When William Smiths wife died in 1932 owing her creditors £80, he became obsessed by the fear that he would be held criminally liable for her debts. So he changed his name to Andrew Bagley and moved around the Midlands and north of England to escape detection. Then in 1936 he settled with Mr. and Mrs. Walter Hart, his son-in-law and daughter, at their two-bedroom home in Rotherham. Still convinced the authorities were after him, he hid in the pantry when anyone called at the house.
His 29-year-old handicapped son Ambrose slept in the Harts bedroom; and Bagley, 62, shared the bedroom of Mrs. Harts 16-year-old stepdaughter Irene, with whom he began a sexual relationship, becoming jealous when she saw anyone else.
After breakfast on SEPTEMBER 12th, 1936, Mr. Hart went to work and his wife went shopping, leaving Irene alone in the house with Bagley and Ambrose. On Mrs Harts return she was surprised to meet Bagley going out, an unusual event in broad daylight.
Have you seen Irene? he snapped.
His daughter said she hadnt.
Well, he told her, I have sent her to the Cosy Corner [a shop and café] with a pound note to fetch a dress and hair-band. She has not come back. I told you that at the first chance she would go, and now she has gone. Im going to Sheffield. I shall come back tonight.
Then he left the house and was not seen again for five weeks.
Nobody at the Cosy Corner had seen Irene that morning, and when Walter Hart came home from work he began to search the house for her. His hunt ended in the loft, where he found her still-warm body stuffed in a tin trunk. She had been strangled, and the pages of a newspaper had been thrust into her mouth.
A search was launched for Bagley, who had gone to Liverpool where he changed his name again before moving on to Manchester and then Nottinghamshire.
On October 22nd a constable spotted him in Hucknall library, and when questioned Bagley said he was Tommy King from Derby and he had never been to Rotherham.
Finally admitting his identity, he claimed that on September 12th Irene had gone out with a young man named Tom. He said they returned shortly afterwards. I stayed in the front-room. What happened after that I cannot say, but I saw the young man go away. I was under the impression that Irene had gone with him.
Pleading not guilty at his trial for Irenes murder, Bagley also denied having sexual intercourse with her, but the court heard that she wasnt a virgin.
In his summing-up Mr. Justice Goddard said the jury might think there was no such person as Tom, and that it would require an extraordinary degree of courage for someone to murder Irene and hide her body in the loft while Bagley -according to his story -was sitting downstairs in the front-room.
The jury took only minutes to decide that Bagley was guilty, and he was hanged at Armley Prison, Leeds, on February 10th, 1937.