Unsolved Murders

Lillian Peach

Age: 67

Sex: female

Date: 24 Oct 1952

Place: Gate House, Ashton Wold Estate, Oundle

George Henry Peach and Lillian Peach were attacked by an intruder at their home with a hammer as they slept in their bed.

They were found there by the proprietor of the Three Horseshoes public house when he called at their home to deliver some meat that a butcher's roundsman had previously tried to deliver on the morning of Saturday 25 October 1952. It was said that the butcher's roundsman had tried to deliver the meat but had got no answer at the cottage when he had knocked and so had left the meat with the landlord of the Three Horseshoes public house.

George Peach was found dead in his bed with head injuries whilst Lillian Peach was found lying dead in the next room with head injuries. Lillian Peach was still alive when she was found and was taken to Peterborough Hospital where she died five hours later the same day. She was not able to make a statement before she died.

It was thought that they had been attacked as they slept. It was said that Lillian Peach had fought for her life.

The murderer stole about £7 from George Peach's pay packet and all the money in Lillian Peach's handbag. George Peach had drawn £6 19s in pay the day before he was murdered and when he was found, his pockets had been rifled.

However, it was thought locally that they should have had about £200 in savings in their cottage as it was thought that they didn't bank their money.

Fingerprints were found on a bloodstained hammer and on the door of their bedroom.

It was thought that they had been beaten to death with an old coal hammer that had been taken from their own cellar at about midnight on the Friday. The police said that no coal hammer was found in the coal shed where it was thought that there should have been one. It was said that the injuries to the couple were consistent with having been inflicted by something like a coal pick, which was blunt at one end and pointed at the other.

It was suggested by an ex-commando who lived nearby that the crime might have been the work of a maniac.

It was also suggested that their cottage might have been mistaken for the home of another wealthy and titled couple that lived close by.

It was said that their killer had broken in through a pantry window to the rear of the house even though the front door was unlocked, which was said to have been a common practice in the village. It was said that the murderer had then fled through the front door.

The police said that they thought that the murderer had broken into the cottage with the idea of carrying out a burglary and that he had then decided to silence the couple in order to delay the raising of the alarm.

Soon after their bodies were found, nearly a hundred policemen searched the woods and pasture lands around the village but found nothing to assist with the investigation.

George Peach was partly crippled and had been an employee of the Aston Wold estate.

The estate contained a mansion although it was unoccupied by anyone other than a caretaker.

It was said that in December 1952 that the police searched London's West End in search for a man wearing George Peach's watch.

The police also went to London to try and trace two men who caught the 2.35am train from Peterborough to London on the Saturday

In January 1953 it was announced that the police had taken the fingerprints of hundreds of men around the district in a final effort to trace the murderer. The effort was labelled, 'Operation Fingers', by the police and men and other residents were asked to line up at local schools and church halls to give detectives from Scotland Yard their fingerprints. It was said that amongst the first people to give their fingerprints were the oldest man in Polebrooke and the local rector.

The police also went to a camp for foreign workers at Polebrook, about three miles from Ashton, to make enquiries and on Monday 29 October 1952 they questioned a young Ukranian man for two hours. They also questioned Irish and Polish labourers and a number of displaced persons who were employed on the reconstruction work at the American airfield at Molesworth.

More than 5,000 people were interviewed during the investigation.

The police said that there were several strange features to the murder, such as why the murderer broken in when the front door was not locked, and also why the murderer had locked the bedroom door, leaving George Peach dead in the bed with the bed clothes drawn up to his chin leaving him in an attitude of sleep.

It was further noted that although about £7 had been stolen from George Peach's wage packet and all the money from Lillian Peach's handbag taken, that there was no disorder in the cottage and nothing else was thought to have been taken, although it was also later noted that George Peach's watch was missing.

They were buried on Friday 7 November 1952 in the churchyard at Fotheringhay. Their bodies were lowered into twin graves. When the vicar conducted the service he said that without warning George Peach and Lillian Peach had come under the shadow of a most sordid and cynically brutal crime, a shadow that had fallen on far too many homes in this fair land. However, he went on to say that the murderer had not and could not, cut off his victims from the love and presence of God. He then said, 'How are we to think of the person who did this, presuming he is still alive? By what he has done, he had cut himself off from God and from his fellow men. There is no hope for him in this life or the next, and that applies to all who act lightly. His only hope wherever he is, is in repentance and confession, and even them the Christian justice and truth requires a terrible retribution from which there is no escape'.

Their inquest was concluded on Monday 9 February 1952 at Oundle in Northamptonshire, with a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.

In 1956, the police received a tip that the murderer was at a fairground at Tottenham Marshes and they interrogated the workers there, taking fingerprints from about 100 fairground workers. It was said that none of the fairground workers refused to have their fingerprints taken. However, no developments arose from the initiative.

George Peach and Lillian Peach were described as the happiest couple in the world. They had one son.

The police said that they had not ruled out the possibility that the murderer had been local. It was also said that the local villagers would not feel at ease until the murderer was found. The police earlier said during their investigation that they thought that the murderer had had a profound knowledge of local conditions and could well have been living near the scene of the crime.

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

see www.truecrimelibrary.com

see Dundee Courier - Monday 27 October 1952

see Daily Mirror - Friday 05 October 1956

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 30 October 1953

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 28 October 1952

see Northampton Mercury - Friday 07 November 1952

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 27 October 1952

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Thursday 30 October 1952

see Nottingham Journal - Tuesday 10 February 1953

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 27 October 1952

see The People - Sunday 04 January 1953