New leads in 1955 cold case of Alice Barton

The BBC posts that police have new leads in the cold case of Alice Barton (49) who was killed in 1955. Her body was found in Woodchurch, Birkenhead, UK. Her murderer has never been caught and the case remained open.

Merseyside Police’s Serious Crime Review Unit has recently received new information about the case. A police spokeswoman would not comment on reports that a comment on an Internet site lead to the new inquiry. After checking this is what I found: 

Prostitute Alice Barton’s body was dumped in a wartime pillbox in the Fender Valley area of Woodchurch, Birkenhead, UK, September 1955 (see photograph). She was found on Saturday, September 24, 1955, by Peter Williams(11) who had left his parents home to pick blackberries. Accompanying Peter were Brian Lennon(11), his brother Alec(4), and John Williams(12), all of whom lived on nearby New Hey Road. The children headed for a railway embankment on the north side of the Woodchurch Estate to commence their blackberry picking. 

Peter Williams decided to look inside an old concrete ‘pillbox’ structure – originally used by the Home Guard in wartime. Peter saw what he thought was a shop-window dummy, but when he took a closer look, he saw to his horror that it was the body of a woman with clothes piled on her face.

The then-unidentified woman, who looked between 50 and 60 years of age, had been strangled, mutilated, and an obscene three-word sentence had been scrawled on the body in red lipstick. According to messeges on the Internet the sentence was “I am VD.” The author Tom Slemen has apparantly incorporated some details of the case in his book “Haunted Liverpool” but I cannot confirm that.

Police immediately launched a murder investigation aftre the grisly find. They even brought in a top Scotland Yard detective to co-ordinate the enquiry triggering a police manhunt which led to 40,000 people across Britain being quizzed. Detectives are now checking into the possibility that the murderer was Alice’s grandfather.

Aimee Buckley, 19, from Wirral, related on the Internet a story that was passed down through her dad’s family over the years. She describes the suspicion that her paternal grandfather who frequented a pub just minutes away from the murder scene, was involved in the killing. Aimee wrote: “One night, he came home wearing blood soaked clothes demanding my nan to burn them. My nan was so horrified and in shock that she went to throw them in the wash immediately, but he ordered her to burn them there and then.” She goes on to say that a couple of days later the murder of Alice Barton was reported in the newspaper. “The killer has never been found and from my grandad no words have ever been said about it.” The ECHO understands that the “grandfather” referred to in the message is no longer alive. The full comment is on the link above.

Following the discovery, the identity of Alice Barton remained a mystery, until the police decided to put the face of the dead woman in the paper. Several readers instantly recognised her including her estranged husband John Barton, who had not seen his wife since she walked out on him Christmas, 1943. Police took Mr. Barton to the mortuary where he identified of his wife’s body.

The Pillbox Murder sent shock waves through the Wirral community at the time. Lancashire-born Alice had apparently drifted into the murky world of prostitution after leaving her husband. She would take her regular customers, mostly truck drivers, to the pill box.

A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: “The investigation into the death of Alice Barton in 1955, as with all unsolved murder investigations, remains open. The Serious Crime Review Unit has recently received new information about this case, which is being looked into.”

The Unit welcomes any new information about unsolved cases and would urge anyone who has information about such crimes to contact 0151-709-6010 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.

We will follow this case closely!