New leads in 1955 Alice Barton case

Alice Barton

Alice Barton

The BBC reports police have new leads in the unsolved murder of Alice Barton (49). She was killed in 1955. Her body was found in Woodchurch, Birkenhead, UK. Her murderer has never been caught and the case remains open.

Merseyside Police’s Serious Crime Review Unit recently received new information. A spokeswoman would not comment on reports that a comment on a website lead to the new inquiry. After checking, this is what I found:

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

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

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

Police immediately launched a murder investigation. They even brought in a top Scotland Yard detective to coördinate the inquiry. It triggered a police manhunt with 40,000 people across Britain being interviewed.

Alice Barton Comments 1Aimee Buckley (19), from Wirral, posted on the Internet a story that was passed down over the years through her father’s family. 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.”

Alice Barton comments 2She 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 paper ECHO says the “grandfather” referred to in the message is no longer alive. The full comment is on the link above. Note: if the link get broken or the article disappears I added screenshots. Just click on them and they will enlarge. If they don’t, please contact me.

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

The Pillbox Murder shocked the Wirral community. Lancashire-born Alice had apparently drifted into prostitution after she left her husband. She would take regular customers, mostly truck drivers, to the pillbox.

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.

Rest in peace, Alice Barton.