Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Murder of Doreen Reynolds

Doreen Reynolds.  Not a name that stands out in the long history of murder in this country, and in particular, unsolved murders.  Doreen was a 24 year old prostitiute in the small port of North Shields, on Tyneside, in the north east of England.  However, her murder happened to fall in the worst possible time, in 1940 during World War 11.  So who was Doreen Reynolds?

    Doreen was born illegitimate in 1916 in Glasgow, and had a troubled childhood.  At the age of 18 she had moved to Liverpool and bore a son.  The son was taken into care and a year later she moved to North Shields, where she continued her profession as a sex worker, a trade she atarted as a teenager in Glasgow.  She inhabited a very small room just off Clive Street, which she shared with Charles Said, a Maltese man.  The immediate area was considered a place to be avoided by respectable citizens due to it`s very rough pubs, slums, prostitutes and "undesireables."

    December 10th 1940, Doreen was seen in the Northumberland Arms and then in the Crane House Hotel, first with two sailors and then some Chinese men.  Later she went back to her room with a man, but let out a scream that brought her neighbour, Molly White, who lived beneath her, to her door, banging on it. She heard a man shout to open the door but as she did she was roughly shoved out of the way and the man bolted down the stairs.  She found Doreen stabbed multiple times.  Police were called, and took a description of the man from Molly White.  The room had items removed and sent for forensic testing, but this brought nothing evidential. Molly was shown photos of local criminals but she did not identify anybody.  Police made appeals through the newspapers for any information.  A number of men  were interviewed.

    The first real break came when a man took a jacket for cleaning with blood on it.  The man was arrested and questioned.  He had injuries to a hand that he claimed to have sustained during an air raid in London.  He named a hospital he claimed to have visited but this turned out to be untrue.  His alibi that he was with family, fell apart.  He then changed his story giving a different account, but this too, fell apart.  He was not picked out of an identification parade by Molly White and released.  The investigation stalled.  Doreen was buried on December 14th but nobody turned up.  Her Maltese lover took off right after the murder and could not be traced.

    Questions were asked as to why the lover ran away, the men she was seen with on the night of her death and the man with the bloody jacket.  First off, he may have been a pimp, and the Maltese at that time, were big in the prostitution business.  He was also a foreigner and that weighed against people accused or suspected of crime.  The men seen with her may have been clients, the sailors probably were.  The Chinese?  Well, Miss White said the killer was white and had a local accent.  Two weeks before, Doreen had said she robbed a Chinaman of £50.  If they were after retribution, surely they would have done that themselves.  What was strange was that the man arrested, the Police never fully investigated him.  He gave two different alibis that were false, he had blood on his jacket, injuries to his hand that he claimed was inspected at a hospital.  This proved to be false.  This should have made him a prime suspect, despite the failed identification.  Doreen Reynolds was buried and ultimately forgotten about. 

    A war was raging in Europe but at the end of the day, murder is murder.