Thursday, 15 November 2012

Who Killed Clara Cropper?

A murder case that I am interested in, happened in my home town of Ellesmere Port, in July 1948.  The victim was forty four year old Clara Cropper, a mother of two grown daughters, but separated from her husband.  Originally from Hull, Mrs Cropper had lived in the town for a number of years.  The tale started when she met a sailor from Norway, Olaf Andreas Flaathe.  She had a drink with him in a local pub, The Canal Inn, known locally as The Boathouse.  With her was a friend Edith Gill, and after buying some bottles of beer, they went back to the home of Edith Gill. 

    Whilst they were there, a man came to the door and had a violent argument with Mrs Gill.  A neighbour intervened and led the man away.  Mrs Cropper and Flaathe left the house through the back door.  This was witnessed by a neighbour.  However, after subsequent events, this was denied by Flaathe.  Some time later, a man walking home passed a man standing near a woman, who lay unmoving and whose clothes were in disarray.  This witness later identified the man as Flaathe, but this evidence was strongly countered by his defence barrister.  Mrs Cropper was reported missing by her daughters, and Police had full co-operation from Flaathe, whose ship was still berthed at the Bowaters Paper Mill.  

    Six weeks later, two young lads looking for scrap metal, found her decomposed body near the Shropshire Union Canal.  The Police went looking for Flaathe again, whose ship was moored by now, in Gravesend, and arrested Flaathe.  The Chief of Police stated to the local newspaper that this was an absolutely straight forward case, and in November of 1948, Flaathe went on trial at Chester Assizes for the murder of Mrs Cropper, and a guilty verdict brought an automatic death sentence.  What the Police had not counted on was just how quickly the Jury threw the case out.  So who did kill Mrs Cropper?  I will be sharing my views with you, over time.