Hitchin murder author appears on Dan Snow podcast exactly 100 years after unsolved crime took place

PUBLISHED: 10:38 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 25 January 2019

Author and historian Paul Stickler. Picture: 23rd and Pine Ltd

Author and historian Paul Stickler. Picture: 23rd and Pine Ltd

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The author of a book on a infamous unsolved Hitchin murder is appearing on the UK's most successful history podcast today - exactly 100 years after the crime took place.

The only known photograph of Elizabeth Ridgley, which appeared in a newspaper article after her death. Picture: Courtesy of Paul SticklerThe only known photograph of Elizabeth Ridgley, which appeared in a newspaper article after her death. Picture: Courtesy of Paul Stickler

Paul Stickler, author of The Murder that Defeated Whitechapel’s Sherlock Holmes: At Mrs Ridgley’s Corner, will be a guest on Dan Snow’s Hit History today, where he talked about the 1919 murder of Elizabeth Ridgley.

A former investigator for Hampshire Constabulary, Paul is delighted to appear on the podcast, saying: “I’ve been privileged to be able to speak with Dan Snow on his History Hit podcast.

“I’ve always admired Dan with his knowledge of history and his relaxed style in explaining it.

“He was genuinely interested in policing just after the First World War and was keen to know more about the murder of Elizabeth Ridgley.

Members of the public and service personnel wait outside Hitchin police station on March 11, 1919, awaiting the outcome of a remand hearing. The investigation attracted massive interest. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary History Society collectionMembers of the public and service personnel wait outside Hitchin police station on March 11, 1919, awaiting the outcome of a remand hearing. The investigation attracted massive interest. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary History Society collection

“The publication of the podcast on the 100th anniversary of her death is great news.”

Elizabeth Ridgley was last seen closing up her Nightingale Road cornershop kitchen on this day – January 25 – 100 years ago.

Her body was found on Monday, January 27, with lacerated wounds to the back of her head and face, and bruises on her back and arms.

A bloodstained four-pound weight was found next to her body, and her dog had also been killed by a blow to the head.

John Healy, right, in the dock at Hitchin police court charged with the murder of Elizabeth Ridgley. Seated at the table is DCI Frederick Porter Wensley. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary History Society collectionJohn Healy, right, in the dock at Hitchin police court charged with the murder of Elizabeth Ridgley. Seated at the table is DCI Frederick Porter Wensley. Picture: Hampshire Constabulary History Society collection

Supt George Reed found the death to be accidental, but DCI Fred Wensley – who had worked on the Jack the Ripper case three decades prior – dismissed this as impossible.

He was called in alongside pathologist Bernard Spilsbury two weeks after the death, with John Healy – an Irish veteran who had been seen lurking near the shop on the day of her death – arrested and charged with her murder.

But, with little evidence, the jury took just minutes to acquit him and the case remains unsolved.

Paul wrote the book – released in April last year – after discovering photos related to the case in the Hampshire county records office and researching in the National Archives.

The rear living room where Mrs Ridgley was attacked. The bloodstained kettles and chamber pots on the floor were, according to Supt George Reed, the principal cause of Mrs Ridgley’s injuries - which led him to conclude that her death was an unfortunate accident. Picture: Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office of Policing and
Crime and Hampshire Constabulary History SocietyThe rear living room where Mrs Ridgley was attacked. The bloodstained kettles and chamber pots on the floor were, according to Supt George Reed, the principal cause of Mrs Ridgley’s injuries - which led him to conclude that her death was an unfortunate accident. Picture: Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime and Hampshire Constabulary History Society

“The circumstances were so unusual and intriguing, I decided the story had to be told – and provides not only a piece of local history, but exposes far wider issues relating to policing just after the First World War,” he told the Comet at the time of the release.

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