Wednesday, March 21, 2012

History Corner: Nunhead Station Shooting 1924

On March 18 1924 there was a tragic incident at Nunhead railway station. John Alfred West, a 24 year old lorry driver from Marylebone, shot his ex-fiancee Edith Agnes Barker (23) as she was getting off the train. She recovered, but he died of his injuries at Kings College Hospital the next day.

Barker, of Gibbon Road, was a programme seller at the Scala Theatre. Her father, Thomas Cornish Harker,  ran a newsagent near to the station. He told The Times that the couple had been engaged for four and a half years, but had broken up six weeks before; 'Since then West has been bothering her with his attentions. Last night she came home as usual by herself, by the 11.50 train from St Pauls Station. At the Elephant and Castle Station, West, who appears to have been waiting for her, got into the compartment where she was. On arriving at Nunhead, just as she was getting out of the train, she tells me, West pointed a revolver at her and fired. He fired two shots at her and then one at himself. Edith fell forward on to the platform bleeding from a bullet wound in the face' (Times 19 March 1924)

At the inquest into West's death, station attendant Charles Abbs recalled 'Miss Harker jumped from the train, dropped her attache case on the platform, and collapsed in my arms, saying "He has shot me". The next thing I saw was the man standing in his carriage, and before anything could be done there was another report of a revolver. The man gave a half-right turn and fell on the back of his head on the platform with his legs remaining inside the carriage' (Times, 26 March 1924).

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