Sunday, 23 December 2018

Body in a Coal Bunker

The killer of a woman whose body was found in a coal bunker was sentenced to life imprisonment after the jury refused to accept he acted in self defence.

At lunchtime on Tuesday 21st April 1959 Irene Samuels, concerned for the welfare of her friend June Moorcroft, returned to her home at 12 Princes Avenue where she had a basement flat. There, she found the battered body of  20 year old June in a coal bunker to the rear of the property. The body of June, who lived at 17 Jermyn Street but regularly stayed with Irene, was badly bruised and there were also stab wounds.

CID officers from Essex Street and Lark Lane police stations were summonsed and attention immediately focused on Edward Butts who had cohabited with Irene until two months previously.  Enquiries soon established that he had taken some blood stained clothing to a dry cleaners in Birkenhead. Butts' orginally from Guyana, was arrested at 4.15pm when he returned to  63a Garmoyle Road in Wavertree where he occasionally lodged.  

June was originally from Cambridge and had separated from her husband Ivan a few months previously.  He was finally contacted at 1130pm in Peterborough, where he worked as a booking agent for a circus, and travelled through the night to get to Liverpool where he attended the police headquarters to arrange formal identification of the body.

After being charged with murder at 550am on 22nd April, Butts appeared at the magistrates' court in Dale Street where he was remanded in custody. The prosecutor Mr F. V. Renshaw told the court that Irene had become concerned after noticing blood stained bedding in a laundry basket and that the key to the coal bunker was missing. Initially she believed June could be responsible for the bedding, but she decided to return home after speaking to a neighbour who told her Butts was seen leaving her flat the previous evening with a heavy holdall.

The trial took place at St George's Hall and began on 20th June, lasting for three days. The jury heard how Butts had blood belonging to June's blood type on his trousers that he put in the dry cleaners. The trousers also contained June's hair.  Butts claimed that he had gone to Birkenhead on the Tuesday morning to visit his brother and sister in law, but neither backed up his alibi. A surgeon also described how he had a facial injury which could have been caused by somebody fighting off an attack. 

In his defence, Butts claimed that June had come at him with a knife after he called her a prostitute, and she had been accidentally stabbed as he fought her off, having initially beaten her back with an iron tube.  However this version of events, as well as an offer of pleading guilty to manslaughter, was rejected. After being found guilty of murder,  Butts was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

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