Most women of 60 are safely tucked up in bed at home by midnight. But not widowed Florence Chadwick. On finishing her work as a barmaid in Burnley at closing-time on the night of OCTOBER 13th, 1967, she bought a bottle of stout and took a taxi to the Lord Street home of her old friend Annie Cocker, 78, to keep her company and share the bottle.
She arrived just after midnight, spent about 45 minutes with her friend, and then set out to walk to her own home a short distance away. Shortly afterwards Annie was about to go to bed when she heard a faint voice calling her name. Opening her front door, she was horrified to see Florence sprawled face-down on the pavement.
Annie’s cries for help were answered by two young men who ran to her from the other side of the street. While one went to fetch assistance, the other gave first-aid.
At her chip shop about 100 yards away in Piccadilly Road, Mrs. Joan Phillips heard Annie’s cries, and on looking out through the shop window she saw a young man run across the street. He was 19-year-old Douglas Gardner who lived next door, and as he neared his home Mrs. Phillips heard him drop something that made a metallic “clink.” Then he disappeared into his home, closing the door behind him.
Florence Chadwick was dead by the time police arrived at the scene. She had been stabbed in the back and chest, but she had not been sexually assaulted or robbed.
When detectives made door-to-door inquiries Mrs. Phillips told them she had seen her young neighbour running from the direction of Mrs. Cocker’s home, so the officers questioned him.
He said he had been with a friend at a club in the town. They watched a beauty contest and left at about 12.30 a.m. He had walked home, arriving around 1.15 a.m. and going straight to bed.
Searching a padlocked cupboard in his room, a detective inspector found a bloodstained sheath knife. Gardner said it was a relic of his days as a Scout, and he never carried it. Told he had been seen running home after 1 a.m. and had dropped something in the road, he replied: “I didn’t drop anything, and I wasn’t running.”
Questioned further, he said: “I remember going home. I took my coat off and then put it back on. I remember hitting her and I had the knife in my hand. I stabbed her…I didn’t know I had killed her until my mother came home from the shop.”
On February 12th, 1968, Gardner’s five-hour trial for murder ended with his conviction and a life sentence. What was his motive? It was speculated that, excited by the beauty contest he had watched that night, he killed Florence Chadwick out of sexual frustration.