The murder of Miss Salmon

Murdeed woman found in The Shelter.

1941, 5 September: Tom Roberts called to Weybridge where the murdered body of an eighty year old woman had been found in The Shelter, Towers Walk. A man had been seen on the ground surrounded by wine and spirit bottles near the gate of the house. Another man lying drunk in army uniform was found in the house on the scullery floor.

Police were called and the house was found to be in great disorder. The main bedroom door was locked but there was no key in the door so a policeman climbed in through the window and found the body of Miss M E Salmon in her nightdress.

There had been an unsuccessful attempt to strangle her and that she had fought for her life although suffering a number of injuries from a severe beating. There was a glass in her hand and nearby was a bottle of brandy.

The men were arrested and the one in uniform was found to be a Canadian with jewellery and other valuables from the house in his pocket. The second man was a merchant seaman Cussack who had once been employed by the victim and had a key to the house which he could use with the consent of the victim who had given him money over the years. He also had stolen property from the house in his pockets.

Both men had become friendly and after the event sought to blame the other. The first trial was at the Central Criminal Court on 16 January 1942 but soon Cussack was to die of pulmonary tuberculosis. The second trial of McDonald started on the 21 January and he was found not guilty in what was seen to be a very surprising decision. McDonald returned to Canada where he was killed in a road accident shortly after his return.

House of the murdered woman.

In 1937, Professor Keith Simpson was appointed the medico-legal advisor to the Surrey Constabulary, and by the early 1940s he was involved in the examination of wartime crimes.

One day, a reclusive elderly woman was found dead in her locked, barricaded bedroom. The key lay on the floor inside. She held a glass of brandy tightly in her hand, as if she'd simply fallen, yet from bruises on her face and head, she had clearly been assaulted; more suspicious, her jewellery cases were open and empty.

Two suspects, a drunken seaman and a soldier were found on the property with her jewellery in their pockets. It seemed possible that they had entered to batter and rob her, and she had then barricaded herself inside her room. Yet Simpson decided the extent of her injuries would have hindered her from setting up the barricade. So how had it happened?

The incident proved a challenge to reconstruct, but eventually the investigators surmised that one of the men had knocked the victim down in her room and tried unsuccessfully to strangle her. He had second thoughts and possibly used the brandy to try to revive her. Failing that, he had staged the scene with the barricade to make it appear less lethal.

To see if this was possible Simpson helped with an experiment that proved that the barricade could have been rigged from the other side of the locked door, and the key slid under it. With this evidence and the victim's condition, it was not difficult to get the pair of killers to confess that they had indeed killed the woman. However, one died before trial, so the other threw all the blame on his deceased partner. With no evidence to the contrary, there was reasonable doubt and he was acquitted.

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