Rid­dle of mur­der to be turned into play 60 years on Nephew to tell tale of in­fa­mous un­solved killing of sweet shop owner in Rep drama

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - James Car­tledge News Edi­tor

THE grue­some un­solved mur­der of a Birm­ing­ham sweet shop owner is to be turned into a play more than 60 years after he was found dead in a crime that shocked the city.

The body of Fred­er­ick Jeffs was found in a shal­low wood­land grave by boys look­ing for birds’ eggs in Park Lane, Handsworth, at Easter 1957.

Fears be­gan to grow for the 37-year-old when his Austin A30 van was found aban­doned be­tween Brant­ley Road and West­wood Road in Wit­ton early on the morn­ing of Good Fri­day 1957.

Jeffs was not in­side but blood and d vomit was found splashed on the he in­te­rior, as well as the bon­net, winddscreen and roof.

Po­lice quickly traced the van back k to the con­fec­tioner’s shop he owned d in Stan­ley Road, Quin­ton, but there e was no trace of him in the flat above e and no sign of a dis­tur­bance.

The mys­tery did not last long – the boys dis­cov­ered his body partly y hid­den be­neath twigs and rocks in wood­lands.

Park Lane was nick­named “Lovers’ Lane” be­cause it was a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for canoodling cou­ples in cars.

Jeffs had been struck at least 12 times over the head, prob­a­bly with a heavy stone which was never found.

Now the rid­dle is to be turned into a play by Jeffs’ great-nephew, Graeme Rose.

He is work­ing with the Birm­ingg- ham Rep and has ap­pealed for mem­o­ries from any­one who lived in Quin­ton in the 1950s or re­mem­bered the shop­keeper or his mur­der.

Mr Rose said: “I have learned there was a pos­si­ble gang­land con­nec­tion, that a mys­tery woman was seen in his shop.

“Some­body said she might have had a Dud­ley ac­cent, some­body else said she was of Ital­ian ori­gin.

“Ru­mours per­sist about the dif­fer­ent facts.”

A pathol­o­gist be­lieved Jeffs had been struck first while stand­ing near his van and then bun­dled in­side, where he may have made a par­tial re­cov­ery.

The bru­tal force with which he was fin­ished off sug­gested that po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a crime of pas­sion, maybe mo­ti­vated by jeal­ousy.

But build­ing up a pic­ture of the shop­keeper was prov­ing dif­fi­cult.

He was born in Stir­ling­shire in 1919 and moved with his fam­ily to Birm­ing­ham as a child.

Jeffs worked as an elec­tri­cian at Austin’s Long­bridge fac­tory be­fore serv­ing with the Royal Army Ser­vice Corps dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

After returning to Birm­ing­ham, he was em­ployed by the Pub­lic Works De­part­ment but took over his shop in May 1953.

The sweet shop and to­bac­conist’s flour­ished with his wife work­ing by his side.

But their re­la­tion­ship be­gan to fall apart and she left him in September 1956.

After the break-up, Jeffs de­voted him­self to work and his black poo­dle, named Perro.

He would be in the shop for 12 did not form a sig­nif­i­cant part of th the in­ves­ti­ga­tion early on and in in­stead the po­lice fo­cused on a bu bur­glary at his home and shop the pr pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber.

Cash to­talling £140 was stolen fro from a till along with a watch and a rad ra­dio.

O One the­ory among city de­tec­tives wa was that the crime had high­lighted how much money Jeffs kept around the premises and the news may hav have spread around the crim­i­nal undTh un­der­world. The shop­keeper had started car­ry­ing a high-pow­ered air pis­tol in his rain rain­coat pocket and kept an­other und un­der his pil­low.

B But for the next five months, there was noth­ing to sug­gest he needed to take such dras­tic pre­cau­tions.

B Busi­ness con­tin­ued as nor­mal, and there was lit­tle sign he was to mee meet a grisly end – even on the day he went w miss­ing.

Je Jeffs was work­ing in the shop with his sis­ter.

She no­ticed him talk­ing to a girl with brown hair but he seemed em­bar­rassed and agreed to meet her later.

Whether she was a lover or in­volved in his killing could never firmly be es­tab­lished.

He was seen leav­ing the premises in the van at about 9.10pm and Perro was later spot­ted close to Reser­voir Road in Lan­g­ley.

By that time, it is pos­si­ble that Jeffs was ei­ther dead or un­con­scious from the first at­tack.

His Austin A30 was seen back at the premises at about 10.45pm out­side his shop by a teenage neigh­bour who did not recog­nise the man sit­ting be­hind the wheel.

At about 11.10pm, an­other wit­ness walk­ing past the shop saw the hours a day, seven days a week, and was helped oc­ca­sion­ally by rel­a­tives and a lady as­sis­tant.

Po­lice also dis­cov­ered he was spend­ing time with other women after part­ing from his wife and he was seen drink­ing with sev­eral fe­males at the Abbey pub in Three Shires Oak Road, Bear­wood.

Jeffs’ as­so­ci­a­tion with girl­friends van emerge and also no­ticed a young girl stand­ing in the door­way.

The wit­ness did not see the driver but her de­scrip­tion of the girl matched that of the young woman seen at the shop ear­lier in the day.

The fate of Jeffs at that point can only be spec­u­lated about - he may have been in his shal­low grave or ly­ing in the back of the van.

De­tec­tives be­lieved rob­bery was the most likely mo­tive for the mur­der be­cause the vic­tim’s pock­ets ap­peared to have been turned in­side out and there was only £10 found at his home.

The cou­ple seen at the shop clearly had keys be­cause there was no sign of forced ac­cess and po­lice felt at least one of them might have had prior knowl­edge of the flat.

They were also cer­tain he knew his killers and that they killed him be­cause he would eas­ily have been able to iden­tify them.

The man­hunt which fol­lowed was enor­mous in scale.

Po­lice spoke to sev­eral women who claimed to have had links to Jeffs but none matched the de­scrip­tion of the young woman seen twice at the shop.

A stag­ger­ing 75,000 ques­tion­naires were com­pleted dur­ing painstak­ing door-to-door en­quiries.

Po­lice were cer­tain the killer had a good knowl­edge of the lo­cal area but other­wise found more ques­tions than an­swers.

Most sur­rounded the iden­tity of the young brunette, who was never traced.

Nei­ther was the red leather dog col­lar miss­ing from Perro when he was dis­cov­ered four days later.

Any­one who re­mem­bers the case can email Graeme Rose at graerose@ gmail.com.

There was a pos­si­ble gang­land con­nec­tion, that a mys­tery woman was seen in his shop Nephew Graeme Rose

> Vic­tim Fred­er­ick Jeffs, and left, his sweet shop in Stan­ley Road, Quin­ton

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