Not every crime writer has personal experience of murder in their family but on the fiftieth anniversary of my great aunt’s brutal killing, I take time to remember Martha Giles’s unlawful killing on 12 February 1959, and one mystery that it appears I will never be able to solve.
Over the last year, I have been piecing together the evidence of the Martha Giles murder which hit the headlines in the national newspapers in 1959 but I’ve finally hit a brick wall after being denied access to 'closed' files in the National Archives under the Freedom of Information Act. On 12 February, it is fiftieth anniversary of Martha’s brutal killing and in that fifty years the case has never been reopened and no one has been brought to justice for her death.
Martha Giles was a nurse at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton. She was due to go on night duty on 11 February 1959 but never arrived for work. No one questioned why. Her body was discovered the next morning by the gardener. Martha was lying on the bowling green within the hospital grounds. She had been battered with a rock and the post mortem later revealed that she had been stabbed. New Scotland Yard were called in to investigate her death with Detective Superintendent Ernest Millen leading the case. He later went on to become Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard and was Head of the Flying Squad at the time of the Great Train Robbery in 1963.
The investigation caused considerable press coverage in both local and national media and subsequently a doctor at New Cross Hospital was charged with Martha’s murder but was acquitted at Staffordshire Assizes on 16 July 1959. No other person was sought in connection with the killing.
Through the National Archives I gained access to the witness statements, pathologist’s statement and harrowing photographs, as well as the press cuttings from the time, but there were many gaps. Finally after tracking down ‘closed’ files in the National Archives I was told that I could not have access to them, which includes the trial notes and the police case notes.
I don’t know why this case has never been re-examined in all these years, especially with new forensic techniques available and it is very disappointing not to have all the facts or see justice done.
I also contacted the National Association of Retired Police Officers, asking for any information from former police officers who might remember the case. NARPO put an announcement on their national web site and the Staffordshire branch of NARPO also advertised for information. Several people came forward including a police officer and journalist who were at the murder scene at the time.
I am used to dealing with fictional murders and researching and constructing complex plots for my novels. It has been really strange looking into the murder of a relative. I never envisaged this when I started writing my books. And whilst my novels can have satisfactory endings this real life case it seems cannot. Sadly I have no indication from the police that they are ever likely to re-open the case so here is one mystery I am unable to solve - although I haven't completely given up trying yet!
Causes Pauline Rowson Supports
Fire Fighters Benevolent Fund, http://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/text.asp?PageID=2 Motor Neurone's Disease Association...