Elsie’s brother and sister, along with the Wakefield police and aided by the BBC, have been looking into this unsolved case. (You can read the details here).
Elsie was murdered in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday in October in 1965. She was a quiet and happy young girl and despite police investigations at the time, no motive for her murder could ever be found. Although a man was arrested, he was released and her killer was never discovered.
Thanks to the investigations in 2015, the publicity given to this unsolved case by the BBC and the appeals by the West Yorkshire police for up to date information, it’s believed that it might now be known what the motive for Elsie’s murder may have been.
Elsie’s last twenty four hours
On the Friday evening, the day before she died, Elsie went to a youth club located in a vicarage in Balne Lane, Wakefield. She had been several times with her friends but on that visit, she became a member. Her friend who was with her, Janis Hirst, told the BBC that Elsie was pleased that she had joined the group of 14 to 21 year olds and the two girls arranged to meet the next day.
They planned to go to the local lagoon to help a group of ranger scouts who were boating there – both girls were members of the sailing club. But when Saturday arrived Janis wasn’t able to go. Her mother was ill so Janis had to go into town to shop for food and then look after her younger brother. So Elsie set off to the lagoon alone.
Janis explained to Jon Manel of the BBC that ever since, she has wondered what would have happened if she had been able to meet Elsie as planned. Would her presence have saved Elsie? Would the killer not have attacked her if she was with another girl? Or would both girls have been attacked?
The puzzling aspect of this murder always was the motive.Elsie was only fourteen years old. She was a pleasant and happy girl with no enemies and no dark secrets. Nothing had been taken from her body so the motive wasn’t robbery and there were no signs whatsoever that this was a sexual assault (or attempted sexual assault). So what could the motive be?
When Elsie’s friend Janis grew up she embarked upon nursing training. One day, she and a group of nurses were talking and Elsie’s name – and the murder – were mentioned. One of the nurses told Janis about something that had happened in the hospital some yeas previously.
A patient had admitted, under drug treatment, that he had been present when Elsie was murdered. The nurse had heard him admit to this as had a doctor who was present. Had the police been told? They hadn’t, the reason being that anything said to a member of the medical profession is strictly confidential. Janis explained that the nurse who had heard the admission died about twenty years ago but that she’d known her well and believed her story.
So now we have two men involved in the murder – one who actually killed Elsie and the other who witnessed it. But why the murder?
Homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967
According to Janis’ nurse friend, her patient had admitted that he and another man were taking part in an illegal homosexual act in the long grass on the deserted path that Elsie used to get to the lagoon. It’s said that she came across the couple, screamed and one of the men caught her and attacked her with a knife, injuring her fatally.
It seems strange to us today that men would be so scared of being found to be homosexual but back in 1965, in provincial Yorkshire, it could have meant imprisonment and shame for the men involved. It could be that the man had no intention of murdering Elsie, just scaring her, or maybe he reacted instinctively with no time to consider his actions.
Although homosexuality was still against the law in those days, most people knew and accepted that there were a number of local gays – as I recall there was a gay pub in Wakefield called the Dolphin – and Jon Manel’s investigations also revealed that at the time of Elsie’s murder there were rumours that Elsie was murdered because she ‘stumbled upon homosexual activity’.
Of course, none of this is conclusive evidence. Janis Hirst only heard the story from a third party – a nurse who has since died. But Detective Chief Inspector Elizabeth Belton of the West Yorkshire police is continuing to investigate in the hopes that one day we will finally know the truth about what happened to Elsie Frost all those years ago.
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