Unsolved Murders

Maureen Ann Dutton

Age: 27

Sex: female

Date: 20 Dec 1961

Place: 14 Thingwall Lane, Knotty Ash, Liverpool

Maureen Dutton was killed at her home at 14 Thingwall Lane on the afternoon of 20 January 1961.

She had given birth to a boy a few days earlier and had another two-year-old son.

She had  multiple stab wounds to her chest, throat and back including what was described as a strange grouping of fourteen stab wounds to her body.

Her body was found by her husband, who had worked as a research chemist for ICI in Widnes when he came home from work at 6.10pm. It was said that when he had returned that he had found the house in darkness and half eaten lunch still in the kitchen. Her husband said that he had last seen Maureen Dutton at 8am that morning when he had taken her a cup of tea to bed.

It was said that she had already been dead for several hours by the time that she was found.

He found her stabbed to death in the middle of the living room. It was thought that she had been murdered in front of her two children who were both also in the room. It was reported that following the murder that a policewoman stayed with the children in the possibility that during the child's talk or prattling that some clue as to the identity of the murderer might emerge.

The murder weapon, thought to have been a long narrow-bladed knife, was never found. The police raked over the garden at the back of Maureen Dutton's home and Corporation workmen probed drains in the vicinity but without luck.

However, one item of interest was found at the house, a knife sheath, which appeared to have been homemade. Pictures of it were published and an appeal was made for anyone who could identify it to come forward.

On the night of the murder the police also searched tennis courts belonging to the Broadgreen Residents' Association at the rear of the house using torches, as well as the playing fields of the Thingwall Residential School which was opposite the house with dogs in the glare of car headlights.

It was noted that she had not been robbed or sexually assaulted and that both of her children had been left unharmed.

There was no sign of a forced entry and no one in the area heard any screaming. The police said that they thought that the murderer had entered Maureen Dutton's home via the front door and that they were almost definite that he must have been admitted by Maureen Dutton and that he might have called at her house under some pretext or other.

It was said that she had been planning to take her children to see the Christmas crib at Childwall Parish Church but that she didn't, it being further noted that she might not have done so because of the dense freezing fog that had been hanging over the city for some days.

The last contact that she was known to have was with her mother-in-law who telephoned her shortly after 1pm on the day of her murder to say that she could not come and baby-sit for her that day because of the fog.

During the investigation the police said that they were looking for a fake doctor who had examined a woman at Halewood a few days after she had given birth, the day before Maureen Dutton's murder, Tuesday 19 December 1961. He had called at her address and she had let him in assuming that he was from the hospital and was part of her post-natal care. It was suggested that he might also have called on Maureen Dutton and then either been let in or forced his way in by putting a knife to her throat before murdering her.

The woman in Halewood said that because she had recently just given birth that she had assumed that the visit was part of her post-natal care. However, she said that when her husband later made enquiries about the man that he was told that there had been no doctors operating in the area.

The bogus doctor was described as having been between 27 and 30 years old, of Jewish appearance, closely cropped curly hair, a broad nose, wearing worn horn-rimmed glasses and a dark grey overcoat.

The police said, 'It is still of the utmost importance that we trace the man who visited a house at Halewood on Tuesday, December 19, and posing as a doctor, is alleged to have indecently assaulted a woman, who a few days earlier had given birth to a baby. Someone must know this man and I appeal to every citizen, 'Do you?''.

The police said that they were also looking for an Irish nurse aged between 25-35 who had got on a 10d Corporation bus in East Prescot Road close to Thingwall Lane on the afternoon of 20 December 1961 in an agitated condition saying that she had had to get out of Liverpool and was going to London where she would get on an aircraft. She was described as being strawberry blonde and to have been acting suspiciously and to have been babbling about having 'done something terrible'. However, she was never traced.

It was also noted that during the investigation the police reported that they had wanted to contact the bus conductors of any buses on the Thomas Lane and district routes who could tell them whether anyone had boarded buses between 1.30pm and 6.10pm on the day of the murder who had seemed a bit strange or who had acted suspiciously.

At a police conference in early January 1962 it was said that four Home Office pathologists and two Home Office scientists that had attended had been called to give their opinion on whether Maureen Dutton's murder had been a ritual killing. The police noted that the possibility of a ritual killing was only one of many lines of enquiry that the police were following. The police said, 'We have got the best brains possible and we have asked some of the most eminent pathologists and scientists to this conference to give their assistance'.

As part of their investigation into the possibility of her murder having been a ritual killing it was reported that the police were visiting coffee bars and all-night cafes looking for members of the Polynesian cult of the god Tiki. It was said that the number of followers in Merseyside was not large and that they were mostly men of various degrees of education and society and that no women members had been traced. However, it was also reported that it was thought that the tiki cult had a considerable following in Liverpool.

It was said that tiki worshippers kept carved wooden images of the god in their home and wore necklaces of polished shells found in the South Seas during rituals. It was said that during the religious ceremonies men and woman worshippers would abase themselves before an eight inch tall idol of Tiki and burn incense and that after initiation they had small insignia tattooed on their bodies. It was said that on the night of the full moon, and during the solstice that a blood sacrifice was demanded by the island's god and that a high priest would plunge a dagger into the heart of an animal or bird and would smear the blood across the faces of the worshippers.

It was also said that the police had sought out experts at Liverpool University in the study of the Polynesian Islands and their customs and habits. It was also reported that it was believed that some members of the cult had met at record shops to listen to Polynesian music. It was also said that murder squad detectives had visited Liverpool Museum and searched the library to learn more about Tiki.

It was later revealed that the police were looking to trace people that had a tattoo representing a reverse swastika on their upper left arm. A detective said, 'I want to make it quite plain that although I am desirous of interviewing every person who is a member or follower of the tiki cult,  this is only one of the avenues which we are following. I cannot emphasise the importance of tracing all persons who were in Thingwall Lane, for any purpose, on the afternoon of the murder'.

It was said that the reversed swastika was an identification mark of members of the cult that worshipped tikis, which were Polynesian protective spirits.

Maureen Dutton had been murdered on the winter solstice, a time which it was said, in the South Seas, blood sacrifices were made to the tiki.

It was also noted that the police had been in touch with Interpol over the murder  and its connection with the tiki cult. It was said that they had asked the international organisation for any background information that it had on South Sea worship of the Polynesian god Tiki, in connection with the possibility that Maureen Dutton's murder had been one if ritual or sacrifice.

It was later noted that a member of the tiki cult who had lived in Parliament Street, Liverpool and who had the reverse swastika tattooed on his arm had been remanded in custody after being accused of stealing drugs and surgical equipment from three Liverpool hospitals. He was also found to have been masquerading as a doctor. However, he was later allowed bail after his case was heard where it was noted that his tattoo connected him to the murder of Maureen Dutton. It was heard that he had been seen by a woman in Halewood who had herself been seen by a bogus doctor, but he was later eliminated from that matter. He was described as being a man of good character who had never been in trouble before, it being noted that the only drugs he had taken were sleeping pills, a mild sedative and Vitamin K tablets.

However, it was later reported that the link with the tiki cult was later ruled out by the police.

The police had also spent some time trying to identify a young man that had been seen walking along Thingwall Lane with his hands in his pockets at 1.50pm on 20 December 1961. He was described as being a good-looking youth with a ruddy complexion, wearing a black leather jacket which had been open at the front, a dark green pullover and heavy boots. It was said that he had been seen several times in the area that day. It was also said that he had been seen running very fast down Thingwall Lane and having been violently sick near the steps of Court Hey Methodist Church. It was said that as he was being sick that he had kept his hands wedged firmly in his pockets which a witness that saw him said they thought was peculiar. However, it was reported on Friday 29 December 1961 that the police had traced him and eliminated him from their enquiries.

However, they added that they were also still trying to trace a man that had been seen wearing a dark cloth jacket and fawn cavalry twill trousers who had been seen walking towards 14 Thingwall Lane from the direction of Thingwall Hall Drive between 12.40pm and 12.50pm on the day of the murder. He was said to have had neatly cropped hair at the back.

Another person that the police were trying to trace was a man that had been wearing spectacles, a dark overcoat and a crash helmet and was said to have been pushing a red and white scooter with L plates along Thingwall Lane at 3.30pm.

Another man that the police said they were interested in tracing was a man that had been walking along Thingwall Lane on the day of the murder at about 3.20pm and who bumped into a woman in the fog near to the Methodist Church at the corner of Greystone Road and Court Hey.

The police said that they were still interested in hearing from anyone that had been Thingwall Lane between 1pm and 6pm which was described as a foggy afternoon.

The police later also said that they thought that someone in the Liverpool area knew or suspected the identity of the murderer and appealed for anyone that who could assist them to come forward, stating that they believed that anyone withholding information was not only endangering themselves, but also their family and friends, it being noted that it was thought that the killer might be mentally unstable.

During the investigation the police toured the area with a special loud-speaker van appealing for assistance in the murder investigation. It was reported on 11 January 1962 that the police were extending the area of their inquiries to cover one mile from Maureen Dutton's home.

It was noted that almost a year later on Sunday 9 December 1962 that Lesley Hobbs was murdered at her house at 191 Childwall Valley Road for which a youth was later convicted and it was thought that there might have been a connection as they were both stabbed and their houses were quite close to each other as well as other coincidences. In the case of Lesley Hobbs it was heard that a the youth had gone to her house and knocked on the door and that when Lesley Hobbs had answered he had forced his way in and systematically beaten her about the head and stabbed her to death. When the Youth was arrested he said that he had gone to a random  house with the intention of killing a woman.

On Wednesday 6 November 1963 it was reported that a counsellor asked the Watch Committee chairman at the Liverpool City Council a question on whether or not he knew of a recent newspaper report that had stated that the police knew the name of Maureen Dutton's murderer but that they were taking no further action as the man was detained in a criminal mental institution to which the Watch Committee chairman said he was aware of it and asked the councillor whether or not he could vouch for it to which he replied that he could not.

It later years it was suggested that Maureen Dutton had been murdered by a lover who had been either a window-cleaner or a butcher.

During the investigation into Maureen Dutton's murder more than 50,000 people were interviewed and more than 35,000 statements taken by the police. They said that more than a hundred people that had been in Thingwall Lane on the day of the murder had been interviewed by the police although they said that they knew that there were others who they asked to also come forward.

At her inquest on Friday 4 May 1962 a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown was returned.

Maureen Dutton and her husband had moved into 14 Thingwall Lane just after their marriage in April 1953. The house was described as a neat four-bedroomed semi-detached dwelling and was fronted by a four-foot high stone wall, tall trees and rhododendron bushes. They were described by neighbours as being a quiet and reserved young couple.  Thingwall Lane itself was described as being a quiet residential  district and its residents mostly professional or retired people.

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

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - DPP 2/3596, ASSI 52/1368

see Liverpool Echo

see Mirror

see Penny Lane Dreadful

see "'Doctor' Sought In Murder Hunt." Times [London, England] 28 Dec. 1961: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 21 Dec. 1961: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

see Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 06 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 12 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 11 January 1962

see Runcorn Weekly News - Thursday 13 December 1962

see Birmingham Daily Post - Monday 08 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 29 December 1961

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 08 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 02 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Friday 05 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 22 January 1962

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 06 November 1963

see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 21 December 1961

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Friday 04 May 1962