For a night-watchman 53-year-old widower Abraham Cullen was an unusual sort of chap. He was short, with a weak chest, and he was terrified of going on duty at the C&A department store in Oldham Street, Manchester, on account of recent break-ins. On the night of Saturday, OCTOBER 20th, 1956, he was seen in a café with a pretty Irish girl when he was supposed to be on duty.
That same night he was murdered in the store. A post-mortem revealed he had had sex just before he died.
A week later a pretty Irish prostitute, 24-year-old Mary Nolan, was also found murdered, in Moss Side. She had been strangled, and there was no evidence of rape. Was she the girl seen with Cullen? Did she have sex with him? Did she know too much about his murder and had consequently been silenced?
One night the police heard a strange story about Cullens murder from Mrs. Brenda Carney, 25, who had been drinking. She claimed that a man named Bill Lyons, one of a team of three burglars who had gone to the store on the night of the murder, had battered the night-watchman to death after breaking into the store. When Cullen called out, Whos there? Lyons, she said, had gone to his office and killed him. After that the burglars, empty-handed, made a run for it.
I was there myself, she told police. That evening she had had a row with her husband, met the three burglars, and gone along with them.
But after speaking to her solicitor she said, Theres no such person as Bill Lyons. I made up the name and the story. Thats what Im like when Ive been drinking. She was nevertheless charged with being an associate to murder.
The magistrate before whom she was arraigned observed: She is on the fringe of felony and she is very much on the fringe of violence. That might make her technically guilty of murder. But after hearing the submissions he agreed with the defence argument that no jury would convict on the evidence available, and dismissed the charge.
Curiously, on the night of the murder there was a break-in at C&A, besides the alleged one by Bill Lyons and his team. Three fur coats were stolen by the building building foreman on the site of the store extension. Police did not believe he had anything to do with the murder. He was jailed for six months for theft.
As for the terrified night-watchman Abraham Cullen, no one really knows how or why he died, or who killed him.