It is one of the perils of historical research that sooner or later you will meet a dead end in inquiries. As many readers of the blog will know I have for some time been researching the still unsolved murder of Mary Jane Langley, who was found brutally murdered on Preston Long-lane, now known as Neat Marsh-road.
Over the years I have amassed over a thousand newspaper articles from 1891 – 2012 on the case, from local, national, and even international sources. The newspaper articles give a clear idea of the events of the period, and for many years I had hoped to trace the elusive files from the murder inquiry. The problem was, the case involved both Hull and Borough Police forces, the murder took place on Hull and Borough Boundaries, and the Hull and Borough Magistrates carried out inquests and hearings in Hull and Preston.
These issues mean that tracing the file would be a problem from the start as neither the Hull nor Borough Police forces exist per se. They are today amalgamated into one larger force, Humberside Police, and as such a lot of the older files were sent for safe keeping and/or destroyed.
I had hoped that the files were held at the Hull History Centre, the East Riding Archives, or the National Archives, but searches at all three establishments failed to find any evidence that despite a series of Humberside/Hull/Borough files being available, none of the files featured the Mary Jane Langley file.
The other problem encountered was the fact that the case was never solved there was no murder trial as the charges laid against John Rennard, aka Jack Renny, were dropped and he was acquitted. At the time of the trial, murder cases were usually held at the York Assizes, but with no murder trial there was no paper trail.
Imagine my surprise when a re-read of A. A. Clarke’s Killers at Large (Arton Books, 1997) stated that unsolved murder cases are kept in Humberside Police’s headquarters and “protected by a heavy wire mesh and padlocked against the curious.”
With this snippet of information I made more inquiries, this time with Humberside Police. After a series of telephone calls to various departments, I was asked to put my query in writing.
Yesterday the reply arrived and sadly despite having a series of files that date back to 1909, there is nothing for the year 1891 and therefore nothing held on the still unsolved murder of Mary Jane Langley.
I must, however, thank Humberside Police for the help, assistance, and speedy reply in help solving this unique cold case from Hull and East Yorkshire’s past.