It is crazy to think that we can walk through our lives and disappear for over 40 years. It happens though, people go missing for good as many a sad page on this one website shows. When a person is found murdered over four decades later and it takes another 60 years to bury them, that is in the realm of fantasy. This is exactly what happened to poor Mamie Stuart.
This 26 year old married lady had made her home in a cottage called Ty-Llanwydd. This was a remote rented place near Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsular, South West Wales. She and her husband, George Shotton, had moved around a little since their marriage, Mamie was originally from the North East of England.
So by late summer 1919 the couple appeared settled in a nice little house overlooking the sea. Mamie was last seen in mid November or early December. Her family had had several letters over the course of that year. None gave a glowing view of the marriage. She said that Shotton was abusive and was odd. She said she could not see the marriage lasting. The last letter her family received was dated 12th November 1919. They tried to contact their daughter after that only to be informed the house had been vacated. That Christmas her parents received a telegram from Mamie. She wishing them well but there was no explanation of the silence. It was the last they heard from their daughter.
It was not until March 1920 that some evidence came to light that gave reason for the police to be involved. A hotel had a trunk in their left luggage storage for months. As there was no identification on it they informed the police and it was opened. There were torn clothes and a scrap of paper that identified Mamie’s parents. They told the police the tale of the letters, the sudden disappearance and the telegram. The cops went looking and Shotton was traced.
He was with his wife when he was found. Shotton had another family and a marriage going back to 1905. This was obviously not acceptable as he had married Mamie in March 1918. Shotton said he had never married Mamie and had no idea where she was. He told detectives they had been arguing and Mamie had left him. The home they shared was searched, but nothing was found that could make a case of murder stand against him. Back in those days you had to have a body to prove homicide.
It is small consolation that Shotton was convicted of bigamy and did a short time in prison. There seems to have been little doubt that Shotton killed Mamie. She had confided in a friend that she feared Shotton’s temper and asked for this friend to try and find her should she go missing.
Once out of prison Shotton’s legal wife divorced him. She later gave testament to his violent and abusive nature. Shotton largely dropped out of sight only to surface occasionally. On one occasion he settled in Tintern, Monmouthshire. He enjoyed a good reputation yet had to move when interest was briefly revived about the missing Mamie.
The search for this lively ex show girl was far and wide. As is the case now sightings of her were reported. Given her theatrical interests some of these included Mamie being seen with travelling artistic groups. None were confirmed. Coincidentally that year saw another young woman at the centre of a Agatha Christie style mystery. Bella Wright was shot dead on a country lane while riding her bicycle. In that case too there was only one viable suspect and nationwide interest. The big difference was that Belle was found within a short time and there was at least a trial.
In 1961 three potholers were exploring an abandoned mine not far from the cottage Shotton and Mamie had shared. There they found her skeletal remains. Her body had been cut into pieces and a large stone slab had been placed so that she was hidden from view. They only found her because the stone was blocking their exploration of a ventilation shaft. Being a long time short of the use of DNA other methods were used to identify her. These were exhaustive though. Witnesses identified jewellery and various forensic methods confirmed that the skeleton fitted details of the missing woman.
Now that a body had been found the police hoped they could turn on the pressure for Shotton. It was not to be, he had died in 1959. After many years of moving about Shotton passed away penniless and cut off from his family. He had been 77 years of age.
An inquest later determined that Shotton was responsible for the death of Mamie Stuart but no cause of death could be specified. The hearing concluded she had been killed between 12th November and 6th December 1919.
A Cupboard In Cardiff
We are a strange species. We have all manner of rituals and customs when it comes to those that have died. In the UK, like most of the West, the basic idea is to treat remains with compassion and respect in accordance with our Christian roots.
This did not happen. Mamie Stuart was not an orphan or displaced person. Her family were very concerned at her disappearance and involved in the search for her. The passage of years between her death and her discovery had broken the links though. Somehow after the inquest was over her remains were not claimed.
It was only when her grand niece was asked to say a few words in a documentary that she discovered where Mamie had been kept. When she contacted the laboratory the head of the facility co-operated fully. It seems to have been a case of he had not known who to contact and the family had assumed Mamie had been buried.
This was rectified in 2020. Mamie Stuart was laid to rest next to her parents in her home town of Sunderland.
I totally accept the likelihood that George Shotton killed Mamie Stuart. It all fits and it all makes sense. He had the character traits that also describe him as a pretty violent guy. He later was sent to prison for an assault on his sister.
All that said there will be no peaceful conclusion. I know I can be infuriatingly dedicated to evidence. It was said that the inquest determined murder was the only explanation. Mamie had been cut into three pieces. She had been taken deep into a mine shaft. Her remains had been hidden from view. Why if she had died by any other means would anyone dismember her and hide her deep in an old mine? A big issue was the passage time meant there was no soft tissue to examine. The bones revealed no obvious trauma so there could be no way of saying how she died.
Imagine any accidental death befalling Mamie Stuart at that idyllic house overlooking the sea. An abusive husband, a violent argument and Mamie Stuart runs from him. She falls and strikes her head on the cooker and dies. Shotton had set up home only two miles from his lawful wife. Even an accidental death would have been reported locally. His bigamy would have been discovered. As a result he dismembers Mamie, shuts the house and sends the bogus telegram at Christmas.
Is that unlikely? I would be interested in your thoughts. My thinking is not to exonerate Shotton. He sounds awful. It is just that I feel evidence is important even in the case of people long dead.