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Alfred BURNS






The Cranborne Road Murder
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 20, 1951
Date of birth: 1930
Victim profile: Beatrice Alice Rimmer, 54
Method of murder: Bludgeoned to death
Location: Liverpool, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Walton Prison on April 25, 1952

1952, 25 April: Edward Devlin and Alfred Burns executed for killing a woman during a robbery in Liverpool. They claimed that they had been doing a different burglary in Manchester, and others involved in the crime supported this. A Home Office report rejected this evidence. Huge crowds gathered outside Liverpool's Walton Prison as they were executed.


Cranborne Road Murder

In 1951 Beatrice Rimmer was bludgeoned to death in her home, with robbery the supposed motive. Two Mancunians Edward Devlin and Alfred Burns were later hung for the murder after investigations led by Bert Balmer, who would appear to have 'fitted up' George Kelly and Charles Connolly over the Cameo murders.

The evidence against the two accused was largely circumstantial, involving eye witness accounts by people of questionable character and the defendants failure to provide a suitable alibi. No murder weapon or fingerprints were ever found, nor did anyone ever see the them go into the house.


The Cranborne Road Murder

Merseymart & Star

18 September 2002

One of the biggest arguments against a death penalty is that innocent people have been hanged in the past. We only have to think of individuals such as Timothy Evans, Derek Bentley and Hussein Mattan, to name but a few who were hanged, but later posthumously pardoned. In the judicial hall of infamy there are numerous examples of gross miscarriages of justice such as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Sheila Bowler, Stefan Kiszko; the list goes on and on. In Liverpool in the early 1950s, two young men were hanged for a murder in the Wavertree area, and local criminologist Keith Andrews believes the duo were innocent of the crime. First, here are the facts regarding this controversial murder case.

On the Sunday evening of 19th August 1951, a widow in her early fifties named Beatrice Alice Rimmer, left her son's house in Madryn Street, Toxteth. The time was 9.45 p.m., and Mrs Rimmer walked to the bus stop on High Park Street, accompanied by her son Thomas. In her gloved hands, Mrs Rimmer carried a bunch of flowers and an umbrella. The widow soon boarded a Number 27 bus that took her to Lodge Lane, where she stepped down from the vehicle outside the Pavilion Theatre. Mrs Rimmer then walked down Smithdown Road to her home at Number 7 Cranborne Road, arriving home around 10.10 p.m.

On the following day, Thomas Rimmer travelled to his mother's house, but before he reached the front door, Mrs Rimmer's neighbour, Jack Grossman, approached Thomas and drew his attention to the milk bottle on the front doorstep. It had been there since around six in the morning. Thomas Rimmer hammered on the door of his mother's house to no avail, so he looked through the letterbox and was alarmed to see what looked like a bundle of clothes behind the front door. Thomas went to the back of the house and climbed over the wall. The bottom kitchen window pane had been broken, yet strangely, Thomas noted that the glass shards were on the floor of the yard, outside the house. He climbed in through the broken window and found his mother in a large pool of clotted blood, just behind the front door. The umbrella was looped around her wrist and the bunch of flowers lay beside the corpse. The widow had died from an extremely violent attack that had left her with fifteen wounds.

The police were baffled by the motive behind the crime, because nothing had been taken from the house, and even the gas meter was untouched. A police investigation was launched with teams of detectives working round the clock, but Liverpool Police soon reached a dead end - until Chief Superintendent Herbert Balmer suddenly claimed that a man serving time for a burglary at Walton Prison had told him who had committed the Cranborne Road murder: they were two Mancunian men; George Alfred Burns, aged 21, and 22-year-old Edward Devlin.

The police alleged that Burns and Devlin had been half-way through a burglary in Manchester when they decided to travel to Liverpool to break into Mrs Rimmer's home. Old, minute bloodstains found on the coat belonging to one of the men was cited as evidence - even though it was not of the same blood-group as Mrs Rimmer. It was in fact blood from a fight in a pub. Rose Heilbron defended the Manchester men at their trial and told the jury that the evidence against Burns and Devlin was circumstantial - no one had seen them enter or leave the house.

All the same, the two men were hanged in April 1952 at Walton Prison. Keith Andrews believes the real killer of Mrs Rimmer lived locally and knew the murder victim. 'Fifty years ago, two young men were, in my opinion, framed for the murder of Mrs Rimmer. I believe that even at this late stage, the identity of the true killer can still be uncovered,' says Keith, who is now researching the Cranborne Road murder.


Murder Most Foul: Hanged . . but did they do it?

By Ben Rossington, Liverpool Echo

Apr 10 2008

It may be one the biggest miscarriages of justice ever seen on Merseyside.

Two Mancunian burglars were hanged for the murder of a Wavertree housewife in 1951.

There was no evidence, no motive and the pair had an alibi, even if it put them at the scene of another crime in Manchester.

The only thing that linked the two men to the murder was the say-so of a crook serving time for burglary.

But, according to the opinion of the jury and the courts, it was enough for them to be sent to the gallows.

On Monday, August 20, 1951, a tailor named Jack Grossman alerted Thomas Rimmer to the suspicious scene at the front door of 7 Cranborne Road.

It was the Wavertree home of Beatrice Alice Rimmer, Thomas’s widowed mother.

There was a bottle of milk on the doorstep, delivered at 6am, and it was now long after midday.

Mrs Rimmer had not been seen all morning.

Mr Grossman, of 9 Cranborne Road, was concerned about his neighbour, who, although in her early 50s, was a very old-fashioned and rather naive woman.

Thomas, visiting from his home in Madryn Street, Toxteth, hammered on the door of his mother’s house then looked through the letterbox.

He saw what looked like a bundle of clothes behind the front door.

Thomas raced round to the back of the house, scaled the backyard wall and saw a smashed pane in the kitchen window.

The hole looked too small for anyone to get into the house.

Stranger still, the glass shards were in the yard as if the window had been broken from the inside.

Thomas moved the jagged edges of the broken pane so he could get through the window into the kitchen.

Behind the front door in the hall he found his mother’s body in a large pool of clotted blood.

An umbrella was looped around her wrist and a bunch of flowers lay beside her.

The night before Thomas gave her the flowers after she visited him and his wife.

She left them at 9.45pm. It later emerged she was attacked at around 10.10pm, as soon as she got home.

Mrs Rimmer suffered 15 wounds and died an agonising death.

Police had no motive or any suspects until a man serving time for burglary at Walton prison came forward.

He told police two Mancunians, 22-year-old Edward Devlin and 21-year-old Alfred Burns, admitted to him they murdered Mrs Rimmer.

They were put on trial and convicted, even though not a single witness had seen them leave or enter Cranborne Road.

The only forensic evidence was a drop of blood on the coat belonging to one of them, which was not even from the same blood group as Mrs Miller’s.

They constantly pleaded their innocence, even admitting to being part of a warehouse break-in in Manchester. A thief jailed for that job confessed the pair were with him, but Devlin and Burns were convicted.

Defence solicitors Livermore and Norton urged the home secretary to grant a reprieve.

And the mothers of the condemned men begged the Queen to intervene, but received no reply.

The appeals came to nothing and Burns and Devlin were hanged side by side, proclaiming their innocence to the last, on April 25, 1952

The February 28, 1952, ECHO carried the following report into the conviction of Devlin and Burns.

It read: “Two Manchester labourers, 22-year-old Edward Francis Devlin and Alfred Burns, aged 21, were found guilty by a jury at Liverpool Assizes, last evening, of the murder of a Liverpool widow.

“Both were sentenced to death by Mr Justice Finnemore. The jury’s verdict, announced to a tense and crowded court, the silence of which was broken by groans from women in the public benches and gallery, came after 90 minutes’ deliberation.

“Both Devlin and Burns had strenuously denied having killed 54-year-old Mrs Beatrice Alice Rimmer.

“Their alibi defence was that at the same time they were in Manchester breaking into the factory of Sun Blinds Ltd, from which goods to the value of £1,600 were stolen during the weekend of the murder. A queue began to form outside St George’s hall before seven (am) and when two or three hundred people were disappointed they remained standing at the plateau until the verdict was reached at 5.30 (pm).

“Before sentence was passed, Devlin placed his hands on the rail in front of the dock and addressed the judge.

“He said ‘My Lord. I would like to stress that it means the police are not infallible to tell lies’.”



   Alfred Burns                   Edward Devlin



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