“Where’s my sister?” yelled Miss Julia Dunn. She screamed it out at Bury police station, and when they were unable to help she went round to the nearby lodgings of her brother-in-law, Police Constable Luke Charles, and screamed at him: “Where’s my sister? Where’s Mary?”

The policeman, peering anxiously at her through his half-opened front door, stuttered. “Your sister? Oh, she’s here. But she doesn’t want to talk to you!”

Julia Dunn’s sister, who was Mrs. Mary Charles, wife of the policeman, had gone missing several months previously, and had it not been for Julia’s persistence, Mary’s fate might never have been known.

When Constable Charles closed his door in Julia’s face, she, resolute as ever, returned to the police station, demanding an inquiry. It was then that an officer remembered the body of a woman dragged from the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal at Pendleton last St. Valentine’s Day, 1863, and subsequently buried in a pauper’s grave. At the inquest the coroner had recorded an open verdict of “found drowned.”

Julia Dunn’s story slowly began to make sense. Her description of Mary Charles tallied with that of the dead woman; the officers remembered, Luke Charles hadn’t been getting on too well with his wife, and further probing established why: it was because he had a girl friend back in his home country of Ireland.

Her name was Ellen Ford, she was young and beautiful, and Charles was besotted with her. But marriage was out of the question until Mary was out of the way. When her body was exhumed there was evidence, according to the prosecution at his subsequent trial at Liverpool Assizes, that she had not died without a struggle. It was never established exactly what happened, but Constable Charles was found guilty of her murder and hanged for it on Saturday, January 9th, 1864.

He fell with a crash on the scaffold, which caused murmurings of “poor fellow” from among the crowd. That prompted someone to shout out, “What the heck are you talking about? He was only a bobby!”