Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Murder of Vera Page

The one type of murder that elicits the most violent outpouring of anger is that of a child, and this infamous case from 1931, was no exception.  Vera Page was a ten year old girl who lived in Notting Hill in London.  Vera had just won a number of swimming certificates and was very eager to show them to her aunt, who lived nearby.  It was just after 4.30pm on December 14th 1931 that she set off for her aunt`s house.  She never returned home.  Her failure to return home worried her parents who contacted Police, who immediately began a search.  Then two days later, a milkman discovered her body in some bushes in Addison Road, about a mile away from her home.  He summoned Police and Superintendent George Cornish raced to the scene.  With him was the Divisional Surgeon and he deduced that Vera had been dead for more than 24 hours, her face was bruised and swollen and cause of death was strangulation.  During the period of her disappearance, there had been much rain yet her clothes were not dank or soaked, indicating that the body had been kept somewhere dry.

    A more thorough examination by Bernard Spilsbury found evidence of rape, strangulation and a ligature mark around the neck.  This was done after death, showing that it was possibly used to drag the body.  The Coroner at the inquest, believed that the body had been moved in a barrow, and as these were common on the streets of Britain at the time, it would have aroused no suspicion of a man pushing a barrow with a sack in it or a blanket over the contents.  Amongst her clothes, a finger bandage, stained with ammonia, was found.  But the problem was it was a very common finger bandage.  Then Cornish had a huge breakthrough; they had a suspect.  It was Percival Orlando Rush, aged 41.  His parents lived above the Page family in a flat, and visited them every week.  He lived a couple of hundred yards from the Pages.

    Cornish now had circumstantial evidence pouring in.  Rush had recently cut a finger and used a finger bandage.  He worked in a laundry where ammonia was frequently used.  He would have known young Vera as he regularly visited his parents, above the Page home.  He said that he went out shopping but could not prove it, as his wife had gone to visit her mother.  Then again, Cornish realised, he could have done just that.  Experts examined the finger bandage Rush was wearing, to the one found on Vera.  They were not from the same source.  Rush was found with a length of cord in his pocket.  He said he used it as a belt.  He had an answer for everything Cornish threw at him and was never flustered or nervous.  A witness saw a man pushing a barrow, early that morning in the direction of Addison Road.  The contents of the barrow were covered with a large red cloth.  Such an item was seen at the Rush home.  But the witness failed twice to pick out the man at an identification parade.  The inquest recorded a verdict of "murder by person or persons unknown."  Cornish believed he knew who the killer was but obviously could not name him as nobody had been charged.

   Recently, a researcher named Jonathan Oates had dug deeply into all records of this case and made some startling discoveries.  Rush had been a flasher.  He had been jailed twice for exposing himself.  Rush had served in the Great War.  Had his experiences unbalanced him?  Circumstantial evidence is certainly that, so in reality, coincidence-wise, he would have been fantastically unlucky.  Or was it all correct?  The problem of the body being kept in a warm place, throws up the possibly that Rush kept the body in his home.  Something that his wife would have easily found.  This in turn, leads to the allegation that she helped cover up for him.  Modern forensics, with DNA, would have positively proven the guilt or innocence of Rush, but back then, everything was primitive.  So it comes a question of whether you believe Rush was the killer of Vera, or just the unluckiest man ever.  What you cannot say, is that he WAS the killer.  There is nothing to prove it.  Do I believe he was the killer?  Yes, because there is far too much circumstantial evidence, but then again, I could be wrong.