UK coroner closes case on 130-year-old murder case

AP News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 5:13 PM
UK coroner closes case on 130-year-old murder case

A skull dug up in a back garden has solved a 130-year-old mystery surrounding the murder of a wealthy London widow.

Julia Thomas was murdered by her housekeeper in 1879, but her head was never found, and the case was dubbed the "Barnes mystery" by the Victorians for the area of London where the woman was killed.

In October _ more than a century after the murder _ excavators discovered a skull in nature documentary maker David Attenborough's back garden. He lives near where Thomas was slain.

Reviewing records of the murder and census records, and using radiocarbon testing, detectives connected the skull with the murder case. West London Coroner Alison Thompson ruled Tuesday that the skull belonged to Thomas.

She said that Thomas was unlawfully killed and that the cause of death was asphyxiation and head injury.

"This is a fascinating case and a good example of how good old-fashioned detective work, historical records and technological advances came together to solve the 'Barnes mystery,'" said Chief Superintendent Clive Chalk.