The corpse of pretty Emily

By Gerald Hinks

The pretty 20-year-old Emily Trigg had been a maid at 36 Maidstone Road, Rochester, for 12 weeks.

Her mistress, Miss Catherine Cooper, found her quiet and respectable. Certainly not the kind of girl to flaunt herself before men. Although Emily, with a trim little figure and smartly dressed light brown hair, was likely to turn a young man’s head without flashing her bright brown eyes. On 6 August, 1916, Emily was wearing her Sunday best outfit; a blue dress and white hat with small pink roses.

For today, as on most Sundays since she had gone into service at Miss Cooper’s, Emily was going to have tea with her widowed mother in Providence Row, Blue Bell Hill.

Emily Trigg had been a maid at 36 Maidstone Road, Rochester, when she vanished

She left Maidstone Road about 3.15 for a pleasant, if lonely, stroll in the sun to her mother’s. But she did not arrive. Nor did she return, as expected, to her employer’s home that evening.

Miss Cooper thought she was unwell and staying at her mother’s. And it was not until the next Tuesday when Emily’s mother, Mrs Kate Trigg, inquired that it was realised that the girl had vanished without a trace.

The police were told. But their investigation was not particularly thorough. One missing girl did not rate much importance during the First World War. The police were already overworked looking for men who were evading military service. Anyway, events that week were overshadowed by Zeppelin air raids over the south east in which 80 people were killed, more than 150 injured and extensive damage caused.

It was not until six weeks later that Emily Trigg’s disappearance became newsworthy. Then, early on the evening of Thursday, 21 September, Rochester greengrocer John Jennings was blackberrying with his two children at Bridge Wood, adjoining Maidstone Road.

But he did not find blackberries some 30 yards in the wood: he found a human skeleton in the undergrowth. Although the remains were decomposed, it was not difficult to identify the skeleton; even for Rochester’s unimaginative police who had not searched the wood for the missing girl, although it bordered the route of Emily’s fateful Sunday afternoon walk.

Hair still attached to the skull contained a side comb fixed with imitation diamonds. Emily Trigg had a side comb like this. A necklet found nearby had been given to her by her mother. And Emily’s Sunday bonnet, with the small pink roses, was found by a track leading to the spot. Clothes, apparently violently torn from the body by the frenzied killer, were found in a bundle about 30 yards from the body.

There was no doubt these were the remains of Emily Trigg, although it was considered remarkable that they had had decomposed so quickly. All the organs and tissues had disappeared and as soon as the skeleton was touched it fell to pieces.

How did Emily die? There were no bloodstains on the clothes. But there was one strong clue. A piece of material, torn from an undergarment, was found in the mouth of the skull. It looked as if it had been pushed far back into the mouth. Emily Trigg may have been choked to death.

Emily's remains were found among blackberry bushes at Bridge Wood

At the inquest, the police surgeon would not commit himself. He said it was impossible to be sure because there was no tissue. Emily’s boyfriend was George Harris, a private in the Royal Surrey Regiment. His picture was in her handbag, which was also found in the wood.

But Harris was soon eliminated from the investigation. On 6 August he was in hospital in Shoreham, Sussex. Nevertheless the police felt a soldier might have involved. There were reports of Emily having been with a military man that afternoon.

And a fortnight before her disappearance, Emily had told her mistress about meeting a soldier. She had said he was a gentleman and she did not like being seen with him as she was only a country girl. Class structures were still firmly intact at that time.

The inquest on Emily Trigg was opened by county coroner Mr CB Harris in Chatham Town Hall and adjourned until 9 October for police inquiries.

But the police had got no further when the inquest was resumed. Supt A E Rhodes, who was leading the investigation, said everything had been done in following up any clue and this all came to nothing. The coroner lamented that it was a case which was extremely unsatisfactory to them all. The evidence pointed to one conclusion, but it would not be safe for the jury to arrive at that.

The verdict open to them was that the remains were found in a wood. Owing to the advanced state of decomposition, it was impossible to go any further. If anything happened in the nature of a confession the police could take action. The jury returned a verdict of “found dead”.

But there was still an odd postscript to be written to a case that was not distinguished by perceptive detective work. Ten days later, the police arrested Charles Hicks, a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, at Winchester. The next day, he was charged at Chatham Police Court with being concerned in the murder of Emily Trigg. The police asked for a remand until Tuesday.

Charles Hicks said he was perfectly innocent and he had been brought there by mistake. In fact he seemed more concerned about the prospect of having prison food and asked to have his money returned to him so that he could pay for his own food. The magistrate, Mr WA Smith-Master, said there would be no difficulty about this and Hicks went to prison without further complaint.

On the next Tuesday, the public packed the court for a view of Emily’s alleged brutal killer. But it was to be an anticlimax. Supt Rhodes said that following inquiries over the weekend, he would not be justified in offering any evidence against Hicks. He asked for his discharge.

Before stepping from the dock Hicks cheerfully thanked the police “for the fair way in which everything has been done”. And the chairman of the bench replied: “I am sure you will always find that with them.”

Today the case still remains unsolved; and the murder of Emily Trigg is unique in Kent crime annals. For not only was the murderer never discovered; neither also was the cause of death.

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33 Responses to The corpse of pretty Emily

  1. lisa says:

    Does anyone have any pictures of Emily? I have a picture of her mother Kate and her father. I also have a picture of her brother (my great granddad) who named his daughter Emily after his sister.

    I have been thinking of Emily a lot and have an image of her in my mind but would really like to see a proper photograph. Thank you.

    • SteveR says:

      Dear Lisa

      Apart from the one on this page?

    • Neil says:

      Hi Lisa, there is a full-length photo in existence of Emily from that time. I’d be interested in tracking down further images. A friend is just putting the finishing touches to a book about Blue Bell Hill that mentions Emily.

      • Carol Martensson says:

        Hi Neil,

        I am interested to hear that a book about Bluebell Hill is soon to be published. I am Carol, daughter of Emily Maria who was named after her murdered aunt.

        I would be very grateful if you could let me know when the book is published and where I can order a copy.

        Carol

    • Frederick Sanders says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m Freddy, the son of Emily Maria who was named after her murdered aunt. You must therefore be one of my cousins’ children. Unfortunately, as we are not a very close-knit family, I’m not quite sure which of my cousins is your mother or father.

      My sister Carol, who lives in Sweden, has a photograph of my great-aunt and will be sending it to me soon. I’ll be only too happy to forward a copy onto you.

      There’s also a book called ‘Murder and Mystery in Kent’ by Philip MacDougall that deals with this unsolved case. Chapter 8 is called ‘Death of a Servant Girl’, there are no photos, but it’s still an interesting read.

      Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
      Freddy

      • Carol Martensson says:

        Hi Lisa,
        I’m Carol, Freddy’s sister, writing from Sweden (my husband is Swedish). Freddy told me about this site and your post very recently, after he had just found it himself. The photograph he mentions is of a photograph! It shows Emily from her waist up, wearing a blouse and without a hat. It is a very small image as the photo is propped up against part of a brick wall! We didn’t know about this photograph ourselves until this July. Per-Åke (my husband) and I were staying with Freddy then and visited Auntie Doll. She gave me the photograph and I promised to send her a copy of it and also a copy to Freddy. Up unto that time both Freddy and myself were unaware that any photographs existed of Emily. I have recently sent copies of the photograph to Freddy and Auntie Doll.

        Like you, I have been thinking a lot about Emily recently, even before I saw the photograph. I think our mother (Auntie Em) found the fact that she was named after Emily rather ‘creepy’. At least, I know I did! Emily was murdered in 1916 and Mum was born in November, 1919.

        I’ve been wondering which cousin of ours is your parent. I’m guessing Ronnie, Trevor or his brother Tommy.

        If you want to write to me personally by email I give Steve permission through this post to pass my email address on to you.

        Carol

      • lisa cole says:

        Hi, Had no idea anybody would reply to me! I’m hoping you all still check this site. So here’s my reply only three years later. My father was Tommy Perry and my nan was Irene unfortunately both deceased now. I think I may remember Carol at Doll and Bob’s house when I was very small. Bob had made me a doll’s house for that Christmas.

    • Stephen Hook says:

      Hi Lisa,
      My name is Stephen Hook I am a paranormal investigator and a sensitive. In the past I have carried out paranormal investigations on Bluebell Hill near where your great-great aunt resided.
      In one instance the spirit of a young woman came through to me while I was on the hill and she communicated her name was Maria. Do you know if your great-great Aunt preferred to be called by that name? And also is there any Italian ancestry in the family?
      Kind regards
      Steve Hook
      gillssteve60@gmail.com

  2. Neil says:

    Hi guys, a good friend of mine has almost completely writing a huge book regarding the ‘ghost’ of Blue Bell Hill and would be very interested in contacting any relatives of Emily. There were a lot of inaccuracies in the original case, so if someone can get in touch, or possibly contact Stephen I’d be interested to hear from you.

  3. Sean Tudor says:

    Hello everyone. There is indeed a full-length photograph of Emily in the outfit she wore on the day she was murdered (which had become her “Sunday best” after she first wore it for her brother’s wedding).

    The photo was featured in one of the original regional newspaper reports after her remains were found. Unfortunately, the microfilm copy is extremely poor, being high in contrast; hence I’ve tried (unsuccessfully thus far) to locate an original newspaper copy through the libraries in the hope of obtaining and preserving a photographic copy.

    As Neil mentions, I’ve conducted a fair amount of research in relation to Emily, who lived with her mother in Blue Bell Hill village at the time (although she was working as a domestic servant in Rochester when she went missing).

    An unanswered and unsatisfactory part of Emily’s sad story is the acquittal of the artilleryman who was first arrested and charged with her murder. We’ll probably never know why; and as you’ll know, no-one else was subsequently identified and tried for her murder.

    I’d be happy to share a scanned version of the microfilm version of Emily’s picture – but as I’ve indicated, it is pretty poor), and it would be interesting to share some correspondence on her story. if you are interested please drop me an email via my website (www.roadghosts.com) and I’ll reply directly to any messages.
    Finally – a note for Carol – I’m hoping to get the book out in the next few months.

    • Carol Martensson says:

      Hi Sean,

      If you want to contact me then I give Steve permission to give you my Email address.

      Best wishes,
      Carol

  4. Carol Martensson says:

    As far as I am aware my great-aunt was known as Emily. I do have a thought, though. Can you remember how ‘Maria’ was pronounced by your contact?

    I found your reference to Italian ancestry really interesting. My brother and I have never been told about any Italian links. However, my brother has skin that tans extremely easily and when he was young he never used sun cream. He has thick, dark curly hair and is still a handsome man at the age of 61. In fact, Freddy and I were discussing this subject last summer when my husband and I were staying with him. We’ve always thought ourselves that we had either Italian or Spanish ancestry somewhere in our family tree because of how he looks. I am not at all like my brother to look at and have fair skin that unfortunately slowly progresses through various shades of pink!

    Best wishes,
    Carol

  5. Michael Jennings says:

    I was aware of the sad case of Emily Trigg long before the Gerald Hinks article (or the chapter in the book by Philip MacDougall). This is because I had heard it many years ago from my aunt who was present with my grandfather when he discovered poor Emily’s remains.
    It is a measure of my grandfather’s presence of mind that he managed to ensure that neither of his daughters, one aged about 11 the other 13 or 8 (depending which of three sisters were with him); actually saw what he found.
    As far as I know from further research, Emily’s mother Kate Trigg was the widow of a quarryman and had three other sons, William, Fred and John, a sergeant, corporal and a lance corporal, all serving in France at the time. There was also a fourth son living next door to his mother plus two other daughters, one living at home.
    Emily’s remains appear to have been buried at Burham church but I am not sure if this is the “new” church or the old St Mary the Virgin at Burham. Rumour has it she planned to marry her boyfriend George Harris there.
    It is possible that this rumour has sparked the appearance of Emily as a ghost of Blue Bell Hill, as she was looking for her boyfriend. As there are many other “ghosts” of Blue Bell Hill stories I leave you to draw your own conclusions!

    • Carol Martensson says:

      Hi Michael,

      I’m Carol Martensson, as above. I’m very pleased to ‘meet’ you! Our grandfather was William Trigg. As far as my brother and I know there is no record in our own family as to where Emily was buried. Having said this maybe the descendants of one of Emily’s other siblings has a record. We’ve absolutely no idea where they might live. Our family seems to be unusually ‘out of touch’ with each other. It would be great if some other informtion could come to light through this site.

      Sean and I have been exchanging Emails for several months now and I hope you feel that you can contact him yourself. I can assure you that he is a serious investigator and is interested in Emily and her fate apart from the Bluebell Hill ghost mystery. If it wasn’t for Sean and his research my brother and I would know only the barest details of Emily’s murder. Our mother (who was named after Emily) said just this: ‘My Dad’s sister was murdered during the First World War. Only her skeleton was found and was recognised by the necklet she was wearing. The police thought that a sailor or sailors had murdered her.’ I know I have written ‘sailor or sailors’ instead of ‘soldier or soldiers’ as the police actually thought at the time, but that is what my mother said. Freddy and I didn’t know until last summer that there was even a photograph of Emily in existence.

      • jackie huckstepp (was Trigg) says:

        Hi Carol
        I’m Jackie Huckstepp before i married my name was Trigg my dad is William Trigg he passed away in 2011 i also have a brother Stephen you probably know dad as uncle Bill i would like to learn more about our family hope you can reply or email me
        Thank you
        Jackie

        • lisa cole says:

          Hello Jackie, My name is lisa. I remember your dad he was my nans youngest brother. My brother and I new him as uncle bill. We spent a few boxing days with him as children.

          • jackie huckstepp (was Trigg) says:

            Hi Lisa i remember your nan my auntie Irene I’m trying to get as much information about Emily as i can and would love any photos of Emily and photos of my dad his mum and dad and family before them that any of our family may have that i have never seen but don’t know how to give you my email without posting it on this site .

    • Mitchell Jackson says:

      I heard about this some time ago the story is that she would try and get a lift and bridge wood manor hotel and tell the person to take her to burham where here remains are when I was younger me and my mates used to go down to burham I tried looking for the grave of Emily Trigg in the charch graveyard but it could not be found.

  6. Sean Tudor says:

    Hi Michael.

    From my own researches, it appears that no plot records exist for Burham Old Church, or for the demolished New Church. The likelihood is that Emily was interred at the Old Church site, which continued to be used for burials even after the New Church was established in the village in 1881. The latter seems to have occupied too small an area to have accommodated burials – although this cannot be entirely ruled out. No marker exists in the Old Church yard, but then so many there are missing or are unreadable.
    It would be interesting to instigate some correspondence by email, if you are willing (my contacts are given higher on this thread), which may help throw some further light on the case to expand on the newspaper reports of the time. This portal is happily bringing together descendent relations of both Emily and the man who found her remains, and persons like myself who have looked into the case in detail.
    It would be good if Lisa too could get in touch. I have a full-length picture of Emily (not of tremendous quality); it would be good to be able to share resources and information.
    As for the small repertoire of ‘ghosts’ at Blue Bell Hill (to which there is more than meets the idea), this does include a figure of a young woman in a full-length Edwardian-style dress, with hat and handbag, which has been seen on several occasions walking northward away from the village toward Bridgewood in the early hours.
    Emily, whose violent murder (and whose killer(s) escaped justice), would have more reason than most to continue to walk – but then, as I have hinted, there is more going on, I think, to the phenomenon at Blue Bell Hill than the traditional ghost-as-spirit-of-the-dead case.

  7. Anthony skinley says:

    Reading on your posts I couldn’t not comment as to the remarks on the blue bell hill ghost/ghosts. I used to work with a man called jim ??? Not sure on his surname as it was 33yrs ago and he told me that his daughter was with her boyfriend in his car on the old blue bell hill and they had an argument he stopped the car she got out and he drove off she tried to thumb a lift back home to blue bell hill village where she lived with her parents and as she did so she was knocked down by a motorist that did not see her and he told me that he had people knock on his door in the early hours of the morning saying that they had picked up a young lady hitch hiking on blue bell hill and she had given them his address on a regular basis I have been driving up blue bell hill myself in my vehicle and have had on a number of occasions felt like somebody has been sitting in the rear seat of my vehicle pushing their feet into the back of the drivers seat and I was the only person in the vehicle at the time I’m not 100% sure on the accuracy of the story I can only give the details that I was given. I’m not convinced that Emily is the same person as she would have been walking from the opposite direction to reach her mothers house in blue bell hill,,, sorry

    • lisa cole says:

      Hi Anthony, I’m not a believer in ghosts or spirits and have lived in and around Bluebell Hill my entire life and seen or felt nothing! I do, however, feel that because of stories – and stories is all they are – that people tend to feel edgy when driving in Bluebell Hill and their imaginations get the better of them.

    • Neil says:

      It’s an interesting but all too familiar account Anthony; the ‘phantom-hitchhiker’ being a classic urban legend and in the case of Bluebell Hill rarely true.

      The main issue is the lack of details; where was she knocked down exactly? Where did the girl live? Why aren’t there any newspaper reports to back it up? It seems that what happens on the hill is far stranger and certainly NOT down to people’s imaginations. as some may suggest.

  8. Paul Narramore says:

    I wonder if anyone has researched the Kent Messenger archive for any newspaper article which locates Emily’s funeral and grave site. It seems such a shame that it has been lost and/or forgotten about.

  9. Neil says:

    First, in response to Lisa Cole – many people who reside at Bluebell Hill have never experienced anything untoward. A majority of witnesses to the alleged ghosts are people with no interest or previous knowledge into it.

    Whether people believe in ghosts is not the issue, there is however no debating the fact that countless people have come forward to report very strange encounters. It can’t be blamed on imagination when a carload of witnesses all see the same thing; or hundreds of other witnesses do – especially, as I’ve already stated – that many people have no prior knowledge to what happens on the hill.

    And second, Paul; there is a location a few of us are aware of as being Emily’s burial site.

    • lisa cole says:

      I suppose it depends on your own beliefs. I have always hoped and prayed that I could see a ghost or have some sort of contact from “the other side” so I could have proof that my loved ones I have lost are in fact somewhere and are all right.

      Unfortunately I’ve never seen a thing. A few hundred people compared with the amount of people who have ever driven or walked down Bluebell Hill since these stories begun is very unconvincing to me and a car full of people who bounce off each others’ fear.

      What I’m trying to say is Emily deserves to be at peace not being accused, 100 years on, of wandering around scaring complete strangers!

      • Neil says:

        I agree Lisa, I’ve never seen a ghost and yet write about the subject and lecture on it full-time. A lot of very serious research has been put into the case of Emily and also the ‘ghosts’ of the hill in general.

        What you need to consider however, before dismissing reports as unconvincing, is that a majority of sightings on the hill have involved people with no prior knowledge or belief in ghosts; but I believe it takes a certain type of person to see a ghost.

        In many cases of alleged hauntings there are only a few reports; but when you consider that a majority of the reports you would never have even heard about, it’s unfair to simply dismiss out of hand people who have genuinely had terrifying encounters on the hill.

        Police have been called out, people have crashed vehicles swerving to avoid figures, and the incidents are mounting – there are a lot of cases.

        Emily was never considered as a possible identity behind the sightings years ago until serious research was finally conduced from people such as Sean Tudor. Emily deserves peace; but there are family members who want to know more because her place of burial remains vague, as does the conclusion of her murder.

        I completely agree when you say about relatives passing; I’d love to believe there is an afterlife but I can’t discount sightings out of hand either just because I haven’t seen anything. A car-load of witnesses will not “bounce off each others’ fear”; because in many cases there is no fear, simply people wanting to help someone who appears stranded or out of place in the middle of the night. We can’t all suffer the same hallucination.

        • lisa cole says:

          The very sad truth is hat whoever took Emily ‘ s life so cruely and prematurely is dead themselves now so Emily will never have justice. Which is why I dont wish to believe she is an unsettled spirit that can never be at peace. The only justice would be to let his family know what he did and what he was (almost certain it was a male) but we can’t be sure who as too much time has passed. Gone but not forgotten RIP Emily xx

        • lisa cole says:

          Are you Neil Arnold?

    • Paul Narramore says:

      And so, Neil, where would that burial site be?

  10. Mike Gunnill says:

    I am researching into the murder of Emily Maria Trigg for a feature in Bygone Kent Magazine. Is it possible that I could be put in touch with Carol Martensson via email please?

    I am seeking picture material if possible and anything that may have been left out of reports at the time. Grateful for anyone’s assistance, especially Mrs Martensson in Sweden.

    Thank you.

    Mike Gunnill

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