Unsolved Murders

Harold Johnson

Age: 48

Sex: male

Date: 8 Feb 1953

Place: Woodlands Cottage, Ashmore, Dorset

Harold Johnson was found dead in the attic at Woodlands Cottage in Ashmore, about seven miles from Shaftesbury on Sunday 8 February 1953.

He had actually been evicted from the cottage on a court order carried out in Shaftesbury in October 1952 after it was heard that he had not cultivated his garden and had not been seen since. It was said that the day before his eviction was due Harold Johnson had disappeared after saying, 'I will never leave the cottage'.

It was suggested that after Harold Johnson had left the property and a widow had moved in that he had left himself back in with a key, locked the door behind him and gone up into the attic and that she had been living in the cottage with his body above in the attic above her bedroom for some time.

It was said that his body might have lain there for longer except that the widow later tried to get into the attic but found that she could not open the trapdoor to get in.

After Harold Johnson was evicted the widow had gone to live there to look after it until it could be let again. It was said that whilst she was there, she had complained of an 'eerie' feeling of not being alone in the cottage and had told a farmworker about it.

She then called the police who could also not get in and so they ripped off some of the slates from the roof and peered in and saw the body of Harold Johnson lying in a narrow space under the roof across the trap door.

When his body was examined by a doctor the doctor said that he thought that Harold Johnson had been dead for over a month.

When the attic was searched the police found a bottle with a small quantity of water in it.

The owner of the cottage described Harold Johnson as a mystery man, saying, 'He was a mystery man to me, as well as other villagers'. One of the other neighbours in the village said, 'Johnson had been drawing public assistance for some time before his death'.

A villager who had lived in the cottage on and off for 50 years said that he knew nothing of it.

Harold Johnson had a black beard and was married with three children but had been living apart from his wife.

He had gone to the cottage in 1947, paying a rent of 15s and had looked after himself. It was said that he had paid his rent regularly but that no one knew what his source of income was although some villages said that they thought that he was an author.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 10 February 1953

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 09 February 1953

see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 10 February 1953

see Daily Herald - Tuesday 10 February 1953