12th December 1923

An unknown man is arrested in Jersey

When a Major Norman Bailey went missing from his Hove home in 1923, police set up an extensive search. His wife, Isobel, had been found in the marital bed with a bullet wound in her head and a kitchen knife plunged five-inches deep into her chest. Beside her was a note: “I did not do it for jealousy or cowardice, but just for love. If the police are looking for me they had better look down on the seashore.”

But Bailey was not to be found on the shore. In fact, he was not to be found anywhere for quite some time.

A familiar face in Jersey

Nonetheless, police thought they’d finally had some good news when a man bearing a strong resemblance to the Major turned up in Jersey. Moreover, he had lost his memory, so had no way of proving that he wasn’t the man they were after. Unable to say either where he had come from or when, the man was arrested at a hotel, taken into police custody and put in a padded cell.

Police searched him, but he had no identifying documents and barely any money. Eventually, he remembered what he thought was his name – George Allen – and that he came from Newcastle – but, unable to prove it, this didn’t do much to improve his situation.

The search continued while Allen remained in custody, with news arriving that another man matching Bailey’s description had been seen on a train to Ramsgate, and a third (possibly the same) boarded the boat to Boulogne.

Mistaken identity

Eventually, police in Jersey identified the man in their custody not as George Allen, but Captain Henry Moore, of Cheltenham, which was later confirmed by Cheltenham police who said he had, by that point, been missing for six days. He was still suffering shell shock from the First World War.

Further sightings of men who could have been Bailey were made over several months as far away as London, Scotland, New York, Italy and Germany, and other innocent suspects were arrested, questioned and released. The mystery wasn’t solved until 22 May the following year when Scotland Yard released a statement that “…the body of a man with a bullet wound in the head, and in an advanced state of decomposition was found floating in the river [Thames]”. Several personal items on the body, including a driving licence and AA membership card, identified it as Norman Percival Bailey.

His body had been trapped under a boat at Carron Wharf, which had not been moved for around two months. Only when it cast off was the rotting body uncovered. At the inquest later that month, it was revealed that Bailey’s father had received a suicide note from his son the day after he had killed his wife.


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