March 18, 1947
Harold Hagger, alias Sidney Sinclair, is executed for the murder of Dagmar Petrzywalski (48)
On October 31, 1946, a lorry driver spotted a blue shoe about 12 feet (3.6 meters) from a rural Kent roadside. He hoped to find the shoe’s mate to present the matching set to his wife as new shoes were a luxury in post-War England. As the driver approached, he found the body of Petrzywalski in the hedges. Her autopsy revealed she had been killed by strangulation and a fractured neck.
Dagmar Petrzywalski, who also went by Dagmar Peters, had been in the habit of walking or accepting rides to save money by foregoing a vehicle and the expenses that accompanied them, with a preference of taking rides from lorry drivers as she believed them to be more trustworthy. She had left her home in Kent to visit her brother in Woking and it was suspected she had accepted a ride during her travels.
Investigators learned Petrzywalski had been carrying a yellow string bag when she left to visit her brother, but it had not been found with her body. The bag had been knitted by her sister-in-law and, as such, was unique and distinctive. The sister-in-law was asked to make a second bag which was then photographed and circulated in newspapers. A 15-year-old soon recognized it and reported he had found the bag in a stream near a cider works which, coincidentally, had received a shipment of bricks delivered by a lorry on the morning of Petrzywalski’s murder.
The driver of the lorry was revealed to be Sidney Sinclair (45), who was asked if he had seen Petrzywalski on the morning of her murder. He stated he had not. Because Sinclair had appeared innocent during his interview and the alibi he presented seemed truthful, he was released. However, Scotland Yard investigator Robert Fabian soon learned Sinclair was an alias for Harold Hagger — a bigamist and army deserter with ties to the black market.
Sinclair was confronted about his alias and soon changed his initial story to affirm he had indeed given Petrzywalski a ride. He claimed during this story, however, that she had attempted to steal his wallet. Sinclair struck Petrzywalski in the face in retaliation. When she started to scream, Sinclair grabbed the man’s vest she wore around her neck as a scarf. Sinclair often experienced blackouts — a total of 12 in 4 years accompanied by “terrific” headaches and “giddiness” — resulting from an injury sustained while jumping from a train as he eluded police. In his revised story Sinclare stated he had blacked out during the altercation with Petrzywalski. “When I got hold of the vest, I could feel myself starting one of my turns again and when I recovered I found myself still holding on to the vest.” Sinclair dumped Petrzywalski’s body in the hedge where she was later found after he determined she was dead.
Sinclair’s trial lasted two days and the jury took 30 minutes to decide his fate. He was convicted of murder on February 28, 1947 and sentenced to death. His execution was carried out less than 3 weeks later on March 18.
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