Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Murphy Gordon K. M.D.
The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: September 1989
Forensic History: PDF Only

On January 10, 1929, in Southampton, England, two men examining the interior of a long-padlocked garage that had been previously used as a storeroom by a local agent of the Wolf's Head Oil Company found the decomposing body of its missing agent, Vivian Messiter. The assistance of Scotland Yard was obtained. Sir Bernard Spilsbury's autopsy revealed that Messiter had died from several severe blunt force craniocerebral injuries, the murder weapon apparently being a blood-encrusted hammer found nearby. Suspicion immediately centered on William Podmore, alias William Thomas, who had been employed by Messiter for 3 days in late October 1928, immediately prior to Messiter's being declared missing. Podmore, who was wanted for fraud and robbery elsewhere in England, was questioned and told a self-serving story. Meanwhile, it had been suspected that he had reported to Messiter sales of oil to fictitious customers, collecting commissions on same, and this was eventually reinforced by the finding of traces of writing in a receipt book. Two fellow prisoners of Podmore stated that he had confessed in their presence. Almost 14 months after the murder, Podmore was charged with it. He was later convicted, and was hanged after some public outcry against the verdict

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.