Evacuated to Suffolk from London during the blitz, the six-year-old daughter of an RAF sergeant had an idyllic walk to school through the grounds of Riddlesworth Hall, near Thetford. But even pleasant walks can have dangers, especially for a lone little girl. This was brought home on MAY 6th, 1942, when the sergeant’s daughter was found dying from stab wounds, about 100 yards from the hall.
The alarm had been raised and a search launched after she failed to return from school. Then it was learned that she had not arrived there, which indicated that she had been attacked at around 8.45 a.m.
A detective chief inspector and Detective Sergeant Albert Webb arrived from Scotland Yard, and Webb noticed some soldiers building an ammunition dump within sight of the footpath used by the victim. Chatting to one of them, he learned that they had been working there at the time of the attack, but had heard nothing suspicious. He also learned that on the day in question one of the soldiers had retired to the undergrowth some time between 8.30 and 9 a.m., saying he was going to the lavatory. He was away for about 20 minutes, and on his return he had been seen to be sweating.
He was James Wyeth, and to avoid putting him on his guard Webb questioned the entire working party one by one. Wyeth was the fourth man interviewed, and the detective had never seen anyone look so frightened.
The soldier denied knowing anything of the murder, but Webb was convinced he had found the killer. He then learned that Wyeth had a conviction for an assault on a woman.
Under further interrogation the suspect broke down and. admitted spotting the child as she went to school. He said “something” had come over him. He had obtained permission to go to the lavatory, had then gone into the nearby wood and pursued the girl. He remembered being with her among some gorse bushes, but said that after that his mind was a blank.
Testing his story, the detectives reconstructed the crime, covering the route Wyeth said he had taken and timing themselves with a stopwatch. The exercise took 17 minutes, and on arriving back at the ammunition dump, like Wyeth, they were sweating.
Charged with murder, Wyeth was tried, convicted, found to be insane and sent to Broadmoor.