“Where’s Margaret?” That’s what everyone was asking at the Bon Port Hotel in St. Martin, Guernsey, on Sunday, OCTOBER 1st, 1972, when the 34-year-old chambermaid Margaret Joan Weaver failed to report for work.
It was the end of the season, and the previous evening the proprietor Leonard Whiteman had given a party for his staff and guests. It ended at about 1.30 a.m., and Margaret had last been seen chatting with the 21-year-old porter John Tilley in the hotel’s kitchen.
When Mr. Whiteman arrived at the hotel at 6.30 a.m. he noticed that the light was on in Tilley’s room. Margaret, always a reliable timekeeper, was supposed to be on duty but there was no sign of her, and Tilley said he had received no response when he knocked on her door and called her. Her bed had not been slept in, and after searching for her with his staff Mr. Whiteman called the police.
Two days later her body was found in a shallow grave in a field only 50 yards from the hotel’s kitchen. She had died from multiple head injuries and wore only a single shoe and a jumper which was inside-out. Blood was found on a nearby concrete path, and as police continued to search the area they discovered part of Margaret’s false teeth, her room-key and a bloodstained, broken broom handle. A spade was found concealed in bushes near the kitchen door.
Searching Tilley’s room, detectives removed a mat stained with blood of the same group as Margaret’s and different from the porter’s. They also found the chambermaid’s watch, and some stones from a ring that was still on her hand. Her missing shoe was found in the hotel’s incinerator.
Tilley was charged with murder, and at his trial he pleaded not guilty. On the third day of the proceedings, however, he changed his story, admitting he had killed the chambermaid but claiming provocation.
He said he was in love with a waitress at the hotel, and had been enraged when Margaret called the girl names. He had gone to bed, he said, when his door opened and Margaret came into his room, taking off her clothes and asking him to have sex with her.
“She wanted me to make love to her,” he testified, “and when she said that Pearl [the waitress] had a bastard I hit her.”
His counsel sought a manslaughter verdict on the ground of provocation, but Tilley was convicted of murder and jailed for life. On June 29th, 1973, however, the verdict was reduced on appeal to manslaughter and his sentence was amended to 12 years.