Date: 26 Jan 1953
Walter Albert Humphrey was murdered whilst working as a night watchman at the Highway Garage in Knutsford.
It was thought that he had been knocked over the head from behind during a robbery but it was not thought that anything had been taken from the garage although it appeared that attempts had been made to force the cash drawer open. The police said, 'Someone pulled the handle off the top of a flimsy cash-box in the office. The box was not opened but the handle is missing'. It was said that the cash box had contained £5.
Walter Humphrey was found with severe head injuries near the petrol pumps in the early hours of Monday 26 January 1953 and taken to the Salford Royal Infirmary, but before he died he said that when he left his office something hit him. He died later on at 10pm the same day after being operated on.
It was thought that he might have been hit with the petrol pump nozzle, one of which was out of its socket and lying in the road. The police said, 'The body was discovered near the petrol pumps by two motorists who were going to Preston'.
Several people said that they heard cries for help at about 12.30am early on the Monday morning.
It was said that a coach load of servicemen had returning through Knutsford shortly after midnight on the Sunday and the police said that they were trying to trace them in case any of them saw anything. The police said that they had determined that the coach had passed the Highway Garage, which was floodlit, at about the same time that Walter Humphrey was being attacked. It was said that the two men that had found Walter Humphrey when they called for petrol had been parked about half-a-mile away at the time of the murder and that they had heard screams and then shortly after saw the coach containing singing and shouting servicemen pass them. They said that they then moved off in their car and passed two more coaches before they arrived at the garage and found Walter Humphrey on the ground.
The police said that they were interested in interviewing the driver and the occupants of the coach, adding, 'There are hundreds of these coaches operating at the weekends and we have not yet found the one we are interested in'.
Shortly after his murder the police said that a man that they wanted to interview in connection with his murder had gone to Liverpool and they went there to carry out investigations at lodging houses and hostels.
The police also said that the possibility that the murder had been committed by a local man had not been ruled out.
The police said that they were trying to trace Walter Humphrey's movements on the early Sunday and appealed for a woman who was said to have been seen in his company in a public house in Knutsford on the Sunday evening to come forward.
At his inquest in July 1953, a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown was returned. The Coroner said that the evidence established that Walter Humphrey was struck with a blunt instrument by someone who called at the garage ostensibly for petrol soon after midnight and who decamped after an unsuccessful attempt to rob a locked cash-box. The Coroner noted that although conscious, Walter Humphrey had been unable to identify his attackers, who had struck him from behind.
Walter Humphrey was a widower and had lodged in Silk Mill Street in Knutsford. He was a retired engineer and had been working as a night watchman for the previous five years. He was originally from London.
In 2007 police said they matched fingerprints found at the scene with a criminal on their database, but the suspect was by then dead. The fingerprints were said to have been found on the cash box. Fingerprints were taken from all the staff at the garage at the time, but no match was found and they were then circulated to all police forces in the United Kingdom, but still no match was found. In the 1990s the fingerprints were transferred to the Cheshire police's new electronic database from where they were later determined to be a match with a known petty criminal who had been in the Cheshire area at the time of the murder. It was determined however that the man had later moved to Italy where he had since died. It was said that the man had been arrested in another part of the country in the 1970s for theft when his prints were taken.
see Daily Mail
see Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 27 March 1953
see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 25 July 1953
see Nantwich Chronicle - Saturday 31 January 1953
see Liverpool Echo - Friday 30 January 1953
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 27 January 1953
see Yorkshire Evening Post - Tuesday 27 January 1953
see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 27 January 1953
see Nantwich Chronicle - Saturday 01 August 1953