Wednesday 14th January 1953 was a sleepless night for many of the residents of Warbreck Moor in Aintree, Liverpool. Two dogs that were owned by 82 year old George Walker a resident at 98 Warbreck Moor spent the whole night barking much to the annoyance of the neighbours. Throughout the next day the dogs continued to bark and one neighbour called at the house and rang the bell to try and speak to Mr Walker about the noisy animals but gave up after 20 mins of trying. The dogs continued to bark throughout the day even coming to the door of Marion Owen at 21 Hall lane. No sooner had Mrs Owen chased them away that they would be back yelping and barking again. Fearing for their owner’s safety, Mrs Owen phoned the Police at 9.30pm.
Sgt Hosker and a Constable from Rice Lane Police station attended at the premises and after some deliberation, forced the door to gain entry. They found Mr Walker at the foot of the stairs spread-eagled on his back with head injuries and clearly dead. The Sergeant could see small pieces of bone in a pool of blood and blood splattered high up on the wall. He knew that this was not a fall and that Mr Walker had been battered to death.
George Walker was a small, frail old man who suffered from arthritis in his legs and looked much older than his 82 years. He walked with a stick and was a widower who lived alone in the large rambling Victorian house. People described him as a hermit although he could be seen every sunday making his way to church dressed in a smart suit and a bowler hat. Between the wars he had been a tailor in nearby Fazackerley and on retirement had set himself up as a broker and antique dealer, working from a shop at the front of his premises that was known locally as “The Old Curiosity Shop”. The premises were crammed with second hand goods and bric a brac and were more often closed than open. Anyone who wanted to purchase something would usually have to knock on the door and wait for an answer.
Chief Superintendent Balmer and his squad of detectives later arrived at the scene. The Home Office pathologist was called who found during the subsequent post mortem that there were 32 lacerations to Mr Walkers head. His skull had been smashed and his left cheekbone shattered. He had clearly been subjected to a prolonged and brutal attack.
The killer had left bloody footprints behind that had come from crepe soled shoes. The probable weapon used for the attack was discovered on the floor in the hallway which was the broken shaft of an axe. Then upstairs, the head of the axe was found immersed in a bowl of water. The 2 pieces of the weapon fitted together and it looked like the shaft had broken during the attack. Property was found across the road from the premises and a bicycle and women's clothing found in the garden of the premises.
Chief Superintendent Balmer called a press conference and announced that the Police were looking for a travelling watch and clock mender in his 30s with pale features, a long pointed nose and a white wart at the side of his left eye. This description had been given to the Police by Mr Walker’s sister Mary who had visited her brother recently and had seen the man working in the shop doing repairs. He had called her brother “pop”. The description of the wanted man was also confirmed by two young boys who had called at the shop the day before the murder to buy some radio parts and spoke to this man who told them to come back the next day. Mr Walkers sister had also told the Police that her brothers silver pocket watch was missing.
Enquiries were made throughout the city at pawn houses, pubs, ships and lodging houses in an effort to find information about anyone trying to sell a silver pocket watch. The bicycle and women’s clothing was eliminated from the enquiry after an owner came forward and fourteen thousand questionnaires had been completed by the public in the space of the weekend.
Five days after the murder, on the 19th January, Iris Tucker who was an ex cinema usherette and living nearby in Bootle, was reading an account of the murder in the newspaper and recognised the description of the wanted man as that of her boyfriend, John Todd. Iris immediately told her father and he called the Police. Det Chief Inspector Morris, Det Sgt Metcalfe and Det Con Hall called at the Tuckers address and interviewed Iris. At 2pm the officers went to Roxburgh Street in nearby Walton where Todd lived with his mother and arrested him. The missing silver pocket watch was found in Todds possession and at 7pm he was charged with the murder of George Walker and replied to the charge “ No, only I know I didn’t murder him”.
Todd had made a statement prior to his arrest when he called at Rice Lane to say that he had bought items previously. After his arrest he made 2 more statements that all differed. In the last one he said that Mr Walker had tripped when he was letting Todd out of his shop.
The trial for murder began of 8th April 1953. The prosecuting Barrister was Edward Wooll QC and Todds defence Barrister was Rose Heilbron. The Judge was Mr Justice Cassels. Todd pleaded not guilty and stated again that Mr Walker had fallen against him, tripping on an axe and that blood was coming from his nose down the front of Todds coat. Todd maintained that Mr Walker was still alive and let him out of the door. But there was a mountain of forensic evidence including bloodstained clothing belonging to Todd and his flimsy story did not stand up in court. He was found guilty of the murder of George Walker and hanged by Albert Pierpoint on May 19th 1953 at Walton Prison.
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