Wednesday, 28 January 2015

1927: Woman's Head Found in Clyde and Mutilated Remains Found in Coal Bunker

'The finding of a parcel containing parts of the dismembered body of a woman on the North Side of the River Clyde on Saturday led police to a house at 213 Main Street, Glasgow, South Side, yesterday afternoon. In the coal bunker of the house, the remaining portions of the body found hidden under a layer of coal and dross. The police have taken the son of the dead woman into custody and he is charged with her murder.'

The discovery of the gruesome parcel was made shortly after 8 o'clock on Saturday morning by Mr George Geddes who was rowing up the river in a small boat. About 100 yards east of St James's Bridge, Mr Geddes observed a bundle lying on the mud bank on the north side. On rowing toward it and undoing the rope which bound it he was horrified to discover a women's head. The parcel also contained an arm and two legs. The remains were taken to the Central Police Station.

Due to the lack of clues the case presented considerable difficulty for the investigating detectives. It was decided to conduct a huge search of most houses in the Central, Eastern, and Southern Districts in search of the trunk of the body, almost every police constable in the city was recalled to help in the search.

In the course of the day, a woman entered Central Police Station and stated that her mother in law was missing. The woman had been on holiday in Rothsay and it was not until she returned and visited her mother-in-law's house that she discovered it was unoccupied. Shown the remains, the woman identified them as those of her mother-in-law, a Mrs Agnes Arbuckle.

Two detectives were dispatched to Mrs Arbuckle's house at 213 Main Street, South Side and when the door was opened and a search of the home made, the remaining body parts were found under a layer of coal and dross in the coal bunker. The trunk, which was cut in two parts, and the missing arm were taken to the Mortuary at the Central Police Station. 

The woman's son, a man aged between 36 and 40 was taken into custody and charged with Mrs Arbuckle's murder.

A next door neighbour yesterday described Mrs Arbuckle, a 60-year old widow, as a woman of very quiet habits who had lived at her home on Main Street for 17 years. During the past few years she had lived alone, one of her sons was reporting missing during the war and another had died six years ago. It was known that she called at the local post office to collect a pension in respect of the son who was killed in the war, and the last time she was seen alive by any of her neighbours was three weeks ago. On that day, it is believed she left to visit the post office as usual but she did not return. 

Many aspects of the case were similar to those of the recent London Trunk Murder.  In the Arbuckle case, the assailant in dismembering the body had taken deliberate precautions against the identification of the victim, The face and head, which had been severed at the neck, had been shockingly cut and bruised, apparently with some sharp heavy instrument, In addition to the head, the gruesome package found on the river bed contained two legs amputated below the knee, a thigh, a left arm, and a hand from which the ring finger had been cut off. The missing finger, from which a wedding ring had been recently removed was also found in the package. The appearance of the remains suggested that a sharp saw had been used in the dismemberment by someone with some skill. The singed condition of the back of the head and neck indicated that the woman had been knocked into a fireplace by a blow or that an attempt had been made to dispose of the evidence by burning.

The authorities take the view that while the woman had probably been dead two or three days, the bundle had only been deposited in the river on Friday night or early Saturday morning.

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