Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Woolton Tragedy

In what was known as the Woolton Tragedy, an off duty World War 1 soldier strangled his wife and then committed suicide in Bristol.

In May 1917 Ernest Napier, a 27 year old soldier with the Royal Garrison Artillery, returned to Liverpool on home leave for a week. He stayed with his wife Miriam and three young children in her parents home at 1 Derby Terrace, Huyton. Things appeared fine between them, but on Thursday 10th May the couple went out for a walk and neither were seen alive again.

On the following morning,  Miriam's body was found by a ploughman at Holt Lane (then classed as Gateacre, part of Woolton, but now Netherley). A handkerchief was stuffed into her mouth and string tied tightly around her neck and when her body was removed to Princes Park mortuary it was found that there had been no signs of a struggle with her clothing and hair in perfect position.

A search was immediately launched for Ernest, who was due to arrive back at his barracks in southern England by 10am the next day. Initially the police feared that something awful may have happened to him but on the Saturday afternoon news came through that his body had been found in a public toilets in Bristol. In his pockets were letters addressed to Miriam and her father threatening suicide.

An inquest into Ernest's death returned a verdict of 'suicide by unsound mind', it being suggested that he may have suspected his wife of having an affair. Miriam's funeral was held on 24th May at Huyton Church with an internment in the cemetery.

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