Canal 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 and body.

The case file officially remains open, but there now seems little likelihood that the mystery of Bertie Wilinson will ever be least publicly!

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 solicitor.

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 anyone.