Yorkshire nostalgia: Murder hunt launched after headless body found in flooded pit

Dateline: December 18, 1948: On this day 70 years ago... a mystery began to unfold following the gruesome discovery of a body in a flooded mine shaft near Wakefield.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 10:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 12:08 pm

The torso of a woman was discovered in 390ft of water at the Walton Pit, which had been flooded since the 1880s. Detectives initially began working on the assumption the victim was local but there was one problem: they had no reports of anyone missing.

The following day, alongside the main front page story about Britons looking forward to ‘more meat, eggs, oil and fats’, there was an even more upsetting update on the pit body. It was revealed that when the body was raised, the head fell off.

The body was also missing an arm and a leg. Specialist divers were brought in. The top of the pit was said to be covered with cross-membered boards and its 2ft 9in trapdoor securely nailed down with more boards.

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By December 22, the plot had thickened as police identified the victim as an elderly lady who had disappeared in 1943. A nationwide murder hunt was launched.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported at the time: “How the woman met her death has not been revealed. Expert divers retrieved remnants of dark clothing and a corked medicine bottle with a green-tinged oily liquid inside.

A spokesman said at the time: “We appeal to relatives of women known or believed to have been missing for five or more years to help us. We are treating the whole affair as one of murder. Our inquiries are proceeding along these lines.”

By December 29, police had arrested two people in connection with the incident and both were said to have accompanied officers to a local police station to help with their enquiries.