On the 14th of December, 1931, 10-year-old Vera Page left her home in Notting Hill, London, to pick up two school swimming certificates that she had left behind in her aunt’s home, around 50 yards from her own home. She arrived safe and well to her aunt’s house before picking up the documents and leaving to walk back home at around 4:45PM. However, Vera never made it home. That evening, her parents called the police to report their daughter missing.
A broadcast S.O.S. was sent out across the city and a number of people called in to report that they had seen a short man with dark hair, who was wearing a black overcoat, handing out candy or sweets to local kids in Notting Hill. Vera’s mother was so overcome with grief over her missing daughter that she was “taken seriously ill.”
An investigation into the disappearance revealed that at some point after leaving her aunt’s home, Vera chatted with a school friend outside a chemist at around 5:40PM.1 According to the witness, Vera was carrying a white envelope under hear arm and she overheard her telling her friend that she had to hurry home.” This was the last reported sighting of Vera.2
Two days later, a milkman found Vera’s body in shrubbery beside a house on Addison Road, approximately a mile from her home. No attempt had been made to conceal her body indicating that the killer had wanted her to be found.
An autopsy concluded that Vera had been raped and manually strangled shortly after she was last seen outside the chemist. However, it was determined that she hadn’t been laying in the shrubbery for long: there had been a downpour the previous day yet Vera’s clothing was dry, particularly where her body was touching the ground. Moreover, numerous people had walked by the shrubbery beforehand yet saw no body. Vera’s neck also had a mark which had been caused by a string or something similar.
Investigators announced that they believed that Vera had been murdered near where her body was found, possibly in an outhouse or a shed. When Vera’s body was moved, a finger bandage with ammonia was found tucked in her elbow. It was theorized that this belonged to the killer and had come loose when he moved Vera to the spot she was found.
Spots of candle wax and dust were found on her clothing as well. An examination of the wax concluded it was different than any candles in Vera’s home and an examination of the bandage revealed particles of coal dust. This led investigators to believe the killer had kept Vera’s body in a coal shed with no electric light before transporting her to where she was found.
Vera was known to be a particularly shy little girl and her parents were adamant she wouldn’t have gone anywhere with a stranger. The investigation turned towards those who knew Vera and her family. A man named Percy Rush was subsequently arrested. Percy worked at Whiteley’s Laundry and often handled ammonia. Moreover, when he was arrested, he was wearing a bandage on a finger. Rush also knew Vera; he often ran into her family while visiting his mother who lived nearby. A search of his home uncovered candles which matched the wax on Vera’s clothing.
Rush denied any involvement in the murder but shortly after his arrest, a woman came forward and claimed she had seen him wheeling a wheelbarrow covered with a red tablecloth towards Addison Road. However, when she was asked to pick him out of a line-up, she was unable to. In his pocket, investigators found a pyjama string which could have caused the marks on her neck. In his home, investigators found finger bandages but the material did not match that found at the scene. However, when police placed the finger bandage at the scene over Rush’s finger, it fit perfectly.
All evidence pointing towards Percy Rush was purely circumstantial. An inquest concluded that there were numerous red tablecloths in London and many candles of the same texture.3 Moreover, microscopical tests concluded that Rush’s bandage was different than the bandage found at the crime scene. He was never charged with her murder or sent to trial and the murder of Vera Page remains unsolved.
- The Calgary Sun, 22 February, 2004 – “You Be The Jury”
- The Guardian, 18 December, 1931 – “Strangled London Schoolgirl”
- St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 21 February, 1932 – “Unusual Mystery Story Reversed”