Date: 15 Apr 1957
Elsie May Taylor was found strangled on her kitchen floor at her home in Longford Road, Bridgetown, Cannock on 15 April 1957.
Her inquest, which concluded on Monday 20 May 1957, returned a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown. When the Coroner summed up he said, 'I advise you in this case there is no evidence that implicates any single person in the killing of Mrs Taylor'.
She was found dead in her scullery with head injuries and bound up with a clothes line, her wrists and ankles having been tied up. When she was found she was fully clothed and wearing a black two-piece costume and a dark blue woollen jumper.
The motive was not known but it was thought that it might possibly have been robbery as some saving-stamps were missing and there was no sign of her wages which she was thought to have had from the Friday when she finished work.
It was noted that when the police examined her home they found a tea tray with two cups on it, one used and the other unused, and it was thought that that probably indicated that Elsie Taylor had had a visitor after she had got home.
It was also noted that a magazine that Elsie Taylor's sister-in-law had pushed under the scullery door on 13 April 1957 must have been removed by someone who had then put it on the radio in the living room.
Her body was later found by a colliery deputy that had lived in Great Wyrley in Staffordshire after he became worried about her. He had been seeing her for some years and it was him that had caused Elsie Taylor's husband to ask her to leave over. However, the colliery deputy said that he had no knowledge of Elsie Taylor's association with the other man, the poultry farmer, who Elsie Taylor had been also seeing for the previous six months.
He said that he had called several times over the Sunday and Monday but had found the door locked each time and the curtains drawn. He said that he noticed that the milk and bread had been left on the step and that he then broke in on the Monday to find her dead in the kitchen.
She had lived alone and living separate from her husband. However, it was noted that at the time of her death that she had been seeing two men at the same time, the colliery deputy who found her and a poultry farmer.
During the investigation on Wednesday 29 May 1957 the police appealed to more than 15,000 youths and men in the Cannock area to volunteer to have their fingerprints taken after a fingerprint was found at the scene, but it was said that it turned out to belong to someone that had a perfectly normal reason for having been there. Reports stated that the police had appealed for all males over the age of 16 that had been in Cannock on 12 to 13 April 1957 to volunteer, promising that all prints would be later destroyed. Prior to the appeal the police said that more than 70 of Elsie Taylor's friends and relatives, as well as tradesmen who used to call at her cottage had already been 'printed'. The police added that they would endeavour to satisfy them that any man who refused to be 'printed' had nothing to hide. It was further reported that specially trained detectives were to go from house-to-house to take the fingerprints and that it was expected to take them about six months to do so. It was additionally said then that the detective in charge himself would examine every fingerprint volunteered and compare it to the photograph of the one found at 25 Longford Road. It was further added that the prints would then be sent to Stafford for further examination and then off to Birmingham for a final examination.
The search for the fingerprints was to cover Cannock, Bridgtown, Great Wyrley, Cheslyn Hay, Churchbridge, Wedges Mills, Shareshill, Blackfords and Chadsmoor. It was further noted that only twice in the history of crime in England had mass fingerprint drives been undertaken and that in both cases they had been successful.
It was said that people were being asked to put their fingerprints, one at a time, on an inking pad, and then on a specially printed card and that prints of all fingers and both thumbs would be required and that the operation would take about five minutes. It was said that a detective was to be in charge of the operation and that he was to have a team of six detectives that were to go from house to house, working from a street map and referencing the electoral roll. It was said then that as each person’s prints were taken that their names would then be struck off the roll and it was noted that that would act as a check except for youths between the age of 16 and 21.
By Saturday 15 June 1957 it was reported that over 1,000 fingerprints had been taken but that none had by that time been found to match the one found at 35 Longford Road. It as reported that more than 300 residents at the Bridgtown Miners Hostel had also had their prints taken, it being noted that most of them had been of various European nationalities, and that none of them had objected.
Elsie Taylor was last seen alive on the previous Friday evening, 12 April 1957 when she spent the evening with a man friend after which the man friend took her home. At the inquest, after the court heard that evidence, the Coroner said, 'I think you will be satisfied that Mrs Taylor was killed that night or in the early hours of Saturday morning. No one heard any sound of a struggle or any cries and her body was not discovered until three days later when another man friend who was worried about her absence broke into the house and found her dead'.
She had earlier in the day, Friday 12 April 1957, been working at the English Electric Company factory in Stafford.
A woman that lived in Longford Road said that she saw Elsie Taylor walking up the road towards Bridgton at 10.15pm on the Friday whilst a man that also lived in Longford Road said that he recalled seeing a green van pull away from Elsie Taylor's house at about 9.15am on the Saturday morning.
A neighbour said that they had been unaware of anything until the police arrived outside her home. One neighbour said, 'If there had been any commotion I am sure we would have heard it. If we had heard nothing, I am sure our dog would, because he barks at the slightest noise'.
A police detective said that when Elsie Taylor was found she had a scalp wound and several bruises to her face and head but said that there was no evidence of any struggle having taken place or of any weapon that might have been used. The police described the attack as 'brutal'.
The police said that they were puzzled as to the motive behind Elsie Taylor's murder, but said that one theory was that it was a robbery, noting that a block of 8 half-crown savings stamps was missing. It was also noted that all that was found of the £6 wages she was thought to have had was 9d. However, the police added that if robbery was the motive then it was not known why her gold wristlet watch had not also been taken.
Enquiries were made that showed that she had paid a number of small bills on the Friday and that she had also bought the saving stamps before leaving work in Stafford on the Friday evening, 12 April 1957 and that even taking into account that, it did not explain why a few pounds were unaccounted for. The police additionally noted that if Elsie Taylor had parted with the extra money voluntarily, it did not explain why she had not kept enough to pay for her bus fares to and from her place of work in Stafford for the following week.
The police noted that the missing block of savings stamps could however prove a valuable clue, noting that the complete book of eight may have been tendered or cashed by her murderer at a shop or post office in the neighbourhood. The police said, 'We appeal to anybody who has cashed a block of eight half-crown stamps since April 12 to come forward immediately'.
The Home Office pathologist said that he found no evidence of carnal attack and no defensive injuries on her hands. He said, 'Appearance were consistent with death being due to vagal inhibition due to gripping of the throat. She had been subjected to injuries to the head, face and limbs consistent with blows or a fall, but more consistent with blows which probably took place after death'.
When the Coroner asked the pathologist whether he was certain that Elsie Taylor had been strangled and queried whether it could be possible that she might have died from a blow the pathologist said that it might have been a blow that had killed her.
Elsie Taylor had no children but had been married for thirteen years although she had been separated from her husband for about two years. She had married in 1943 but her husbad later said that around 1950 that they got to know a certain man and that he later suspected that Elsie Taylor and the man had formed an association. He said that when he spoke to Elsie Taylor about the other man that she refused to give the man up and said that around 1955 he asked Elsie Taylor to leave and that she then left and went to live with her father who lived a few doors away.
Her neighbours described Elsie Taylor as a honey blonde who was always smartly dressed.
Elsie Taylor's husband said that he last saw Elsie Taylor about seven weeks before her death.
When Elsie Taylor's husband, a toolmaker, was questioned about Elsie Taylor's association with another man he said that he had found out about that association about six months before her murder and that he disapproved of her associations but had after a while taken no notice of them.
At the inquest a Flight Lieutenant based at the RAF Station at Stafford said that on 12 April 1957 that he had seen Elsie Taylor with a man, the poultry farmer, in a public house in Rugeley. He said that whilst everyone in the room was laughing at the antics of a performing dog that Elsie Taylor and the poultry farmer had sat together unsmiling. He said that whilst they were sat there he saw Elsie Taylor push a £1 note across the table towards the poultry farmer but that the poultry farmer had just pushed it back.
When the poultry farmer gave evidence he said that he had been seeing Elsie Taylor twice a week for about six months and that he had been out drinking with her on 12 April 1957 after which he walked her home and said that when they parted at about 11.15pm they were on perfectly normal terms. He added that he had additionally arranged to meet Elsie Taylor on the following Sunday but said that she didn't turn up.
When the Coroner summed up he said, 'You may or may not be suspicious of one or two persons in this case, but fortunately suspicion is not enough. I advise you in this case there is no evidence that implicates any single person in the killing of Mrs Taylor', referring to both the colliery fireman from Great Wyrley and the poultry farmer from Cannock. He said, 'You may think that if her sexual life had not been so varied she might still be alive today. She was carrying on a dual relationship at the same time'.
When the Coroner referred to the magazine that had been taken from where it was thought to have been left beneath the colliery door and placed on top of the television, he said, 'You may think that the person who did that was the person who killed Ms Taylor'.
It was reported on Thursday 18 April 1957 that the Cannock police had joined forces with the Midland Crime squad in order to solve the murder.
On Wednesday 22 May 1957 it was noted in a newspaper report that the Cannock police had not called in Scotland Yard. The Newspaper article in the Birmingham Daily Post declared, 'Fiction writers on crime will need to revise their vocabularies if they wish to keep the authentic touch. Those magic words 'Call in Scotland Yard' are becoming dated'. The article then went on to note that there had been three murders in the Midlands in the previous six weeks, Elsie Taylor on 15 April 1957, Frederick Jeffs in Handsworth on 19 April 1957 and David Alan Keasey in Dudley on 17 May 1957. It was said then that only Dudley had called in Scotland Yard, Cannock and Birmingham instead using their own crime squads. However, it was reported that the reasons for relying less on Scotland Yard was the fact that for the previous twelve months the Midlands had had its own Crime Squad and that in fact since 1950 there had been a special crime squad working in the area. It was further reported whilst some years earlier that it might have been true that crime detective specialists were to be found mostly in London, that in recent years colleges had been turning out trained officers to serve in most parts of the country. It was reported that when asked for their views on the use of Scotland Yard in the Provinces, a police spokesman was cautious, it being said that no one wanted to underate the first-class work being carried out by the Midland Crime Squad, or to offend Scotland Yard with its wide experience in dealing with murder cases.
When questioned, the Chief Constable of Birmingham said, 'There may be a number of occasions when the specialised services of Scotland Yard may be called in to advise, but the number is likely to diminish because of the co-ordinated crime detection organisation we now have in the Midland Crime Squad'. He further stated that co-operation between local forces and Scotland Yard was better than it had ever been before and said that forces outside London attempting to solve murder mysteries without 'calling in the Yard' was a healthy sign, providing that they were always ready to ask for advice and help when it was necessary.
When the deputy Chief Constable of Dudley was approached he said, 'Where there is a serious murder and it entails a great deal of investigation I firmly believe in calling in Scotland Yard. They are the specialists in investigating that type of crime'.
It was further noted in a footnote in the newspaper article that it was believed that Birmingham had not called in the Yard for at least 20 years.
However, of the three cases, Elsie Taylor, Federick Jeffs and David Keasey, only that of David Keasey in Dudley, the force that called in Scotland Yard, was solved.
see National Archives - HO 332/16 - STA 502/3/33
see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 15 June 1957: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 May 2016.
see Halifax Evening Courier - Tuesday 21 May 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Thursday 18 April 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 29 April 1957
see Western Mail - Tuesday 21 May 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 17 April 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 15 June 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 22 May 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 22 May 1957
see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Wednesday 17 April 1957
see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 20 May 1957
see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 15 June 1957
see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 29 May 1957