Irene Wilkins was surprised and impressed by the speed with which her Morning Post advertisement was answered. She was seeking work as a cook, and on the very day her advertisement was published, DECEMBER 22nd, 1921, she received a telegram in response. It summoned her from her Streatham home to a fictitious address in Bournemouth, the reply saying a car would be sent to pick her up at Bournemouth Central Station.

She arrived there at seven o’clock that evening, and the next morning her mutilated body was found on waste ground between Bournemouth and Christchurch, about 15 minutes’ drive from the station.

A copy of the telegram sent to Irene was flashed on local cinema screens in the hope that someone would recognise the handwriting, but nobody did. The post office clerk involved thought the wire had been handed in by a chauffeur with a gruff voice.

People who had travelled on Irene’s train or were at the station when it arrived were asked to contact the police. One who came forward was a car designer who said he saw Irene leave the train and get into a large Mercedes. He even recalled the car’s number, which he gave to the police. Incredibly, its significance was not appreciated and it was filed away. Its importance was not realised until the files were re-examined several months later.

The car’s owner was found to be a Mr. Sutton, whose chauffeur was Thomas Henry Allaway. Sensing that he was now under suspicion, Allaway left Bournemouth without giving notice, sending his wife to her parents’ home in Reading where police set up a round-the-clock watch for him. On April 28th he was spotted approaching his in-laws’ home, and he was arrested after a short chase.

The post office clerk picked him out on an identification parade as the man who had sent the telegram to Irene, and he was also identified by the car designer and a railway signalman who had both seen him at Bournemouth Central Station on the night of the murder.

Allaway’s handwriting showed that he had written the telegram, and another link in the chain of evidence was provided by Irene’s attaché case, which had been found empty and dumped at Branksome Park nine days after her murder.

On the day following Irene’s disappearance, Allaway had driven Mr. Sutton to a house only 50 yards from where the attaché case was discovered, and during his employer’s visit the chauffeur had had to wait for him. This had given him plenty of time to hide the attaché case in the bushes where it was found.

Allaway claimed he was in his lodgings reading a newspaper from 7.15 to 8.15 on the night of the murder. Significantly, this was the time bracket in which the police believed Irene was killed.

The alibi was Allaway’s defence at his trial for her murder. He said he had spoken to his landlord and they had exchanged newspapers during the time in question. His landlord, however, testified that he had no recollection of this.

Allaway also claimed that the Mercedes had been garaged before six o’clock that evening, and was not taken out again until the next day. But a witness who garaged at the same mews swore that the Mercedes was not in the garage at all that evening.

The circumstantial evidence against Allaway was overwhelming, and his five-day trial ended with his conviction. His execution followed on August 19th, 1922.