Time, precious time

Monday, 19 February 2018

There was something very odd indeed about the issue of time in the case of Mary Ashford.

Every armchair detective knows that where any suspect was at any point of time - and indeed where the victim was at that moment - is crucial to solving a case. There were many witnesses to the location of both Mary and her suspected attacker on the morning of her death. The complicating factor was that although Castle Bromwich and Erdington were only a few miles apart, they operated on two different time scales - one half an hour behind the other (railway timetables were yet to force the passing of a universal time throughout the country). So when one witness says that Mary was at point B in Erdington at 4am and that Abraham Thornton was at point C in Castle Bromwich at 4am....were they right?

To add to the mix, ordinary working people often didn't carry a watch. They might only - if they were lucky - have a clock at home. And those clocks might not be accurate. So when a farm worker says it was 4am............how did he know for sure?

This case is a tantalizing puzzle.

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