ODD MAN OUT - A Motiveless Murder?
Remarkably, no murder had ever been recorded in Rawtenstall until, in the summer of 1948, the body of 68-year-old Nancy Chadwick was found, brutally beaten to death and dumped on a main road. The incident sent shock waves around this peaceful and god-fearing Lancashire mill town. Locals locked their doors, fearing a savage killer was on the loose. Great was their surprise, then, when a short, 41-year old local woman, who had barely known Nancy, was arrested and charged with the killing. The victim would be described, even by her own family, as ‘abnormal’, but this description would also be applied to her alleged killer.
Margaret Allen, a former bus conductress, who habitually wore men’s clothes and insisted on being called ‘Bill’, was arrested and immediately confessed to the murder. Oddly, she could give no satisfactory explanation for why she had done it. ‘I must have been in one of my funny moods,’ was all she would say. Following one of the shortest murder trials on record, Margaret was duly convicted and sentenced to death for what the court deemed ‘a motiveless murder’.
Following a failed campaign led by Annie, the young woman who was the accused’s only friend, and most probably her lover, Margaret ‘Bill’ Allen was hanged on 12 January 1949 at Manchester’s Strangeways Prison. The case attracted surprisingly little publicity at a time when Margaret’s anomalous condition was little understood and the term ‘transgendered’ had not yet been coined.
Did she do it? If so, why did she do it? If not, who did it? 70 years on, I disclose evidence which was suppressed at the time, and ask you to consider whether the verdict and society’s treatment of ‘Bill’ would be any different today.
‘In her latest book, Odd Man Out, Denise Beddows paints a vivid picture of post-war Rawtenstall, and of the difficult lives of three women – a murder victim, her killer and the killer’s lover. This is an exceptionally well researched account of a true crime and is a sensitive exploration of the difficult life and brutal death of this transgendered woman whom history has forgotten’ – Murder Monthly.
‘… another fascinating piece of research by the author of ‘Running with Crows – The Life and Death of a Black and Tan’. In her latest book, ‘Odd Man Out’, Denise Beddows relates the intriguing but surprisingly under-reported case of Margaret ‘Bill’ Allen, Britain’s only transgendered killer. This beautifully written account of a long-forgotten murder and execution highlights the shortcomings in the police investigation and leads us through the life and devastatingly sad fate of this tragic figure. It is particularly moving to read of the effects Allen’s execution had on others and to know what happened next to all those involved.’ – Pete Bloggs, ‘Bloggs on True Crime’.
‘An extraordinary book … well written, absorbing, thought provoking.’ – Frost Magazine
'Odd Man Out - A Motiveless Murder?' is available in paper back for £8.99 from Amazon and all good book shops. Hear the author interviewed about the case on 28 August 2018 - the 70th anniversary of the murder - at Rawtenstall Cricket Club at 7pm.