Unsolved Murders

Pamela Doreen Coventry

Age: 9

Sex: female

Date: 19 Jan 1939

Place: Wood Lane, Hornchurch, Essex

Source: discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Pamela Doreen Coventry was found dead in a ditch by some fields near her home in South Hornchurch, Essex.

Her body was found in a ditch in Wood Lane, just opposite 15 Abbs Cross Lane, in South Hornchurch.

She was found on a very old mattress in the ditch that was soaked through and rotten and had her legs tied with an electric cable and a cigarette butt left on her. She was found by a night watchman who said that he found her trussed up like a chicken. She was found naked with her white petticoat around her neck.

The night watchman had started work at Low Shoe Lane at 4.30pm and worked continually through to 7am on 19 January 1939, noting that it poured with rain until about 10.30pm on the Wednesday night. He said that after leaving work he went home and then at 10am on 19 January 1939 went to visit his brother in Chadwell Heath and said that he went via Wood Lane and Southend Road and said that as he was cycling along Wood Lane  he glanced in a ditch as he was turning left and saw what he thought was a brown paper parcel until he got a little further around the bend  and got of his bike to have a look and found that it was the body of a naked girl tied up. He said that he then went to the nearest house in Wood Lane, which was a Wing Commanders, and saw his batman and gave him instructions to call the police.

The ditch was about 5 feet deep, 27 inches wide at the bottom and about 4 feet wide at the top. The greensward was about 8 feet wide and the road about 9 feet wide. and contained no water.

It was noted that the weather on the morning of 19 January 1939 from about 7am was dry and cold, but not freezing.

The police got the call at about 10.30am on the Thursday 19 January 1939 and went to the ditch where they saw Pamela Coventry's dead body. She was naked except for a petticoat that was fastened around her neck and was trussed up, her leg sbeig bound to her trunk with cable and string. Her body was dry and the police said that there were no signs of a struffle at the scene.

A doctor that examined her whilst she was in the ditch at about 11.20am on 19 January 1939 said that she was dead and that her body was cold and thought that she had been dead for several hours.

He said that her vagina had signs of blood having trickled downwards towards the bottom of the ditch over her buttocks. He also said that her rectum had signs of blood having issued therefrom and having trickled down in the same direction. He noted that there was also a thick hard constipated stool partly protruding from her rectum.

When the pathologist examined her vagina, he said that there was reddening and bruising of the greater part of its circumference and that no traces of her hymen could be found. He said that when he removed the faeces that were protruding from her anus he found a bruise at the back of the anal orifice on the right side and a split one inch long extending in the skin backwards and to the right on the margin of the anus and several superficial splits close to and behind the main one. He said that there were also two small superficial abrasions in the cleft between the upper parts of the buttocks and a superficial abrasion over the spine about three inches higher up.

He said that internally Pamela Coventry was perfectly healthy and that most of her organs were congested and of a dark red colour, especially her liver, spleen and kidneys and said that throughout her blood was dark in colour and fluid. He said that there were tiny haemorrhages of the surface of her heart and lungs.

He said that her stomach contained a fairly large amount of food which he said had no abnormal odour or appearance and said that similar food was found at the upper end of hr small intestine. He said that when the content of her stomach was examined it could be recognised as being some small fragments of meat, much starchy food in which potato starch was identified and some oil and a few fragments of the skin of peas. He said that the composition of her stomach contents corresponded closely with that of her last meal which she was stated to have had at home, namely, sausage, potatoes and a few peas. He said that the slight degree of digestion of the food indicated that death had followed a short time, not more than an hour, at the most, after the meal was taken.

The pathologist said that her death was caused by strangulation by hand.

He said that the large bruise on her right lower jaw could have been caused by a violent blow with the fist and that the bruise behind hr left ear may have been caused by a fall onto a hard surface. He said that the injuries could have rendered Pamela Coventry unconscious and said that the injures at the vaginal and anal orifices were produced during life as the result of an attempt to force some object into he openings. He said that they could not have been produced by the penis but could have been inflicted by the finger.

He said that she was tied up after death, but before the onset of rigor mortis which he said would have been any time up to 4 or 5 hours after.

The pathologist said that her body had been tied up such that her thighs were completely flexed on her abdomen and that her knees were pressing on the lower part of her chest. He said that the materials used to up her body a thick black cable, a thinner green cable and pieces of thick string as well as some insulating tape.

When the pathologist cut away the ligatures he found that her body was rigid as a result of the development of rigor mortis and said that when he forcibly extended her lower limbs he found a partly smoked cigarette pressed between one of her thighs and her chest wall and said that it could not have got there after her body had been tied up nothing that it had been caught up in the trussing.

During the early stages of the investigation the police said that they thought that Pamela Coventry had been murdered by a by someone living in the district during their investigation knocked on about 4,000 doors.

The police said that no traces of Pamela Coventry's clothes were found and said that it was thought possible the her killer might have attempted to obtain a suitcase in order to smuggle them out of the district and asked all local shopkeepers who sold trunks and suitcases to any purchasers of such articles to write down their name and address.

The police also said that they had spent more than an hour questioning 14 airmen, aged between 19 to 25, in a room at the guard house just inside the main entrance to the aerodrome. They had all been on leave from the aerodrome in plain clothes between 1pm and midnight of the Wednesday that Pamela Coventry was murdered and were asked to line up outside the guardhouse and enter separately as their names were called. A warrant officer was present while the inspector questioned them while Air Ministry warders mounted a guard at the gates.

A 28-year-old chemical worker who lived nearby was tried for her murder at the Old Bailey but found not guilty on 30 March 1939.

Pamela Coventry had lived with her father and step-mother in Morecombe Close, Hornchurch and was an only child. Her father said that Pamela Coventry left home for Benhurst Avenue School in Elm Park after dinner on 18 January 1939 and that her step-mother waved  to her as she walked down the road and that that was the last time they saw her alive.

Pamela Coventry had attended Benhurst Avenue Schools for about three years where she was in class 3B and had gone to school on the Wednesday morning 18 January 1939 and returned home for mid-day dinner at about 12.45pm and had potatoes, peas, sausages, without pudding, and left home for school at the usual time around 1.15pm where afternoon school began at 1.40pm.

The step-mother said that after Pamela Coventry left for school she went into her back garden where she had some clothes drying and said that from the back of her house she could look across some wasteland to Southend Road and to the entrance of Coronation Drive and said that she could see Pamela Coventry and waved to her, noting that she was alone. She said that she also saw her outside the married men's quarters of the Royal Air Force in Southend Road, just approaching Coronation Drive.

A 10-year-old girl who lived in Woodcote Avenue in Elm Park said that she went to Benhurst Avenue Schools and knew Pamela Coventry very well and would often meet her on the way to school. She said that she thought that she had met Pamela Coventry on the morning of 18 January 1939 but said that she did see her at school that morning. She said that later that afternoon after lunch, her cousin called for her and they walked to the corner of Benhurst Avenue together where they waited for Pamela Coventry, but not for long as they were late. She said that they looked up the Broadway towards the railway station but said that she was not in sight and so they went on to school without her.

She said that she went to meet Pamela Coventry on her return from school that afternoon but found that she was missing and later wet to the police at about 5pm to report her missing.

She later identified the petticoat that was found round her neck as hers and a button that was found near the ditch. She later identified some socks and wellington boots as belonging to Pamela Coventry which were found in a ditch about a mile away from the spot where he body was found.

A teacher from the school said that she thought that Pamela Coventry was a very intelligent child, above the average, and was very willing and affectionate towards anyone after she became acquainted  with the,. She added that she didn't think that she was a child that could easily be sent on an errand by a stranger or accept anything from a stranger or enter a motor car with anyone that she didn't know.

A 9-year-old boy who lived in Spring Gardens in Elm Park said that on the Saturday morning, he had been out with two friends to the shops in Broadway, Elm Park, saying that they walked up the railway bridge, and said that just before they got to the station, on the left hand side of the road, just through the fence, they saw a parcel of newspaper. He said that they then went round the fence and picked up the parcel saying that on the outside of it there was some black sticky stuff. He said that when they then opened it they found that it contained a yellow badge, two bright buttons and some wire cable which they then took to the police station.

When the police went to Elm Park Station they collected the pieces of newspaper and fund that they were from the News Chronicle dated 11 January 1939.

The chemical worker was first questioned along with everybody in his street.

When the chemical worker was arrested he made a statement on 26 January 1939 which said:

I am 28 years and 11 months old, a married man with two children, one a boy, ages 3 1/2 years, and the other a girl, born on 9 January 1939. I reside with my family at 577b Coronation Drive, Elm Park, Hornchurch. I came to live at Coronation Drive, either in March 1936 or March 1937, I am not quite sure which.

I am employed by Messrs May & Baker, chemical manufacturers, at Dagenham. Their works are near the station. I am what is known as a process worker and have been with them since 28 December 1937. I work early and late shifts on alternate weeks. The early shift is from 6am to 3pm and the later shift from 2pm to 11pm.

On Wednesday the 18th January 1939, I was on late shift. My wife went into Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, on the 9th January 1939, where she remained as an 'in-patient' until Sunday the 22nd January, when she was discharged. It was there that she gave birth to a child. The first week that my wife was away, I was on early shift and so that I should not oversleep, I arranged for the milkman who works for Hitchmans, who delivers milk to my house, to give me a call. Whilst I was at work, my sister-in-law who lives at 6 Brian Close, Elm Park, came to the house to attend to the housework, but she had usually gone, or was going, when I returned home.

I have an ordinary pedal bicycle which I bought second-hand some time about eighteen months ago. I use this for going to work except when the weather is bad, in which case I go by train from Elm Park Station. When I go by bicycle, I go via Southend Road, towards the RAF aerodrome, through Ford Lane into Rainham Road South and thence to Dagenham. I used to go by Wood Lane until somebody told me that Ford Lane was a better road and used Wood Lane regularly for three months and know the district quite well. I gave up using Wood Lane about nine months ago. I can cycle to Dagenham easily in a quarter of an hour and it takes about the same time if I go by train. I cannot remember how I travelled to work on Tuesday the 17 January 1939. I now remember that I went by cycle. Ordinarily I leave home about twenty-five minutes to the hour of starting work, and on Tuesday I left home about 1.35pm. I returned home about twenty-past eleven that night. The house was empty, and instead of going to bed, I remained up doing some painting and decorating ready for the return of the wife.  I was doing the kitchenette. II went to bed about 3 o'clock in the morning.

Whilst I was at work on the Tuesday, at about half-past eight in the evening, some acid in a metal still bubbled over. It is a large still holding about five hundred-weight of liquid. A small quantity of the acid bubbled out of the pipe and ran on top of the still. When the acid comes into contact with the air, it gives off a poisonous fume and it did so on this occasion. The fumes affect the eyes, causing them to become inflamed and swollen, and also has an effect upon the throat, at least that is what I have been given to understand by the notices displayed at the works. This incident was witness by other men working in the shop opposite which is a separate building where pot. bromine is made. Two of the men came over and watched me put lime and water on the outside of the still as an antidote to the fumes. I might mention that this still is in a separate building, and I am the only one working in that shop. The fumes had some slight effect on my eyes, but not to cause any inconvenience. I was able to ride home on my bicycle and do my house decorating.

I got up between nine and half-past on Wednesday morning. I was alone in the house. I got my own breakfast. I spent all the morning, up to about 12.30pm re-decorating the kitchen. I may have gone out that morning to get some stuff I required for the job, but I cannot remember. I was wearing my ordinary clothes in which I go to work. My sister-in-law came about 12 o'clock and cooked a meal for me. She had her daughter, age about four, with her. They left sometime between one and half-past, after she had made a cup of tea. She left the house before I did.

After my sister-in-law had gone, I completed my dinner. I did not feel any too well that morning. I felt I had a cold about me. I left home about twenty to two and went to work by train, which leaves Elm Park for Dagenham at either twelve or eight minutes to two. My work ticket number is 77 and on arrival at work, I clocked in just before two o'clock, and went to the cloak-room to change into my overalls.

I then went to my shop and found that the early turn man was not there. I made some enquiries and was told that he had gone home as his eyes were very bad as a result of the fumes. I now remember that it was not Tuesday the 17th that the acid bubbled over, but on Monday the 16th January.

I came home from work that night by bicycle I know, but I cannot be sure about the Tuesday. I know I went by train on Wednesday.

When I found that the early turn man had gone home I went to see a foreman and told him that I was not feeling well and thinking that I might be suffering from the delayed action by the acid fumes, I asked him if I could go home. He referred me to the manager, who told me that I could please myself. I clocked out at 2.25 and returned home, arriving at about 3 o'clock.

After I arrived, my sister-in-law came in a few minutes later to get an umbrella and she stopped and washed up my dinner things. She came alone and only remained about ten minutes or so. I told my sister-in-law that I had come home as I had not felt well. I had previously told her about the accident with the acid.

While my sister-in-law was washing my dinner things, I went to bed. I took all my clothes off. The bedroom is on the first floor and in the front. I heard my sister-in-law leave the house a few minutes later and a few minutes after this, my sister-in-law came in again. I got out of bed and called out, 'Who's that?'. My sister-in-law replied, 'It's me, I've forgotten my umbrella again'. She did not come upstairs, and left the house almost immediately.

I remained in bed until about five or half-past, made myself a cup of tea, and then cycled to a shop in Elm Park Broadway, an oil shop, and tried to get some putty but I was unsuccessful as the shopkeeper was out of stock.

I should say that I made my tea when I returned from the oil shop.

After tea I went to see the doctor whose surgery is in Abbs Cross Lane, opposite Suttons Avenue. I told him what had happened with the acid at work and he examined me, told me that I had slight conjunctivitis, and gave me a prescription for an eyewash and one for some medicine. He told me to call again the following day if I felt no better.

I took the prescriptions to Allens the Chemists in the Broadway, and he said that he would make them up in the morning. I collected them the following morning. I was back home again between half-past seven and eight. I then did some more decorating in the kitchen. I went to bed before midnight, I am not sure of the time. I slept all right and woke up in the daylight somewhere about nine o'clock when I got up. I got my own breakfast and continued painting the kitchen. My sister-in-law came about twelve and got my dinner. I left home for work about twenty to two. I am not sure whether I went by cycle. Before my sister-in-law came, I went to th chemists to get my medicine. I have not had any further medical attention, but I went to the same doctor on Monday the 23rd January to obtain a certificate from him to produce at work to enable me to get sick pay.

When I went to work on Wednesday, I saw some school children in the road, but I had nothing to do with them. I did not speak to any of them. The first week that my wife was in hospital I did call to a little girl walking along Coronation Drive. It was one evening between half-past six or seven. I only wanted her to get me some shag. She ran away but I cannot say whether she heard me call. My next-door neighbour, who lives at 577a, asked me what I wanted. I told her that I wanted some shag, and she allows her daughter to go for me. The little girl I called to was going towards Southend Road. It was too dark for me to see her properly and I cannot describe her. I think this is the only time I have called to a child to go an errand for me.

I cannot give any reason why I wanted the girl to get tobacco for me. The neighbour’s little girl did go for me on this occasion. While my wife was away in hospital, my little boy was being looked after by my wife's sister who lives at 15 Station Road, Manor Park. She did not call to see me while my wife was away.

On Friday, the 20th January, I was on late shift and had a day off from work on Saturday. When I am on shift work I have every Saturday off except when I work overtime.

Whilst the chemical worker was being interviewed it was noted that he had an abrasion on the knuckles of his small fingers, with the abrasion on the right being an old one and rapidly healing and hat on the left hand quite a new one and he had a piece of rag round it to keep it clean.

During their investigation the police took a number of photographs of various things including Pamela Coventry in the ditch from various angles as well as the chemical workers house. Pictures of the chemical works house included:

  • Coronation Drive, Elm Park, taken from Southend Road end, looking towards Elm Park station and bridge.
  • House of chemical worker, 577b Coronation Drive, marked 'Ivy Glen', over the front door, the left-hand house in the photograph.
  • Front and side of the chemical workers house, showing the side window.
  • View of back of the chemical workers house showing his garden and the back of the houses in Ambleside Avenue, with dividing passage way between two empty houses in that avenue. It also showed the chemical workers hut in his garden.
  • View of the passage-way between the two empty houses in Ambleside Avenue, and the unmade road leading to the fields.
  • View of fields between Ambleside avenue and Wood Lane taken from the rear of the house.

A milkman that said he had been delivering milk on the Elm Park Estate for the previous two years said that he delivered milk in Coronation Drive and served 577b where the chemical worker lived. He said that his first round was between 5am and 5.20am and the second was at about 10am or 11am. He said that he knew that the chemical workers wife was away from home from 9 January 1939 and said that he would give the chemical worker an early call each day as his wife had asked him to do so. He said that he called the chemical worker on Saturday 14 January 1939 and said that the chemical worker asked him not to call him up the following week as he would be on late duty.

The milkman said that on the Wednesday of that week, 18 January 1939, a little after midday he was delivering milk at the aerodrome on the corner of Wood Lane where he entered the Avion Cafe and then left it at about 1.15pm, saying that on his way out he saw the chemical worker. He said that he was cycling towards Dagenham on the Southend Road which was also towards Rainham. He said that they nodded to each other. He said that from a quick glance the chemical worker had been wearing a a fawn mac without a hat.

The milkman said that on the Thursday, 19 January 1939, he was delivering milk n Coronation drive at about 5.20am in the morning and said that as he was serving 577b Coronation Drive he saw that the kitchen light there was alight, which he said was unusual. He said that he didn't anything much about it until four days later when he went to the police and told them.

When the mate at the Messrs May & Baker manufacturing plant was questioned, he said that he had been working there for about 12 months on shift work with the chemical worker as his opposite mate. He said that since the beginning of January 1939 he had been working on a dimethyl sulphate plant, him working one shift, and the chemical working the other shift. He noted that process they ran was a continuous batch and that if something went wrong on the early shift, the person on the later shift would not be able to work on it although there would be other things to do.

He said that he got to work on 17 January 1939 and found a note from the chemical worker, which he destroyed, saying that he had had a spill of dimethyl sulphate the previous evening and that he had treated it with lime, which he said was the proper treatment. He said that he then saw traces of the spill and the lime on the still.  He said that the chemical worker then arrived at 2pm and that he then went home at 3pm. He said hat around 9.30pm he felt a soreness in his eyes and put it down to sulphate fumes, noting that his eyes were rather bad on the Tuesday night and Wednesday morning and that he reported in sick at 9am and did no work and left at twelve after seeing a doctor and stayed away from work until 30 January 1939.

He said that he called at the works on 27 January 1939 and saw the chemical worker there, who said that he apologised for having the afternoon of Wednesday 17 January off because the police were troubling him and linking him to the crime at Elm Park, although it was thought that he was referring to an incorrect date. He also said that the chemical worker said that he couldn't see how he had got troubled with the spill seeing that he had been smothered with it, and had done everything but drink it, which the mate said he took to mean that it was a fairly bad spill. He noted that he had actually been blind from the Wednesday until the Friday from it and that his eyes had been watering and that he had had a certain amount of running at the nose which he said was rather like a very bad cold. He said that when he returned on the 30 January, the chemical worker who he was good friends with, had said that he was surprised that he had suffered so badly because he had got off comparatively lightly, saying that he had been slightly affected. He said that the chemical worker also told him that he wished that he had not had the afternoon off because the police had linked him up with the crime, noting that he had aid it quite casually, and not as though it were a serious matter.

The police later recovered a piece of green cable that the chemical worker had given to a friend, an insurance inspector, some months before Christmas in 1938. The insurance inspector gave the cable to the police on 28 January 1939. He said that he and the chemical worker had been friends for about 2 1/2 years and also said that when he saw him on 18 January 1938 after the chemical worker had finished work at about 6pm the chemical worker told him that he was feeling pretty rotten and had just come home and was going to the doctor and would tell him how he got on. He said that when the chemical worker later called him at 8pm that night he still seemed pretty rotten. He said that the chemical worker didn't say that he had been gassed but said that he thought that he might have been gassed.

On 2 February 1939 the police went to the chemical workers house and into the hut in his back garden and removed the contents. They found two pieces of wood with a length of electric cable joining them between an old chest of drawers that was used as a tool chest and the side of the hut. The assembly consisted of lengths of electric cable including a length of green cable and attached to all portions of the cable were pieces of tarred string. It was noted elsewhere that the chemical worker had previously used tarred string to train his runner beans. The police also found a length of garden hose in the hut that had been repaired in two places with black insulation tape.

The police noted that they removed everything from the hut, saying that there was quite a lot of odds and ends including tools etc, but said that they found no cigarette ends, but said that there were cigarette papers.

On the same day the police paced the distance from the man’s garden to the ditch were Pamela Coventry's body was found and found that it was 450 paces and took 4 minutes to paste. The distance went from the bottom of the chemical workers garden fence, across the adjoining garden at the rear, along the passage dividing the two empty houses, across Ambleside Avenue to an unmade road and along a footpath across the field to the place where Pamela Coventry was found.

An analyst at the home office collected all of the cables and string etc as well as some trousers and other items and examined them.

He said that all of the string was of the same type although some was more weathered than others. He said that it was all four-ply string, jute.

He said that the three lots of green cable that he had been given was all similar and appeared to be electron wire. He said that in all cases the able was cotton covered and dyed green and that beneath that were was some type of insulating rubber and that each specimen contained eight strands of wire, seven of which were iron and one of which was copper. He said that the iron wire ranged from .014 to .015 inches which the copper wire was .019 inches thick. He said that attached to each of the lengths of green cable were pieces of tarred string tied with a single knot, the effect of which was to stain the cable with tar in the places where the string had been in contact with the cable by the knot. He said that where there were no pieces of tarred string attached, there were clear marks where tarred string had been tied, saying that the marks were at a regular interval of 7 inches each apart.

The green cable that the insurance inspector had been given by the chemical worker was not an item examined by the analyst for tar etc.

The analyst said that the thicker black cable was consisted of a cotton outer layer that had been dyed black with an inner layer of cotton fibre on the inner surface of which was printed, 'Hitest' cable British manufacture 600 megohm grade. He said that then beneath that there was an insulating layer and then the cable which contained seven strands of copper wire which was each .0275 of an inch in diameter. The black cable also had pieces of tarred string attached to it, similar to those found on the green cable.

The insulation tape consisted of cotton tape that was impregnated with an insulating material. The warp number was given as 69 and 70 for the two samples given and the weft number as 56 and 53 respectively. The diameters were 1.03 and .980 of an inch respectively. The analyst said that although there was closer agreement between the two samples, and that it was clear that they could have come from the same source, he observed that there were many makers of that type of tape on the market which also bore close resemblances.

The analyst said that he examined both a mackintosh coat and a pair of trousers and found blood on both of them. He said that on the mackintosh coat he found on the inside right sleeve about one to two inches from the bottom there were about a dozen spot of blood, the smallest being about the size of a in's head and the largest about an eighth of an inch in diameter, and said that it was human blood. He said that also, on the right pocket lining of the trousers he found some smears of human blood. He said that in both cases the blood could have been there from about two weeks to several months. He had received the trousers and raincoat on 31 January 1939.

A ship's painter said that before he went to work each day he delivered newspapers for a newsagent and said that he had been delivering the News Chronicle to 577b Coronation Drive, also known as Ivy Glen, every week day for some months and had delivered the News Chronicle there on 11 January 1939 as well as every day of that week.

After the cigarette but was found on Pamela Coventry's body, the police interviewed the chemical worker on 26 January 1939 at Elm Park Police Station and said that whilst he was making his statement he made himself a cigarette from tobacco and cigarette paper which was then taken from him and put into a test tube and later compared to the cigarette butt which had also been put into another test tube. During the interrogation, the chemical worker said that he smoked Digger shag tobacco. His tobacco pouch was also then taken away from him along with 15 cigarette ends, 14 from the pouch and another from his right-hand jerkin pocket.

The stub ends, and cigarette papers were then taken to the chemical laboratory of the Imperial Tobacco Company at Bristol for analysis.

It was noted that at the time of the interrogation, hundreds of other statements were being taken and that the chemical worker was not under arrest and nor was he cautioned. It was noted that the articles were only taken from him because they might assist the police in their enquiries and not by force, and that he had given them to the police freely without demur  about parting with them and showed no objection to the police having them.

The manager of the chemical laboratories at Imperial Tobacco Company in Bristol said that he had had more than 34 years’ experience in the laboratories there and yet more in the field of tobacco. He said tat he was given three tobacco samples:

  • Ex 26: Cigarette taken from Pamela Coventry's body.
  • Ex 27: Cigarette taken from the chemical worker.
  • Ex 28: The chemical workers tobacco pouch.
  • Additionally, he was given EX 29: The chemical workers cigarette papers.
  • Additionally, he was given EX 30: The chemical workers 15 cigarette ends

He said that there were three things that he was going to compare, the tobacco, the paper and the method of rolling the paper.

He said that he had little tobacco to work with from the cigarette found on Pamela Coventry's body, but said that he burnt half of that found on the body and compared the results with th other samples and said that all three samples resembled one another and that they were all certainly of Empire growth. He said that as such, he considered them to all be of similar tobacco. He noted that it wasn't Turkish tobacco but said that there were about twenty Empire growths.

He said that all cigarette papers carried water marks and that when he examined the exhibits 26 and 27, he found that the impressions on the papers were all identical in measurements with those taken from exhibit 29, the chemical workers cigarette papers and added that both exhibits 26 and 27, the cigarette found on Pamela Coventry's body and that taken from the chemical worker, were both Rizla paper stubs.

He said that when he compared the rolling he said that very gentle moistening and opening of them showed the same characteristics on all of them and that was a reverse fold of one corner of the paper to make the cigarette slightly smaller at the mouth end.

When the police searched the chemical workers house they found none of Pamela Coventry's clothes there.

However, thy found some copies of the News Chronicle dates 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th and 21st January 1939, and when the chemical worker was shown them he said that he always took the News Chronicle.

The police also took samples of tarred string that they found attached to his fence.

When they went to his house on 1 February and arrested him he asked, 'Have you told my wife?', and when they tried to search him he said, 'Don't search me here'.

After he was taken to the police station and cautioned he said, 'I stand by my original statement, but I forgot to mention that I had been to see the insurance inspector, a neighbour, who lived further down the road and told his wife how my baby was getting on, and after I got home, the man who lives next door came to see me, and stayed with me up to round about ten o'clock. I also went to his house and had a cup of tea'.

Three more cigarette ends were then taken from his breast pocket.

The police said that out of the 26-week days for January 1939, they found seven copies of the News Chronicle.

The trial began at the Old Bailey on 27 March 1939. The Chemical worker said that his statement to the police was entirely true and said, 'I did not kill Pamela Coventry', and said that he didn't know Pamela Coventry at all. He added that from time to time he had insulating tape, electric cable and tarred string among all sorts of other odds and ends but he didn't make up any parcels and had not seen any of the girls’ clothing.

The prosecution noted that the chemical worker had taken the Wednesday afternoon off sick and would have been at home alone at the time when Pamela Coventry, who left home at 1.15pm for school, would have passed down the road he lived on, Coronation Drive, noting that Pamela Coventry was decoyed away shortly after having left for school. It was also noted that she failed to meet her friends at 1.30pm and never arrived at school.

It was also heard that cables that Pamela Coventry had been trussed up like a chicken with were green cables similar to the ones found in the chemical workers hut.

It was also heard that the parcel that had contained the badge and three buttons from Pamela Coventry's jacket were found wrapped up in newspaper from the News Chronicle dated 11 January 1939 which the chemical worker also had delivered to his house and which was not found there, and that it was wrapped up in black cable that was of the same type used to truss Pamela Coventry up with in addition to the green cable. It was also heard that the parcel had been then wrapped up in black insulation tape similar to that which was found in the chemical workers hut.

The court also heard that the chemical worker had arrived at work at 2pm but then gone home saying that his eyes were hurting him.

It was also heard that in his statement he had said that he had seen some school children no his way to work but had had nothing to do with them.

However, it was also heard that the chemical worker's sister had been at the chemical workers home on the Wednesday to prepare his dinner and then left soon after 1pm but that she had forgotten her umbrella and gone back at 2.45pm at which time she found that the chemical worker was upstairs.

After the judge heard evidence from the manager of the chemical laboratories of the Imperial Tobacco Company at Bristol in which he said that in the tobacco stub found he had discovered some charred veins which in his opinion showed that the tobacco had been mixed with stub ends, the judge said, 'How can you say that? These experts have said things which it is for the jury to decide. It is very objectionable. I do not want to appear too critical, but it is unfortunate that I should have to say this'.

When the manager of the chemical laboratories was cross examined he agreed that half of the hand-made cigarette papers made in the country were of the make of the stubs produced in the case and the defence noted that the company sold 1,000,000 packets of paper every week and that each packet had 60 papers making 60,000,000 papers sold each week, and at the end of the prosecution’s case the defence said that there was no case to go to the jury.

It was also later heard that the chemical workers wife, who it was said was convinced of her husband’s innocence, had carried out her own research into the cigarette butts saying that she had known that the half smoked cigarette found on Pamela Coventry's body was not his and had had the idea to prove that thousands of men made their own cigarettes with the same tobacco and the same cigarette papers as he did and also made them in exactly the same way, and as such had talked over her plans with her neighbours and obtained from them stubs of their own hand-made cigarettes which then formed an important part of the evidence for the defence which was backed by cigarette smokers who were prepared to testify.

However, the judge said that that although he thought that there was a good deal of difference between the prosecution’s case on the Wednesday than the Thursday after the criticism that they had heard of the expert evidence, he said that, without saying anything about the  strength of the case, that there was still enough to call upon the chemical worker for an answer and that he was afraid that he must let it go to the jury.

The trial lasted for five days, but halfway through the fifth day the judge stopped the case before the speeches and summing up were delivered.

He was then found not guilty and acquitted.

The chemical worker had spent two months on remand in Brixton prison.

After his release he said, 'No man ever felt more like a smoke than I did when I made a cigarette for the judge as I stood in the witness-box at the Old Bailey this morning. Throughout the trial, as I heard counsel fighting it out, I was conscious that soon I would be back playing with my kiddies, back at my work and getting back to my garden'. It was further noted that before he got back with his wife in the taxi to Elm Park he stopped to buy some of his favourite tobacco, a packet of cigarette papers and the first thing he did on arrival home was to make a cigarette.

It was noted that a 43-year-old woman from Breton's Cottage in Rainham Road, South Hornchurch who had passed through Wood Lane where Pamela Coventry's body was found and saw a man whose description she gave to the police later handed herself on Friday 24 February after being upset by the case. The Coroner recorded a verdict of 'Suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed' at her inquest.


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


see The New Murderers Whos Who by Gaute and Odell

see The Investigation Of Murder by Campbell 1966

see Crime And Science by Thorwald 1967

see Country Copper by Totterdell 1956

see Sunday Post - Sunday 22 January 1939

see National Archives - MEPO 3/806, CRIM 1/1084

see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 27 March 1939

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 29 March 1939

see Essex Newsman - Saturday 01 April 1939

see Birmingham Mail - Tuesday 24 January 1939

see Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 31 March 1939

see Western Morning News - Tuesday 28 February 1939

see Dundee Courier - Thursday 02 February 1939

see Londonderry Sentinel - Tuesday 28 March 1939

see Northern Whig - Friday 31 March 1939

see Birmingham Daily Post - Friday 31 March 1939