Every Sunday 52-year-old Mrs. Beatrice Rimmer had tea at the home of her ex-policeman son, and Sunday, August 19th, 1951, was no exception. Shortly before 10 oclock that evening she was seen letting herself into her home in Wavertree, Liverpool, but the next days milk delivery was still on her doorstep when her son called that evening, and the morning newspaper for that day, AUGUST 20th, was still protruding from her letter-box.
Sensing that something was wrong, he removed the newspaper, peered through the letter-box and saw his mother lying in a pool of blood in the hall. The strap of her umbrella was still looped round her wrist, and she still wore her raincoat, so it seemed that she had been attacked as soon as she closed her front door behind her.
Because she was rumoured to be a wealthy widow who kept a large sum of money in the house, thieves had targeted her home more than once in the recent past. This time the intruder had entered through a broken kitchen window. Detectives believed that having failed to find her savings he had awaited her return, intending to make her hand them over.
An autopsy, however, suggested that there were two killers, because Mrs. Rimmer had been attacked with two different weapons. A sharp-edged instrument had lacerated her face, and her skull had been fractured, possibly by a heavy torch.
None of her injuries would have been fatal had they been treated in time, but her weak cries for help had gone unheard as she slowly bled to death – she was believed to have died some time after midnight.
The investigators got their break a month later when it was learned that an army deserter being held in Liverpools Walton Prison had been talking. He had told other inmates that he knew Mrs. Rimmers killers.
Questioned by detectives, he refused to name the two men but said he had agreed to join them in the robbery. Then he had been arrested on August 17th, and the others had carried on without him. They had persuaded a waitress to call at the house. Her role was to detain Mrs. Rimmer at the front door long enough to enable them to gain entry at the rear, ransack the place and force their way out through the front entrance.
The waitress was traced, and she named the pair as Alfie Burns, 21, and Teddy Devlin, 22. Their homes were in Manchester, and had both convictions for housebreaking.
Other witnesses were found, including a woman who had been recruited to act as the pairs look-out, and a man who was to have replaced the deserter but had changed his mind and hadnt turned up.
Taken to Liverpool for questioning, Burns and Devlin were both picked out on an identity parade by the deserter, and they were charged with murder. At their trial they claimed they were robbing a Manchester warehouse when Mrs. Rimmer was killed, but their alibi collapsed. The warehouse robbery had taken place 24 hours before the murder.
Burns and Devlin were both convicted, their appeals were dismissed, and they were hanged side by side at Walton Prison on April 25th, 1952.