The Legless Murder

1922, 21 April: Murder of Gladys Martha Wall: Walton on Thames, known as the "Legless Murder". Gladys was fifteen and had been courting Lionel Symonds. She became pregnant and Wall and Symonds agreed to commit suicide together. Symonds was found in a disused railway carriage in a siding with one foot off and the other smashed to pulp. How he got into the carriage was a mystery. He was alive and on route to hospital he told Inspector Tamplin "She ran across the line to get under the train. I tried to stop her but could not. I don’t remember anymore." Symonds was convicted of her murder but was not hanged. The papers in the county archives contain reports from the principal officers and copies of a range of notes exchanged by the couple. The girl Wall was reported missing and a systematic search was undertaken and when found by the railway line.

Inspector Tamplin went immediately to the scene. He saw Lionel Symonds in a disused railway coach, alone, conscious with one foot off and the other smashed to a pulp. He was removed to Walton Cottage Hospital. The man told the inspector "She ran across the line to get under the train. I tried to stop her but could not; I don’t remember anymore. I don’t know how I got into the carriage."

Superintendent Galloway: In a report to the chief constable 23 April 1922 said there was no evidence as to the reason why these two people were on the railway line -- there was some doubt as to whether there had been defilement of the girl. So far as was known the deceased had not threatened suicide.

Inspector Tamplin: On the 24 April 1922 interviewed the suspect and then returned to the scene where he recovered a number of letters which were unsigned and difficult to read. The prosecutors believe there was enough evidence for prosecution for Murder.

On the 25 April Superintendent Galloway wrote to the deputy chief constable that the girl was pregnant, writing again on the 28th to indicate that if the notes were to be produced as evidence then a handwriting expert would be needed to prove authorship. The question was raised was it a suicide pact; Symonds was ex Navy, married with two children and the girl just fifteen. Galloway had a concern there may be an attempt by the suspect to take his own life but no constables had yet been put on watch.37

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38 Surrey History Centre, Woking, item ref CC98/11/5.


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