The Murder of Gladys Merrick

gladys-merrick

Gladys Merrick

Ellen M. Barlow, born in 1920 in the Rotherham area, is my second cousin, twice removed and daughter of Herbert Barlow and Mary Burton.

An entry regarding Ellen’s great-grandparents, Thomas Burton and Ann Pickersgill, can be read here.

In 1940, Ellen married Douglas Fair.

Via my family tree website, I made a connection with Frank Barlow, the nephew of Ellen, who told me a rather shocking story; in Frank’s words:-

Ellen married Douglas (Dave) Fayre who was a soldier in the war, he returned and his nerves were shot to bits. A young girl called Gladys Merrick was murdered behind the Estoria picture house in Goldthorpe and Dave Fayre went to the police and told them my father (Fred Barlow) had committed the murder and he was duly arrested and then released (he was down Houghton Main Colliery at the time of the murder). Dave Fayre was taken in for questioning and his beret was found close to the murder. The case was never proven but Dave Fayre was detained at Rampton Hospital for the criminally insane. In the 60’s my fathers brother Herbert was an electrical contractor based in Farnham, Surrey and he won the contract to re-wire Rampton Hospital, where he met Dave Fayre again after many years, shortly afterwards Dave Fayre killed one of the wardens and was committed again for life, where he died shortly afterwards.

Frank’s account prompted me to eventually uncover the following newspaper accounts. If anybody has any information or photos of the locations to add, please get in touch and I’ll credit you.

I have so far been unable to find a death entry for Douglas and consequently, do not know his fate.

Yorkshire Evening Post – Wednesday, 10 February, 1943

ATTACKS ON GIRLS

Goldthorpe Murder revives Discussion

Police investigation into the death of Gladys Merrick (16), of Thurnscoe, whose body was found at Goldthorpe on Monday, continues. The girl’s clothing was torn and there were marks on her throat.

The tragedy has caused a revival in the district of discussion concerning attacks on girls, which are stated to have taken place at Goldthorpe some months ago. A resident says one night two girls were chased in Straight Lane, one being attacked from behind by an assailant who struck her with a stick. The other girl was chased but eluded her pursuer. Straight Lane is at the opposite end of the village to the plot of ground on which Gladys Merrick’s body was found.

Manchester Evening News, Thursday, 11 February, 1943

Dance Halls Searched in Murder Case

FOLLOWING a comb-out of dance halls, cinemas, clubs, and public houses in the Goldthorpe district, South Yorkshire, officers from Doncaster headquarters of the West Riding Police are narrowing down the inquiries into the murder of Gladys Merrick (16), a munition girl, of Briton-street, Thurnscoe, whose strangled semi-nude body was discovered on a piece of waste land behind a club at Goldthorpe on Monday.

Daily Mirror, Friday, 12 February, 1943

HOMECOMING OF A SOLDIER

Called home by an urgent telegram, Private George Merrick, last-war veteran, stood waiting for a bus at Doncaster on the last stage of his journey.

Some women in the queue were discussing the murder of a 16-year-old girl.

Merrick asked who the victim was and learned that it was his own daughter.

The girl, Gladys Merrick, was found strangled and almost naked on waste land at Goldthorpe, South Yorks, on Monday.

Private Merrick, now in the Army Catering Corps, had travelled for fifteen hours from the South of England in response to the telegram.

Men in the queue assisted him as he nearly collapsed and he was taken home to Thurnscoe in a police car.

Police have found a khaki forage cap near the scene of the crime.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE TIMES AND EXPRESS, FEBRUARY 13, 1943

THURNSCOE GIRL STRANGLED

Tragic Discovery at Goldthorpe

CLOTHES TORN FROM BODY

Throughout the week intensive investigations have been pursued by the West Riding police in the Goldthorpe area in an effort to throw some light on the death of

GLADYS MERRICK (16), only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Merrick, of 38, Briton Street, Thurnscoe.

The girl’s body, from which all clothing had been stripped with the exception of socks and shoes, was discovered on a small plot of waste land near the rear of the Reform Club, at Goldthorpe. There were evidences that the girl had met a violent death, and marks on her throat indicated that she had been strangled.

On Thursday night the police intimated that they were pursuing a certain line of action, and that “developments were expected.” Yesterday, however, it was learned that the clue investigated had not produced the results expected, and enquiries were renewed in other directions.

PENSIONER’S DISCOVERY.

murder-scene-of-gladys-merrick

Murder scene

The girl’s body was found at 11:15 a.m. on Monday by an old age pensioner, Mr. T. Lockwood, of Goldthorpe, who was taking his usual morning walk along the path which runs along the back of the Reform Club, Goldthorpe.

When Gladys left home at 7.15 p.m. on Sunday she was wearing a blue blouse and skirt, a three-quarter length brown coat, blue overalls, a brown scarf with yellow stripes, and a yellow scarf worn as a turban. But when found next day she was wearing only a pair of men’s socks and a pair of shoes. Her other clothing was strewn around her body. When the discovery was reported to the police vigorous investigations proceeded immediately, but it was not until late on Monday afternoon that the body was identified.

The dead girl, until three weeks ago an employee of a Doncaster firm, was a former pupil of Thurnscoe Hill School. She left her work at Doncaster intending to find something more suitable. There are two brothers, John Robert, aged 19, who is a haulage hand at Barnburgh Colliery, and a younger brother, aged 14. Mr. Merrick, who has been in the Army for three years and was formerly a miner at Hickleton Colliery, was sent for by the police, and arrived home late on Wednesday. Gladys was about 5ft. 3ins. tall, and had fair hair and grey-blue eyes.

The club behind which the body was found, stands just off the main road, and the body was about 15 yards from the road. When questioned, the doorkeeper of the club said he was certain that no girl corresponding to Gladys Merrick’s description had entered the club on Sunday. If so he would certainly have noticed her because only one woman wearing trousers entered during the evening. The club steward, Mr. R. Marriott, said that he was up until late on Sunday, and although his bedroom window was only ten yards from the place of discovery, he heard no disturbance or noise. Mrs. Bailey, who lives nearby, said she heard sounds of someone running and a scream, and Mrs. Bray, who lives at the bungalow adjoining the plot of land, thought she heard a scream about 9.15 p.m. on Sunday.

MOTHER’S STORY.

When a “Times” reporter visited Mrs. Merrick at her home yesterday (Thursday), Mrs. Merrick said that her daughter often went out on Sunday nights. She did not attend dances because her parents thought she was too young to do so, but enjoyed standing in the doorways of local dance halls and watching the dancers. On Sunday night, Mrs. Merrick was busy mending Gladys’s shoes, and consequently did not take much notice of what her daughter was doing. Before Gladys went out she said, “I promise I’ll be back at 9.30 mother,” 9.30 being the time specified by her mother for her to be in. When Gladys did not return by 9.30 no enquiries were made because the girl had been in the habit of visiting her grandfather at the other end of Goldthorpe. Mrs. Merrick said that Gladys had only two girl friends with whom she customarily went out, and last week-end neither of these girls was in Thurnscoe, both being employed in other towns. So far as she knew her daughter had no boy friends and never spoke to her of meeting young men.

A neighbour, Mrs. C. Clifford, of 40, Briton Street, told our reporter that Gladys went in just before 7 p.m. on Sunday to ask Mr. Clifford to cut out some soles for her shoes. She often went in and chatted with Mrs. Clifford. The girl heard the radio programme change at 7 p.m., and asked about the time, saying that she had “somebody to see.”

Mr. W. Dutton, who lives on the main road not far from the Reform Club, said in his opinion the fact that some people were said to have heard screams on Sunday night was “nothing at all to go by.” Every Sunday it was quite usual to hear screams and shouts of girls going home about this time.

Talk in the district of attacks on girls which are said to have taken place several months ago, was revived by the tragedy. It is stated that one young girl was hit with a stick from behind by an unknown assailant and was unable to work for three weeks.

Ever since the body was found, the West Riding police have been making the closest investigations into the case. The police have taken statements from a large number of people, including soldiers and pit lads. Police officers from outlying districts have been called in to assist in the investigations. Supt. J. Walker, of Doncaster, is in charge, together with Detective Chief Inspector W. Lee and Detective Chief Inspector C. Marston, of Wakefield.

The funeral has been fixed for Saturday at Bolton Cemetery at 2.30 p.m. A postmortem examination has been conducted by Professor P. L. Sutherland, County Pathologist.

Yorkshire Evening Post, Saturday, 13 February, 1943

MYSTERY OF DEAD GIRL

An announcement was broadcast at cinemas in Goldthorpe last night at the request of the police, who are investigating the death of Gladys Merrick (16), who was found strangled at Goldthorpe on Monday. The announcement asked anyone who saw her on Sunday night, after 7 o’clock, to inform the police immediately. They are anxious to trace the girl’s movements from the time she left home, just after 7 p.m. on Sunday.

The funeral took place at Bolton-on-Dearne this afternoon.

SOUTH YORKSHIRE TIMES AND EXPRESS, FEBRUARY 20, 1943

STRANGLED GIRL’S FUNERAL

Crowds Watch Thurnscoe Ceremony

Hundreds of people in Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe lined the streets on Saturday as the funeral of 16-year old Gladys Merrick, of Briton Street, Thurnscoe, whose body was found behind the Reform Club, Goldthorpe, on February 8, passed.

gladys-merricks-funeral

Funeral

The crowds included many young people who had known the dead girl, and miners on their way from the pits stood in their pit dirt with bared heads bowed as the cortege passed through the streets on its way to Bolton Cemetery. Many of the women in the crowd outside the Central Hall, Thurnscoe, where a short service was held proceeding the interment, were in tears. The service was conducted by the Rev. A. W. Sheldon.

Mourners included the dead girl’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. G. Merrick, her brothers, and other relatives and friends.

Throughout the week the police have been pursuing the most detailed enquiries in an effort to unravel the problem of who strangled the girl and tore off her clothes, before leaving her on a plot of waste ground where the body was ultimately discovered.

Late last Thursday the solution of the crime appeared to have been reached, but under the exacting scrutiny applied in such cases a promising development did not prove satisfactory. On Friday morning the hunt for the killer was resumed at full pressure involving many fresh lines of enquiry. The police have a difficult task in view of the absence of clues. One puzzling aspect is that no one has yet come forward who saw the girl after she left home at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 7th. Her movements after that time until her body was discovered are a mystery.

Mr. G. Bateman, Houghton Road, Thurnscoe, had charge of the arrangements for the girl’s funeral.

Horse & Groom, Goldthorpe - 06.04.08 (6)

Horse & Groom, Goldthorpe

SOUTH YORKSHIRE TIMES AND EXPRESS, MARCH 6, 1943

“SOMEONE SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE”

Coroner’s Comment on Thurnscoe Girl’s Tragic Death

The inquest on Gladys Merricks (16), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Merricks, of 38, Briton Street, Thurnscoe, who was found strangled at Goldthorpe on February 8th, was opened at Goldthorpe on Friday and was adjourned until March 26th. The Doncaster District Coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile), who conducted the enquiry with the assistance of a jury, after expressing sympathy with the girl’s parents at the conclusion of the proceedings said: “I only hope that anyone who saw the girl between the time she left home on the Sunday night and the time she was found later will come forward and give assistance to the police, for a crime of this sort does need that someone should be brought to justice for it.”

MAP AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Present at the inquiry were Superintendent J. Walker, in charge of the Doncaster Division of the West Riding Police, and Detective Chief Inspector W. H. Lee. The parents of the dead girl also attended, but there were no members of the public present other than the witnesses. On the wall behind the Coroner’s table was a specially prepared large scale map of the Thurnscoe and Goldthorpe district with such points as the girl’s home and the place where the body was found marked with small flags. Superimposed on the plan were two photographs of the place where the girl was discovered.

The Coroner said the girl was 16 years 10 months old, and resided with her parents at 38, Briton Street, Thurnscoe. On the evening of Sunday, February 7th, she left home at about 7.15. She did not tell her mother where she was going and was not asked, but the mother apparently assumed she had gone to see her grandfather, John Thomas Fairchild, at Goldthorpe. On Monday, February 8th, at about 11.15 a.m. Thomas Lockwood, of Goldthorpe, was taking a walk along the back of Doncaster Road, Goldthorpe, when he saw the body. The girl was lying on her back on a piece of spare land near Ward’s garage. She was almost nude, and her clothing was strewn about in the vicinity. “I don’t propose this morning to go very far with this,” added the Coroner.

IDENTIFIED BY BROTHER.

John Robert Merricks, colliery haulage hand, of 38, Briton Street, Thurnscoe, identified the body as that of his sister. He said that she was the daughter of George Merricks at present serving in the Corps of Military Police, and formerly a collier at Hickleton Colliery. Witness said the girl was a munition worker but was not working at the time of her death. She was getting ready to go away to Bradford to work in the mills. On Sunday evening, February 7th, witness said he left home at 6.45. His sister and mother were in the house. he did not know that his sister would be going out but thought she would be. That was the last time he saw his sister alive. He returned home at 10.15 and went to bed at 10.45. He did not know then that his sister had not returned, and did not get to know until the following day about mid-day. Later he informed the police she was missing, and at about 6.30 p.m. identified her body at Mexborough.

Thomas Lockwood, retired miner, of 47, Nora Street, Goldthorpe, said on February 8th at about 11.15 a.m. he was walking along a road at the rear of Doncaster Road, Goldthorpe, and on a piece of spare land at the rear of Ward’s garage he noticed the body of a woman lying on her back. She was about seven yards inside the space and about five or six feet from the garage at the other end. She was naked except for some string round her body, a pair of men’s socks, and a shoe on the right foot. The left shoe was near the left foot. Her legs which were outstretched were pointing towards the footpath on which he was walking. Her right arm was outstretched and the left arm was by her side. He thought at first that her throat had been cut and called to two men working nearby. He sent one of them for Dr. Jayaker, who has a surgery nearby, and when the doctor came he said she had been strangled and had been dead for several hours. Clothing was scattered round the body, some of it torn. He found a pair of blue overalls near the corner of the plot, and near them was a yellow turban. There were four of five pieces of torn grey skirting a little distance from the body, and what appeared to be a dark coloured scarf was on the top of a roofless shed near by. He sent for the police who were quickly on the scene, and remained there himself till nearly 3 p.m.

Answering Supt. Walker, witness said he did not disturb anything or take anything away, and while he was there until the photographs were taken, no one touched anything.

GROUND ROPED OFF.

Montagu Hospital, Mexborough

Montagu Hospital, Mexborough

Sergeant Thomas William Glasspool, of the West Riding Constabulary stationed at Goldthorpe, said he received information of the discovery about 11.30 a.m. and roped off the piece of spare land immediately. He remained there until the arrival of Supt. Walker and other senior officers. He examined the land where the body was lying without going on to it. The grass had been trampled down near the wall about seven yards from where the girl was lying. On the left arm of the girl was a blue dress, short brown jacket and brown overcoat. There was an elastic string round the centre of the body. There were red marks round the front of the throat. Nothing was touched until the arrival of the photographers. Identification of the girl could not be established, and at 3.10 p.m. he took the body to the mortuary at Mexborough Montagu Hospital.

The Coroner: Apparently then the clothing had been torn? – Presumably wrenched from her; and that was why it was still partly on her left arm.

POST-MORTEM FINDINGS.

Dr. Peter Lindsay Sutherland, West Riding County Pathologist, gave evidence of conducting a post-mortem examination of the body. He said the body was well nourished and well developed and the height was 5ft. 3ins. There were signs of violence on the body. On the front of the neck there was a reddish mark measuring four inches across the neck and one inch broad at its broadest part, which was at the middle in front. At the sides of the neck the mark disappeared and there were one or two small abrasions at the back of the neck. The mark was not grooved. The discolouration on the mark was irregular as if it had been made with a ligature with an irregular surface. There were numerous small abrasions on the chin and on the left cheek. There was a small bruised and abraded area on the upper lip. There were abrasions on the back of the right hand and left wrist. The lower part of the left forearm was soiled with dirt. On the outer surface of the right thigh above the knee there were numerous parallel abrasions. The thigh was also soiled with dirt. On the outer surface of the left thigh there were two areas of very superficial abrasions.

Dr. Sutherland went on to say that the tongue was protruding just between the teeth and inside the mouth on the palate was a stalk of grass. He described internal injuries to the throat and said the abdominal organs were normal. There was no evidence of rape or attempted rape.

Cause of death was asphyxia due to strangulation by ligature.

The Coroner: Did it appear there had been considerable force used when the ligature was applied? – Yes.

Coroner: were you able to say how long she had been dead? – No, I could not say that. When I saw her first at 1 p.m. she was perfectly cold and rigor mortis was absolutely complete.

The proceedings were then adjourned as stated.

Cemetery, Bolton - 25.03.08 (1)

Bolton Upon Dearne Cemetery

SOUTH YORKSHIRE TIMES AND EXPRESS, APRIL 3, 1943

STRANGLED GIRL CRIME

Further Adjournment of Inquest

The mystery surrounding the death of Gladys Merricks, 16-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. G. Merricks, of 38, Briton Street, Thurnscoe, who was found strangled at the rear of the Reform Club, Goldthorpe, on February 8th was still unsolved when the inquest was resumed at the Horse and Groom Hotel on Friday.

The District Coroner (Mr. W. H. Carlile) said it was not proposed to offer any further evidence at the moment. The police were continuing their investigations, and he proposed to adjourn the inquest again for two months to May 21st, when it was hoped they could come to some definite conclusion.

In addition to relatives of the girl, there were present at the inquiry Supt. J. Walker and Detective Chief Inspector W. H. Lee, of the West Riding Police. Supt. Walker told a South Yorkshire Times reporter that there were several lines of enquiry which had not yet been exhausted and which were being thoroughly investigated.

it is understood that over 500 statements have been taken by the police, who have interviewed several thousand people in the course of their enquiries.

The South Yorkshire Times and Mexborough & Swinton Times.
SATURDAY, JULY 3, 1943

MURDERED GIRL’S FATHER

Warned About Attitude To Police

The father of the girl who was recently found murdered at Goldthorpe, George Merrick (44), soldier, living at Thurnscoe, was summoned at Doncaster West Riding Court on Tuesday for using bad language, and was bound over to be of good behaviour for twelve months.

A condition attached was, “and in particular that your attitude towards the police shall be a correct one, and that you leave them alone in the performance of their duties and that you do not interfere with them or any of the witnesses in the unfortunate case.”

P.c. Tulley said that on June 24th he received a telephone message to go to shop premises in Doncaster Road, Goldthorpe. At the same time Merrick ran into the Goldthorpe police station. He had had some drink and used bad language. As witness went to the shop Merrick went along and used more bad language.

Asked if he wished to question the policeman, Merrick said: “I ask a liar nothing.” Later he said, “The case is one of trying to find out who murdered my daughter.” He declared that he had been caused much trouble over the inquest proceedings.

The Chairman (Mr. M. L. Nokes) told Merrick that if ever the police had tried to find a solution to a murder the police had in the Goldthorpe case.

Asked if he would cease using bad language because his trouble had not been settled, Merrick asked what he was to do.

The Chairman: Be a good lad.

Merrick: I have tried being quiet as long as possible, but nothing has been done.

The Chairman told Merrick that if there was a repetition of his conduct the result might be serious for him.

Yorkshire Evening Post, Saturday, 03 September, 1949

Man questioned about 6-year-old murder – but no charge made

WEST RIDING police officials told the Yorkshire Evening Post this afternoon that there would be no charge preferred against a man who had been brought to Doncaster from Manchester to-day for questioning following a statement in which he was alleged to have implicated himself in the murder of a girl at Goldthorpe in February, 1943.

The body of 16-year-old Gladys Merrick, of Briton Street, Thurnscoe, was found on waste land behind the Reform Club at Goldthorpe on February 8, 1943.

There were marks on the neck and it was thought that death was due to strangulation.

West Riding police, under Chief Detective-inspector Lee and Detective -sergeant Denver, carried out investigations at the time and issued a description in which it was said death might have taken place from six to 12 hours before the body was found.

Advertisements