Collecting customers’ payments for a mail order company can be a high-risk occupation ~ as 39-year-old Mrs. Nellie Pearson discovered, too late, on OCTOBER 5th, 1942.

There was no sign of her when her husband returned to their Barrow-in-Furness home at 5.15 that evening, expecting to find his tea ready. He waited a few hours, and when she failed to come home he reported her missing.

Detectives learned that she had last been seen in Brig Street, Barrow, making her usual Monday rounds. One of her Brig Street customers was Ronald Roberts, a 28-year-old shipyard worker, who told the investigators that he had been out at a cinema at the time when Mrs. Pearson would have paid her last call at his home, so he hadn’t seen her. On searching his flat, however, officers found her battered body concealed behind a camp bed in an alcove.

Charged with Mrs. Pearson’s murder, Roberts admitted killing and robbing her in order to settle his debts. He had battered her head with a hammer and stabbed her in the throat.

At his trial his defence counsel sought to show that Roberts was insane, pointing out that he had not tried to dispose of the body. “What ordinary man would have committed a crime like this,” he asked, “without taking any precautionary measures?”

But there was no medical evidence of insanity and Roberts was convicted and sentenced to death, settling his debt to society at Walton Prison, Liverpool, where he was hanged on February 10th, 1943.