The victim lay in a bloodied heap. There were lacerated wounds on the back of her head and face, abrasions on her back and arms, and there was some evidence that she had been dragged along by her hair before she died. Beside her was a 4lb weight and her Irish terrier, also dead.
A murder scene? Not at all, police at Hitchin, Herts, decided. The victim must have had an accidental fall.
She was Mrs. Elizabeth Ridgeley, who was found dead in the kitchen of her general shop in Hitchin on Saturday, January 25th, 1919.
When John Healy, a labourer, was charged with her murder, the trial judge, Lord Justice Darling, described the police theory of an accident as absurd, adding: Every precaution seems to have been taken to ensure that no one should be detected.
The police even got the wrong man in John Healy, who was said to have been lurking near the shop before Mrs. Ridgeley was attacked. It took only a few minutes for the jury to find him not guilty.