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From blown-up in a bathchair to headless torso

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: June 21, 2012

  • BLOWN UP: The wrecked bathchair

  • GUILTY: US Army Privates Leatherberry (left) and Fowler murdered Henry Hailstone

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The Rayleigh Bathchair Murder – 1943

An elderly man was blown to pieces by explosives as he was being wheeled in his bathchair along a country road at Rayleigh by his nurse, who was also badly injured.

It was thought that a bomb had been dropped by military aircraft, but a search by Totterdell's team, using metal detectors, found tiny fragments of an anti-tank mine.

Totterdell discovered that Archibald Brown's son, Eric, had been trained to use similar mines during his military service – and that one had gone missing at the time of his discharge.

Eric Brown, who had served with the Suffolk Regiment, was found unfit to plead to murder and ordered to be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure.

Birch Taxi Driver Slaying – 1943

Taxi driver Henry Hailstone told his landlady he would be late for supper, because he was taking two American soldiers to their camp at Birch, near Colchester.

He was later found murdered and there were signs of a struggle in his cab, which contained his blood-stained raincoat.

There were more than 3,000 American troops in the locality, but, when another blood-stained raincoat was found six miles down the same road as the taxi, Totterdell got his first clue.

The name 'Captain JJ. Weber' – not one of the killers – was written near its collar band, and he cunningly traced the two soldiers responsible, one of whom was hanged in Somerset and the other jailed for life.

The Tillingham Torso Case – 1949

A farm labourer hunting wild fowl in a punt saw a man's torso floating in the marshes at Tillingham, with its hands tied behind the back – missing head and legs.

The torso, which had been wrapped in brown paper, was taken to St John's hospital, Chelmsford, where a post-mortem revealed death was caused by stab wounds in the chest caused by a two-edged sharp weapon; before the head and legs were severed with a sharp instrument and the bones sawed. It was the body of missing London car dealer Stanley Setty.

When the gruesome discovery was leaked to Fleet Street, Totterdell was tipped off that a pilot carrying two heavy parcels wrapped in brown paper had taken off from a Hertfordshire aerodrome.

Brian Hume, an Elstree Flying Club member, denied murder and, on the direction of the judge, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty; he then admitted being an accessory after the fact of murder and was jailed for 12 years.

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