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Tyleri Tales - Straeon Tyleri

THE HORROR OF 1921 - THE HAROLD JONES MURDERS

Harold Jones on his admission to prison on 14th November 1921 Harold Jones in prison uniform on  12th December 1921 Harold Jones on his release from prison on 6th December 1941

Images kindly provided by Neil Milkins who has unearthed more sensational images in his forthcoming book, Every Mother's Nightmare


Local man, Neil Milkins has now finished his book, 'Every Mother's Nightmare', due for publication in early 2008, uncovering the full story about the horrific Abertillery murders in 1921. Proceeds of the book are to go to charity - if you would like to help towards the cost of publication thereby helping the charity even further, then please contact Neil via kiowa@dackjaniels.co.uk

A double-page spread appeared in the Wales on Sunday newspaper on November 25th 2007 containing an interview with Neil who gave an overview of his research and the shocking news of Jones' release from prison in 1941 raising the spectre of whether Jones committed further murders whilst free - click here

In the book, Neil tells of the eventual fate of Jones, his return visits to Abertillery in later years and raises the intriguing question whether he was responsible for further murders including Swansea schoolgirl Muriel Drinkwater in 1946.

Indeed he is still seeking some information on Jones' whereabouts following his release from Wandsworth Prison in 1941. Jones lived in Fulham between 1947 and 1962 using his own name and also the name Harry Stevens. Neil would like to know where Jones was between his release and turning up in Fulham in 1947. Jones also "disappeared" between 1963 and 1966 when he turned up in Hammersmith as Harry Jones.

If you have any further information, you can contact Neil via
kiowa@dackjaniels.co.uk


For much of 1921, Abertillery was gripped in horror by the murders of two young girls in the town. Had they occurred in the present day, then undoubtedly the story would have attracted the kind of media frenzy associated with the Soham murders. Indeed, the extremely sad episode is perhaps made worse by the fact that the killer was a 15-year old boy who was acquitted in a sensational trial after the first murder only to commit another within days.

By 1921, Abertillery was the second biggest town in Monmouthshire, second only to Newport. Nearly 40,000 inhabitants were packed into its narrow streets, attracted by work in the thriving coal mines in the area. As in most south Wales valley towns, the dangers of working underground forged a strong sense of community. That community spirit was rocked in 1921 as the town reeled from the realisation that one of its own youngsters was responsible for two heinous crimes and that perhaps some of the townspeople themselves had unwittingly played a part in allowing the second to occur.

On the morning of Saturday February 5th, eight-year old Freda Burnell of Earl Street went on an errand for her father to buy poultry grit and spice at Mortimer's Corn Stores in Somerset Street (just across the road from where the Police Station is situated today). Young Freda was sadly never to return home. Worried by the length of her absence, her father Fred went to the shop to see if she had visited. The young assistant, 15-year old Harold Jones confirmed that the youngster had indeed visited the store as its first customer around five past nine and left about ten minutes later.

Fred became increasingly vexed and after six hours of searching and scouring the streets for Freda, he alerted the police. Local officers started speaking to locals to see if they could shed light on Freda's whereabouts and questioned Harold Jones to see if he could give any clues, but to no avail. Meanwhile, as the winter light faded, scores of local people were out helping to search the streets and adjoining mountainsides for the girl. By midnight, hampered by tiredness and cold weather conditions, the search was called off and resumed at first light next morning.

At about 7.30 that next morning, a collier found what first appeared to be a collection of rags on the ground in the lane running behind Duke Street. Instead, he realised as he approached that it was the body of a girl. It was clear that young Freda had been subjected to a vicious, brutal attack. Subsequent examinations by police and doctors revealed that she had died sometime in the morning of the previous day.

Scotland Yard officers were dispatched from London to assist local police. By the following Thursday, Harold Jones had been arrested and charged with murder. A witness claimed to have heard screams coming from a shed used by Mortimer's Corn Stores for which Jones had the only key. More damningly, a handkerchief used by Freda was found there together with an axe which it was claimed may have been used in the attack.

Jones refuted all the claims and denied murder. Despite the weight of circumstantial evidence against him, he was acquitted at his trial on June 21st 1921 at Monmouth Assizes and remarkably he made a victorious homecoming to the streets of Abertillery where many locals themselves joined in the celebrations, unwilling it seems to believe that one of their own was responsible for such a barbaric crime.

Just seventeen days later, the acquittal of Jones was to have dreadful consequences. Late on the evening of Friday July 8th, he somehow lured 11-year old Florrie Little, who lived just three doors down, into his home. Jones attacked the girl with almost unimaginable brutality and concealed her body in the attic. This time though escape from justice was impossible. With the body in the attic and his parents having returned home, he was effectively trapped. Still, he held his nerve as he himself assisted police in the search for the girl on the streets. However, the police started to conduct house to house searches and when Jones's father Phillip invited them into his home, the game was up. Jones himself left the house as the searches progressed but when young Florrie's body was discovered, his father went after him and apprehended him in the streets of Abertillery

There was now pandemonium in the town as the news spread. Jones was sent for trial, again at Monmouth, and this time he confessed. Remarkably he also gave a second statement, although not read in court, in which he also admitted the murder of Freda Burnell.

Jones was still under 16 by a mere two months and so escaped the hangman's noose by virtue only of his age. He gave the reasons for the murders as a 'desire to kill'. His incarceration removed him from the streets of Abertillery though it is claimed by some that he was to return on several occasions in later years.


Much of the above is based on contemporary coverage by the South Wales Gazette, from the story "Nightmare in Abertillery" found in South Wales Murder Casebook by Paul Harrison [Publisher: Countryside Books (October 1995) - ISBN: 1853063673] and of course from conversations with and information provided by Neil Milkins to whom I am grateful.


TYLERI TALES

Contents:

THE HORROR OF 1921 - THE HAROLD JONES MURDERS
THE FOUNDING FATHER OF DRUG METABOLISM - the story of Professor RT Williams, FRS
THE BLAINA RIOTS OF 1935 - Desperation and  unrest in the Ebbw Fach valley (by Martyn Thomas)
THE MODEST, HARD MAN - Jim Webb, Wales rugby star of the Golden era
THE MAN WHO BOWLED W. G. GRACE FOR A DUCK - Abertillery cricket memories of the 1890s
THE WAR HERO WHO TESTED THE BRITISH H-BOMB - Air Vice Marshall Wilfred Oulton
THE MARIE STOPES CONNECTION - Britain's first-ever hospital birth control clinic opens at Abertillery
THE REDOUBTABLE DAGGARS - A remarkable tale of an extraordinary Abertillery family (by David Daggar)
THE ABERBEEG GHOST
HEROES OF WORLD WAR ONE
THE "LIB" CLUB - BRITAIN'S BEST SNOOKER TEAM (by Graham Bennett)
CAMERA'S GREATEST MAGICIAN - the humble beginnings of Angus McBean

Coming soon:

THE TRAGEDY OF SIX BELLS - the terrible pit disaster of 1960
A CHARITABLE ACCIDENT - Eddie Price, founder of the Tenovus charity
THREE LIONS IN THE SHIRT - Pask, Morgan, and Lewis, stars of the Green & Whites
THE MEN WHO BECAME SAINTS
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE
AHEAD OF HER TIME - The extraordinary story of Beatrice Green

 

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