Friday 24 January 2020

The Girl in the Tunnel - Mary Money

In 1864 James William Money aged 23 married 25 year old Susan Wiggs, a former nursery maid in Moffat, Scotland in her home town of St Albans Hertfordshire.

In 1871 they were living with their 3 children in Farnborough, Hampshire. Tragedy struck the family in 1878 when their eldest daughter Mary Sophia died, aged 13, in St Albans, the assumption being that she was either visiting or staying with her grandparents, the Wiggs.

In 1881 the family still resided at St Helens Terrace, Farnborough, but had now grown to 7 children and James was listed as a carpenter. Between 1881 and the end of 1883 the family moved to Watford, where at the beginning of 1884 they had another daughter and named her Mary Sophia, presumably after their daughter who had died six years previously.

Tragedy was to strike a second time in 1886 when, on September 21st, James died in the cottage hospital in Watford aged just 46.

In 1891 the widowed Susan, (listed as a nurse on the census) had moved back with her parents at a Dairy in Bushey Hall Road, where her father was a dairyman, along with her 7 year old daughter Mary. The majority of Mary’s siblings lived at 24 Langley Road where 3 of her brothers were milkmen and one followed in his fathers footsteps as a carpenter; this could have been the family home before James died.

In 1901 Susan had moved to Marlborough Road, Victoria Terrace in Wealdstone with 3 of her children - Alfred, Mary and Frederick - and was listed as living on her own means, while the children were involved with the milk industry; the boys as milk carriers and Mary a dairy shop keeper.

Tragedy was to hit for a third time on the evening of Sunday 24th September 1905 in Merstham Railway Tunnel, Surrey. At 10.45pm William Peacock of the ‘permanent way’ (the men who laid and maintained the track) entered the tunnel and 400 yards in found the still- warm, mutilated body of a woman. Her injuries included a fractured skull, so bad that the top of her skull had been cut away, (attributed to a carriage-wheel), a broken nose, fractures to both thighs, with one leg being severed and a report that she had been disembowelled.

The police were called and they initially speculated that it was a suicide, the woman having walked into the tunnel and been hit by a train. This therory was dismissed when the police examined the tunnel wall adjacent to where the body was found. The soot on the wall had been scuffed in a number of places, the highest at the level of a person standing in a carriage. Police now thought she had fallen from a southbound train, possibly the 9.33pm from Charing Cross which had passed through the tunnel at 10.19pm. It became a case of murder when a white silk scarf was found forced into the womans mouth. The body was stretchered to the Feathers Hotel to await the inquest.  Dr Henry Crickett, a local doctor, examined the body and apart from the injuries already mentioned, scratches and bruises were found on the arms, face and body that may have been sustained during a struggle. There was nothing on the body to aid identification more significantly and there was no ticket or money either. The police circulated a description of the woman in the hope of identifying her.

The following afternoon Robert Money, a dairy farmer from Kingston Hill, viewed the body and identified it as that of his sister Mary Sophia Money, aged 22, a bookkeeper at Bridgers Dairy, Clapham Junction, and this was supported by the laundry marks on her underclothes.
Superintendent James Brice of the Surrey Police had control of the case and was interested in finding Mary’s predecessor as bookkeeper at the dairy; a Miss Isabel Lane whom he thought may be able to give them information about her associates. It is not known if she was ever traced.

Mary lived on the premises of the dairy in Lavender Hill, Clapham. She was on duty that Sunday but at 7pm she said she was going for a little walk and would not be long. A little earlier she had been seen looking at a railway timetable. Could she have been meeting someone in secret? Was the walk just an excuse? Did she keep the meeting before she got on the train?

Another live-in employee, Emma Hone, was asked by police about any male friends that Mary may have had, but she said she did not know of any. She confirmed that Mary had taken a black knitted cotton purse with her, which she believed to be full of money as Mary had been paid. This was never found. Mary was said to be wearing a wide white silk scarf and a hat. Just after leaving the dairy Mary went into Frances Golding’s sweet shop and bought some chocolates. She told Frances she was going to Victoria.  Frances said that she was happy and left laughing.

It seems she was going to a meeting at Victoria, presumably with a member of the opposite sex, but that is just supposition.  A ticket collecter at Clapham Junction identified Mary as a woman he had seen on the platform at 7.20pm; she had said she was going to Victoria and that was the last positive identification until she was found in the tunnel.

The guard on the 9.33pm train remembered seeing a young man and a woman who answered Mary’s description in a first class carriage at East Croydon. He saw them again sitting closer together at South Croydon. At Redhill, beyond the tunnel, he saw the man get off the train from what he thought was the same carriage. The man was described as thin, with a moustache and wearing a bowler hat.  He was never traced. A signalman at Purley Oaks reported that when the train passed his box he saw a couple standing struggling in a first class carriage, but being used to seeing passengers wrestling amorously in the carriages he thought nothing of it. From the evidence it seems that maybe during this struggle Mary began to scream, her scarf was pushed into her mouth to silence her and once in the tunnel the attacker opened the door and threw her out the train, though this is, of course just conjecture.  Mary’s brother Robert named some possible admirers and suspicion soon fell on them, but it appears she had no boyfriend.

One person who was interviewed at the inquest was Charles Bellchambers, a clerk on the London and North-Western Railway. He said he had known Mary for four years, he saw her about once a week or fortnight and last saw her on 18th of September. He was questioned about his movements on 24th September, but he was out of the area at the time.
The Coroner and the jury actually visitied the tunnel to view the soot marks on the wall. The Home Office pathologist Dr William Henry Willcox described the injuries to the jury and explained that some of the scratches and bruises may have been caused by the train, but others had not. It was his opinion that Mary was alive before she left the train.

On Monday 2nd October Mary’s body was transported by train from Merstham, (accompanied by her brother George), and arrived at Charing Cross at 6.26pm. It was handed to Mr G Wiggs, undertaker, who took the body to Watford by road. The polished elm coffin reached Watford at 10.30pm and lay for the night at George’s home in Nascot Street. When the floral tributes were placed on the coffin before its final journey to the Cemetery in Vicarage Road it was almost hidden beneath them.

There was great interest in the funeral and crowds lined the route. The cortege left Nascot Street at 3.40pm and arrived at the cemetery just after 4pm. By this time the crowd was so large that you could not walk on the pavement. The Burial Board had closed the Cemetery to everyone except the mourners to prevent damage to existing graves and to avoid crushing around the graveside. Susan was too ill to attend the funeral, but among the mourners were Mary’s 5 brothers, 3 sisters and various other relations. There were also a couple of people from Bridgers Dairy.

One member of the officiating clergy, Mr J Dinnick of the Primitive Methodist Church, Whippendell Road had christened Mary when she was a baby and she had attended his Sunday school in Queens Road. Mary was buried with her father, who had died 19 years previously and which, at the time, was in the unconsecrated part of the Cemetery. (It is now consecrated and is plot 203A).

On the 14th October the Daily Telegaph reported that “A rumour reached Clapham Junction late last night of a sensational arrest in connection with the tunnel murder, but in the absence of confirmation by the local police the name of the person taken into custody cannot be revealed. The individual who is stated to have been apprehended had been absent from home for several days before the tragedy.” The police refused to either confirm or deny the report.

As a postscript, in 1912 in Eastbourne, the bodies of a man, his wife, their child and two other children were found in a burning house. They had all been shot. The mother of the two children survived being shot twice in the neck. The man (Robert Hicks Murray) had shot the others and then killed himself. It turned out that Murray was Robert Money, Mary’s brother. Incredibly he had married both women, who were sisters, and neither knew of the marriage to the other! Maybe this was not the first murder Robert had been involved in.

Mary’s case still remains unsolved; it is thought to be the first recorded murder on a train in England. As her brother Robert was later proven to be a liar, one of the questions that remains is, did Robert Money tell all he knew about the death of his sister?

In 1912 police made public information that had been held back at the time of the investigation because they thought it would upset the family: “Mary gambled extensively. The stock at the dairy shop where she worked was short, and she feared being found out”.  The police believe this drove Mary to commit suicide in the tunnel on that fateful evening.

Research:  Susan Shrimpton

References: Watford Observer
                    Find My Past
           ....... /murder of Mary Money 1905 aspx
                    the albion chronicles

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