Patients at Westwood Hospital, on the outskirts of Bradford, were surprised when a former patient, Lance Corporal Arthur Thompson, walked back into one of the wards at 2 a.m. and started handing out money. Thompson, who came from Bootle, explained that he was paying the gambling debts incurred just before his hospital discharge the previous week.
What was more surprising was that neither of the two recipients was owed money by Thompson. They surmised that as he had obviously been drinking heavily he must be confused.
They would have had second thoughts about his apparent generosity, though, if they had known how he had acquired the cash. An hour earlier he had broken in through the kitchen door of the Nags Head pub in Clayton Heights and strangled the frail, 69-year-old landlady, widow Jane Coulton, before rifling through her purse.
It wasnt difficult for the police to trace him, because he had gone absent from his army unit on the night of the murder in September, 1944. Even so, when they caught up with him at Overton, near Morecambe, he denied he was Thompson and declared, I will sue you for unlawful arrest.
But the police were convinced they had the murderer when they searched him and found he had some of Mrs. Coultons jewellery. Since all the evidence against him at Leeds Assizes on December 6th, 1944, was circumstantial, though, Thompson needed only a perfect alibi to save himself. And he almost had one.
He claimed that on September 20th, the night of the murder, he went to Horton Bank Top and met an old friend named Buck, who gave him Mrs. Coultons three rings, two brooches and £5 in notes. Buck had a bloodstained hand, he declared. He will come forward if I am found guilty.
Thompson was found guilty, and sentenced to hang. There was still no word from Buck when the execution took place at Armley Prison on JANUARY 31st, 1945.
Buck was very much alive, though. On the night of the murder he was in jail for burglary. In his search for an alibi, Thompson had sought to shift responsibility on to a man who already had a perfect one.