70 years since Allen hanging
SEVENTY years ago this week, Margaret Allen was hanged for a Rawtenstall murder at Manchester’s Strangeways prison.
The body of 68-year-old widow Nancy Chadwick was found early one Sunday morning in August 1948, brutally beaten and unceremoniously dumped on the town’s main road.
Bloody drag marks led from the corpse to the front door of number 137 Bacup Road.
Further forensic evidence inside that property led to the arrest of the occupier, Margaret Allen, a former bus conductress who habitually wore men’s clothes and insisted on being called ‘Bill’.
She immediately confessed to the murder but could give no satisfactory ●● Denise Beddows, author of Odd Man Out explanation as to why she had done it.
It is now seven decades on from 41-year-old Allen’s execution on January 12, 1949.
Author Denise Beddows has written a book which considers whether the verdict and society’s treatment of ‘Bill’ would be any different today.
Beddows said: “Following a failed campaign led by Annie Cook, an attractive young woman who was the accused’s only friend, and most probably her lover, ‘Bill’ faced the gallows stoically, albeit distressed at having been forced to wear women’s prison uniform.
“A crowd of around 2,000 people gathered outside the prison that bleak January morning to await the execution of justice.
“The case attracted more scorn than sympathy, and surprisingly little publicity, for this was a time when Margaret’s anomalous condition was little understood and the terms ‘transsexual’ and ‘transgendered’ had not yet been coined.
“A lone voice of protest was heard at the prison gates, that of lifelong antihanging campaigner Violet van der Elst.”
She added : “Interest in the case of Rawtenstall’s first ever murder, and the UK’s first ever transgendered killer, shows no signs of waning.”
The murder scene has been transformed into Rawtenstall’s popular visitor attraction and heritage centre, The Weaver’ s Cottage, and vi sit orsih have been snapping up copies of Beddows’ book Odd Man Out from the centre’s gift shop, as well as online.
Last August, on the anniversary of the murder, d the hR Rossendale dl Civic Trust held an event at the Cricket Club opposite the centre and local journalist Catherine Smyth interviewed the author about the case.