England

Man kidnaps, rapes, bashes toddler against wall

May 15, 1948
Blackburn, Lancashire, England
3-year-old June Anne Devaney is kidnapped, raped, and beaten against a wall

June was recovering from pneumonia in the hospital when she was abducted. In the early morning hours, a nurse making her rounds noticed the child was missing. Her body was discovered by police a couple hours later. It was determined she had been raped before her attacker held her by her ankles and swung her into a wall, shattering her skull.

Detective Chief Inspector John Capstick said of finding June’s body, “I am not ashamed to say I saw it through a mist of tears. Years of detective service had hardened me to many terrible things, but this tiny pathetic body, in its nightdress soaked in blood and mud, was something no man could see unmoved, and it haunts me to this day … I swore, standing there in the rain, that I would bring her murderer to justice.”

A sock impression and a fingerprint at the scene began an extensive search. Police began by fingerprinting approximately 2,000 men with access to the hospital. When this effort proved fruitless, police widened their search to fingerprint the entire male population of Blackburn. Finally, on August 12, fingerprint set number 46,253 was found to be a positive match. His foot also matched the print left at the scene. Peter Griffiths was questioned and admitted to his crime, blaming it on alcohol. Griffiths was hanged November 19, 1948 and, keeping its promise to the people, the police destroyed the other 46,252 fingerprint sets collected during their investigation.

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