Burned almost beyond recognition, Evelyn Foster whispered from her hospital bed: “I gave a lift in my car to a man who was smartly dressed, wore a bowler hat and had a Tyneside accent. He wanted to go to Ponteland, about 25 miles away, to catch a Newcastle bus.”

During the journey, the man began touching her up. Distraught, Evelyn pulled into the verge, whereupon he knocked her unconscious. When she came round he had taken over the driving. He stopped the car, poured some liquid over her, got out, and set the vehicle on fire.

Trapped in the flames, Evelyn had some difficulty getting out of the car to crawl some yards away. She remembered hearing another car stop, men’s voices, then the other car drove away.

Evelyn, daughter of an Otterburn garage owner, was not raped, she was not bruised where she said she was struck, and was thought to have been sitting in the burning car for some while. It would have been impossible for a man to drive the car sitting in the position she said her attacker had occupied.

So did it happen like she said, that night of Tuesday, January 6th, 1931? Did she have a twisted, hidden motive? No, said the coroner’s jury. It was murder.

They were probably right. For only 20 months later Ernest Brown, 31, a groom, was found guilty of the murder of his boss, Frederick Morton. Brown, who had been having an affair with Mrs. Morton, shot the husband at close range then set fire to his car – with Morton inside it. The killing took place 100 miles away, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire.

Brown was a natty dresser, wore a bowler hat and spoke with a Tyneside accent. Just like the man Evelyn described.

On the scaffold the chaplain told him: “You should use these last few moments to confess your sins and make your peace with God.” As the hangman was about to despatch him he was thought to have murmured: “Otterburn.”