Saturday, 8 April 2017

104 Brandy Cove Skeleton

104 Brandy Cove Skeleton
Peninsular Gower has a number of subterranean caves, most of which were explored during the 1950s and 1960s by Maurice Clague Taylor and his sisters Marjorie and Eileen.  Caves like Tooth Cave (the longest) and Stembridge Cave have developed horizontally, though Bovehill Pot descends 100 feet.  Llethrid Swallet is a large limestone cave with a wealth of stalagmites and stalactites; the entrance to this, Gower’s most dangerous cave, is sealed, and entrances to other caves are gated for safety reasons.
 It is one thing for workmen to find the bones of an English King beneath a Leicester car park, or for archaeologists to unearth ancient bones during an excavation, but another thing when more recent human remains are found where they should not be.  This happened on Sunday, 5th November 1961, when three young cavers, Graham Jones, John Gerke and Chris MacNamara, were exploring an abandoned lead mine in Brandy Cove, just west of Caswell, and made the grisly discovery of a human skull.  They found a dismembered human skeleton, cut into three sections, along with items including a gold wedding ring and an engagement ring.  The Evening Post’s headline was “Skeleton found in a Gower mine-shaft”.
When the police looked through files of missing persons they found a file on 26-year-old Mamie Stuart, who had disappeared 42 years earlier in 1919, and after they had superimposed her photo onto a photograph of the skull the police were fairly certain that the body was hers.
Mamie, who was from Notting Hill in London, had been a chorus girl in pantomimes in Cardiff and Swansea, before during the First World War meeting in Sunderland marine surveyor George Shotton from Penarth.  His work took him to ports around the coast where he sought casual relationships with women while many men were away in the war.  Shotton married Mamie in March 1918 in South Shields registry office, when she was aged 24 and he was 37, allegedly a bachelor.  But their marriage was bigamous, for he had married a woman named May Leader in Newport in September 1905, and they had a child.
In Caswell Bay Shotton rented a house then called Craig Eithin, and brought Mamie there sometime in 1919.  She wrote to her mother that Shotton, besides beating her, “has put me in a great big house and just comes and goes when he likes.  Will write more later.”  Suspicions were aroused when her parents ceased hearing from Mamie, and later Shotton reported her missing.  An unclaimed suitcase was found at Swansea’s Grosvenor Hotel in the Sandfields containing some of Mamie’s possessions, and Shotton was arrested.  Police dug up the gardens of Craig Eithin and another property he had rented, and searched the cliffs, but no body was found.  When Shotton was brought to trial, without a body the charge was not murder but bigamy, for which he was sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour.  His first wife May divorced him, and Shotton later worked as an itinerant mechanic.  A violent man, he served another prison term after threatening his sister with a gun, and during the Second World War worked in a Bristol aircraft factory. 
At the 1962 coroner’s inquest in Gowerton, the three cavers gave evidence, as did 83- year-old retired postman Bill Symons, who recalled seeing Shotton outside the Caswell Bay house, struggling to load a sack into his van: the witness had failed to mention that to anyone at the time.  The house was a few hundred yards from the air shaft of the abandoned mine where the skeleton was found.  The inquest jury decided that the skeleton was that of Mamie Stuart, and took the unusual step of naming George Shotton as the murderer. 
But it was too late to bring him to justice - for Shotton had died aged 78 three years earlier, penniless in a Bristol hospital. 

1 comment:

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