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Tom Lionel BURNS





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Physchotic - Cannibalism - Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 11, 1958
Date of birth: 1887
Victims profile: Sheila Barnes and Lavinia Murray, both 5
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Strangulation
LocationBarrow, Cumbria, England, United Kingdom
Status: The jury found him to be insane and unfit for trial and was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure on October 21, 1958

Retired driver, 71-year-old, Tom Burns was playing his piano one day when two young girls wandered into his house. The girls were Sheila Barnes and Lavinia Murray, both aged five and it was thought they had been curious about the music.

For no apparent reason he had savagely killed and sexually assaulted the two young girls. Burns had cut the throat of one of the girls. He then tied up the other and mutilated her before strangling the child.

Both bodies had been sexually assaulted and then mutilated. He then drained the blood from the bodies before cutting certain parts from them. These parts were then cooked and eaten.

Medical evidence showed that Barnes was completely mad and had been physchotic for many years. At his trial at Lancaster Assizes, on 21 October 1958, he was found unfit to plead and was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure.


Double murder house for sale

Thursday, 07 June 2007

A houes where two five-year-old girls were murdered is on sale for less than £60,000.

The two-bedroom mid-terrace at 32 York Street, Barrow, was the scene of the horrific double murder of the little girls in June, 1958.

Seventy-year-old chauffeur Tom Lionel Burns was accused of the murders but was later deemed insane and unfit for trial. Now, Cumbrian Properties is marketing the house as a “traditional style terraced property in need of full modernisation” with a price of £59,950.

A similar York Street property was sold for £74,350 in February.

One potential buyer, who does not want to be named, said he pulled out of putting an offer forward after a neighbour told him about its history.

He said: “Who would want to live there knowing the story of it? It’s like Fred West’s house, though that got knocked down.”

But current owner Joanna Hartley said the house’s history should not have an impact on the sale.

She said she thought the murders took place at another York Street house before she bought it two years ago.

She said: “Quite honestly, we were told that it was not this property. Even if it was, it’s the living people I worry about — it’s not the dead ones.”

Cumbrian Properties declined to comment on the house’s history but a spokeswoman said the estate agent had no knowledge of the murders.

But another former neighbour, living in York Street at the time, told the Evening Mail: “It’s that long ago, I don’t think people remember it. I was shocked as I knew the two young lasses.

“Tommy Burns was a southerner — he had a hunchback. He used to play the piano quite a lot. I’m sure I can recall that night, I could hear someone on the piano. I knew the police were very upset.”

When Burns was arrested, residents threw bricks through his windows and more than 100 turned up for one court hearing. The details were deemed so graphic many left the public gallery before it began.

The bodies of the two girls were found naked in one of the bedrooms of the York Street property on June 13, 1958, after they had been missing for two days.

Post-mortem examinations showed they died after being attacked with a knife. At the time, a police officer claimed Burns said: “Sex made me do them in.”

Burns failed to enter a plea when he went on trial for the two murders at Lancaster Assizes in October 1958.

The jury found him to be insane and unfit for trial.


Tom Lionel Burns



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