In 1935 Nodder moved to fresh lodgings
with Mrs Tinsley at 11 Thoresby Avenue, Newark. Although he was an ugly,
brutish drunk who had difficulty holding a job because of his habits, he
was popular with the Tinsley's children who knew him as 'Uncle Fred'. He
didn't stay there long though, calling himself Hudson, he soon moved to
a house named 'Peacehaven' near to Hayton, Retford.
On Tuesday 5th January 1937, 10-year-old Mona Tinsley
left her school in Guildhall Street, Newark. She was next seen at the
bus station with Nodder and at Retford in Nodder's company, then she
vanished. According to Nodder's statement the child had asked him to
take her to Sheffield to visit her aunt and baby cousin. As it was late
on a winter's afternoon he had got the child to spend the night at 'Peacehaven'.
Again according to his story, he had, the next day,
taken her from Retford to Worksop on the bus, given her two shillings
for her fare and put the child on another bus, bound for Sheffield. This
account was in his second statement to police. In the first he had
denied seeing the child. The police conducted an exhaustive search. The
took 'Peacehaven' to bits, they dragged the Chesterfield Canal and the
River Idle and the searched the countryside around for miles but there
was no sign of the child.
Nodder was charged with abduction and appeared at
Birmingham Assizes on 9th March 1937. The next day he was found guilty
and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. On Sunday 6th June 1937
Mona's body was found floating in the River Idle near to Bawtry. She had
In November Nodder appeared at Nottingham Assizes,
this time charged with the child's murder. He was found guilty and
sentenced to death. He was hanged at Lincoln Prison on 30th December
The Execution of Frederick Nodder -
Frederick Nodder's case is a rarity in
British legal history because he was convicted on separate charges, at
two trials, in different towns of the SAME OFFENCE.
By all accounts, Frederick Nodder was a totally
reprehensible person. He was separated from his wife and there was a
bastardy warrant out for his arrest (under the warrant, the police were
ordered to find the man named by the mother and bring him before the
local magistrates to organise recognizance). In addition he had a
reputation for dishonesty and drunkenness that meant he was rarely in
employment for any meaningful period. But this pales besides the
observation made in R. Stockman's book "The Hangman's Diary - A Calendar
of Judicial Hangings" who notes that
"He was a filthy and repulsive creature ... his
lack of personal hygiene and foul living habits caused him to be
ordered out of a succession of lodgings"
Brian Lane in his book " The Murder Guide" refers to
Nodder as a " brutish, squalid drunk"
When I was preparing this article I
had great difficulty in ascertaining where Frederick Nodder, originated
from, and details of his background. This is rather puzzling given the
nature of forthcoming events, but after reading contemporary newspaper
reports, and the very few articles that refer to Nodder, it appears I am
not alone. Very little in known of Frederick Nodder prior to 1934.
But what I do know is that in 1934 he was lodging at
9 Neill Road, Sheffield which is in the Hunters Bar district of the city.
He was ostensibly a car mechanic by trade but his dissolute and drunken
manner meant that his employment was spasmodic to say the least. It was
around this time that he began using the alias of Frederick Hudson, no
doubt on account of the warrant that was still in force for his arrest.
The owners of the property a Mr. and Mrs. Grimes knew of the deception
but took no action to inform the authorities'. Nodder stayed with the
Grimes' until the summer of 1935. He then left Sheffield and made his
way to the house of Mrs Grimes' sister LILIAN, who lived in Newark,
Nottinghamshire. He had a letter of introduction from his previous
landlord when he arrived at the property at 11 Thorseby Avenue in the
town. The sister was married to a coal carter named WILFRED TINSLEY. The
seven children of the couple for some bizarre reason liked the man and
called him "Uncle Fred". However, "Uncle" left the house after three
weeks without paying any rent. Nodder spent the next year in East
Retford before moving in June 1936 to "Peacehaven", a small semi-detached
house in the village of Hayton near Retford. His habits were still as
repulsive as ever and he was shunned by the local villagers.
At 4.00 p.m on Tuesday 5th January
1937, MONA TINSLEY, the ten year old daughter of his former landlord
left her class at Wesleyan School in Guildhall Street Newark. For Mona
it was the second day of the Spring Term. The previous term, her teacher
Miss Daisy Hawley had described Mona as being a bright and intelligent
child who was was doing well at school. Mona had already been home for
her dinner that day but returned to the school for afternoon lessons.
The walk home to Thorseby Avenue took about twenty minutes and so Mona
was expected home at around half past four. When she did not arrive home
her parents were not unduly worried - the couple had relatives in the
area and thought that Mona may have visited one of them on the way home.
However as time passed and Mona still hadn't appeared they became
increasingly worried and at seven o'clock began visiting their friends
and acquaintances. No-one had seen her and so at nine o'clock that
evening Mona's parents contacted the police and a search was immediately
initiated. The search went on throughout the night and next morning the
police contacted all schools in the area informing them of Mona's
disappearance and asking all staff and pupils to report any information
they may have, however remote, to them.
It was an eleven year old schoolboy that gave the
police their first lead. Although he did not attend the same school as
Mona, William Henry Plackett lived next door to the Tinsleys at 13
Thorsesby Avenue, Newark. He told police that he had seen Mona near the
Newark Bus Depot with a man. The description he gave of the man was
vague though. Further enquiries were made in the area of the bus station.
At the same time, a woman contacted the police and offered some more
vital information. Mrs Annie Hird who lived at 15 Thorseby Avenue knew
the Tinsley family well. Her daughter went to the same school as Mona.
Between 3.45 and 4.00 p.m. the previous afternoon she was on her way to
collect her daughter from the school when she noticed a man standing in
the doorway opposite the school entrance. She recognised the man as the
Tinsley's former lodger whom she knew quite well. She did not however
speak to the man.
Given this information, the police went to interview
Mona's parents WILFRED and LILIAN TINSLEY again. When asked about the
lodger they seemed evasive and reticent. When pressed as to whether or
not the couple ever had a lodger, Mrs. Tinsley exclaimed "Oh, it
couldn't possibly be him." Eventually , Mrs Tinsley admitted that about
fifteen months earlier, a friend of her sisters had stayed with them for
a few weeks but left after being unable to pay the rent. She reluctantly
gave the police the name and address of her sister Mrs Edith Grimes of 9
Neil Road, Sheffield.
When police arrived to question the Grimes, they
stated that neither of them had seen this man who went by the name of
Frederick Noddder for some time and that they had no idea of his present
address. This was to prove a blatant lie. Subsequent enquiries revealed
that Mrs. Grimes used to visit him regularly every week at his home, and
had in fact telephoned him the previous day.
Meanwhile the investigations at the bus depot in
Newark had revealed some more useful information. Charles Edward Neville
had been the driver of the 4.45 p.m. bus from Newark to Retford the
previous day. He pointed out that he had noticed a little girl with a
brown coat but with no hat board his bus at the stop just past the
Wesleyan School in Guildhall Street. She was accompanied by a middle
aged man who bought a return ticket for himself and a single ticket for
the girl. They got off the bus in Grove Street, Retford.
Police returned to the Grimes house in Neil Road
Sheffield later that day but Mrs Grimes still proved uncooperative and
unhelpful. Her husband however wilted under police questioning and
admitted that Nodder had called at the house just after Xmas but denied
any knowledge of his current whereabouts. A neighbour of the Grimes's
however was more forthcoming. He stated that on December 27th the
previous year a lorry was parked outside the Grimes's house and it had
on its livery, the word "Retford". Mrs. Grimes denied any knowledge of
this lorry and it's whereabouts.
The neighbours lead though led to the questioning of
all haulage contractors and garage owners in Retford and it was soon
established that a man called Nodder lived "Peacehaven", Sneath Road,
Hayton near Retford. Police made discreet preliminary enquiries in the
neigbouring properties - they were only three in the road at that time).
A daily maid Miss Doreen Jessie Jarman worked at a neighbouring house.
She recalled that earlier that day she had noticed a little girl wearing
a blue jumper and skirt standing at the back door of Nodder's house. She
looked about eight or nine years old. Nodder was working in the back
garden at the time of the sighting. This was to prove important. Miss
Jarman worked mornings only from 8.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m. She was just
about to leave for the day when she saw the girl which made the time of
the sighting 12.00 a.m.
Police visited the house later that evening but found
it deserted and in darkness.. The police kept watch at the house and at
11.00 Nodder was sighted coming down the road. He was intercepted by the
police who informed him that they were making inquiries about the
disappearance and current whereabouts of Mona Tinsley from Newark . He
first denied knowing the whereabouts of Mona "I know nothing about it".
He also repeated the statement when he was asked to account for his
movements the previous day. However Nodder did admit that he did know
Mona but had not seen her for over a year. Police were convinced that
Nodder had abducted the child, his description matched that given by the
bus driver and other witnesses but in the absence of any additional
evidence, Nodder was placed on a holding charge of non payment of an
affiliation order and placed in police custody.
A search was made of the house which was found to be
"indescribably filthy". Nevertheless paper was found that showed
drawings and writing that was later shown to be Mona's. More importantly
a child's fingerprints were found on unwashed crockery left in the
kitchen sink. Clothes were also retrieved that were similar to those
worn by the man seen on the bus with Mona. A search of the garden,
Nodder was seen digging there earlier in the day, revealed nothing
The following day Thursday January 7th, Frederick
Nodder, was placed in an identification parade in Newark and was picked
out by the people who had seen him with Mona two days earlier.
Faced with the mounting evidence, Nodder, agreed to
make a further statement which he did at 10.00p.m. Friday 8th January
1937. He admitted that he met Mona near the school. She asked him how
her auntie Edith was and her cousin Peter who was just a baby boy. He
asked if she would like him to take her to see her Aunt and new cousin.
She said that she did. Nodder realised that it would be dangerous for
him to go to Sheffield himself given that there was a bastardy warrant
against him. He decided to send Mona to her Aunt's on the bus or more
precisely the 6.45 p.m. bus from Retford to Worksop. Once in Worksop he
told her that she should follow the instructions that he had given her
and put her on the bus to Sheffield. It was the last time that he had
seen her. After putting Mona on the Sheffield bus, he got the 8.15 to
Newark. It arrived in Retford a half a hour later. He then went to two
pubs before going back to Peacehaven. The final part of the story is
true - witnesses placed Nodder, on his own, drinking in the Criterion
Hotel in Retford, that evening. The rest of the statement beggars belief.
The weather was cold and windy, and being January, dark. No sane person
would place a 10 year old girl on a bus alone at night and send her to a
city nearly 20 miles away. And it is incomprehensible that even if
someone did do something as stupid as this, they would not make
arrangements for someone to meet her at the other end. Mona was told
according to Nodder, that when she reached Sheffield she was to get the
tram and then walk to her Aunt's house in Neil Road. Mrs. Grimes later
confirmed that Mona had not been to the house for a number of years and
she thought it unlikely that she would be able to find it from the
centre of town.
Mona was not seen by no-one either in Worksop, on the
bus or in Sheffield. The statement did not check out and so on Sunday
10th January 1937 at 5.45 p.m. Nodder was charged under section 56 of
the Offences against the Person Act with "taking away a child from her
parents by force or fraud". Nodder appeared before local magistrates and
was remanded until 16th February when he was committed for trial at the
next Assizes. He pleaded not guilty and reserved his defence.
On 9 - 10th March 1937 Frederick Nodder appeared at
Warwick Winter Azzises in Birmingham. He was prosecuted by Mr. Norman
Burkett K.C. and defended by Mr. Maurice Healy K.C. Nodder was reluctant
to appear in the witness stand, a point that Justice Swift referred to
in his summing up.
"Nobody knows of what became of that little girl...
Whatever happened to her, how she fared, who looked after her, where she
slept, there is one person in this court who knows, and he is silent -
he is silent. He says nothing to you at all.. he sits there and never
tells you a word..."
The jury was out for just sixteen minutes and when
they returned they announced an unanimous verdict of guilty. Nodder was
sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Mr Justice Swift in handing down
the sentence said
"Frederick Nodder, you have been, most properly in
my opinion, convicted by the jury of a dreadful crime. What you did with
that little girl, what became of her, only you know. it may be that time
will reveal the dreadful secret which you carry in your breast."
Despite a massive police search, Mona had disappeared.
The police searched the area for many weeks after Mona's disappearance.
The initial focus after the house was the Chesterfield Canal which ran
within fifty yards of Nodder's house. The Canal was dragged as was a
stretch than ran for the next five miles. The search was widened to
include the waters of the River Idle. Pits, quarries, cesspools, ditches
in the area were all searched but to no avail.
But as Justice Swift predicted time did reveal the
secret. On a fine summer Sunday afternoon 6th June 1937, a full five
months after her disappearance, Mona's body was recovered from the River
Idle. It was discovered by the manager of a local gasworks Mr. Walter
Victor Marshall of Melwood, Station Road, Newark. He was rowing with his
family on the River Idle about three quarters of a mile downstream from
Bawtry when he saw an object in the water. Realising it was a body of a
young girl he sent his son to summon the police. They returned and
retrieved the body from the river and laid it on the river bank. After
the arrival of the Nottinghamshire County Superintendent, the body was
taken to the Ship Inn at Newington. Mona's father was brought out to the
scene and he immediately confirmed that the body was that of his
daughter Mona. The body was clothed in the garments Mona was wearing on
the day of her disappearance save for her brown tweed coat and one of
her wellingtons. These were found the next day close to where she had
The Post Mortem was carried out by pathologist Dr.
James Webster. The cold water had inhibited decomposition to a certain
extent and it was quickly established that Mona had been strangled by a
ligature from behind and placed in the water soon after the time of
death. However the pathologist was unable to find any evidence of sexual
assault due to the condition of the body and the time it had been in
After the formal inquest on July 20th, Mona's funeral
took place at the Methodist chapel where she used to attend Sunday
School and then she was laid to rest in Newark Cemetery
On 27th July Nodder was brought from his prison cell
to Retford Police Station and charged with the murder of Mona Tinsley.
The trial took place on Monday 22nd November 1937 at Nottinghamshire
Azzizes before Mt Justice Mcnaughten and lasted all of two days. The
same prosecution and defence team appeared as in the March case. This
time Nodder did go into the witness box and described that he had met
Mona when she came out of school that day. They had boarded the 4.45 pm
bus to Retford and from there to his house at Peacehaven. After supper,
Mona had been put to bed in his own double room and he had slept
downstairs. On the following morning, in a moment of guilt, he decided
to send Mona onto her Aunt in Sheffield. However Mona was seen at the
house that day whilst Nodder was seen gardening. It was late evening
when Nodder and Mona set off. Nodder maintained that he had given Mona
two shillings and a note of explanation to give to Mrs Grimes in
Sheffield. He also gave her full instructions on how to get there. He
advanced the possibility that she had been abducted from the bus and
murdered. The jury retired and after all of 39 minutes returned with an
unanimous verdict of guilty. They had chose not to believe any of
Sentencing Nodder to death, Mr Justice Mcnaughton aptly remarked
"Justice has slowly but surely
An Appeal was lodged by Nodder but was in turn
rejected by the Court of Appeal. On 30th December 1937, Frederick Nodder
was hung in Lincoln Prison. Time had revealed "the dreadful secret"
The Times dated 31st December 1937 gave the following report which is
in effect a summary of the case
THE MURDER OF MONA TINSLEY NODDER HANGED AT LINCOLN
"Frederick Nodder, 45, motor-driver, who was
sentenced to death at the Nottingham Assizes for the murder of Mona
Tinsley, was hanged at Lincoln Prison yesterday. Nodder was married. His
wife and two children live in Sheffield. Nodder had outlived Mr. Justice
Swift, who, sentencing him last March to seven years' penal servitude
for abducting the girl, told him: " It may be that time will reveal the
dreadful secret you carry in your breast." Mr. Justice Swift died in
October. Mona Tinsley, aged 10, disappeared after leaving school at
Newark on January 5, and it was not until June that her body was found
in the River Idle at Bawtry. She was said to have been seen last with
Nodder, who had lodged at her parents' house at one time and whom she
called " Uncle Ned." Suspicion fell on him after the failure of the most
intensive search for her, and he was charged with abducting her. He was
found Guilty on this charge at Birmingham Assizes in March. When Mona
Tinsley's body was found three months later Nodder was brought from
prison to face a charge of murder, the allegation being that he
strangled the little girl and threw her body into the river' He was
found Guilty at his trial on November 23 at the Nottingham Assizes, and
Mr. Justice Macnaghten, in sentencing him to death, said: " Justice has
slowly but surely overtaken you." Nodder declared that he left the court
with a clear conscience. His appeal against the conviction was dismissed
by the Court of Criminal Appeal on December 13."
Nodder appeared before
local magistrates and was remanded until 16th February when he was
committed for trial at the next Assizes. He pleaded not guilty and
reserved his defence. There is a report of the proceedings in the
following days newspaper - 17th February 1937