The tragic mystery of two infants' bodies discovered in Cleethorpes just weeks apart

-Credit: (Image: Grimsby Telegraph)
-Credit: (Image: Grimsby Telegraph)


Tragedy struck Cleethorpes when the bodies of two newborn babies wrapped in parcels were discovered in the resort just weeks apart - in what was known at the time as "the Cleethorpes mystery".

Two grim articles which were written in late September and early November in 1916 respectively, for the former Grimsby News newspaper, have emerged, which tell the shocking tales of the discoveries. The first was behind a toilet in an unoccupied house on Kingsway and the second on a train that had arrived from Hull.

The identity of the tragic infants have remained a mystery to this day, and it is unclear whether anybody was ever arrested or charged in relation to their deaths.

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In an article titled 'A Cleethorpes Mystery: Child's dead body discovered in an empty house', published in the Grimsby News on September 29, 1916, the reporter writes about the findings of an inquiry by the District County Coroner into the tragic discovery.

The article reads: "John Nesbitt, 33, Cressey Street, Cleethorpes, watercress hawker, deposed that on Saturday afternoon about 3.30 he discovered the body in the water closet of an empty house on the Kingsway, Cleethorpes. The house had been untenanted for at least a year. The body was wrapped in two newspapers and an inner wrapper that was apparently part of a sheet.

"There were two separate bands of string round the parcel. The body was well wrapped up and no portion was protruding from the covering. On opening the parcel witness found it contained the body of a child.

Kingsway, Cleethorpes in 1913, three years before the bodies were discovered -Credit:Grimsby Telegraph
Kingsway, Cleethorpes in 1913, three years before the bodies were discovered -Credit:Grimsby Telegraph

"He immediately gave information to the County Police Station at Cleethorpes. Witness had visited the closet on the previous Saturday and he was positive that the parcel was not there then. He knew nothing of the matter beyond finding the body. Police Sergeant Dawson (Cleethorpes) said the last witness called at the police station at six o'clock on Saturday evening and gave information about finding the body.

"Witness went to the house, and found the body lying on the floor. It was wrapped in a plain piece of paper, a copy of the Grimsby News, dated April 7th, 1916, and two pieces of cloth, the portions of a sheet and tablecloth, and it was doubled up. The house is unoccupied and two adjoining houses are also unoccupied.

"There was nothing to enable him to identify the body. Witness had made enquiries, but up to the present he had not been able to obtain any further information about the body or how it came to be where it was found."

The article states that a post-mortem examination conducted by a Dr W.H. Savory revealed that the body belonged to a male infant who had died "four or five months" previously of unknown causes.

It reads: "Dr W.H. Savory deposed to making a post-mortem examination of the body by order of the Coroner. It was the body of a male child. The lungs floated when placed in water, showing that the child, which was fully developed, had breathed and had a separate existence.

"In his opinion death had taken place four or five months previously, but could not say whether death was due to natural causes or not owing to the mummified condition of the remains. If there had been external or internal violence all traces would have disappeared owing to the lapse of time. The jury returned an open verdict, there being insufficient evidence to identify the body or to show the cause of death.

"The Coroner said it was probably one of those unfortunate cases in which a girl had had an illegitimate child, and she or her mother had concealed the body until compelled to remove it owing to the setting in of decomposition. It was evidently placed where it was found by stealth."

A second body was discovered on a train carriage just weeks later -Credit:Grimsby Bygones
A second body was discovered on a train carriage just weeks later -Credit:Grimsby Bygones

In another article written just over a month later, on November 3, 1916, a Grimsby News reporter writes about "another Cleethorpes mystery" in which the body of an infant was discovered on a train.

The article reads: "During the present week the Cleethorpes police have been investigating another unknown child mystery, the body of a female child being discovered in a railway carriage on Friday afternoon last. It will be recalled that only a few weeks ago the body of an unknown child was found at the rear of a house on the Kingsway.

"About 2.25 on Friday afternoon whilst a carriage cleaner named Thomas Taylor, Garibaldi Street, Grimsby, was examining the carriages of a train from Hull, he found a paper parcel under the seat of a third-class compartment. Thinking it was a lost parcel he took it to the booking office. Here the parcel was opened at one end by the chief booking clerk, George William Eyre, who saw the feet of a child. He then sent the parcel to the police station.

"The body of the child had been carefully wrapped up in a piece of white twill sheeting, then in a piece of coloured material like a bed valance. An old newspaper and a grey paper formed the outside coverings, the parcel being tied with string. There was absolutely no mark of identification anywhere."

In a subsequent inquiry by Richard Mason, the County Coroner, it was revealed that the body was that of a newborn infant that had passed away about a month previously. Although there were no marks of violence, it was "evident" that the child had had "no attention" from birth, and had only lived for a few hours.

Do you know of any other interesting historic tales or mysteries which took place in Grimsby or Cleethorpes? Email lauren.davidson@reachplc.com if so.