Date: 1 Jan 1956
Maria Southwood was found dead in her sweet and tobacco shop on New Year's Day, Sunday 1 January 1956 at about 11.30am.
Her injuries were described as slight, but the police said that there were still suspicious circumstances around her death. However, they declined to give any details about the nature of her injuries or details concerning the state of the room that she was found in.
The police added that there was no evidence of any attempt to steal and that as far as could be seen nothing had been taken but said that whilst her injuries were slight, they required investigation although it was later reported that a dressing table in an upstairs room was found to be in disorder.
She had not been seen for several days until the police broke into her place on New Year's Day and found her in her nightdress lying dead under a table in an upstairs room. The police broke in and found Maria Southwood dead at about 11.35am.
When a doctor arrived at her home between 2pm and 2.15pm he said that he found that Maria Southwood was dead and said that whilst he had some difficulty in saying how long, he thought that she had certainly been dead for a good many hours.
Following the discovery of her body CID officers from Bromborough and New Ferry were called in as well as officers from the Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory at Preston and several items were taken away for examination.
Maria Southwood had owned and occupied the combined sweet and tobacco shop and house at 121 New Chester Road.
Following the discovery of her body the police said, 'There appears to be some doubt about the movements of Mrs Southwood for two or three days before her death. Any information is welcomed from any person who saw her on Thursday, Friday or Saturday of last week'.
A neighbour that had lived at 113 New Chester Road said, 'I had been her friend for 25 years. This has been a terrible shock because she was such a lively, friendly person. As far as I know, she couldn't have had any enemies'. She went on to say that she had been told that there was a broken window at the back of the house and that Maria Southwood had been in her nightdress when she was found, saying, 'She was lying under the table in her nightclothes, so I am told. It looks as if she may have had a shock, but she was not the sort of person to be frightened. Many a time I went into the shop and had to call her from the back, although she had hundreds of pounds worth of stuff in the place'.
She added that as far as she knew that Maria Southwood would have been quite a wealthy woman.
A man that lived next door to the sweetshop said, 'I had known her since I was a little boy and used to do her shopping for her every day. The last shopping I did was on Thursday morning when I bought her some milk tokens'.
Maria Southwood's nephew said, 'I was with the police when they discovered the body of my aunt. She was lying in her nightdress under a table in an upstairs room'. He said that Maria Southwood didn't appear to be injured and that there didn't appear to be any signs of disorder in the rooms although he said that a rear window had been broken.
He said that it was Maria Southwood's custom to visit him every Saturday night to watch television and that she usually arrived at about 9pm but said that on the Saturday 31 December 1955 that she didn't come, but said that he didn't worry as he assumed that she had probably been busy at the shop and had been too tired. However, he said that he received a phone call from a friend of Maria Southwood at about 11am saying that she had passed the shop on the Saturday afternoon at about 3pm and found it closed and asked him whether Maria Southwood had gone to see her sister. However, Maria Southwood's nephew said that he didn't think so. He said that he was rather worried but was not ready to go out and so sent his young son to the shop to see what the matter was. He said, 'He came back and said he could not get a reply from the front door. He had climbed over the back wall but got no reply there. He noticed the curtains drawn and a window in the back kitchen was broken. He came back and told me and I went to the police station at New Ferry right away'.
He said that Maria Southwood had been a widow for 18 years since her married seagoing engineer husband had collapsed and died suddenly.
see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 10 January 1956, p5
see Liverpool Echo - Thursday 05 January 1956
see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Tuesday 10 January 1956
see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 03 January 1956