This is a blog about 50 year old Albert Edward Butler who is very distantly related to me in that my birth mother's Musgrove branch, on more than two occasions, married into the Butler family. One of them, Mabel Butler (1885 - 1977) married William John Musgrove (1885 - 1961) who ran the grocery store from a shop on the corner of Golborne Rd and St Ervan's Road, Kensington. Some years later it seems Albert was living next door to that grocery store and he was the focus of newspaper headlines in 1947 when he was suspected of murdering 35 year old Gladys Hanrahan who now lived in that same shop.
A lot of what follows is transcribed and adapted from various newspaper articles in the months between when the murder was committed and when the inquests jury verdict was delivered.
Facts of the murder
The murdered woman lived with her uncle, Walter Reason, above the grocers shop at 5 St Ervans Road in Kensington. My ancestor, Albert Butler, lived next door.
Miss Hanrahan was found on the grass in Regent's Park on the evening of 1st October 1947. Police investigations in the park were carried out throughout that night with the aid of car headlamps. She not only had a gag over her mouth but there were marks on her face and neck. Death was caused by asphyxia due to strangulation and gagging. The strangler rammed a handkerchief into Miss Hanrahan's mouth before killing her, and the police believed that this handkerchief could lead to the murderer's arrest. She had not been interfered with, and her handbag was found under her body.
Police believed that shyness may have prevented Miss Hanrahan from mentioning to her father or uncle that she had a man friend, and their investigations seem to have been based on the theory that her killer was known to her.
Only her closest friends at the Mayfair branch of United Dairies, where she worked, had the slightest inkling that she had, for some time, been meeting a man. She was described by the under-manager as "one of the quietest girls we had".
Police said she was seen with a man in Baker Street earlier in the evening although they didn't know what time they met or whether they left together. This line of enquiry seems to have taken a back burner after Albert, “who had been friends with Miss Hanrahan, attended Albany Street police station and remained for seven hours. He paid a second visit lasting two hours". It seems that Albert Butler had been seen in the girl’s company on the morning of her death and was suspected of seeing her again in the evening prior to murdering her .
Albert Butler evidence
At the beginning of the inquest, Albert was warned by the Coroner that he need not answer any question likely to incriminate himself.
Despite this, he said that he had known Miss Hanrahan for nine years and used to visit her family every night except Sunday. He said he saw her on the morning of her death outside the Golden Cross public house in Portobello Road and asked her to have a drink. He claimed she had said “Right-ho” and they had two drinks each and a friendly chat. They left together about 1 p.m. and parted.
He said that he then went in another direction towards the Metropolitan public house, where he had two or three more pints of beer. “I came out at two o'clock. I was at a loose end so I took a bus to Victoria and went to Brighton". He said he was in Brighton for about two hours before returning to London, where he went to the "World's End” in Chelsea to have a look at some property and then returned to Westbourne Park, where he again visited the “Metropolitan". He said he then had two more pints of beer, met a woman he knew by the name of Rose, and stayed in her company until 10.30 p.m. He arrived home at 10.45 p.m, had a chat with his wife over the days happenings, and went to bed.
When the Coroner asked Butler if he had anything to do with Miss Hanrahan's death, he replied firmly : "No, sir”.
Walter Reason said that "when she went out at about 8 p.m. yesterday I thought she was going to the dairies' sports ground at Wembley. She had been there for the last week or two on a Wednesday. She was an attractive looking girl, with a very pleasant nature." He said that when his niece had gone out she was wearing a gold sapphire and diamond pendant and a five-stone sapphire ring. These, he understood, were still on the body of his niece when she was found.
Employee of suspect - evidence
An employee of Butler's, Isabella Greenwood, said that at 5.30 p.m. on October 1st she saw Butler standing behind the counter of his shop with his wife.
Detective Inspector Jock Jamieson said Butler couldn’t provide anyone who saw him between 1.30 p.m. and when he arrived back at the Metropolitan public house in the evening.
Father of deceased woman evidence
Daniel Hanrahan said Mr Butler, who came into the house every weekday, told him the day after his daughter's body was found, "I intended to be in last night, but did not get back in time." He told Mr Hanrahan he had had a couple of drinks with his daughter on the day she was found dead.
At the inquest it transpired that the deceased had told one of her friends that a man who lived next door "was always chasing after her to go out with him". Miss Dorothy Woodvine said that Miss Hanrahan had told her that Albert had done the chasing. Miss Hanrahan had also told her that she did not like it.
Miss Woodvine was told by the deceased that Albert had followed her to their sports ground at Wembley on 25th September. "He wanted to take her out in the evening and she would not go. She argued outside with him and told him to go. He did not go away and Miss Hanrahan went outside to him twice and told him that it was no use staying there. Miss Hanrahan told her Butler was in a terrible temper". When she saw him the next morning before going to work, Butler had told her "it was a good job I did not stay last night. I should have done you in !"
She also said that the deceased "was friendly with one of the chaps at United Dairies who had a motor bike". She told Butler "It's no use waiting here, I shall be going home on the bike". Butler had apparently then said, "If I see you on the bike I shall pull you off".
Manager at United Dairies evidence
Herbert Marshall, depot manager at the dairy where Miss Hanrahan was employed, said that two weeks before her death he saw Miss Hanrahan and Butler at the company's sports ground at Wembley. He said "there was a very heated argument going on between them".
Mrs Theresa Grimes, of Paddington, said she saw a woman and a man, whom she now recognised as Butler, go into the Prince of Wales Hotel in Great Western Road during the evening of October 1st. She also saw them leave. "I noticed particularly the man because he reminded me of a man whom I knew in the 1914-18 war and who was killed".
Frances McLaughlin (barmaid) - witness evidence
Mrs McLaughlin was a barmaid at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Harrow Road, West London. She said the deceased had been in the saloon bar, accompanied by a man, a few hours before her body was discovered. She subsequently identified Butler as being the 'man'.
She had received a letter threatening death, written in an angular hand and bearing a W.C.1 postmark. The letter said: "Keep your nose out of the Hanrahan case. If you don't, the same thing will happen to you."
Summing up, The Coroner told the jury that Albert Butler had given evidence that he was not with Miss Hanrahan on the night of her death as, on that day, he went to Brighton. "There is no evidence which I can see which would justify you in saying that Butler, putting the worst case against him, must have been the person who murdered her".
Just over two months later on 3rd December 1947, the jury were absent considering their verdict for only ten minutes. Albert Butler was again present in court.
An open verdict was returned of murder by some person or persons unknown.
..... and then ?
From the evidence provided at the inquest, there appears to have been a real possibility that Arthur may have had something to do with her murder BUT there are no more newspaper reports which seems to suggest the case was never solved.
Of course, these days, the DNA on the handkerchief could have provided evidence of his guilt or innocence. We shall never know ..... unless the handkerchief still lies in an evidence bag somewhere and the murderers DNA can be found on it for comparison to potential living ancestors ...... including mine !
I don't know when this information became available as public knowledge, as it wasn't in the British newspapers at the time, but it seems that the initial ‘A’ was on the corner of the handkerchief which was forced into Gladys’s mouth while she was being strangled. Arthur claimed he had lost the handkerchief some time before. Do we believe him ?
The article on the left was from an Australian newspaper
Gladys is buried in Kensal Green Cemetary.