Our favourite Borough Archivist, historian and author is back with another tale of murder most foul, and a suggestion as to whodunnit. Vera Page was killed 80 years ago this month.
Jonathan Oates is Borough Archivist for Ealing, an accredited historian, and a true crime author.
AB: Hello and welcome back. My Editor says he's going to start charging you rent. What have you been doing since we last spoke?
JO: Since we last spoke I have been putting together the final stages of a book I am co-writing - Ealing Through the Ages, to be published next year.
AB: Before we get to the main issue, how are sales of your textbook going?
JO: Don't yet know how the Jacobite campaign book is going; too early to tell; anyway, publishers usually give an author an account of sales annually.
AB: Do you have anything else in the pipeline for a more specialised audience?
JO: A university press has the book about the last battle on English soil; they should have published this year but have not done so, so I must chase them up on this.
AB: You told me earlier that you have covered the case of Vera Page in one of your books. Which one?
JO: The Vera Page case is discussed in a lengthy chapter in Unsolved London Murders: The 1920s and 1930s (Pen and Sword Books, 2009).
AB: You say also you have discovered some new information about it, does that mean you have turned sleuth, or is this something you stumbled across in the archive?
JO: The new information uncovered since includes some more information about the victim and her family, but also a newspaper report about the chief suspect's earlier crime committed in Ealing (he exposed himself in front of children) and also comments by his wife about her husband - defending him because of his illness due to war injuries. Also about the chief suspect's second marriage, moving away from the area much later, his new job and his death. Ultimately, this does not help prove the case one way or another.
AB: Where did you research this case, Kew?
JO: Most of the information was from the police file at Kew, but the local newspapers and electoral registers at Kensington Library helped, as did newspapers on-line, parish registers and school records at the London Metropolitan Archives.
AB: There are some murder cases, solved and unsolved, that remain in the public perception, the Black Dahlia, Hanratty, etc, but it would be fair to say most people have never heard of Vera Page. Why is that?
JO: It was very well known at the time, and national newspapers paid much attention to it - after all, a ten year old girl had been raped and murdered - but it has not been taken up by the TV/film industry since as has Jack the Ripper, Black Dahlia, etc.
AB: So whodunnit and why?
JO: My suspicion is that Percy Orlando Rush, top suspect at the time, was guilty. He knew the girl and her family, lived nearby, had a history of sex offences against children, and had no alibi for the time of the murder. Some of the clues found near the body pointed to him, but primitive forensics could not be conclusive. Yet he was never seen with the girl at the time of the crime, so nothing could be proved. As to why he had a delight in young children I don't know. Possibly his experiences in the war, when he was a private in the infantry, might have damaged his mind, but ultimately we'll never know as he was not examined by a psychiatrist and even then that may not have helped unravel the mystery of a sick mind.
AB: We know what you're doing in 2013, but what about next year?
JO: I have been told by my publisher that the book scheduled for 2013 is to appear a year earlier; this is John Christie: Serial Killer of Rillington Place, but this should not be a problem because the research is completed and the writing just needs a final read through. Next year expect also to see Buckinghamshire Murders, Researching ancestors, 1066-1837, plus the two mentioned above.
[The significance of the first of those dates will be obvious to most native English speakers; it was the date of the Norman Invasion under William the Conqueror. The second date, 1837, saw the beginning of civil registration - births, deaths and marriages. Before that date, family research for ordinary people can be very difficult if not impossible unless there is some sort of criminal conviction or military connection].
A photograph of Vera Page and a short on-line memorial can be found here.
The photographs below are recent, and were taken by Dr Oates.