Monday, 4 November 2013

The Murder of Angela Wolliscroft

This is one case in which the killer did not get away with it, brought to justice by diligent Police work.  What remains a mystery is why the killer had to shoot a totally non threatening young woman.   The victim was 20 year old Angela Wolliscroft, a teller at Barclays Bank on Upper Ham Road, near Richmond in Surrey.  The tragic events began on 10th November 1975 when a dark skinned man walked in carrying a yellow raincoat and wearing dark glasses.  Concealed inside the raincoat was a double barreled sawn off shotgun.  He pointed the gun at Miss Wolliscroft and demanded money.  She complied and handed over money, but suddenly the gun went off, shattering the safety screen and severely wounding her.  The gunman then made his escape.  Miss Wolliscroft died on the way to hospital.  This was now murder.

     The raincoat had been dropped and when examined, a piece of paper was found inside one of the pockets.  It was an entry form for a wine making competition with "Grahame" written on it, and the form was traced to a Miss Marshall.  The man leading the hunt, Jim Sewell, sent men to question Miss Marshall.  They were told that she had parked her car, an Austin A40, at Bentall`s in Kingston, Surrey, and when she returned to it, she realised it had been moved and a yellow raincoat and sunglasses were missing.  The car matched the description of the car seen with the robber inside.

    Jim Sewell received a tip off saying that the gunman was a violent criminal named Michael Hart, and that he was seen in Basingstoke putting a shotgun into a car.  When he was questioned, he gave an alibi that was verified. Things began to slowly unravel when Hart was involved in an incident that gave police the opportunity to search his home.  This was three weeks after the murder of Miss Wolliscroft.  They discovered a .22 Hendal Automatic and some Eley No 7 shotgun cartridges, used for trapshooting.  These were different from the cartridge that killed Angela.  That was a gameshot cartridge.  The cartridges were checked carefully and discovered to be gameshot.  So men were sent to the manufacturers in Birmingham, to which they were told that a small batch had been wrongly labelled.  These had been sent to a gunsmith in Reading, which had been robbed on 4th November.  The automatic handgun had been stolen from there, along with shotgun shells., and a double barreled Reilly shotgun

    On 20th January 1977, Hart was arrested and charged with murder.  He claimed that the gun had gone off accidentally.  He told Police where he had thrown it into the River Thames, where a diver recovered it.  It was tested for pull pressure, which showed it needed a great deal of pressure to fire it.  It also contained two shells, one used, one not.  Both were incorrectly labelled for trapshooting, being gameshot.  Later on in the year, on 3rd November 1977, Hart was sentenced to a minimum of twenty five years in prison, being released in November 2002.