Unsolved Murders

Maud Emily Pallant

Age: 77

Sex: female

Date: 24 Nov 1956

Place: Potchefstroon, Halstead Road, Eight Ash Green, Colchester, Essex

Maud Emily Pallant was shot in the foot on 6 November 1956 and later died on 24 November 1956.

She was shot by her 51-year-old son-in-law through the windows of her house as he was attempting to shoot his wife after she left him.

The man was tried for her murder but the prosecution offered no evidence against him and he was acquitted. However he was convicted of wounding his wife with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Other charges of wounding his wife with intent to murder and possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life which he had pleaded not guilty to were also not proceeded with.

When the judge sentenced the man he described the case as 'one of the worst cases of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm that one can imagine'. The man was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The man had gone to Potchefstroon on Halstead Road in Eight Ash Green and fired several shots at his wife and people in the house through the windows. However, he had only shot Maud Pallant in the foot and whilst she was taken to hospital for treatment she was discharged the same night, her injury not being considered serious. She continued to go back to the hospital as an out-patient until she was discharged altogether on 14 November 1956. However, on 22 November 1956 she became ill and died three days later on 25 November 1956 from an embolism.

After the shooting the man had gone missing and was not arrested until 11 January 1956.

The prosecution said, 'This was not the sort of wound that you would expect to produce death'.

A pathologist said that Maud Pallant had been suffering from thrombosis of each leg and that it was impossible to say whether the embolism had come from the right leg or the left leg in which she was shot.

The prosecution then said, 'It would not appear that there was any evidence on which it would be right to invite the jury to say that death was caused by the wound'.

The man had married his wife in 1944 but it was said that the marriage was unhappy almost from the beginning, due largely in part to the man's violent temper and in May 1956 his wife left him, taking their 8-year-old son and went to live with her parents in Eight Ash Green, Essex, about 300 yards away from their marital home.

On 3 November 1956 the man borrowed a 12-bore double-barrelled shotgun from a friend and on 6 November 1956 the man went to Eight Ash Green and fired several shots in through the windows. His wife had been in the pantry at the time with their 8-year-old son and another 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. She said that she heard a crash of glass and saw a gun sticking through the window and that two shots were then fired.

The man's wife then went off with the children towards the dining-room where they then heard another crash of glass and saw a gun come through the window again. However, Maud Pallant's 86-year-old husband seized the barrel of the gun and there was a struggle and the gun was jerked away.

The man's wife and the children then went towards the kitchen and the gun then came through the front door and there was another struggle for it during which the man's wife was heard to say, ''Don't shoot, think of the children', to which the man was heard to reply, 'Now you are going to get it' before he fired the gun again and hit his wife, hitting her in the leg causing her to fall.

The man's wife was taken to hospital where she received treatment, after which the doctors said that they expected her to have a permanent and serious incapacity and added that there was even a chance that she would later have to have her leg amputated.

After the man was arrested on 11 January 1957, he told the police, 'I knew the kids were there. I could not care if I shot the lot'.

The man was originally from Brantham in Suffolk and was a storeman by occupation but had previously had an accident at a farm that had resulted in him having only had partial use of his right arm and that because of that he had not had regular work since 1946.

He was also noted as having had seven previous convictions and having served six terms of imprisonment, as detailed:

  1. At Bury St. Edmunds Borough Petty Sessions on 20.9.23 he was charged with stealing a bicycle and sentenced to 14 days Hard Labour.
  2. At Howden (East Riding) Petty Sessions on 29.8.27 he was charged with stealing 35/- and a purse from a person and sentenced to 3 months Hard Labour.
  3. At Melton Mowbray Magistrates Court on 14.5.29 he was charged with obtaining food by false pretences and sentenced to 3 months Hard Labour.
  4. At Nottingham City Petty Sessions on 27.9.29 he was charged with obtaining 25/- by false pretences and sentenced to 6 months Hard Labour.
  5. At the same Court on 15.1.31 he was charged with obtaining credit to the extent of £1. 17. 6d by fraud and sentenced to 6 months Hard Labour.
  6. At York City Magistrates Court on 3.8.39 he was charged with obtaining food and lodgings by false pretences and sentenced to 6 months Hard Labour. (9 other offences were taken into consideration).
  7. At Sudbury Magistrates Court on 28.9.56 he was charged with (1) stealing a pedal cycle, (2) obtaining money by false pretences, and conditionally discharged for 12 months.

He was also noted for having two summary convictions for cycling offences and one for obscene language.

After he was arrested the man refused to give the police any information about his antecedent history, but the police were able to determine the following:

He first married on 30 May 1925 at North Cave in Yorkshire to a woman that he had met whilst they were both working at neighbouring farms, but after living together for six months he deserted her and she didn't hear or see anything of him again until 1933 when he returned to live with her in Hull.

However, they did have one child together, a boy, who was 31-years-old at the time of the trial. His wife also had another daughter two years later by a different father.

After the man re-joined his wife he lived with her and their children at various addresses in Kingston-Upon-Hull until August 1938 when he sold up the home and left.

It was heard that after that the man appeared to have done very little work and appeared to have been almost continually in receipt of public assistance.

On 24 August 1939 proceedings were taken against him for leaving his wife and children chargeable to the public assistance authorities, but the warrant was later withdrawn after it was found that he was serving a sentence of six months imprisonment.

Later in June 1942 his wife obtained a divorce from him and later remarried and subsequently died in 1954.

The man was released from prison on 4 January 1940 and from 16 August 1940 until 27 November 1945 he was employed by a firm of diesel engineers and whilst there he met his second wife who he later shot at. They were married on 14 December 1944 at Copford Church and later had a child around 1948 who was 8-years-old at the time of the shooting.

From April 1946 until July 1946 the man had been employed as a handyman at a farm in Levenham, Suffolk where he had an accident and lost the full use of his right arm. He had been engaged in trimming a hedge with a pair of shears up a ladder and fell and when he struck the ground the sheers that he had been using lacerated his right arm pit. His wages at the time had been £5 10 0d per week which included a rent-free cottage. As a result of the accident he became a patient at the West Suffolk General Hospital in Bury St Edmunds from 30 July 1946 until 18 October 1946 after which he was transferred to another hospital in St Albans from where he was discharged on 21 November 1946.

After the accident the man was left with only the partial use of his right arm and he subsequently returned to the hospital on seven different occasions between 29 August 1948 and 23 March 1953 for further treatment, and as an out-patient on five occasions between 26 June 1947 and 10 September 1954.

It was noted that he had received about £1,700 compensation for the accident.

The man later took up employment on 17 August 1953 as a warehouseman with a firm of motor car and motor cycle factors in Colchester where he remained until about 30 May 1956 when he left of his own accord. His wages had been £6 per week, however, his employers said that his work was not satisfactory and that they were glad to see him leave.

It was determined that at about that time the man had been associating with another woman but his wife found out and it led to them separating.

The police said that as far as they could ascertain the man had had no regular employment after leaving the motor factors and that they did not know how he had been obtaining his livelihood.

Witness statements for the crime started with one by a barracks housekeeper at the Colchester Garrison who lived at 9 Black Pit Cottages in Stanway, Essex who said that at about 4.30pm on Friday 2 November 1956 he was cycling home from work when a man on a cycle that he didn't know, but he later identified as the man tried, came alongside him and started cycling along with him. He sid that the man asked him if he wanted to buy a cycle and said that he told him that he didn't. He said that the man told him that he was an insurance agent and that he had been on the job for eight years. He said that they cycled together as far as Dagard Avenue, which was about three miles from the garrison, heading in the direction of Stanway Green when the man asked him again if he wanted to buy a bicycle and he told him again that he didn't, adding that he already had one. He said that as he reached home that the man then asked him if he had a gun and he told him 'No' and that the man then asked, ''Do you know of anybody who has one?' and he said 'No' again'. He said that the man then said, 'If I could find anybody who has a gun I would part with this cycle', and said that as he reached his home the he said to the man, 'I turn in here', and that the man then said, 'God blast it, I wish I could get a gun'. The barracks housekeeper said that he then went indoors and that the man cycled on.

The following day, Saturday 3 November 1956, an undertakers assistant who lived at 24 Charles Street in Colchester, said that the man came to his place of work in Colchester at about 11.30am and asked him if he could borrow his gun as his brother was coming from Canada and they wanted to go out shooting for the weekend. The undertaker's assistant said that he told the man that he could borrow it provided he brought it back and told him that it was in a shed at his small holding and that he could go there and get it from his son who was working there. He said that the man left roughly at about 12 midday as near as he could say and that he next saw him again roughly between 1.30pm and 2pm at which point he had the gun with him and a bicycle. He said that the man then left the bicycle with him as his son had said that he wanted to buy it from him and told him that he was to give him £4 for it which he paid him after which the man left with the gun and the money. He noted that he had not given him any ammunition with the gun.

The undertakers assistant's son said that the man came to see him between about 12 noon and 1pm on Saturday 3 November 1956 at The Drive, Mersea Road in Colchester, a small-holding rented by him and his father. He said that the man came up to him and asked if he wanted to buy a bike but said that he told him 'No'. He said that the man told him that he wanted to sell it as he had no further use for it and then told him that he had seen his father and that he was to give him his father's gun, adding that he had lent his to his brother who had come over from Canada and that he wanted one for himself. He said that he then gave him the gun which the man carried with his bad arm, his right arm and that he then walked round the field and saw his stock and then went back to get his bike. He said that he then gave him some rope to tie the gun to the cross-bar, adding that he then tied the gun on himself. The undertakers assistant said that he then agreed to buy the bike off him for £5 and said that the man told him that he would leave it with his father after which he left.

A foreman plumber that lived in Lancing Avenue, Ipswich, said that just after 4pm on 6 November 1956 he was driving a van near the level-crossing by the Halstead Railway Station on the Colchester to Halstead Road when he saw someone near the Courtaulds Sports Ground who was thumbing a lift. He said that he didn't know the man but said that he stopped and the man asked him if he could give him a lift to Ash Green. The foreman plumber said that he asked 'Where is that?' and that the man replied 'Just this side of Colchester'. The foreman plumber said that he was about 12 miles from Colchester then and agreed to give him a lift and said that the man got in the seat beside him. He said that he had a parcel with him and later told him that it contained a gun. The foreman plumber said that when they came to a piece of straight road between the railway bridge and Colchester the man said, 'Drop me near the last telegraph pole on the right-hand side'. He said that there were bungalows there and that after he dropped the man off that he drove on off to Ipswich and didn't see the man again.

The man's wife said that she had married him in 1944 at Copford Church and that they had a son on 27 June 1948 and went eventually to live at North View in Halstead Road, Eight Ash Green. She said that her husband was never very kind to her and that he used to get into violent tempers. She said that he used to always tell herself that when her mother and father died that she would either leave him or divorce him, but that she would stay with him until then. However, she said that when she told her husband that she would divorce him that he would smash the home up and would stop at nothing.

She said that on 31 May 1956 that her husband left early, saying that he was going to Sudbury and that after he left that she had a conversation with a man and then left North View and went to Potchefstroon with her son which was a little way away from her house down the same road and had not been back to North View to live since. She said that one day in June 1956 that she did go back to North View to feed the chickens but said that whilst she was there, whilst bending down to pick up a bowl, that her husband hit her with a stick and knocked her down. She said that he hit her four times and that the skin on her leg was broken and bruised as a result and that she had to go to the hospital for treatment.

She said that she didn't see her husband again until 6 November 1956 when he tried to shoot her.

She said that just before 5pm on Tuesday 6 November 1956 that she was in the pantry when she suddenly saw a gun thrust through the window. She said that the children were with her, two of her own and a neighbours child and that she then got them into the pantry and pushed them under a chair because they were screaming. She said that her son said, 'Mummy, there's Daddy with a gun, he's going to shoot us'. She said that she asked her husband to not shoot them and stood in front of the children and that the next thing that she heard were two shots. She said that although the gun was pointed at her that because she was in the corner and the panes of the window were small that she did not think that the gun could be brought round far enough and nobody was hurt by them.

She said that the gun was then withdrawn from the window and she took the children into the dining room. She said that she could not remember whether or not Maud Pallant was in the room at the time. She said that she took the children behind the dining room door and then saw the gun through the dining room window under the blind, noting that the glass in the window was broken. She said that her father then tried to pull the gun away from her husband by holding the barrel of the gun. She said that she was not able to see through the window to see who was on the other side but said that no shots were fired and that the gun was then withdrawn.

She said that as she then took the children out of the dining room she heard the glass breaking in the front door and saw the gun come through the glass and said that the children then went into the kitchen and the gun was then withdrawn. She said that she then saw her husband standing in the porch and that her mother was then in the kitchen. She said that she then saw her husband through a hole in the glass in the outside porch of the house and asked him not to shoot and to remember the children. She said that she thought that her father was still in the dining room. She said that her husband then said, 'Now you are going to get it', and that that was all he said.

She said that she then ran down into the kitchen again as the children were screaming and she put them in the recess by the back door. She said that she then stood in front of the children and that the next thing that she remembered was hearing shots and then falling to the floor.

She said that her mother had been quite near her then, just inside the kitchen, adding that she was on the right-hand side of the doorway into the kitchen and her mother was a little way from her and more towards the cooker near the window.

She said that she then realised that she had been injured in both feet.

She said that when the ambulance men were doing her feet she realised that her mother had blood coming out of the top of her shoe.

She said that she was then taken to hospital and was still there when she gave the police her statement, having gone first to the Essex County Hospital in Colchester and then later to Black Notley in Braintree.

The man's wife later related the story of her husband's accident, saying that he had run some sheers under his arm-pit about ten years earlier, and noting that it resulted in his little finger being curled and the next one not quite straight, although she said that his other fingers were alright. He said that his right arm was shorter than the left and that he could not lift it right up. She said that he could bend it at the elbow and wrist, although perhaps not quite freely and added that he used his left hand more than his right and that he would shave with his left hand.

She noted that her husband had had quite a lot of operations as a result of his accident and said that he had been incapacitated from work for six or seven years and said that she knew that her husband always used to say that his injury pained him.

She added that to her knowledge her husband had never been an insurance agent.

Maud Pallant's husband was a retired army officer and had lived at Potchefstroon on Halstead Road in Eight Ash Green with his wife and said that since May 1956 that his daughter had been living there with him with her eight-year-old son after having moved out of North View less than 500 yards away where she had been living with her husband.

He said that on the afternoon of Tuesday 6 November 1956 that he was in the dining room of the house when at about 5pm he heard a smashing of glass coming from the direction of the pantry and that shortly after he heard a shot which was quickly followed by another shot. He said that he then went into the hall to go towards the kitchen but didn't get very far as there was then another smashing of glass in the dining room after which he went straight back into the dining room and saw a double-barrelled gun pointing 15 to 18 inches through the glass. He said that he then grabbed the gun and struggled with it but said that it was pulled from him, but that he didn't see who was holding the gun.

He said that less than ten seconds later there was another sound of smashing of glass that came from the front door and that he saw the gun then pointed through the broken window panel. He said that as he then came into the hall that he saw the gun pointing through the glass about 15 to 18 inches and that he again grabbed the barrel and managed to hold the gun for some time but said that it was again eventually pulled away from him. He said that by then the children had gone into the kitchen along with Maud Pallant and his wife.

He said that whilst he was holding the barrel of the gun at the front door he heard his daughter say, 'Don't fire, the children are here, you might kill your own son. It’s me your after', and that he then heard her husband say, 'You have crippled my life, you bugger, and I am going to cripple yours'. However, he noted that he was not sure whether the husband had used the word 'crippled', noting that he might have used the word 'ruined'.

He added that he recognised the husbands voice quite distinctly as that of his son-in-law, noting that that was the first time during the incident that he had heard it.

He said that his son-in-law then pulled the gun from him and a few seconds after that the gun went off again. He said that when the gun was then fired he didn't see where it had been and said that it had not been protruding through the window at the time. He said that it as fired once and that he then stood back into the doorway of the dining room and that when he turned he saw that his daughter had been hit in the leg, noting that he had not noticed at that time that Maud Pallant had been injured.

He said that after that that his daughter was taken to hospital and that about an hour later Maud Pallant was also taken to hospital after they noticed that there was blood coming from one of her feet.

He said that Maud Pallant later died at their son's house, 2 Porters Cottages in Fordham Green on 24 November 1956.

He said that she had been receiving out-patient treatment at the hospital and had been discharged. He said that she had not been herself from the time of the shooting and had had four bouts of unconsciousness during the last week of her life, noting that the bouts had occurred when she was getting up in the morning. He said that the bouts were short until the last one, on 24 November 1956, when she died, noting that she had been unconscious all that day.

He said that before the shooting that Maud Pallant's health was fairly good except for rheumatism and varicose veins in her legs.

A bricklayer that lived in Halstead Road in Eight Ash Green four doors away from Potchefstroon said that he knew the man and saw him about 5.05pm on the night of Tuesday 6 November 1956 near a garage that was near to Potchefstroon. The bricklayer said that he could see clearly because there were lights on the petrol pumps and that it was not quite dark. He noted that he saw that the man was carrying a gun and that the gun was as near as he could say a 12-bore double barrelled gun.

The bricklayer said that they didn't speak to each other but said that they nearly brushed into one another, noting that when they had passed their shoulders had been about three inches apart. He said that the last that he saw of the man was of him heading down Spring Lane which was off Halstead Road, noting that he was looking around as if to see if there was anybody watching him.

He said then, that just after he saw the man go round the corner that he heard screams coming from a house. He said that they were female screams and the scream of kiddies and that they were coming from Potchefstroon. He said that he then went there and went in and saw that the glass of the front door was smashed, noting that he was sure that one panel was broken but was not sure about the other. He said that he then saw Maud Pallant's daughter lying on the kitchen floor with her legs covered with blood and Maud Pallant standing over her trying to assist. He said that the three children then came running out towards him screaming and that he then got in touch with the police and an ambulance.

The pathologist that carried out the post mortem on Maud Pallant on 25 November 1956 at the Essex County Hospital in Colchester said that Maud Pallant was a well-nourished woman, about 5ft 3in tall and that he found that she had clotted veins on the surface of the inner side of her left leg and scars on her left foot that were consistent with the entry of pellets from a shotgun.

He said that later dissection showed the presence of thirteen pellets in the tissues of her foot and ankle, noting that the dissection was carried out following an x-ray examination.

However, the pathologist added that dissection of the veins of her leg also showed clotting and that dissection of the veins in her other leg also showed deep clotting and he said that it was from the clot that a portion had become detached and had then entered her lung causing her death. He noted that some of her veins were varicose.

The pathologist said that examination of her other organs showed some chronic bronchitis and enlargement of the heart with arterial degenerative changes but no more than might be expected in an elderly woman.

He gave her cause of death as being due to pulmonary embolis due to clotting of the veins of the leg following upon shotgun wounds of the left foot and ankle and that in his opinion it was the direct result of the gunshot wound.

A casualty officer at Essex County Hospital said he saw Maud Pallant at the hospital at 6.25pm on 6 November 1956 and that he found a few abrasions and a few small hard swellings under her skin around the left ankle joint which he x-rayed and counted as being twelve pellets. He said that the pellets were not removed and Maud Pallant was given an injection and after further treatment she was allowed to go home that same day at 9.40pm.

The casualty officer said that Maud Pallant attended the hospital again on 7 November 1956 when a dressing was applied and then again on 9 and 14 November 1956 as an out-patient when dressings were again applied after which he didn't see her again.

Evidence was given by a police constable who said that on 19 September 1956 he had taken Maud Pallant's son-in-law into custody on an matter entirely unconnected with the latter charges and said that whilst he was there he became violent and had to be pinned to the ground. He said that at one stage the man said, 'You may have caught me for stealing a cycle but you won't catch me for murder', to which the police constable said, 'We will if it's necessary'. He said that the man then said, 'I'll bet you 5s you won't' and later said, 'I'll get that bitch if it's the last thing I do'.

Maud Pallant's son-in-law was later arrested on Friday 11 January 1957 in Duke Street, Chelmsford. A detective said that he approached the man and that after a short struggle, and with the assistance of a police sergeant, was able to put him in a passing car and take him to Chelmsford Police Station. The detective said after the man was put in the car and told that he was being arrested on the charge of shooting his wife on 6 November 1956 that he immediately said, 'I'll come quietly now, I bloody-well tried to get the bastard, you have been a fucking long time catching me, I could have gone to Ireland this morning'. After the man was then told that Maud Pallant had died on 24 November 1956 the man said, 'If she hadn't got in the way she wouldn't have been bloody well hit. She was always a bloody nuisance'.

Later in the day at Chelmsford Police station the man said, 'From this day until the day they give me ten or twenty years I am telling you nothing. 365 days a year before we went to bed we fought, she was a bastard. I have bought everything to try to get the woman to talk common sense. I have had fucking rows, morning and night. I shall do the bugger in again if ever I am let loose. I knew the kids were there. I couldn't care if I shot the lot'. When he was later charged that afternoon with attempted murder he said, 'Absolutely nothing more to say'.

When the shotgun was later examined the stock and hammer mechanism were found to be in good working order with the right hand trigger pull being 3 1/2lbs and the right hand pull being 5lbs with the standard pull being 4lbs in the right and 4 1/2lbs in the left.  The detective that examined them said that he found that the gun was capable of discharging a shot from both barrels and that the gun showed evidence of having been fired. He also examined the used cartridges and firing pin markings and stated that the pellets found were all from a No. 6 cartridge that would ordinarily contain approximately 200 pellets. He noted that the spread of the shot could commence as soon  as the shot was fired but that it would otherwise be very slight and that at a distance of approximately 10 feet that it could be no large approximately than the size of the palm of the hand.

Following the arrest of Maud Pallant's son-in-law in January 1957 he was charged with:

  • Murder of Maud Pallant.
  • Intent to murder his wife.
  • Possession of a firearm, namely, a shotgun, with intent to endanger life.

However, at the Essex Assizes at Chelmsford on 28 February 1956 he was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm with no evidence being offered on the murder charge and the charges of intent to murder and possessing the shotgun not being proceeded with. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment.

It was noted that with regard to his wife's injuries that on 28 February 1956 that counsel said, 'The doctors say that the best that can be expected is that she will have a permanent and serious incapacity, but there's even a chance that a leg will have to be amputated'.

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

see find.galegroup.com

see National Archives - ASSI 36/228, ASSI 90/86, ASSI 13/875

see "Life Sentence For Wounding Wife." Times [London, England] 1 Mar. 1957: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 May 2016.

see "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 14 Jan. 1957: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 May 2016.

see Birmingham Daily Post - Friday 30 November 1956

see Shields Daily News - Monday 26 November 1956

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Monday 26 November 1956