The murder of Vera May Glasspool 10th July 1917 by Dr. Clifford Williams

'A tragic discovery was made at Longwood, near Winchester, on Wednesday morning (July 11 1917), a girl's body being found under circumstances which point to murder'. So reported the Hampshire Observer of 14th July that year. The body was that of Vera May Glasspool, aged 15 years, who had been working at Longwood House as a scullery maid.

Her murder has never been solved.

Vera May's home was Rose Cottage, Baybridge (also known as Chapel Cottage). She started work at Longwood House in September 1916 . Her father, Eli, had worked as a woodsman on the Longwood Estate but had lost his job, due to a reduction of estate hands, a couple of weeks before Vera was murdered.

Vera, born in April 1902, was the second youngest of child of Eli and Agnes. She had four brothers and four sisters. It was 28 year old married sister Edith Morris, who out with her father looking for Vera, found her body, approximately half way between her home in Baybridge and Longwood House.

Vera lived in at Longwood House but visited her home Sunday and Tuesday afternoons. On Tuesday July 10 she left Longwood House to walk to Baybridge but never turned up. Her body was found in an area known as Featherbed Copse, about 35 yards from the road, in an area of beech, elm and pine trees.

Superintendent Smith of Hampshire Constabulary was called to the scene. At the initial inquest two days later, Edith described how they found Vera, with 'a wound on her throat and blood on her mackintosh', and that her clothing 'was disarranged'. Dr Richards examined the body and concluded that the young girl had been strangled, as well as suffering bleeding from wounds on her neck. It was also concluded that it would have been impossible for the deceased to have inflicted those injuries on herself.

A second inquest was held at the Memorial Hall in Owslebury on July 19. A verdict of unlawful murder was announced. Evidence was given that Vera had told a fellow servant that she had arranged to meet soldiers on the afternoon of the 10th. Florence Beatrice Wells (housemaid at Longwood House) told the inquest that she had, with Vera, met soldiers on the Sunday before Vera's death. She added 'May promised to meet a R.G.A. fellow and also one from the A.S.C'.

The Army camp at Hazeley Down was just one and a half miles away and suspicion centred there. The Police offered a reward of £50 for information which might lead to the arrest of the guilty.

It was believed that Vera's small silver key less watch, with flowers on the dial, was missing. It seems that this was never recovered.

There are no known photographs of Vera May. She was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's at Owslebury on July 14 1917. Nearly 200 people attended the funeral. The exact location of her grave is not known.

Later that year a soldier, Private William Fenn of the RAMC, admitted to the murder. He was arrested but subsequent enquiries proved that he was in a camp many miles away at the time Vera was murdered and the case was discharged.

No files relating to the case have been found in either the National Archives, the Metropolitan Police Archives, The Hampshire Constabulary or the Hampshire Archives. The case will never be solved. Police at the time did not have all the sophisticated forensic tools available today. The fact that the murder occurred during all the disruption of the First World War also added to the difficulty of solving the case. Speculation and rumour as to who committed the crime continued for years.

I have to thank the late Walter Trott (1924-2012) and Mrs Jill Mariner for assisting me in my research.

On Sunday July 9 2107 Vera will be remembered at the 11 am service in St Andrew's Church, Owlsebury.