Id like to go round to Aunties to show her my new swimming certificates, Vera Page, 10, told her mother. Vera was enormously proud of her swimming achievements. She clutched the manila envelope containing the certificates and looked pleadingly into her mothers eyes.
All right, then, but be quick. I dont want you late for your tea, Mrs. Page said.
Aunties home was only minutes away from where the Pages lived in Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill. With a rush Vera flew out of the house. She wasnt seen alive again.
Two days later, on Monday, December 14th, 1931, her body was discovered by a milkman in the shrubbery of a garden in Addison Road, three-quarters of a mile from her home. Her knickers were ripped down the front. She had been raped and afterwards strangled.
There was coal dust on her face and on the fabric of her clothes, suggesting that she had been murdered in a coal cellar. In the folds of her coat were blobs of candle grease. There was also a fingerstall, smelling of ammonia, that had slipped from a septic finger as the body was being moved from the coal cellar, where she was probably killed, to the garden where she was found.
Police homed in on a laundry worker who knew Vera and her family and whose own parents shared the same house as the Page family. They discovered that the laundry worker had two cuts on the small finger of his left hand and the fingerstall fitted that finger perfectly. At his work in the laundry this man often used ammonia.
Shown the fingerstall, all that the suspect could suggest was that it looked like the one he had lost, but he didnt know where he could have lost it.
There was a locked coal cellar in the basement of the house where the suspect lived. And a woman came forward to say that she saw a man wheeling a barrow from the direction of the laundry workers house towards Addison Road the morning after Vera disappeared. The barrow was covered with a wide red cloth similar to one found in the suspects home.
The suspect agreed that on the night of the murder he got home later than usual, because he knew his wife was out visiting. I took my time. I did some shopping on the way as there were some things I wanted to pick up, he said.
None of this was sufficient to make a case against him. So, while thousands of people living through the mournful depression era turned out on a cold wintry day to watch little Veras funeral in silence, a coroners jury recorded a verdict of murder against some person or persons unknown.