Criminal Historian

Working with dead people

Did this murder case really change the law?

There was an interesting article on the BBC website today, looking back at the murder of a 10-year-old girl, Mona Tinsley, from Newark, in 1937.

It’s always interesting to read about old cases, and how they were investigated; but here, something more is being alleged. The headline of the piece states that it was a ‘murder that changed the law’, and includes a long quote from a legal historian, Benjamin Darlow, about the principle of ‘no body, no murder’ in English law.

Darlow states that after a man who had thought to have been murdered in 1660 turned up two years later, there would be no murder conviction based on a case where no body had been located for the following 294 years – i.e. until 1956.

The implication, though, is that Mona Tinsley’s case was the one that changed this situation, suggesting that a murder conviction was obtained in her case, despite her body not being found.

Yet that is not the case, as the article later states. The former Tinsley family lodger – who, it is suggested, was having an affair with Mona’s aunt – was charged and tried prior to Mona’s body being found… but only with abduction.

Although he was suspected of killing her, without a body, he could not be tried with murder, and so was convicted of abduction alone. It was only when Mona’s body was found, six months after her disappearance, that he could then be charged with her murder.

But this isn’t what the article seems to be trying to argue. There may have been public calls for the law to be changed given the suspicion attached to one individual; but nowhere in the article does it state that this was the case, or that it was the murder of Mona Tinsley that led to the law being changed some 20 years later.

Legal history and criminal history are fascinating areas for research and many are interested in reading about historic cases – but it would be useful to have a clearer exposition of what this case was – and indeed, wasn’t – about. I was left confused by what the article was purporting to say, and I don’t think I will be the only one.

 

2 Comments

  1. I’m guessing there’s confusion between law, principle and convention… may have been convention not to charge murder without a body (a body being the best evidence at least until modern forensic science developed).

  2. According to this article there was another no body murder case in the 1930s, and perhaps an exhaustive search of records might uncover even earlier examples: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article2208714.ece

Comments are closed.

© 2017 Criminal Historian

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑