There was no easy solution to Albert Oxnard’s dilemma. The 36-year-old RAF sergeant had a wife who denied him sex and was still a virgin. Sixteen years after his marriage he was stationed in wartime Blackpool, where in 1943 he met Margaret Nutt, a 30-year-old teacher, and fell in love with her. They married in July 1946, the bride unaware that her wedding was bigamous.
Three months later she announced that she was pregnant…and at Oxnard’s home in Newcastle upon Tyne his wife Emma learned of his bigamous marriage and Margaret’s pregnancy.
She wanted him back, Emma wrote to say. She said she would happily take on the expected baby and raise it as if it were her own. She would never give him a divorce. She would rather put her head in the gas oven.
When Oxnard arrived home in Newcastle to try to resolve the situation Emma was still adamant, and so was he in his wish for a divorce. Oxnard’s only concession was to offer to take her back to Blackpool with him.
By 8 a.m. the next day, OCTOBER 24th, 1946, he was back in Blackpool, and during the ensuing weeks Emma’s relatives were pleased to receive cards from him saying what a good time she was having. They had patched up their differences, he wrote, and they would be home soon.
Emma’s sister Florrie was delighted. Meanwhile she remembered that Emma had ordered coal to be delivered on the morning of November 12th, so at 10 a.m. that day she went to the Oxnards’ home to supervise the delivery.
As she entered the house she was surprised to find a large pile of newspapers behind the front door. Checking the other rooms, Florrie saw that the bed was occupied. But when she pulled back the blanket she stood frozen in horror. Emma’s head was battered, and a black tie was knotted tightly round her throat.
Police called to the house found a bloodstained axe in the bedroom, and an autopsy determined that Emma had died from concussion and asphyxiation due to strangulation.
Checking the newspapers in the doorway, detectives found that the earliest was dated October 24th, the day Albert Oxnard had left for Blackpool. The Blackpool Police were informed, and he was traced to Margaret’s address in nearby Poulton-le-Fylde.
When he appeared at Newcastle Assizes charged with Emma’s murder he pleaded not guilty. He told the court that on October 24th after they had breakfast Emma again asked him to give up Margaret and return home. He told her it was too late for that now: he no longer loved her, and his place was with Margaret and the baby. Emma became hysterical, clawing at his face, and when he pushed her away she fell, hitting her head on a step where she lay groaning.
Then he panicked. “There was a chopping axe nearby,” he said. “I picked it up and hit her on the head with it. I realised I had done wrong. I threw it down and carried her to the bedroom.”
His counsel sought a manslaughter verdict on the ground of provocation, but the judge told the jury that the degree of provocation was insufficient to justify such a verdict. They found Oxnard guilty of murder, and in sentencing him to death the judge said that a bigamy indictment against him would be left on file.
A petition for a reprieve, however, was signed by 6,000, and Oxnard’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a few days before the date set for his execution.
On his release nine years later two people awaited him outside the prison: Margaret and their nine-year-old son.