Unsolved Murders

Harold Wheatcroft

Age: 46

Sex: male

Date: 13 May 1952

Place: Bristol

Harold Wheatcroft was found shot in a car outside a gunsmiths in Bristol.

It was thought that he might have shot himself as he was handling his gun. The hammers of his double-barrelled gun were found to be entangled in the handle of his briefcase.

It was said that he had had a premonition of his death and had written a letter to his wife telling her of it, which she received the day after his death.

He was shot at 5.30pm and the postmark on the letter was also 5.30pm. In the letter he had written, 'I have a dreadful feeling that I am going to die. I dreamt it three times last night'. The letter then went on, 'If I do, you will be all right. I am insured for £5,000 net and £10 a week tax free. If anything happens to me there will be that for you. You could get a cottage near Winchester and still educate our son and live very well. Try to live happily without me, which should be easy with our son and our daughter. I admit I am very silly and nothing will happen to me, but I have a dreadful feeling that I shall hardly drive home. It is pressing very hard upon me. If I am being very silly and it does not happen, I shall stop this letter in the morning, and you will know nothing about it. But I feel troubled. If it does happen you will see what a mess I have got into. I have been all kinds of a weak fool and not worthy of your love. But in my way, I have loved you'.

It was noted that Harold Wheatcroft's wife had taken the letter to the police, an act which was described as 'an act of high integrity and honesty'.

Harold Wheatcroft's wife said that she and Harold Wheatcroft were very happy together but said that he had been in a nervous state after a motoring accident earlier in the year.

She added that he was also absent-minded and said that one of the things that he would do to overcome that failing was to put things through the handle of his brief case to act as a reminder.

Harold Wheatcroft's daughter said that Harold Wheatcroft had already forgotten once to take his shotgun to be repaired, and said, 'It is quite possible that he pushed the barrels through the handle of the briefcase so that in picking up the case he would remember the gun. It was the sort of thing he would do'.

The coroner said, 'When this man was found everything pointed to a tragic and unforeseen accident. No one could have dreamed otherwise but  for one thing, the letter'. He than told the jury that they had to decide whether his premonition was of something that he feared would happen or of something that he intended to happen. He said that the letter was clearly written by a person who either had a premonition of something frightful about to happen or who intended to do something frightful.

The coroner then said, 'Which is it? A premonition of impending disaster is an unusual thing but it happens not only in fiction but in life'. The coroner noted that an hour before Harold Wheatcroft was found dead in his car he had telephoned his wife to say that he was on his way home and asked her to walk along the road to meet him which was her usual custom.

The coroner then asked, 'Do you think it is likely that this man would deliberately end his life in a public street where he must have anticipated hundreds of people would be passing?'.

The coroner noted that, 'We are not concerned here with the possible effect of this enquiry on he insurance policies the dead man mentioned'.

It was noted that an insurance company official had said the previous night, 'An open verdict can have no effect either way on the settlement of a claim'.

However, the jury were unable to decide, and an open verdict was returned.

The jury concluded that there was not enough evidence to say how the shot that killed him was fired.

Harold Wheatcroft was a consulting engineer who had lived in Newton St Loe near Bath.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Tuesday 13 May 1952

see Daily Herald - Thursday 24 April 1952