19th November 1943, When
some workman who were walking along a river track saw a sack
floating in the River Lea near the Vauxhall factory in Luton
they wanted to know what it contained.
When they fished the sack out of
the water they were shocked and horrified to see it
contained the body of a middle aged woman.
She was naked and had been
strangled and then, it would appear, beaten so severely as
to try and hide her identity, her wrists and ankles were
The police were called, they
moved the sack from the mucky water, discovered that there
were actually two sacks, in these days before forensics, the
body and sacks were then removed by the police. Photographs
of the woman were shown at local cinemas, shops and pubs.
February 1944 Police were
searching household waste on a local tip, when they spotted
a dog playing with a piece of material it turned out to be a
piece of a woman's coat that had a dry-cleaning tag on it.
The mark was traced to Mrs Caroline Manton who, when they
checked they found had handed the coat in for dyeing in the
When they spoke to Mrs Manton's husband who was a Fire
Brigade driver known as 'Bertie', he denied that the photos
were of his wife and told police that his wife had left him
to live with her brother.
To back this up he showed them
letters that he said had been written by his wife since the
previous December. Officers noticed that in all the letters
a simple spelling mistake was evident. It was in the word 'Hampstead'
which in all cases had been written as 'Hamstead'. The
police asked him for a sample of his handwriting and they
noticed that he too mispelt the same word.
When the police searched the house they found it had been so
thoroughly cleaned that an examination only managed to
locate a single fingerprint belonging to its former
This was found on a pickle jar
in an under stairs cupboard. As the woman had lived in the
house for many years they would have expected the house to
be covered in her prints so it showed that Bertie Manton had
tried to remove all sign's, but why if she had simply left
Satisfied that they had got the right man they arrested and
charged him with the murder of his wife. Realising that
there was no way out he confessed to killing his wife. He
said that they had quarrelled and that he had hit her with a
stool. He had wheeled her body to the river on his bicycle
and dumped it into the water.
He appeared for trial at Bedford
Assizes and was found guilty and sentenced to death. The
sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he died in
Parkhurst prison on the isle of Wight three years later in