Coroner Cracks 130-Year-Old Murder Mystery

London coroners solve a case so old, Sherlock Holmes could've worked it
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2011 11:45 AM CDT
London Coroners Uncover Skull, Solve 130-Year-Old Murder
FILE - In this undated file photo from the Public Broadcasting Service, British naturalist David Attenborough faces a Golden Eagle. British naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been awarded, Thursday, June 4, 2009 one of Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias prizes for his "great contributions to...   (AP Photo/Miles Barton/PBS/ File)

(Newser) – A skull dug up in a back garden has solved a 130-year-old mystery surrounding the murder of a wealthy London widow. Julia Thomas was murdered by her housekeeper in 1879, but her head was never found, and the case was dubbed the "Barnes mystery" by the Victorians for the area of London where the woman was killed. In October, excavators discovered a skull in nature documentary maker David Attenborough's back garden. He lives near where Thomas was slain.

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Reviewing records of the murder and census records, and using radiocarbon testing, detectives connected the skull with the murder case. West London Coroner Alison Thompson ruled yesterday that the skull belonged to Thomas. She said that Thomas was unlawfully killed and that the cause of death was asphyxiation and head injury. (Read more London stories.)

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