March 3, 1961
Edwin Bush (21, pictured) stabs Elsie May Batten (59) to death in her curiosities shop
Batten had been struck in the head with a stone jar and was stabbed several times with daggers she had for sell in her shop, one of which was left in her chest and another in her neck. The motive behind the attack was unclear, as sexual assault was immediately ruled out and the only item missing was an ornamental dress sword worth £15.
Witnesses were rounded up and questioned if they had seen anyone suspicious in the days leading to the murder. It was soon learned that the day before the murder, at least two people witnessed a man window shopping at Batten’s store, paying particular attention to the stolen sword. The witnesses provided composites (pictured) of the man they saw using an Identikit, a set of hundreds of transparencies of various facial elements which were layered to produce an approximation of a person. The kit was developed in Los Angeles and Batten’s case was the first in Britain to use the tool.
A police constable noticed Bush and his 18-year-old girlfriend window shopping and recognized him from the composites. Bush was questioned and initially denied guilt, though he changed his story after he was confronted with his palm print on a dagger and his fingerprints on the stolen sword, which had been retrieved from a store after Bush sold it to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. In Bush’s new story, he claimed he had intended to steal the sword to sell, though he became angry at Batten when she made disparaging remarks about the color of his skin (Bush’s mother was from England while his father was from Pakistan), and called him a racial slur.
Bush was convicted of murder, which would have given him a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and he would have been released after serving 25 years. However, as “he was charged with murder in the course or furtherance of a theft” due to his decision to steal the £15 sword, he was sentenced to death. He was executed four months after the murder, on July 6, 1961.
Skoulding, Lucy. “The chilling story of the brutal killing at a London curiosity shop.” My London. October 8, 2019. Accessed: March 3, 2020. https://www.mylondon.news/news/nostalgia/chilling-story-brutal-killing-london-17043146.amp
Nash, Jay Robert. Crime Chronology: A Worldwide Record, 1900-1983. 1984
“Death for “Antique Murder”.” The Sun-Herald [Sydney, New South Wales]. May 14, 1961
“Murder in curio shop: death sentence passed.” The Guardian [London, England]. May 13, 1961