Unsolved Murders

Gertrude Rebecca Barber

Age: 21

Sex: female

Date: 2 Sep 1922

Place: Stanley Avenue, Norwich

Gertrude Rebecca Barber was found dead in a pool of blood in Stanley Avenue, Norwich with a stab wound to the stomach.

It was thought that the stab wound might have been done to bring about an abortion.

She was a single girl and had lived on Heigham Street and worked as a silk weaver. She had been employed for the last nine months as a silk weaver at Messrs. Hindes Factory in Oak Street.

She was found by three boys that had been walking up Stanley Avenue at 5.55am on the Sunday morning. One of the boys, an errand boy, said that he saw a woman lying on the bank on the right side of the avenue going towards Harvey Lane. He said that there was a pool of dried blood about a yard away and that she appeared to be dead. He said that they then went to the Guildhall and told the police.

Her mother, who had six children, said that she last saw Gertrude Barber alive at 5pm on the Saturday night, 2 September 1922. She said that later on in the night that she had asked another daughter if they were all in and that the other daughter had said that they were and that she did not look to see if Gertrude Barber was there. However, she said that when she looked the next morning at 7.40am she knew that Gertrude Barber had not been home.

Gertrude Barber was later seen by a wholesale fish merchant at 7pm on the Saturday night when she had left his shop although he said that she had not told him where she was going. Shortly after she was seen by a friend from work who had asked her if she had wanted to go for a drink but Gertrude Barber had replied 'No, I cannot stop'. The friend said that she had seen Gertrude Barber at about 7.30pm hurrying along the Heigham Street in the direction of Barn Road. She said that when she stopped Gertrude Barber she appeared to have been reading a letter and she said that Gertrude Barber kept hold of the letter in her hand as they were talking.

Her brother said that he had been with Gertrude Barber to the Crocodile pub at about 7pm on the Saturday evening and said that she then left there at about 8pm but that he saw her later at the Briton Arms at 9pm after which they went to the Three Kings pub where they stayed until closing time after which they went to the Market Place where they had some cockles at a stall. He said that he left Gertrude Barber stood talking at the back of it with two young women and three young men who he didn't know and that when he came back five minutes later that she had gone. He said that he looked for her about Market Place, London Street and St. Benedict's on his way home but could not see her and that when he got home he waited up until about 1am for her and then locked up the house and went to bed.

The police investigation could find no trace of Gertrude Barber after she was seen walking in the Market Place towards London Street at about 10.15pm.

A doctor who examined her body said that she had a single wound in the lower part of her body which could have been self inflicted or produced by a second party. He said that when he was called out to see her body did not appear to have suffered pressure nor the appearance of her face suggest suffocation. He said that her hands were relaxed and that there was no sign of a struggle. He said that her hands were not much soaked in blood but could be described as sticky. He said that blood had evidently flowed from her in a considerable stream.

He said that when he carried out the post-mortem he found that the blood had come from a single wound in the lower part of her body. He said that it was a clean-cut wound and probably done with a sharp instrument. He said that the position of the wound seemed to indicate that if it was not accidental then it was intended to produce an abortion. He said that the instrument would have had to have been at least six inches long.

The doctor concluded that death was due to haemorrhage that was probably accelerated by shock.

Further examination of her body also showed that she had six scratches on her face.

It was said that the wound had probably been caused by an instrument narrower at its end than the middle and made with a single thrust. It was said that the instrument might have been similar to a clasp knife about half an inch wide with both edges converging towards the point.

No weapon or instrument was found.

The Coroner said that a great part of the evidence was pure theory but that because her father was a strict man that she might have wanted to conceal her condition from him and either by herself or with the assistance of another person have tried to procure an abortion.

An open verdict was returned 'That the woman had died from haemorrhage in an attempt to procure abortion, but that there was not sufficient evidence to show how the injury was inflicted.'.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Thetford & Watton Times and People's Weekly Journal. - Saturday 16 September 1922