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Harold JONES





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (15) - Rape
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: February 5/July 8, 1921
Date of birth: 1906
Victims profile: Freda Burnell, 8 / Florence Little, 11
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to be "detained during his Majesty's pleasure" on 1921. Released on December 6, 1941. Died 1971

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In February 1921, eight-year-old Freda Burnell was abducted from her home at Abertillery, Wales, found raped and strangled next morning, in the outhouse behind a local shop. 

Suspicion focused on 15-year-old Harold Jones, an employee at the shop, and he was finally charged with the murder, acquitted by jurors on June 23 after a long and controversial trial. Many locals still believed Jones was guilty, and their suspicions were born out in early July.

On July 8, 11-year-old Florence Little disappeared from her home, and searchers launched a house-to-house sweep through Abertillery two days later, when no trace of the girl could be found in the surrounding mountains. At the Jones residence, officers found a trapdoor leading from Harold's bedroom into the attic, and there they discovered his latest victim, her throat slashed from ear to ear. 

A measure of confusion was added to the case on July 14, with the arrival of a semi-literate note, allegedly penned by the killer. Signing himself "Duffy," the author described himself as a 46-year-old Irishman active in the militant Sinn Fein movement. "I think it very right," he wrote, "to kill all I can of England lad and girls." Dismissing the letter as a hoax, authorities indicted Harold Jones for murder on July 22. 

In November, based upon Jones's confession to both murders, a magistrate imposed the maximum possible sentence for killers under sixteen, ordering that Jones be "detained during his Majesty's pleasure."

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers


The Horror of 1921 - The Harold Jones Murders

For much of 1921, Abertillery was gripped in horror by the murders of two young girls in the town. Had they occurred in the present day, then undoubtedly the story would have attracted the kind of media frenzy associated with the Soham murders. Indeed, the extremely sad episode is perhaps made worse by the fact that the killer was a 15-year old boy who was acquitted in a sensational trial after the first murder only to commit another within days.

By 1921, Abertillery was the second biggest town in Monmouthshire, second only to Newport. Nearly 40,000 inhabitants were packed into its narrow streets, attracted by work in the thriving coal mines in the area. As in most south Wales valley towns, the dangers of working underground forged a strong sense of community. That community spirit was rocked in 1921 as the town reeled from the realisation that one of its own youngsters was responsible for two heinous crimes and that perhaps some of the townspeople themselves had unwittingly played a part in allowing the second to occur.

On the morning of Saturday February 5th, eight-year old Freda Burnell of Earl Street went on an errand for her father to buy poultry grit and spice at Mortimer's Corn Stores in Somerset Street (just across the road from where the Police Station is situated today). Young Freda was sadly never to return home. Worried by the length of her absence, her father Fred went to the shop to see if she had visited. The young assistant, 15-year old Harold Jones confirmed that the youngster had indeed visited the store as its first customer around five past nine and left about ten minutes later.

Fred became increasingly vexed and after six hours of searching and scouring the streets for Freda, he alerted the police. Local officers started speaking to locals to see if they could shed light on Freda's whereabouts and questioned Harold Jones to see if he could give any clues, but to no avail. Meanwhile, as the winter light faded, scores of local people were out helping to search the streets and adjoining mountainsides for the girl. By midnight, hampered by tiredness and cold weather conditions, the search was called off and resumed at first light next morning.

At about 7.30 that next morning, a collier found what first appeared to be a collection of rags on the ground in the lane running behind Duke Street. Instead, he realised as he approached that it was the body of a girl. It was clear that young Freda had been subjected to a vicious, brutal attack. Subsequent examinations by police and doctors revealed that she had died sometime in the morning of the previous day.

Scotland Yard officers were dispatched from London to assist local police. By the following Thursday, Harold Jones had been arrested and charged with murder. A witness claimed to have heard screams coming from a shed used by Mortimer's Corn Stores for which Jones had the only key. More damningly, a handkerchief used by Freda was found there together with an axe which it was claimed may have been used in the attack.

Jones refuted all the claims and denied murder. Despite the weight of circumstantial evidence against him, he was acquitted at his trial on June 21st 1921 at Monmouth Assizes and remarkably he made a victorious homecoming to the streets of Abertillery where many locals themselves joined in the celebrations, unwilling it seems to believe that one of their own was responsible for such a barbaric crime.

Just seventeen days later, the acquittal of Jones was to have dreadful consequences. Late on the evening of Friday July 8th, he somehow lured 11-year old Florrie Little, who lived just three doors down, into his home. Jones attacked the girl with almost unimaginable brutality and concealed her body in the attic. This time though escape from justice was impossible. With the body in the attic and his parents having returned home, he was effectively trapped. Still, he held his nerve as he himself assisted police in the search for the girl on the streets. However, the police started to conduct house to house searches and when Jones's father Phillip invited them into his home, the game was up. Jones himself left the house as the searches progressed but when young Florrie's body was discovered, his father went after him and apprehended him in the streets of Abertillery

There was now pandemonium in the town as the news spread. Jones was sent for trial, again at Monmouth, and this time he confessed. Remarkably he also gave a second statement, although not read in court, in which he also admitted the murder of Freda Burnell.

Jones was still under 16 by a mere two months and so escaped the hangman's noose by virtue only of his age. He gave the reasons for the murders as a 'desire to kill'. His incarceration removed him from the streets of Abertillery though it is claimed by some that he was to return on several occasions in later years.


Author names new killer in Drinkwater case

Wales on Sunday

November 25, 2007

A MURDER that has baffled Welsh detectives for more than 60 years may be on the verge of being solved.

And a Welsh author believes he knows the identity of the man who brutally slayed schoolgirl Muriel Drinkwater way back in 1946.

While cold case detectives continue to trace the man who raped, shot and dumped the 12-year-old in woodland outside Swansea, Neil Milkins is convinced the same killer was behind two cold-blooded, Valleys child sex murders some 25 years before.

He says the killings have striking similarities and that Harold Jones, the man responsible for killing two young girls in Abertillery in the early 1920s, was out of prison by the time Muriel met her brutal end.

“People around here have always told tales about Harold Jones and the terrible things he did, so I decided to find out the truth,” said the Abertillery dad-of-five, whose book Every Mother’s Nightmare reveals how the 15-year-old shop worker took the lives of a pair of young local girls in 1921.

“Freda Burnell was only eight when her dad sent her on an short errand to the local birdseed shop where Jones worked,” added Mr Milkins, 55. “It was just a few minutes away but she never made it home.”

Instead, Jones tricked her to a nearby storage shed where he sexually assaulted and murdered her, before dumping the body in a lonely village lane.

The discovery of her handkerchief at the shed saw suspicion fall on Jones, who was arrested and stood trial for the crime. But he was found not guilty due to a lack of hard evidence and returned to Abertillery to a hero’s welcome.

“There was bunting, flags and brass bands and he was reportedly carried shoulder high through the town,” said Mr Milkins.

“One of the first men to greet him back into his street was neighbour George Little who told him, ‘Well done son, we knew you didn’t do it’.”

Fifteen days later, Jones murdered Little’s 11-year-old daughter Florence, too, hiding her body in the attic of his parents’ home.

“Jones had cut her throat and bled her dry over the kitchen sink,” said Mr Milkins. “When the police found her the coroner said there was barely two teaspoons of blood left in her body.

“One newspaper report at the time described Jones as being able to ‘banish what to others would be of the greatest concern like flicking dust from a sleeve’,” he added.

“When Florence’s mother called at his house to ask if he’d seen her, he’d only just finished hiding the body, yet he still had the gall to calmly ask her how her little boy, who had been unwell, was doing.

“Jones even went out to help with the search, much like he’d done when Freda disappeared – a lot like the way Ian Huntley behaved after the Soham murders in some respects.”

Jones was eventually arrested once again, this time pleading guilty to the charge of murder at a court in Monmouth in November 1921.

Two months too young to face the gallows, he was sent to Usk Prison where he sensationally confessed to the first killing, telling the chaplain there that the voices in his head made him do it.

“He even bragged to the papers about how he’d outfoxed the police,” said Mr Milkins. “‘I had only read of Scotland Yard men before’, he’ said. ‘Now I’d seen them in the flesh and beat them’. “He added: ‘I watched Freda’s funeral. I played billiards, ate and slept as usual’.”

As to why he killed for a second time, Jones said: “Quickly as the lightning flashes, the demon had me in his power again. Again there was that blinding light and that dash of fire across my eyes and brain. Once more came the command to ‘Kill!’ – and I did.”

Jones was finally released from jail in Wandsworth, London, in December 1941 after his fourth five-yearly parole review, at which point he vanished.

“The electoral register was suspended at that time because of the war so I don’t know where he was or what he was up to,” said Mr Milkins. “A psychiatric report suggests a stint serving his country in the army might do him good but a detective at New Scotland Yard who’s helped in my investigations said he could find no record of any military involvement.”

Chillingly, Jones was said to have often returned home to the scene of his crimes.

“He’d visit his parents in Rhiw Parc Road and the sound of him playing the organ in their front room would haunt the terraced streets, all of which would be empty as mothers kept their children safe indoors until he’d gone away again.”

But it was while researching the book that Mr Milkins received a visit from a cousin of Florence Little, who first mentioned the similarities with the Drinkwater case.

“He’d seen a documentary about Muriel and it had really set his alarm bells ringing,” said Mr Milkins.

“I’d never pieced the two together before, but the killer’s methods were the same and, like I said, we don’t know where Jones was at this point.

“Plus, police say the gun that shot her had been modified, the wooden grips taken off and replaced with some sort of fibreglass which Jones, who later worked as an engineer, would have known how to do.”

Jones died from cancer in 1971 and lies buried in Hammersmith cemetery in West London.

In 1999, the Drinkwater case was reactivated by the Major Crime Review Unit, set up by South Wales Police that same year to detect cold cases.

Analysis of the gun turned up nothing of use, but using up-to-date forensic methods on the child’s dress, forensic officers were able to extract a partial DNA profile. It was an scientific first as it came from the world’s oldest crime scene stain.

And even though the profile did not match anyone currently on the national DNA register, the forensic team aren’t giving up.

Their next step will be to try to match their findings, not to the killer himself, but to a relative, and to trace him that way.

“If the Drinkwater case is solved after all these years as a result of this, I’ll be thrilled,” said Mr Milkins, who has spent more than a decade researching the crimes.

“Not least because it’ll bring closure to her family, but also because my poor wife Sharon has had to endure Harold Jones in our lives for so long, certainly a lot longer than his own mother ever had to.”

A spokesperson for Forensic Science Services said as the investigation into the Muriel Drinkwater murder was ongoing they were unable to comment on live cases.



MO: Rape-slayer of girls age eight and 11

DISPOSITION: Indeterminate prison sentence, 1921.



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