The Unsolved Murder Of Newly Wed Susan Turner, Hartlepool, UK
In Britain in the 1960s and 1970s there was a massive reorganisation of housing. Many old communities were on the move. Their little terraced streets were demolished and sprawling new areas were created to re home them. To do that massive numbers of aging and dilapidated houses were knocked down. For a time streets that once echoed with the sounds of every day life stood abandoned. On 22nd of October 1971 two school boys played in one such house. They found the body of 19 year old Susan Turner.
This lady had been married to George Turner only five weeks before. She was missing clothing to her lower half. A hunt for her killer started at the scene. Lorries (trucks) involved in the demolition work were parked overnight and their drivers had remained with them. These enquiries yielded nothing. This lady had been found in a rear yard under a lean-to. The yard area should not be confused with an American description. The yards were small brick enclosed areas. There was a lot of rubble and debris around as this was one of the last two houses still standing in Howe street.
When the suspicion fell on her husband there was a problem. He and his wife had been out the night before. They had argued and separated. Yet police could find no evidence to link him to the place where she was found. At the trial the judge halted proceedings and told the jury that they must declare him not guilty. I wouldn’t call it unusual for a judge to do this, but it certainly is an indication as to how weak the case was against him.
Mrs Turner was found to have been four and a half months pregnant when she died. She had been strangled to death.
51 years later the case is unsolved and some might say it was just dumb luck that the husband got away with it. The details are scant but I’m not so sure it was that simple. Mrs Turner’s mother was very supportive of her daughter’s husband and seemed unconvinced he was a killer. Then there was the fact that despite the mess of the crime scene nothing linked him to it.
Couples do argue after a drink or two and they do separate with one or both storming off. Another case of an innocent partner in just such circumstances is the case of Barbara McLean in 1977. Lastly why, if it were a husband to wife killing, was she missing clothing?
Of course George Turner could have been thinking ahead. Knowing he would be a likely suspect he staged the scene of a random attack. Is that likely? He was just 21 years old stumbling about in an area near which truckers slept in their cabs.
I remember those demolition sites. Sometimes they were fenced off but kids would pry the corrugated iron back to play in among the bricks. Other places were wide open. I will have a look and see if I can find any similar crimes around such places back then, maybe you know of some?