In this final post on the unsolved murder of 44 year old Clara Cropper, I will share my thoughts with you. Olaf Flaathe was cleared by the Jury at Chester Assizes in November 1948, in just eight minutes. The problem I have with the case is the behaviour of the chief prosecution witness, Edith Gill. Indeed, many old Portites believe that she got away with murder. I do not support this view. But what was it about her?
First off, she denied that she had a violent argument on her doorstep with a man called George Royal. Royal had a bleeding face, though it is not known how this occurred. Mrs Cropper and Flaathe were inside the house. Also there was a young lad. Gill and the lad denied that she made threats to Royal. A man called Grimes broke up the dispute and led Royal away. In court, Grimes confirmed that Gill DID make threats. Flaathe left through the back door with Mrs Cropper, though he claims he left her at the back gate. Witness Abigail Crawford stated they left together. A man walking home past a man standing on a path, where a woman lay with her clothes dishevelled. The Prosecution say this was the murder. The witness picked out Flaathe at an I.D. parade. This evidence was strongly challenged by the Defence. Flaathe had a squint, and was the only man on the parade with such. The witness admitted under questioning, that he knew Mrs Cropper had been with a man with a squint because he had been told by Gill, during the period the victim was missing. As it was dark, no street lighting, and no moon, this rendered the I.D. meaningless, said the defence.
More disputed points was that Mrs Gill was scrubbing her doorstep early the following morning, which she denied. The night before, George Royal was bleeding on her doorstep. This is a point my mother has always said about the case. It became well known she scrubbed her doorstep early next morning, which raised great suspicion about her. Another point was the amount of beer bottles Flaathe took into the house. Bottles were found beside the body. In court, the young lad complained in the waiting room that the defence lawyer tied him in knots over the amount of bottles. Gill was said to have turned very angry with him. They both denied this episode happened, but another witness, the dock watchman said in evidence that it did. The evidence of the watchman said that he did not see Flaathe return to the ship, though he did see a car pull away from the dockside. This was undoubtedly the taxi Flaathe said he hired to get back to his ship. Forty five minutes later, he watchman escorted a man onto the ship. He described him as balding, heavy built, was covered in dirt, had his shirt torn right down, was extremely agitated and had "fierce eyes." Yet, incredibly, this was ignored by the Police. This man had undoubtedly been involved in serious violence, and to have been highly agitated and had "fierce eyes" he had to have been involved in something very serious. Such as murder. However, as the Police ignored this, I cannot state that this man was the real killer, but I believe he was.
As for the behaviour of Edith Gill, was it a desire to be seen as the person who sent the killer to the gallows, or was it something more sinister? I did contact the FBI and BAU, and received an immediate reply from none other than former top profiler Mark Safarik, it did not help me. I do not believe Flaathe was the killer, and my conclusions are only my opinions, not a definite fact.