A lovestruck nurse was murdered by her ex-fiance after he pleaded with her for financial support for him and his new wife. Douglas Edmundson was hung for his crimes in 1942 at Walton prison.
If one thing could be said about Douglas Edmundson, it was that he had an eye for a pretty girl, and unfortunately for them, a lot of pretty girls had an eye for him.
Amongst the many ladies Edmundson courted was 28-year-old Imeldred Maria Osliff who lived with her parents on Moss Lane, Banks, Southport. She had known Edmundson since school and was so infatuated with him that on the promise of marriage they became lovers, and although her parents had never met the young man she frequently referred to him as her fiancé.
The outbreak of the Second World War saw the 25-year-old leave his native Southport to become a petty officer in the Navy. He served as a stoker on several ships, and while aboard the carrier Ark Royal in the spring of 1941, he was seriously injured after being caught up in an intensive, sustained attack on the ship which left him with a slight limp and damaged arm.
In June 1941, while recuperating at Evesham hospital in the Midlands, he met Delia Chatterton. Although both were engaged, their respective partners were elsewhere and they were instantly attracted to each other, the young nurse, in particular, being struck on the dashing sailor. They soon fell in love and on his discharge from the hospital they travelled to his camp at Devonport and married.
Edmundson and his wife were happy enough, but although she received money from a naval trust and had a job with the Government, she still found herself short of cash. In January 1942, only a few months after his marriage, Edmundson returned to Southport and had no hesitation in contacting Imeldred by letter begging for her help. He had neglected to inform her of his marriage, but word had reached her. Although angered and upset, she agreed to meet him.
Imeldred had worked as a children’s nurse in the Civil Nursing Reserve at Southport hospital for 18 months, but in the winter of 1941, she had transferred to the isolation ward at New Hall, Birkdale, an annexe of the main Southport hospital. She left home at 11 am on Saturday, February 7, to go on duty, and walked with her father to the bus stop, telling him she would not be home for tea as she was meeting Douglas, her fiancé, and they were going to the theatre. She finished her shift in the early evening and left the hospital with another nurse. That was the last time she was seen alive.
Imeldred met Edmundson in Victoria Park, Southport that evening. What did she expect when she met her lover again? Whatever her intentions, it all went horribly wrong. According to Edmundson, she told him that she was prepared to lend him some money, but when he said that it was not only for himself but also for his wife, she became abusive and refused him the money. Imeldred, he said, had tried to break up his marriage by writing to his wife’s parents informing them that he had promised to marry her, but it was only when she began to insult his wife that he lost his temper and grabbed her by the throat.
Early the next morning, a man out walking his dog in Victoria park found a woman's body lying in the bushes close to the entrance. Her clothing had been torn and she was evidently strangled. The handbag and purse which contained her identity card were missing, but later that afternoon Frederick Osliff was able to confirm to police that the body was that of his daughter, Imeldred.
The investigation was handled by Detective Inspector Mighall and Detective Sergeant Cook, and from the grieving parents, they learned of Imeldred’s assignation on the previous evening with her fiancé. Who was this Douglas Edmundson? Her parents somewhat shamefully admitted knowing nothing about him, but enquiries soon brought some important information.
It was learned that Imeldred had last been seen around 9 pm with her fiancé, and a short time later a man matching his description boarded a train for Liverpool carrying a small black bag. Later that Sunday afternoon, police in Liverpool found the bag, which proved to have belonged to the murdered nurse, in Church Street, close to the YMCA.
The hunt for Petty Officer Edmundson was only a short one. He was known to have friends at Evesham and from them, it was learned he had travelled to Birmingham, where early on Tuesday morning he was taken into custody.
On Monday, April 20, 1942, Douglas Edmundson stood trial for murder at Liverpool Assizes, before Mr Justice Wrottesley. He pleaded not guilty. Evidence was given that on several occasions Edmundson had written to Imeldred asking for help and that she had eventually given in to his request. They had arranged to meet and he then made a "desperate attempt for monetary assistance". While in the park he strangled her and stole her bag, which contained money and letters she carried written by him.
The trial lasted two days, and on the last day, the defence realised their only hope rested in proving that Edmundson was insane. His wife took the stand and testified that her husband lived in a semi-fantasy world and had a tendency to ‘sheer romance’. During their marriage he had told her more than one incredible tale: once that he was to be posted overseas to Africa, and it was only after he had bought and packed a number of cases did she find out that it was all a lie, and on another occasion, he came home and told her that his brother Norman had been killed in an air crash while serving in the RAF, which again was untrue.
Why would he say and do these things, his defence suggested, if he wasn’t suffering from some form of insanity?
The jury was unconvinced, and on June 24, 1942, Douglas Edmundson was hanged at Walton prison for the murder of the woman who loved him. Now you have read about the murder of Imeldred Maria Osliff, take the time to learn about The Tragic Murder Of Eliza Caldwell & The Hanging Of Her Husband Charlie.