Murder remains a mystery - 35 years on
In October 1967,
the body of a Mid-Cheshire solicitor was discovered in a shallow
grave by the side of the Trent & Mersey Canal, but to this day,
thirty-five years later, his murder remains a mystery.
In fact, it is, astonishingly, one of at least sixteen unsolved
murders that have occurred in Cheshire since the Second World War
The solicitor was 54-year-old Herbert Wilkinson, a lonely batchelor,
allegedly with homosexual tendencies, who, seven months earlier,
had been struck off by the Law Society because of problems with
his practice in Middlewich. He was reported as being sick in mind
The case file officially remains open, but there now seems little
likelihood that the mystery of Bertie Wilinson will ever be resolved...at
On Thursday June 2nd, 1967, Wilkinson scribbled a note for his housekeeper
and then vanished. He was never seen alive again.
Two young men searching for fox earths came across the grave, alongside
the canal at Whatcroft, and though identification proved difficult,
the police had no doubt that it was that of the missing Middlewich
What followed was a massive murder hunt, involving more than sixty
detectives, led by Chief Supt. Arthur Benfield, the man famous for
heading the successful search for the Moors Murderers.
For over six months detectives chased down scores of leads, took
eight-hundred written statements and questioned eight-thousand people
in the Middlewich area and nine-thousand across the country who
might have used the canal in the June of 1967.
It was, at the time, one of the biggest investigations in Britain.
Detectives were convinced that because of the remoteness of the
spot where the grave was found, near Whatcroft Hall, that Wilkinson’s
body must have been taken there by boat.
At the inquest, in Northwich in March 1968, the jury returned a
verdict of murder by person or persons unknown. Wilkinson, it seemed,
had either been killed with a blow to the head, or he had been strangled.
Identification had only been possible from pieces of clothing and
a pair of brogue shoes found near his body.
In the final analysis, the police may have known Wilkinson’s
killer, but they simply could not amass sufficient evidence to charge
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