Northamptonshire’s oldest unsolved murder

Police search for evidence linked to the still-unsolved murder of George and Lillian Peach in Ashton
Police search for evidence linked to the still-unsolved murder of George and Lillian Peach in Ashton

It is hard to believe that the peaceful village of Ashton, near Oundle, with its village green, thatched cottages and peacocks could be the scene of a brutal double murder.

Sixty years ago, two elderly residents were beaten to death in their home in the middle of the night – and police have never found the killers.

Gamekeeper George Henry Peach, known to everyone as Henry, and his wife Lilian were murdered on the evening of Saturday, October 24, 1952, in an incident described at the time as “the case without a clue”.

Henry, 64, and his 67-year-old wife appeared to have been well loved in the village and neighbouring area, with one resident telling the Evening Telegraph that Henry “was one of the best loved men in the place”. The couple were discovered by the local shopkeeper after the butcher’s boy couldn’t get an answer when he called to deliver their meat. Mr Slater found Mr Peach in his bed with the covers pulled round him and said: “He looked as if he might have died in his sleep.” His wife was found next door with horrific injuries. She died the next day without regaining consciousness.

More than 100 police were called in in the early days of the investigation, which was led by Supt Wilfrid Tarr of Scotland Yard.

Police were baffled by the apparent lack of a motive. Mr Peach had been paid on the Friday and his empty wallet was found in the cottage, but nothing else had been taken and the property was not ransacked.

They interviewed all 100 men staying in the nearby Polebrook Workers’ Hostel, which was used by men working at Molesworth Aerodrome, and a few days later a Ukranian man was questioned for more than two hours. Porters and taxi drivers at King’s Cross station were also interviewed after reports two men boarded a train from Peterborough to London early on October 25. One of the men was said to have an injured hand and wrist covered with a bloodstained handkerchief.

The lines of inquiry drew a blank and on November 4 Supt Tarr issued an official statement that there had been “no further developments”. The story gradually disappeared from the front pages.

The case remains the oldest unsolved murder case in the county. A police spokesman said: “The Ashton murders case is officially classed as closed due to the time elapsed and the likelihood that the offender is dead. In the event of startling new evidence coming to light it would be reopened.”