Remember the TV film about Albert Pierrepont, starring Timothy Spall, and the opening sequence of a woman being hanged. The woman was wearing a pinstriped suit, so there was no doubt in my mind who this was. Margaret Allen. Of course we received the voyeuristic treatment as Spall and assistant removed her clothing and washed the still hanging body. This case went back to 28th August 1948 and the Lancashire town of Rawtenstall. A bus driver spotted what he thought was a sack lying in Bacup Road, so he stopped and investigated. Inside was the battered body of 68 year old Nancy Chadwick, a well known lady in the neighbourhood. It was later determined that the murder weapon was a hammer.
Mrs Chadwick had last been seen walking along Bacup Road the previous morning. Police discovered her bag in the River Irwell, which was close by. They quickly homed in on Margaret Allen, a 42 year old lesbian, with a reputation for wearing men's clothes, calling herself "Bill", indulging in drinking and being very unladylike language wise. She even claimed to have had a sex change but regarding medical knowledge at the time, and this being England, it was never taken seriously. She came from an unbelievably large family of twenty two children!
Margaret only had one real friend, Annie Cook, but they were never a couple. She handed herself to the Police on a plate because she started telling people that she was the last one to see her alive, and spoke about secret pockets on her clothes where she put her money. She also followed the Police around during their investigations so they decided to search her house, where they found incriminating evidence. Blood soaked cloths, blood on the walls, led her to suddenly deciding to tell all. She said that Mrs Chadwick had called on her but she felt a bit "funny", picked up a hammer and battered Mrs Chadwick to death, putting her body in the cellar. Charged with capital murder, the only defence was insanity but this was rejected. A clear motive was never established. Annie Cook tried to raise a petition for clemency but this was a failure, and Margaret Allen was hanged on January 12th 1949.