The Murder Of Mona Mather At Tyldesley, England, 1951 & The Hanging Of Jack Wright At Strangeways

Mona Mather was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who wanted revenge for the way she rejected him. The culprit was executed at Strangeways prison in July of 1951.

Murder of Mona Mather, Tyldesley
Mona Mathers house (left) and the location where her body was discovered at Wharton Hall Colliery

Mona Mather could scarcely have made a worse choice for a boyfriend when she started courting Jack Wright, a Tyldesley coal miner, during the summer of 1950. Gregarious and flighty, she flirted outrageously with anyone whenever she and Jack went out as a couple. Unknown to Mona she was playing with fire and asking to get burned.

On a cold, rainy autumn night later that year, while the couple were out strolling in a rainswept park, 28-year-old Mona spotted an old boyfriend and in an instant they began chatting away, oblivious to Jack who stood quietly at her side, unafforded the shelter of the umbrella which her re-acquainted friend was now sharing.

Eventually, Jack turned to Mona and complained, "Don't you think it's time we were getting back?" Without so much as a backward glance she replied, "Oh, you can go if you want, I'll catch up with you again." She wasn't to know about it, but Mona had just had a very lucky escape.

Six months after the episode in the rain, fate finally caught up with Mona Mather. The annual Easter fair - "the wakes" - was being held on Shakerley Common, Tyldesley, a small town west of Manchester.

Early on Saturday evening, April 7, 1951, Jack Wright met up with a few of his workmates and went out drinking, visiting several local pubs before finishing up at The George And Dragon at just before 10 pm. Jack had hardly settled down with a drink when he felt a tap on his shoulder and spun round to find himself face to face with the girl he had last seen laughing at him as he walked out of her life several months before.

Mona had left her home at Wharton Fold, Little Hulton, earlier that evening and was out with her brother Joe and his wife, having a few drinks before going on to the wakes. They had done the round of pubs in Tyldesley but Mona had failed to find a date to accompany her to the fair and, spotting Jack, she homed in at once.

Both had a fair bit to drink and when she asked Jack if he wanted to sleep with her tonight he forgot about the events of the past and nodded his head in agreement. Finishing their drinks, Jack and Mona set out for the fair together, leaving The George And Dragon at 10.25 pm, bidding goodnight to her brother and his wife who left them outside and made their own way to the fair.

They spent an hour or so on the various amusements and it was during one of the rides, as Jack caught sight of her laughing wildly, that he decided that tonight he would get his revenge.

With midnight fast approaching, he asked her if she would like him to walk her home. Mona slipped her arm through his, smiled, and said "Yes, please." As they left the fair they were spotted by one of Jack's workmates, Matthew Weir, who shouted across at him, "Well, Jackie, I didn't know you were courting!" Jack looked across and replied "No. This is one I have picked up!"

They walked for the best part of half an hour; along the common, past a brickworks, and over a railway footbridge before turning onto a path that led alongside the Wharton Hall Colliery pumping station situated close to the Tyldesley and Little Hulton border. They stopped against a fence and began to kiss. Mona closed her eyes as his powerful hands held her close. Suddenly he reached up to her neck and squeezed it tightly.

Seconds later, as she slumped almost lifeless against him, he heard voices coming down the nearby footpath. Silently he stood in the shadows as a young couple strolled by almost within touching distance.

Satisfying himself that the coast was clear, he carried her sagging body into the field beside the colliery and set about the task, taking his time, almost relishing the thrill of the kill. Kneeling over her, Jack pulled off the white silk scarf Mona had draped over her coat and knotted it tightly around her neck.

Certain that she was now dead, he took off her coat and threw it over the lifeless body, taking a last look around before disappearing into the night. He then went home and ate a large supper before retiring to bed.

At six the next morning, 43-year-old Fred Broad finished his shift at Wharton colliery and headed home across the field. Crossing the path that dissected the waste ground adjacent to the pit, Fred noticed a strange bundle on the ground, and curiosity caused him to take a closer look. Moments later he found himself staring down at the body of a woman; her grotesquely distorted features left him in no doubt she was dead, so he rushed off to inform the police of his gruesome discovery.

Within the hour the place was crawling with police. Chief Superintendant Mercer, the head of Leigh police, was the first to arrive, later to be joined by Detective Superintendant Lindsey, Chief Inspector McCartney, Chief Inspector Campbell, and both the Assistant and Chief Constables of Lancashire CID. The body had been found lying three yards inside the Little Hulton border. The little money in her purse suggested that robbery was not the motive for the attack. They concluded their initial report with the thought that she had made her way to the scene of the crime willingly; from the state of her clothing it appeared that she had had sex, but whether this was within her consent they could not be certain.

Inside her handbag, they found a number of articles and papers that revealed her identity, and later her horrified relatives were able to tell police that Mona had left The George And Dragon on the previous night with a man she had been seeing last summer and that they were last seen heading towards the fairground.

Pathologist Dr Carragher of Warrington carried out a post-mortem later that morning and confirmed that Mona had died as a result of strangulation and that the thyroid bone in her neck had been fractured. Alan Thompson of the forensic lab at Preston reported that all Mona's underclothing had been torn.

By noon police learned that the man Mona had left the fair with was Jack Wright, a 30-year-old coal miner living with his mother and stepfather at 3 John Street, Tyldesley. Officers called at his house and found he had left earlier that morning, presumably going to one of a number of social clubs where he usually played snooker and enjoyed a Sunday lunchtime pint.

News of police inquiries into Jack Wright's whereabouts quickly spread, and when he called into the Tyldesley Liberal Club he was greeted with, "Eh, Jack, police have been asking about thee." He made no comment but quickly finished his drink and headed for another club at nearby Astley.

At closing time he took a train into Manchester. He knew that it was only a matter of time before the police caught up with him, but until they did he reasoned that he might as well make the most of his freedom. He wandered aimlessly around Manchester town centre for a while before opting to see a film at the cinema.

It was getting late and although he knew he was certain to be captured if he returned to Tyldesley, Jack called at London Road railway station in Manchester to catch the last train home. Finding that he still had a short time to wait he went into the snack bar and as he settled down with a cup of tea he was spotted by Detective Constable Hart of British Railways Transport Police, who radioed for assistance. At 12.20 am, Wright was arrested by Detective Inspector Roberts and Detective Constables Holmes and Graham.

At 1.00 am, as he was taken by car to a nearby police station, Wright told the arresting officers that he had been with two women that night and that he left Mona at the fairground with two men. He didn't know their names but he did know that they were from Little Hulton and felt sure that she would have walked home with one of them. Wright was then told that he was being taken back to Tyldesley for questioning in connection with the murder of Mona Mather and replied quietly, "I don't know what happened."

Later, Wright turned to an officer and asked him, "Am I supposed to have done this murder?" The officer made no comment. On arrival at Tyldesley, he was again questioned and then charged with the murder, to which he replied, "That's correct."

Jack Wright stood trial at Liverpool Assizes before Mr Justice Oliver on June 12, 1951. Mr J. Robertson Crichton KC, his defence counsel, told the jury that he would ask for a verdict of guilty but insane. They claimed that Wright had admitted to them that he had set out that night to kill a woman and it was sheer coincidence that Mona Mather happened to appear on the scene. They also stated that during the last few years, Wright had made three separate assaults on women, but, as each of the victims had been known to him, they had decided not to press charges. Although Wright knew what he had done was wrong, he didn't seem aware of the consequences.

Mr H. Nelson KC, for the prosecution, countered this simply by stating that there was no evidence to support the claim of insanity and that Wright had murdered Mona Mather as a result of her rejecting him the previous year. Neither Dr Cormack, the medical officer at Strangeways gaol, nor another doctor called to examine him, could find any trace of madness and the prosecution, therefore, asked the court to find him guilty of willful, premeditated murder. The jury took just under three hours to return a guilty verdict and Wright was sentenced to death.

On 3rd July 1951, Jack Wright was hanged at Strangeways for a crime he had waited six months to commit. Now you have read about the murder of Mona Mather, make sure you take a look at The Lynching Of Leo Frank: The Murder of A Young Girl, A Trial Fueled By Antisemitism & The KKK.


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