Date: 25 Jan 1919
Place: Nightingale Road, Hitchin
Elizabeth Ridgeley was found beaten to death along with her dog in her small general shop.
A man was tried but acquitted of her murder.
She was found dead in her kitchen with head injuries on 27 January 1919 but had not been seen by neighbours since 9pm on the Saturday night 25 January 1919. Her dog was also found lying dead by her side.
However, the neighbours said that they had heard various noises during the Saturday night.
When the police examined her house they found money hidden in unlikely places and it was apparent that Elizabeth Ridgeley had hoarded three penny pieces.
At first the police declared her death was an accident.
One theory that had been put forward was that she had been suddenly attacked by her dog and had defended herself as best she could but had killed it and fallen back onto some crockery and sustained injuries which resulted in her death.
However, her body was later exhumed by the Home Office and the pathologist stated that death had been caused by a heavy blunt object and could not have been self-inflicted.
The man who they arrested for her murder had lived on Radcliffe Road in Hitchin. They took his clothes for examination and found blood spots on the inside lining of his jacket sleeve as well as a smear of blood in his right hand trouser pocket. They also found two small tears that were recent and a belt that had some blood on the buckle. They also found that he had several injuries on his right hand including a deep cut or wound on his index finger and another on his second knuckle joint of the same hand. They also found 6 £1 treasury notes, 3s in silver and a halfpenny. They also found a leather case under his bed with a broken file in it.
The man had been a soldier and had joined the Munster Fusiliers in 1903 and later the RAMC and had been in the retreat from Mons. He had been wounded in the left hand in 1915 and discharged with a good character. After going to Ireland he went to Hitchen with his wife in August 1918 and had paid his rent on 31 January 1919 after having received an Army gratuity of £8. 10s.
He said that on 25 January he had been out to buy some cigarettes and had after gone to a pub and returned home at about 9pm.
He denied that he had a rag on his finger on 26 January 1919 and said that he had cut his finger whilst at work on 28 January 1919 by striking it on a piece of sheet iron.
He said that he had also got some blood on him after a lodger had come home drunk with a cut on his head and had had to be carried upstairs.
He said that he had not been in Elizabeth Ridgeley's shop since he had left his last lodgings and that the evidence he had given of seeing a man in her shop on the Saturday night was an invention.
He also said that he had worn the bloodstained shirt found as an undershirt and was unable to explain the presence of the bloodstains on it.
In court the man was asked to take a 4lb weight that had been found in Elizabeth Ridgeley's shop and to hold it in the manner he would if he were intending to hit a dog. The man said, 'I should not like to hit a dog with that. I should throw it if it attacked me'.
He also stated that he never had a wound on his left thumb but the judge asked a pathologist to have a look and he said that he saw indications of a scar and also one which might have been caused by a rough tear.
It was noted that a detective inspector had said that it was not convenient to take a statement from the man whilst he was in his bedroom as he had been causing considerable commotion and behaving frantically and that the statement that he had signed at the police station was signed whilst he was not in custody.
In court the judge characterised the conclusion of the police who first had charge of the case concluding that it was accidental as absurd. He said that he could not imagine how anyone could think it. He added that the worst way to investigate a case was to make up one's mind how a thing happened and then look about for evidence after.
The man was acquitted.
Elizabeth Ridgeley was a widow.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/260
see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Monday 28 July 1919
see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 19 June 1919
see Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle - Thursday 27 February 1919