Added: Monday 30 April 2012
Please note that this is archived material and may not necessarily reflect the current position of Northamptonshire Police
THE county’s oldest and most well-known murder mystery may be a step nearer to being solved.
The charred remains of ‘an unknown man’ are interred in the parish cemetery of Hardingstone near Northampton, following the notorious ‘Blazing Car Murder’ in the village more than 80 years ago.
Alfred Rouse was convicted, and later hanged at Bedford gaol, for murdering his victim in a car fire on Hardingstone Lane on 6 November 1930.
But now the family of a missing man from London, William Thomas Briggs, have contacted Northamptonshire Police for more information about the Blazing Car Murder, believing that the victim may be their long-lost relative.
Members of the family recently visited Force Headquarters and met up with the Force’s archivist Richard Cowley, who discussed the story of the murder with them and showed them artefacts relating to a crime which received worldwide attention.
The family members then visited the graveside of the unknown man, a few minutes drive away from the Headquarters building at Wootton Hall.
Samantha Hall, the great niece of William Briggs, said that her family ancestry research had prompted her to dig into the details of the Blazing Car Murder more deeply.
Samantha, who lives with her family in Bracknell, Berkshire, said: “I have other family members living in the London and Leicestershire areas and we have all grown up not knowing what happened to our great uncle.
“He left the family home in Kilburn, London, to attend a doctor’s appointment and was never seen or heard of again and this obviously devastated the family.
“It is only in recent months that my Nan, who was William’s niece, showed me newspaper clippings together with letters that her aunt had written in 1957 in an attempt to re-open the murder case.
“My family were convinced that William was Rouse’s victim and, following more recent family discussions, I thought it would be useful to review any remaining or available case notes and enquire as to the existence of any remains.
“I would be really interested to hear from anyone who could shed any further light on the identity of Rouse’s victim that night.
“In visiting Northampton, all of us wanted to ensure that, whoever the victim, the remains had been buried appropriately and hadn’t been long forgotten on a shelf somewhere.
“It also seemed plausible that, with the advent of new technologies, we may still have a chance of positive identification.”
Blazing Car Murder background
Alfred Rouse sustained a head wound in the First World War which left him with a personality disorder, to the point that he was described as ‘a promiscuous rake with an enormous sexual appetite’.
Rouse was a commercial traveller who went all around the country and his lifestyle resulted in him facing severe financial problems.
As a consequence, Rouse devised a murder plot that would enable him to stage his own death in a car accident and then disappear to start a new life free from financial restriction.
To that end, Rouse rendered his victim unconscious with a wooden mallet, placed him in the driver’s seat of his car and set the car alight.
Rouse was making his way from the scene but bumped into two local youths keen to see what was going on and take part in some late Bonfire Night celebrations.
This contact eventually led to Rouse’s arrest. He was convicted at Northampton Assizes and hanged in Bedford on 10 March 1931.
The local Herald newspaper suggested that the identity of Rouse’s victim ‘would likely remain a mystery forever.’