MURDER AT MITCHAM.
[SUBJECT OF ILLUSTRATION.]
ON the 30th ult., at the Croydon County Bench, before Dr. Alfred Carpenter (in the chair) and other magistrates, George Bowling, fifty-one, a labourer, of Miles’s-cottagee, Mitcham, was charged, on remand, with the wilful murder of Elizabeth Nightingale, a widow, with whom he lived, by smashing in her skull with a hammer, at Mitcham, on the 17th. ult. Sophia Collins, sister of the deceased, had her previous evidence read over, and in reply to further questions said it was a four-roomed house. The prisoner and the deceased occupied the two front rooms, one up and one down. Witness and her brother occupied the other rooms. The deceased and Bowling had the exclusive use of the front door, of which they had the key, and they generally shut the door when they went out. Bowling and deceased lived together for ten or eleven years. Witness and her brother always used the back-door, which was bolted inside at night time. Of late the prisoner had been drinking very much, and quarrels between the pair were frequent. The deceased was of sober habits generally. Witness was on good terms with her. Had never seen her the worse for liquor. Witness usually saw her sister every day, if she did not the prisoner. The deceased worked at a marketgarden, and used to get there at eight o’clock. She would get up between five and six to do her housework. At this point Police-constable Butler, 488 W, produced a plan he had made of the premIses, the bedroom being drawn to scale. The witness Collins went on to say that she last saw her sister alive on the 16th ult The prisoner came in about eight o’clock. Witness did not see hlm, but she knew his step. She was surprised at his coming home so early. The deceased came in at half-past nine, and remarked to wltness as she was going upstairs, “Aint it cold? Dlrectly she got in her room witness heard deceased and Bowling quarrelling. She heard the prisoner threaten her a good deal. He said, “I will be the death of you.’ She did not hear any blows, nor did she hear any scuffling. Soon after that prisoner came downstairs and seemed to go in his front room, and remained in there about five minutes. Witness heard him go up again. There was more swearing, but she heard no blows. This lasted five or six minutes, and all was quiet after- wards. Witness then went into the washhouse to get water and chop some wood, being absent about a quarter of an hour. Witness heard nothing more during the night. Witness’s brother came in about eleven o’clock, and stayed up about half an hour, and then went to bed. No one else went in or out of the house that night. Next morning, between five and six o’clock, she heard the prisoner come downstairs. Between five and six the same evening she went Into her sister’s bedroom and found her lying on the bed dead, with her skull battered in. Witness had seen a coal hammer in Bowling’s coal- cellar, but not during the past six months. Witness had used It for nailing pictures up. The hammer (produced, stained with blood) was not the one in question, in fact, she had never seen it before. She had several times heard the prisoner threaten to settle her sister. Cross-examined by Mr. Dennis: The last sound she heard was at ten minutes past ten o’clock. She did not know that Bowling went out at ten o’clock, and was drinking at the Buck’s Head public-house shortly before eleven. Witness was not surprised to hear them quarrelling, as it so frequently occurred. Her sister was rather a warm-tempered woman. Dr. Henry Love repeated the evidence he gave before the coroner as to the death of the woman being caused by repeated and violent blows on the head by a heavy instrument such as the hammer produced. The fact of there having been no struggle showed that the woman was stunned by the first blow. Inspector Butters, who arrested the prisoner, stated that on the way to the station Bowvling said, “I suppose they fetched you ?” Witness replied in the affirmative. Police-constable Banfield, 277 W, deposed that the prisoner said to him, “It was in my temper I done it in.” Other evidence having been called, Mr. Dennis, in reply to the Bench, said he had nothing to say. In answer to the usual caution, the prisoner, speaking with some emotion, said, “Not guilty, and I reserve my defence,” The prisoner was fully committed for trial at the next assizes on the capital charge. He was removed to Holloway Gaol to await his trial, his departure being witnessed by a large crowd.
While washing his employer’s van, Frederick Mansfield, aged 18, was electrocuted. From the newspaper reports it would appear that he grabbed an electric light flex, that didn’t have a light bulb in it, and probably didn’t realise that the switch was on. Electricity shorted from the lamp socket across his body to the wet floor on which he was standing.
The story was syndicated nationally and appeared in a number of regional newspapers. Here’s one article from The Scotsman:
A remarkable fatality occurred at Mitcham on Saturday night, when Frederick Thomas Mansfield (18), a butcher’s assistant, of Homewood Road, Mitcham, was electrocuted while washing a motor car.
Mansfield and another boy were cleaning the car at the rear of the premises of Edwin Birch & Sons, butchers, Church Road, and were using a “flex” attached to the electric light installation of the car for illuminating purposes. Hearing a shout, the manager went to the spot, and found Mansfield lying on his back with the flex in his hand. The manager knocked the wire from the boy’s hand, but when a doctor arrived Mansfield was found to be dead.
Source: The Scotsman – Monday 04 January 1932 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)
At the inquest it was added that the vehicle being washed was his employer’s van.
It was stated at an inquest yesterday on a Mitcham butcher’s assistant, Frederick Mansfield (18), who was electrocuted while washing his employer’s motor van, that he had a flex in his right hand, and must have got the best part of 200 volts through his body. Dr. Henry Love said that Mansfield had exceedingly large thymus gland, which was a contributory cause.
Source: Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail – Thursday 07 January 1932 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)
The postmortem would likely to have been performed in the Mortuary Chapel in the parish churchyard. This building was demolished some time after the formation of the London Borough of Merton in 1965.
The 1930 commercial directory gives E. Birch & Sons, butchers at numbers 36 and 38 Church Road.