Monday, 22 September 2014

The Wigwam Murder

The Wigwam Murder was one of the celebrated homicides solved by Scotland Yard during WW2, and by one of their star detectives Ted Greeno.  The victim in this case was a teenage runaway named Joan Wolfe, and the motive for her callous murder was that she, like hundreds of other women, fell pregnant to a visiting serviceman.  This sorry tale began on October 7th 1942, when a member of the Royal Marines, Bill Moore, was carrying out a routine patrol at Hankley Common, close to Godalming, in Surrey.  Something sticking out of mud, caught his eye.  He thought at first it was a hand.  Then he spotted a foot protruding.  He had found a shallow grave.  He returned to his barracks and informed his superiors of what he had discovered.  They in turn, called Police, who brought in Scotland Yard, led by Chief Superintendent Ted Greeno.

    An exhumation showed she had massive injuries to her head, plus stab wounds to her head and arm.  There was no doubt she had been there for some time.  She was quickly identified as 19 year old Joan Pearl Wolfe, a runaway who had taken to sleeping rough.  Police scoured the common and discovered a letter written by Joan, to a Canadian soldier named August Sangret.  He was based at a nearby camp, Witley Camp.  The letter stated that she was pregnant by him and she expected him to stand by her.  Here was a very obvious motive for a murder.  The search also found the murder weapon, a piece of birch wood, that had hairs stuck to it that resembled the hair of Joan.  Sangret was immediately questioned.  He admitted that he had been having sex with Joan, but had not seen her for some time, and had no idea of her whereabouts.  He made a very long statement over 5 days.  Sangret was of Red Indian heritage and unable to read and write.  When he was told she was dead, he replied that they must have found her and that he would naturally be blamed.  There was insufficient evidence to charge him, so he was released.

    Then, towards the end of November, a knife was found in a blocked drain at the camp.  The knife was of the kind that was used to stab Joan.  Police rearrested Sangret, and now he made incriminating remarks.  Enough for him to be charged with murder and he went on trial at Kingston Assizes in February 1943.  The Prosecution contended that after she confronted Sangret and told him of her pregnancy, he killed her.  He buried her in a grave on high ground, after dragging her body for 400 yards, as in Red Indian custom.  He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  The Jury gave a recommendation of mercy.  This was disregarded and Sangret was executed at Wandsworth Prison on 29th April 1943.