Unsolved Murders

Emily Filer

Age: 69

Sex: female

Date: 18 Oct 1960

Place: 108 Claughton Road, Birkenhead

Emily Filer had died in St Catherine's Hospital on 18 October 1960 and her death certificate gave the cause of death as being due to cerebral haemorrhage.

Her funeral took place on 21 October 1960 and one of her sons, a process worker that had lived in Leighton Road, Birkenhead said that he saw her body in the coffin before the lid was screwed down and she was buried.

However, it was heard that another of Emily Filer's sons later dug up her body and took it back to an empty house at 108 Claughton Road, Birkenhead where he tried to bring her back to life.

Her body was later found there on 19 December 1960.

Emily Filer had lived at 65 Durley Drive in Prenton, Birkenhead at the time of her death and had been a widow.

After Emily Filer was found at 108 Claughton Road her body was taken to the Price Street Mortuary where a post mortem was carried out on 17 December 1960. The Home Office pathologist that carried out the post mortem gave the cause of death as cerebral haemorrhage and said that she had been dead for about two months.

Another doctor noted that her body had marks on its toes consistent with them having been burned.

A partner in a firm of estate agents said that they had been the agents for the owner of 108 Claughton Road which had become empty on 6 July 1960 and that on 24 October 1960 they had given the keys to a man that had given his address as 65 Durley Drive, Prenton, who he later identified in court as being one of Emily Filer's sons.

However, he said that following two letters sent to the address in Durley Drive that the keys were returned in person on 2 November 1960 by Emily Filer's son.

He noted that the electricity had not been on at the property to his knowledge once it had become empty.

The police said that after Emily Filer's body was found at the property that they went to Cole Street in Birkenhead where her son lived and told him that they were making enquiries regarding the burial of his mother.

A detective chief inspector said, 'I was present when a grave was opened at Bebington Cemetery at 11.15pm on December 19. It was Grave No 501 N. After the soil had been removed I found an empty coffin. The coffin had a plate on the lid bearing the name Emily Filer.

The detective chief inspector said that he later saw Emily Filer's son at 4.05pm on the same day at which time the son gave a detailed statement regarding what he had done.

The son said, 'As soon as my mother died I thought of trying to bring her back with electric treatment. I saw a policeman at Well Lane and told him I thought there was a chance of bringing her back to life but he said, 'You don't want to be messing about with a body'. I went to my mother's funeral from Leighton Road and after it was over I decided to have a go at bringing her back to life. On the same afternoon I went to Duke Street Garage and hired a car for one day and about 6 o'clock that night I went to Bebington Cemetery. I climbed over the wall with my spade and dug the grave. I opened the coffin with the spade and took mother out. I filled the grave in again and took mother in the back of the car to an empty house in Borough Road by Baileys Furniture Shop. I couldn't get into the house because it was locked so I had to leave mother in an outhouse at the back. The back door was open when I got here so I locked it and climbed out. I took the day off work on the Monday and went to three estate agents in Hamilton Square to find an empty house. At one I saw a house advertised for sale at 108 Claughton Road so I asked about buying it. I got the keys off the man to view the house'.

He went on to say that he got the keys to view the property for a few hours and then used his firm's van to collect his mother's body and took her to 108 Claughton Road and put her body in the kitchen.

He then said, 'I left mother covered with a blanket and next day, during dinner time, I mixed a plasma in a kind of lemonade bottle. I made it with a sugar that I melted, lime juice and milk. I then took it to Claughton Road to feed mother, and gave her some. Nearly every lunch time I went back that week and gave her some more plasma, but on the Saturday I started the electrical treatment. I rigged up a wire in the room and attached it to her foot. The electricity must have shorted because when I went back the next day I found it had done some damage to her foot. I have not had much chance to try any other treatment since that day. I was going to buy a house with the money mother left me and I was going to get good equipment to give mother proper electric treatment. She was a good mother to me and I was doing my best for her'.

The Home Office pathologist said that he found that three of her toes were blackened and said that at first glance he thought that they were blackened by gangrene but said that he later found that they had been burnt by electricity.

The Coroner said that it was a most extraordinary business altogether and offered his sympathy to the relatives 'for this dreadful happening'.

After the Coroner said that he was satisfied that the body was that of Emily Filer he gave an order for her cremation, with the consent of the executors, after the chief constable said that the grave was unfit.

The son was charged with removing a corpse from a grave without lawful authority on 28 December 1960 but the chief constable said that he wanted to consult the Director of Public Prosecutions over whether the matter should go to trial or be dealt with summarily. The Coroner noted that he thought that the issue could be adequately dealt with summarily.

However, it was noted that he was still on remand on 11 January 1961 after having appeared at Birkenhead Magistrates' Court on the charge of removing a corpse without lawful authority as bail had been refused after the Director of Public Prosecutions instructed that committal proceedings should be undertaken and the matter dealt with at the Assizes. When the son 's counsel asked why he should be kept in custody for so long and what the objection was and was told that the police inspector had been instructed to oppose bail most strongly following a letter that had been put in, stating that it was in the interests of Emily Filer's son as much as anyone elses that he should remain in custody. After the magistrates read the letter, the contents of which were not disclosed, the chairman ordered that Emily Filer's son be remanded in custody until the next hearing.

His case was heard at the Chester Assizes on Tuesday 14 February 1961 where it was heard that he had removed his mother's body from her grave in the belief that he could bring it back to life and a doctor said that he was suffering from paranoid-schizophrenia and he was ordered to be detained in hospital. the judge said that Emily Filer's son should not be treated as a criminal but as a mentally ill person.

It is not clear how Emily Filer came by her head injury as nothing it said, and whilst the case might not be regarded as unsolved it is included, as an exception, due to its peculiarities.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 21 December 1960

see Birmingham Daily Post - Thursday 22 December 1960

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Wednesday 28 December 1960

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 28 December 1960

see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Wednesday 28 December 1960

see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 11 January 1961

see Belfast Telegraph - Wednesday 15 February 1961