|Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > Howard Allen Woodcraft. 1921 Murder.|
It's a constant source of amazement at times, just how a story can change, in just a few years. This one I raised in my " Can You Help " section some time ago, and placed it, like the member who sent me a few details, in Perry Barr, which at the time, was in Staffordshire. It still turns out to be a Staffordshire Murder, but the real murder site was just south of Walsall, in a place called Streetly.
Howard Allen Woodcraft was a strange young man. To young for any action in the Great War, he was born on the 14th April, 1901 in Sutton Coldfield, his services were called upon on the 23rd September 1919. Being just a quarter of an inch short of 6 feet, he was sent, on the 25th, with the number 29354, to Caterham, a new recruit for the Coldstream Guards. He didn't like it a lot and went missing for a few days. Just escaping a charge of AWOL. On the 24th January, 1920, he did go AWOL, only to be arrested by the Civil Police on 11th February, and charged with three counts of Felony., all in and around his home town of Sutton Coldfield. He was picked up at his fathers house, where he was hiding, Ivy Cottage, Elms Road, Sutton Coldfield. The Army, under regulations, left him to dealt with by the civil powers, and at Stafford Assizes, he was given three months on each charge, the sentences to be served consecutively, ( ie, one after the other ) and sent to Winson Green Prison. He was discharged from the Army on the 8th June 1920, on completion of his sentence, and if he thought he would get his old job as a Carpenter Driller at Webley and Scott back, he was sadly mistaken. He applied for an Army pension, bit cheeky that, but the only thing the Medical Staff could find wrong with him, was that he was a bit short sighted, a condition he had been born with. With a criminal record, he know found it hard to get any work at all, and he took to roaming the streets, where most who knew him, steered clear, as I sad, he was strange young man.
In August, 1921, he was still out of work, and wearing a heavy overcoat on a very warm day, was seen talking to a young woman in Kings Road, Erdington. Some hours later, just off the Chester road in Streetly, 23 year old Florence May Sturmey was found with her throat cut, So badly, that her head was almost severed from her body, a Razor being found next to the corpse. Later that evening, a man, dripping wet, appeared at the desk of Sutton Coldfield Police Station. Howard Allen Woodcraft explained, that he had tried to drown himself in a pool in Sutton Park, after maybe harming a young woman in Streetly. He claimed he had no memory of the event, but he may have done it because he was " fed up ". The Razor turned out to belong to him, witnesses had seen him with the girl, and, despite the soaking he had given himself, blood was found on his clothes. A Guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion, and he was duly sentenced to Death. He lost an appeal against his sentence, and looked like he would pay for such a brutal crime, with his life abruptly ending at the end of a rope. Not so. Word was relayed to the Home Secretary, that he wasn't right in the head, and the slow gears of Justice suddenly got a little quicker. There was no evidence of any mental condition, and it was with some surprise, that he was reprieved from the clutches of the Hangman. Now I don't know for certain at the moment, but it's likely that he served a long spell at Broadmoor, and was released around 1937/38. There is a hint, that with a slight change of name, he got married in 1939. I do know when he died though, June, 1983, in Bodmin, Cornwall, living a far longer life than poor Florence May Sturmey, and one he really didn't deserve.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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