just a minute in the door and then went back.

The woman's husband, who ran Clifton Stores, said that he had known the deaf man most of the 29 years that he had lived in Laugharne, saying that he would come into his shop once a week to do the shopping for a woman. He said that he would tell him what he wanted by signs, for example, cigarettes, by putting his hand to his mouth, and said that when he shopped for the woman that he would give him a written list.

He said that he last saw Elizabeth Thomas on 10 January 1953 when she came into his shop to buy some sweets at about 5pm, noting that she had also gone through into the kitchen to see his wife.

He said that he later saw the deaf man at about 5.30pm. He said that he happened to go to his front door and saw him standing to his right about 8 or 10 yards away on the pavement just outside of the Croft House in front of the window nearest him, noting that he easily recognised him. He said that it was dark and that a car passed at the time downhill into Laugharne and that he saw him in the lights, but said that he didn't notice what he was wearing, but said that he thought he had been wearing a cap but could not be sure. He noted that he had seen the deaf man about quite a few times around and about over the previous three or four weeks.

A market gardener who lived in Bay View, Laugharne said that he had known the deaf man for a couple of years and said that he remembered seeing him at about 5.30pm opposite the Croft House in Clifton Street on the right hand side between the shop and the front door of the Croft. He said that he had been going to the New Cemetery at the time and had been walking on the Croft side and said that when he passed him, they acknowledged each other by raising their hands. He said that he believed that the deaf man had been wearing a cap, but that that was all that he could say.

The market gardener said that he didn't see the deaf man again, saying that he returned up Clifton Street from the Cemetery within 5 minutes, just a few minutes, and didn't see him on his return journey. He noted that he had only guessed the time by the fact that the Service Bus from Pendine, which was due to pass through Laugharne at 5.20pm had already passed through by the time that he saw the deaf man.

A nephew of Elizabeth Thomas, a farm labourer who lived with his two brothers in Horsepool Road, Laugharne said that his mother had died in October 1952 and that since then Elizabeth Thomas had been a regular visitor to his house, saying that she came by every day except Saturday and Sunday in order to light a fire and get food for him and his brothers when they came home and that she also used to call at about 7pm on Saturdays and 4pm on Sundays. He said that he used to call at her house every Thursday to bring her meat and each Friday to bring her pension.

He said that he last saw Elizabeth Thomas at his house on the Friday, 9 January 1953 sometime after he had been to see her at her house to give her her pension.

He said that he had known the deaf man as long as he could remember and said that on 10 January 1953 he finished work at 5.30pm and walked home along Clifton Street which took him past Elizabeth Thomas's house. He said that he was walking on the right-hand side opposite Elizabeth Thomas's house which he passed at about 5.40pm. He said that as he passed he saw a woman from East Hill farm opposite Elizabeth Thomas's house and greeted her as he passed but did not stop. He said that he then saw the deaf man outside the Croft, saying that he was standing on the edge of the pavement by a tree and in front of the shop window and that as he passed the deaf man raised his hand. The farm labourer said that he didn't recognise what the deaf man had been wearing but said that he did have a cap on.

The farm labourer noted that he also saw another man who he then talked to for about 3 to 5 minutes. He said that the deaf man was still in the same place when he started talking to the man but said that he didn't notice whether he had still been there by the time he stopped talking to the man and continued on his way.

The farm labourer said that when he visited Elizabeth Thomas on the Thursdays and Fridays that her door was mostly closed but not locked, stating that it was usually on the latch but never locked. He added that the back door was secured by a wooden bolt to keep it fastened when she locked it up, but noted that the bottom hinge on the door was broken. He said that Elizabeth Thomas kept a stick along the bottom of the back door when it was not in use and that he had always seen it standing behind the back door.

The farm labourer said that Elizabeth Thomas had been ill about 12 months earlier and that she had since been sleeping in the kitchen, which he said was the room on the right of the passage when going in. He said that she lit the room with a paraffin lamp.

The deaf man was also seen by a lorry driver, a carpenter, a laboratory assistant and a housekeeper at about the same time, between 5.30pm and 5.45pm standing opposite Elizabeth Thomas's house by the Croft.

The housekeeper who was thought to have been the last person to have seen the deaf man outside Elizabeth Thomas's house lived at the Vicarage in Laugharne. She said that she had known the deaf man for about six years and that she also knew Elizabeth Thomas. She said that on 10 January 1953 that she had left her house at 5.45pm by her study clock to put a notice on the Lych Gate, noting that it would take her about 2 or 3 minutes to get there. She said that as she passed Elizabeth Thomas's house she saw the deaf man outside the Croft window by the tree, noting that he had a light cap and a light mac on. She said that he was standing looking at the cottages on the opposite side of the road. She said that she then went on to the church and that when she returned, he was still there in the same place.

She said that shortly after she passed the deaf man she stopped to speak to a woman near the pump, saying that she spoke to her for about a minute.

She noted that she had seen the deaf man standing where he was standing before.

A farmer that lived at East Hill Farm off Clifton Street said that his house and farm building was almost directly opposite Elizabeth Thomas's house and said that he knew her very well. He said that on the night of 10 January 1953 that he saw the deaf man at about 6.15pm by the front door on the pavement outside of the street, saying that he was coming from the direction of the church. He said that the deaf man had been wearing Wellington boots and had a dark coat on, but said that it was foggy and that he didn't take much notice. He said that he didn't speak to him because he knew that he could not answer. He said that when he saw the deaf man he was just getting home after having been out for a walk. He said that at the time he also noticed that the front door of Elizabeth Thomas's house was open and that the window was halfway down. He said that he didn't see the deaf man again.

The farmer noted that he heard a sound like a puppy crying at about 6pm and that he milked one cow after that and then went back to his house. He said that the sound did not go on for long and that he could not say where the sound came from but said that it seemed to him to come from outside.

A fitter that lived in Upton House off Clifton Street, Laugharne said that he had known the deaf man nearly all his life and said that before the war years, for about 16 years off and on he had worked with him. He said that the deaf man had worked as a handyman at Ebsworth Garage and said that he could handle him alright and get him to understand anything that he wanted him to do by means of signs regarding the type of work he wanted him to do in the garage. He noted that he also knew Elizabeth Thomas.

The fitter said that on the evening of 10 January 1953 that he had arrived home from work at about 4.15pm after having been working Saturday at his job. He said that next to where he lived he had a private garage for his car. He said that he later went out to his garage sometime after 6pm, in the vicinity of 6.15pm when he heard his Spaniel dog barking. He said that when he went out he switched his light on and opened his door which the dog was barking against and that when he did so he saw a man come from the waste ground next to the Memorial Hall opposite his house. He said that as he opened the door which opened in halves to the main road he saw the man coming across the street towards him. He said that when he opened the door the man veered off and kept going down towards the clock and pulled up his collar. He noted that it was a bad night and that visibility was very bad. However, he said that he recognised that the man had had a greyish mac on and did not seem to have any headgear on. He said that he said goodnight to the man but that the man didn't reply. He added that that he didn't recognise the man.

A woman that lived with her husband at Moir Cottage in Laugharne said that on the evening of 10 January 1953 two little girls called at her house, first of all at about 5.50pm after which they left at 6.10pm and then again at 6.20pm. She said that she had known the deaf man all her life and said that she saw him at about 6.30pm. She said that she was standing at her door and that he was walking down King Street in the direction of the Town Clock on the pavement to the side of her house. She said that he had been wearing a light coat and a lightish cap. She noted that her house was on the Saint Clears side of the Vicarage.

A night watchman who lived at Jubilee Bungalow in Laugharne said that he had known the deaf man since 1909 and said that he saw him on the evening of 10 January 1953 by the bakehouse in Victoria Street at about 6.40pm.  He said the Bakehouse was about 50 yards up the street from King Street and that he saw the deaf man there going off home, away from King Street. He said that he had a light mac on and that he waved his hand at him. He noted that it was very foggy and that there was a dewy rain.

The woman that lived next door to Elizabeth Thomas in Willow Cottage said that she knew the deaf man and remembered when he was born. She said that her garden adjoined Elizabeth Thomas's garden and that there was a low hedge dividing them but said that it was a hedge that needed cutting and that you could not step over it although she noted that there were many gaps in it since the police had been there. She said that the deaf man had worked in her garden digging and doing rough work up to about 1950 before which she said that he had done that for quite a few years. She noted that he had always been a good workman and that she had never had any trouble with him.

A farm labourer who lived in Wood Cottage in Laugharne said that he had known the deaf man for a good time and had seen him before with a knife. He said that he last saw him with a knife over the Cliff on the Sunday before Christmas when his mate broke their pencil and he motioned for the deaf man who then gave his knife to his mate. He said that When the deaf man handed over his knife he had a good look at it, noting that it was an ordinary knife and not a dagger, but something more like a table knife. He said hat he didn't take any notice as to how many edges it had but said that it was between 6 and 7 inches longs and did not fold. He added that the deaf man had brought the knife out from his inside pocket.

The farm labourer's friend, who was an apprentice bricklayer confirmed the farm labourers story about the deaf man lending them his knife to sharpen a pencil on the Cliff at Laugharne saying that it was the Sunday before Christmas. He said that it was about 6 or 7 inches long and had a browny coloured handle and not a folding knife and that he had not seen him with the knife since. He added that it was a table knife, like a bread or butter knife, but that it was sharp.

A woman that lived at Cliff Cottage in Laugharne said that she had known the deaf man for 32 years, saying that he had worked for her doing odd jobs such as chopping wood and sweeping the yard and in the summer gardening and carrying water. She said that he worked very intelligently within his limitations and was very observant. She said that he could tell the time quite well by looking at the clock and could count money quite carefully without assistance. She added that they found him to be very reliable, steady and trustworthy.

She said that she made him understand by simple signs and gestures and never by the official deaf and dumb language which she said she did not understand. She said that she didn't find it difficult to explain what she wanted done, especially after 32 years, saying that she would make a chopping action with her hand if she wanted him to chop sticks.

The woman said that she only knew Elizabeth Thomas by sight and remembered 10 January 1953, stating that she recalled seeing the deaf man that day at about 1pm when he came and had dinner with them as usual as it was part of his wages, and said that he left at exactly 2.30pm.

She noted that she recalled seeing him the day before, noting that it was wet and said that on neither 9 or 10 January 1953 did the deaf man complain to her about having received any cuts. She said that she gave him a pair of woollen gloves at Christmas and later examined a pair that the deaf man had had and said that they were similar but that she thought that the ones that she had given him had been a lighter grey.

She said that the deaf man would not complain to her every time he hurt his finger but had on several occasions brought a slight cut to them for treatment.

She said that in all the years that she had known him to her knowledge, he had never had a knife and said that when he wanted a knife that she would give him one from the knife box, saying that it might have been an old bread and butter knife or a pen knife for sharpening pencils. She added that the deaf man would often sharpen knives for her. She said that she didn't know about any stone at Cliff Walk, but said that he would sharpen knives on the backdoor step.

The woman that lived at Cliff Cottage said that the deaf man’s needs were simple and that all he needed money for were cigarettes and comic papers, and said that over the period that she had known him that he had never seemed to be worried about money.

Another woman that lived at Cliff Cottage said that she had known the deaf man since 1939 and had seen him every day when he had come to the cottage to work. She said that she remembered seeing the deaf man on Thursday 15 January 1953 when he called at the cottage at 11.30am. She said that she had been upstairs when he had called and that she came down and opened the door and that they then shook hands and that he seemed to be very overcome. She said that he took two strides and sat on a chair near the table and put his arms on the table and leant his head on his arms and shed a tear. She said that she tapped him on his shoulder and asked him to cheer up and said that he then turned to her and made her to understand that he had never beat up an elderly person. She said that he then pushed up the sleeve of his coat and showed her where he had had a blood test and then pulled up his trouser leg and showed her either two or three, she could not remember exactly how many, abrasions. She said that they were on the inside part of his leg below the knee and above the ankle, but that she could not remember which leg. She said that the deaf man then showed her how they had been examined by the doctor. She said that he also showed her the way that they had wiped his hand and taken fingerprints.

She said that when she asked the deaf man if he wanted a cup of tea he was pleased to have one.

She said that when he showed the marks on his legs that he had indicated that he had got them through hedging.

She said that when he gave her to understand that he had not attacked the old lady he had said that he was at another woman’s house at 4.30pm, describing the woman as the woman with the swollen hands.

A detective sergeant with the Carmarthenshire Constabulary stationed at Ammanford said that on the morning of 11 January 1953 that he saw the deaf man at Carmarthen police station and that through an interpreter he interviewed him. He said that he told him, 'I am a police officer making enquiries respecting an attack made upon Miss Elizabeth Thomas at her house in Clifton Street, Laugharne last night and have reason to believe you were near the scene at the time', to which the deaf man replied, 'I was walking along Clifton Street about 4 o'clock and went as far as the Church. I came back at about half past four. I saw Miss Thomas on the doorstep, and saluted her, she is my friend. I did not speak to her only saluted her as I passed. I then walked home, and had food. There was another man with me on the road. Then I went home. I was home at about 5 o'clock and did not go out again'.

However, the detective sergeant then said, ‘You were seen near Miss Thomas's house at about half past five and quarter past six. Have you anything to say?' to which the deaf man replied, 'No I was not there. I had had my food and sat in the chair reading'.

The police saw the deaf man again on 13 January 1953 and asked him a number of questions. There was then a break after which on 18 January 1953 he allegedly admitted to having murdered Elizabeth Thomas.

The first questions and answers from 13 January 1953 are:

  • Q: Who are you, where do you live and how old are you?
  • A: I am 46 years, I am 44. I live at home with three uncles. I cannot write who I am.
  • Q: What do you do for a living?
  • A: Gardening and planting.
  • Q: What sort of gardening and what sort of tools do you use?
  • A: I use a spade, a fork and a rake and I sow seeds. I also use shears for hedges, a scythe to cut grass and a sickle for cutting grass.
  • Q: What do you use for pruning and things like that?
  • A: I use a pruning knife.
  • Q: Where do you keep that pruning knife?
  • A: I keep it on a shelf at home in a place with compartments like a rack.
  • Q: Is it there now?
  • A: Yes. It is there now.
  • Q: Is that the only knife you use for anything?
  • A: It is the only one I have (he was shown a pocket knife by a detective and said, 'I have one like that at home').
  • Q: Where is that?
  • A: It is a small one and it is at home on a shelf.
  • Q: You have an injury to one of your legs?
  • A: Yes. (he then showed some small new scabs below his right knee) I did that by hitting it with a scythe.
  • Q: When was that?
  • A: One week ago. It was on Tuesday.
  • Q: Where did it happen?
  • A: Whilst gardening. A woman's garden. I can show you where.
  • Q: Who knows you did it with a scythe?
  • A: Many people saw me use the scythe, and several saw me hurt myself, and one woman helped me.
  • Q: Can you say who she was?
  • A: She was a fat woman who lives further down. She is a housewife. She also gave me food and bound my cut. She is not married.
  • Q: You have a new pair of gloves?
  • A: Yes I use them to protect my hands from thorns.
  • Q: How long have you had them?
  • A: Ten weeks.
  • Q: Where did you get them?
  • A: From a shop near where I live.
  • Q: Where are your old gloves?
  • A: I still have them at home.
  • Q: Where were you last Saturday?
  • A: I went to work in the morning, came home to dinner and went back to work at half past one. I came home from work at 4 o'clock. I was with another man with yellow hair who I met up by the church. It is the church where the vicar is. He knows me. It is the church just past the garage where I got batteries for my torch on Saturday afternoon.
  • Q: Do you understand then that you passed this Church on your way home from work?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Where did you meet this man with the yellow hair?
  • A: I met him down near my home.
  • Q: So you met this man just before you got home at 4 o'clock?
  • A: No. I met this man just before we came to the house of the woman who has been killed. She was standing on the doorstep. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me. Both the other man and me saluted the woman as we went by.
  • Q: How do you know this woman?
  • A: She is a good friend of mine. I have known her since I was a small boy.
  • Q: How do you know her?
  • A: Just as a friend.
  • Q: Do you know this woman's three nephews who live nearby her?
  • A: Yes. I know them but not very well. They are about my own age. We used to go to the same school in Laugharne.
  • Q: Then the lady must be very old, if he is their Auntie?
  • A: She is old and small with white hair, but she is very energetic. She knows me very well and likes me very much. She always smiles at me and I always smile at her.
  • Q: Is her house near the sweet shop which you go into?
  • A: Yes, it is quite near.
  • Q: Where? On the same side of the road or on the opposite side?
  • A: Yes. It is right opposite.
  • Q: What did the old lady do for a living?
  • A: I don't know.
  • Q: Did she used to clean at the Church?
  • A: Yes. She used to but she has given it up.
  • Q: She was an old lady who lived on her own, wasn't she?
  • A: Yes. She was the only one and lived on her own.
  • Q: Did you get a battery for your torch on Saturday afternoon?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Was that at a garage?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Was the man with the yellow hair with you when you bought it?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Was that on your way home?
  • A: Yes. The other fellow was going for a drink and left me. That is what he told me. That is the fellow with the yellow hair who was with me when I bought the battery. I then went home and got there at about half past four having left my work at about 4 o'clock.
  • Q: Were your three uncles at home when you got there at about half past four?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Did you go out again that day?
  • A: No. I stayed at home. I am certain of that. I had some tea, washed my hands and went to bed about nine o'clock.
  • Q: How do you know times?
  • A: I can read the clock (demonstrated). I have one in the house.
  • Q: Have you ever been into the house of the old lady that was murdered?
  • A: No. I never have.
  • Q: Have you ever been into her garden?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Have you ever been into the houses or gardens next door to her on either side?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Not ever to work, to do some gardening?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Have you ever seen the old lady in the sweet shop opposite your house?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: How often?
  • A: Once.
  • Q: When was that?
  • A: Not recently.
  • Q: Did you see her come out of there last Saturday when you saluted her?
  • A: No, I did not.
  • Q: Were you near the old lady's house or the sweet shop on last Saturday evening between half past five and half past six?
  • A: I left work at half past four and met the fellow with the yellow hair by the church and we walked down together and bought the battery at the garage at half past five. The other fellow went for a drink and I went home at about 6 o'clock. It was 6 o'clock.
  • Q: What were you doing between half past four and half past five?
  • A: We were just lounging about doing nothing and smoking.
  • Q: Where was that. Was that near the old lady's house?
  • A: No. Around the streets further away from her.
  • Q: Was that near the Town Hall where the clock is?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Were you waiting for the public house to open?
  • A: The other fellow was but not me, drink makes me sick and I went home.
  • Q: Was it not later than 5.30pm when the other fellow went into the public house?
  • A: Yes. It was six o’clock. The other fellow was going to play darts and drink.
  • Q: So it was not six o'clock when you got home but later?
  • A: It was a little bit past six when I got home and I then stayed there.
  • Q: Then it must have been between half past four and 6 o'clock that you saw the old lady?
  • A: It was about half past five, and it was five and twenty past six when I got home. (made these times with hands of watch).
  • Q: And the other man was with you all the time until he went into the public house and you went home?
  • A: Yes. We were together all the time until he went to drink.
  • Q: You have previously said that you got home at half past four and did not go out again?
  • A: I went home to have tea at four and I came out and went back to work again to finish a job for half an hour. It was then I met the other man on my way to work and he kept with me until he went to have his drink and I went home.
  • Q: Did you meet the other man by appointment or accidentally?
  • A: I met him by surprise.
  • Q: You have changed your story several times. Is that purposely or because you could not remember?
  • A: Not purposely. I was mixed in the time. My story is correct because I have been thinking and I now remember. This is now the truth as God is my witness.
  • Q: Then what time do you say that you bought the battery?
  • A: About half past four.
  • Q: We suggest that when you lounged around the streets after you left work at half past four and when the other man went for a drink at 6 o'clock you were lounging near the old lady's house not near the clock tower?
  • A: Yes. Me and my friend were lounging near the old lady's house and not near the clock tower.
  • Q: Then it was wrong when you said first now that you were lounging near the clock tower?
  • A: Yes. It was near her house we were lounging.
  • Q: Why did you lie?
  • A: I was not near the old lady's house alone, the other man and I were together. I thought you meant that I was near the old lady's house alone.
  • Q: You were seen there alone. What do you say to that?
  • A: No. I was not. We were both there.
  • Q: Your friend says he was not with you there. What do you say to that?
  • A: My friend was with me until six o'clock when he left me to go to have a drink.
  • Q: Your friend does not say that. Is he mistaken or telling lies?
  • A: He was with me.
  • Q: Why did you lounge near the old lady's house?
  • A: We were just smoking, enjoying ourselves, walking backwards and forwards.
  • Q: I want you to think carefully about the next question before you answer it. Does your friend know anything about the attack on the old lady?
  • A: I do not know whether he knows or not.
  • Q: Why? You say you were with him?
  • A: My friend left me outside the old lady's house at 6.20pm (time pointed on watch) just after we had saluted her. He just went in front of me leaving me alone, sauntering along lighting a cigarette. I was on the same side of the road and was by her house as she stood on her doorstep, she was just off her doorstep on the footway. The sketch I have drawn shows where she was and I were at that time. The sketch is marked 'C'. I did not salute her this time. I just walked by and looked at her.
  • Q: So this is the second time you have seen her that evening? The first time when you saluted her?
  • A: Yes. The first time was at half past four when I saluted her with my friend.
  • Q: How did you know it was 6.20pm?
  • A: I tell by the clock in the Town Hall as I walked by to get home at 6.25pm.
  • Q: It was dark?
  • A: Yes, but I could see by the electric street light, and lights from a shop which sells food.
  • Q: Was there a light in the old lady's house which helped you to see her?
  • A: There was a light in her window where I have marked a cross on sketch 'C'.
  • Q: Was it an electric light?
  • A: I only saw a light.
  • Q: Are you sure you did not go into the old lady's house when she was not at the front door?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Did you have anything to do with the attack upon her?
  • A: No. (a pair of tweezers were then produced by the police and the deaf man said, 'No as God is my witness).
  • Q: Have you seen these tweezers at any time before?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Your knife is not in your house. Where is it?
  • A: It is home on the shelf (shown pocket knife and then denied having one).
  • Q: We now understand that you went out later that evening with one of your uncles to have a drink?
  • A: No. I do not like to drink.
  • Q: Who did you meet on your way home after you had passed the old lady's house at 6.20pm?
  • A: I did not meet anybody.
  • Q: Did you see anybody you knew?
  • A: I did not meet a soul.
  • Q: Have you ever lounged near the old lady's house on any previous occasion before this Saturday?
  • A: Yes. On many occasions and round other houses also.
  • Q: On what days of the week?
  • A: I do so every day almost, after work (tweezers again produced by the police) (the deaf man said that he could hear a little with his left ear but not with his right ear).
  • Q: The tweezers have been found in your home. What do you say about them?
  • A: They are not mine. They belong to one of my three uncles. Perhaps they do.
  • Q: Your three uncles say they have never seen them?
  • A: I have never seen them.
  • Q: Can you suggest where they might have come from? They were found in your house and your uncles say they have never seen them?
  • A: I have never seen them. Children coming in from outside might have brought them. They are always coming in. They must belong to one of them.
  • Q: Have you ever visited the house of the old lady's nephews?
  • A: No they are not my friends.
  • Q: Has the old lady ever given you any money?
  • A: Never. No.
  • Q: You say your friend left you at 6.20pm and you sauntered after him. Your friend does not say that?
  • A: He left me just after six o'clock and went for a drink.
  • Q: Your friend says he left you a long time before that?
  • A: My friend left me at 10 minutes to six alone in the position I have shown on the sketch 'C'.
  • Q: People saw you there, and other places near there. Do you still say you did not speak to the old lady then or go into her house for something?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Did you not see the old lady go into her house from the shop across the road?
  • A: Yes. I did.
  • Q: When was that?
  • A: After my friend had left me.
  • Q: Where were you when she came out of the shop and crossed the road to her house?
  • A: Where I have shown myself on sketch 'C'.
  • Q: Did you stand outside the shop on the opposite side of the road from the house of he old lady?
  • A: No.
  • Q: Were you round the back of the house that evening at any time?
  • A: No.
  • Q: At what spot did your friend leave you?
  • A: Near the Church.
  • Q: On the same side of the road as the old lady's house, or on the other side of the road?
  • A: Yes on the old lady's side.
  • Q: And you kept on that side of the road all the time?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: You have a pair of Wellington boots. Were you wearing them that evening?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Were you wearing a belted raincoat that evening?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Were your gloves in the pocket?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Where did you get the money to buy the battery for your torch?
  • A: I have a lot of money from my work and I put it in my box, and I have not a key to it.
  • Q: Do your uncles put their money with it?
  • A: No. It is my own money and my own box and they dare not touch it.
  • Q: Are you not afraid all these children will come in and steal it when you are not there?
  • A: No. The children go round the shed and play there. They do not come into the house only to the shed. I am sure they do not come into the house.
  • Q: The tweezers were found in the house?
  • A: No. I have never seen them.
  • Q: The children could not have left them in the house if they do not enter it?
  • A: My uncles have visitors and they might have left them. They come and go, they come and go.
  • Q: Why are you so sure of the time at 6.20pm when you last saw the old lady standing by the doorstep?
  • A: Yes, I am sure it was ten minutes to six when I last saw the old lady. When I lit a cigarette, and it was ten minutes past six by the Town Hall Clock when I looked, and I got home between 6.25pm and twenty-five minutes to seven.

On 18 January 1953 the deaf man was interviewed again made the following answers:

  • Q: Was he responsible for the death of Miss Elizabeth Thomas, the old lady who lives in the middle cottage of the five in Clifton Street, which is opposite the sweet shop?
  • A: Yes. I am going to say the truth.
  • Q: What do you want t say? Did you hit her?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: What with on the head?
  • A: A piece of wood.
  • Q: What else did you do to her?
  • A: I struck her in the front and in the back.
  • Q: With a knife? Where did you get the knife?
  • A: Out of my jacket pocket. I threw it into the sea.
  • Q: Where?
  • A: Near my home.
  • Q: Can you show where?
  • A: Yes. I got it from my uncle with a thing in his arm. My uncle wanted it back. I told him I had not got it.
  • Q: Will you explain this sketch?
  • A: I was standing where I have drawn a man. I walked across to the door of the house of the old lady. I knock the door. The old lady answered me. I went in. While she was in the passage I picked up a stick which was on the floor and hit her on the head. I stabbed her first and while she was on the floor I picked up the stick and hit her on the head. I then saw the light was on, and went into the room and turned out the lamp. I went out of the back of the house past the old woman's house next door, past the dentists house into the field next to the dentist's house and then climbed over the wall next to the main road, walked across the road into the pavement opposite and then walked up the street in the direction of the Town clock, then I went home. I don't know why I did, very sorry now that I have done it. I have cried since.
  • Q: You fully realise the seriousness of what you have said, and that it may result in your being charged with Miss Thomas' death??
  • A: Yes, I understand.
  • Q: And this is the most serious offence against the laws of the country?
  • A: Yes, I understand.
  • Q: You are not obliged to say anything, unless you wish to do so, but that anything you say will be taken down in writing and may be given in evidence?
  • A: Yes, I know that.
  • Q: Is there anything I have said to you which you have not quite understood today?
  • A: Yes, I understand you all and that's the finish.

After the interview on 18 January 1953 the police went with the deaf man to a place on Cliff Walk where the deaf man demonstrated how and where he threw the knife into the sea.

During the investigation, the police took items from Elizabeth Thomas's home including a stick along with samples of her hair which were examined by a principal scientific officer at the Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory in Cardiff. When the forensic specialist examined the stick that was found in Elizabeth Thomas's hall, he said that he found blood of human origin on four places on the stick and that on one end of the stick he found human hairs in a bloodstain that had been firmly caught in a small slit of the wood. He said that the general and detailed characteristics of the hairs that he found were closely similar to the hairs that had been taken from Elizabeth Thomas.

Following the collapse of the case it was reported in November 1953 that the Labour Member of Parliament for Nelson and Colne was due to ask the Home Secretary how Scotland Yard officers obtained an eight-page written statement and signed confession of murder from a deaf and dumb man who had never been taught any sign language. It was also heard that it was to also be asked how it came to be that the deaf man was detained and imprisoned for several days without a warrant and without a charge being made, for the purpose of interrogation.

Following the deaf man's acquittal he drew a number of sketches to show what his plans were following his release which included a holiday boating and fishing and then going back to his old job of gardening.

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

see www.truecrimelibrary.com

see National Archives - ASSI 91/45, ASSI 84/157, MEPO 2/9534

see Daily Mirror Fri 27 Feb 1953 Page 16

see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 26 February 1953

see Daily Herald - Saturday 07 March 1953

see Daily Herald - Wednesday 25 March 1953

see Daily Mirror Wed 25 Mar 1953 Page 5

see Western Mail - Wednesday 11 November 1953

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Monday 19 January 1953

see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 24 March 1953

see Western Mail - Wednesday 25 February 1953

see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 11 November 1953

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Tuesday 27 January 1953

see Reddit