Murder of Mary Anne Hogg

1906, 11 June: One sunny afternoon in June two elderly maiden sisters Miss Mary Anne Hogg aged sixty eight, and Miss Caroline Gwinnell Hog aged sixty two, were found by a postman in their house Heathfield, Camberley, where they had lived alone for some years. They had been brutally attacked. Mary was dead and her sister so seriously injured that it was feared she would die. Police were called and PCs Holdaway and Brown arrived and were joined by Dr Rayner and they started a thorough search of the house. They were later joined by Dr Cadell, the local medical officer of health, who considered that the death had occurred about an hour before his arrival, i.e. about 4.10 pm.

Caroline survived and gave evidence at an inquest a month later. Both had been hit on the head with a hammer wrapped in a piece of merino, and their throats cut with a knife. Even Professor Pepper the Home Office pathologist was unable to give much assistance. There was a careful search of the house and garden; checks made for missing people from asylums; interviews of scores of residents; investigation of the movement of known criminals who from previous convictions may have been involved. A large reward was offered but there was no resolution of this case.

On the 25th June at the inquest the Coroner said: "The public must bear in mind that however astute a detective might be, and however anxious the police might be to unravel the mystery, they could not do impossibilities. They might have seen the murderer, or even passed him over and over again, but it must be remembered that he did not show murder in his face, or bear a placard telling the nature of his crime, and it was only by piecing facts together that the police would be able eventually to lay their hands on the murderer". Scotland Yard were called in for the first and last time by Captain Sant. Scotland Yard deployed Chief Inspector Fox and Superintendent Simmonds from Surrey worked with him.

Sgt Thomas Mears, in charge of Camberley police station in 1906.

Camberley News (1981) reproduced in Off Beat, March 1980: Some time between 4 pm and 4.30 pm on Monday June 11th Miss Caroline Hogg was seen running into the grounds of her home bleeding profusely from the throat and shouting: "I'm murdered, I'm murdered!" Later the body of her half sister was discovered lying in a pool of blood in the hall of the house. Her throat had been cut with one long stroke extending from just below the left ear to the right; so severe was the cut that the head was half severed from the body. On the back of the head was a wound caused by a terrific blow while her temple bore marks of blows from a dull instrument. The body was still warm and in her hand was a broken bricklayer's hammer. Caroline had head wounds in addition to the cut on her throat.

An army of police gathered at Heathfield including two officers sent by the Superintendent at Aldershot who joined Sergeant Thomas Mears the officer in charge at Camberley. Later that evening Superintendent Simmonds arrived from Farnham and took charge, as the chief constable and deputy chief constable came to the scene. The Metropolitan Police were informed and Detective Chief Inspector Fox was deployed the first time according to the local paper that New Scotland Yard had sent one of its most astute men within twenty four hours of the discovery of a murder.

Two schools of thought emerged. The first was a suspicion that the eccentric half sisters had a quarrel and that Caroline had killed Mary Anne and then cut her own throat to make it look like an attack by a third party, inflicting similar injuries on her self. Medical evidence refuted this as a possibility, given that the blows to the head were definitely caused by a third party. The murder may well then, have been committed by an itinerant in the area of which there were plenty. A neighbour saw a man running across the lower croquet lawn and there were indications that the fence had been climbed, however it was not unknown for local people to use this route as a short cut. The neighbour added that when the man realised he had been seen he turned up the collar of his coat.

Additional mysteries were the claw hammer that fell from the hand of the deceased as the body was moved. The handle was broken – she was grasping the portion with the head still attached wrapped in merino cloth; the remainder of the handle was about six feet away. The hammer seemed to have been brought to the house and the enquiry did not benefit from any form of fingerprint examination. The hammer but not the cloth was eventually identified as having been stolen from a builder on June 7th a few days before the murder. The mystery was not resolved as to how it came to be grasped by a murder victim.

The second mystery was what happened to the sharp instrument used to slash the throats of the murder victim and her sister. The hedges and ditches were searched without success. No knife was found in the kitchen that could have been used and a thorough examination of the house revealed no more clues that were of help although a bowl used to wash bloodstained hands was found.

The survivor said that she was lying on her bed when she heard her sister scream. On going down stairs she saw "a strange man" who immediately struck her with a poleaxe. Knocked unconscious on coming round she found she was bleeding greatly and at once rushed from the house.

At the inquest Caroline added that the man looked like a bricklayer and had asked her for money. Caroline gave more information but the medical professor and pathologist from the Home Office when giving evidence and on questioning by the jury said he felt that much of what Caroline had said was unreliable. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder but added there was not sufficient evidence to say by whom. No one was ever charged with the murder.8

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8 Durrant, A.J. (1951). A hundred years of the Surrey Constabulary, 1851-1951, p. 43.

 

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