In May, 1956, the battered and bruised bodies of the Ormesher sisters were found in their kitchen.
Margaret and Mary were in their sixties when they were discovered, lying in pools of their own blood, and very much dead, on that Sunday morning in West Lancs.
They had been beaten to death with a poker and candlesticks, both of which were damaged and bent out of shape by the force of the attack.
The double murder induced mass media coverage with national papers descending on Ormskirk.
Every man aged 18 and over in the town had their fingerprints taken but, despite, such a widespread manhunt, the killer was never found.
This is the story of the Ormesher sisters, their strange beginnings, their awful end, and why two frail old ladies were the subject of such a brutal attack.
The worst pub in Ormskirk
Emma Foster married Edward Ormesher in 1888 when the couple were in their early 20s.
The following year Edward was called to be a witness at a legal trial in Liverpool. There are no details on the manner of the legal matter but a Prosecution Bill does throw up some interesting details about his early life.
He was a boot and shoe maker and was paid for two days board and his rail fare, suggesting that he was a witness on an important trial as he was required to attend court for two days.
Edward's father, Edward Ormesher senior, consistently advertised his boot and shoe business in the Ormskirk Advertiser, suggesting that Edward junior took over from his father in the cobbler game.
By the time Emma was 24 and Edward 23, the Ormesher's had two daughters: Mary and Margaret and by the time of the 1901 census, when the couple were 34 and 33, they had another two girls, May and Emily.
Emma and Edward were, by this point, active publicans.
The 1830 Beer Act had allowed all dwellings in Britain to turn themselves from houses into pubs freely selling alcohol and it seemed that Ormskirk had taken full advantage of the change in law.
By 1869 there were 98 beerhouses in Ormskirk district, including 76 inns, public houses and hotels.
It is no surprise that Edward began running The John Bull beerhouse in Chapel Street, where he and his family lived with a 24-year-old woman called Annie Birdsley who worked as a servant for the Ormeshers.
There is little detail as to why, but it seems that The John Bull was known as the worst pub in the town and it lost its licence sometime between 1901 and 1911 (the time of the next census).
By 1911, Emma and Edward had decided to have another go at running a pub.
They were living with three of their daughters at The Brickmaker’s Arms in Asmall Lane. Margaret, also styling herself as Maggie at this point, had left home to work as a servant for the Kelsall family who lived on Highfield Greetby Hill.
Unfortunately The Brickmaker's Arms pub also lost its license. It's fair to say that, on the available evidence, the Ormeshers were not cut out to be innkeepers.
But the family remained at Asmall Lane which was converted into a normal family dwelling, now going by the name of Ivydene or Ivy Dene
In fact, this spacious ten-room house, with its own private courtyard, would, some fifty years later, be the scene of the heinous double murder that continues to stump Lancashire Constabulary to this day.
Four sisters , tobacco and sweets
It's not known what Edward and Emma did after running two freehouses into the ground but we can take a good stab at it.
Later Margaret and Mary would become known for running a tabacconists and sweetshop in Ormskirk and it's safe to assume that they took over that family business from their parents.
There is some evidence to support this from a 1915 issue of the Ormskirk Advertiser. Edward Ormesher's name was published in the paper alongside a list of shop owners who were supporting the Early Closing Movement, a campaign to put a cap on trading hours for shops.
The owners would all shut their shops at agreed times to encourage a cap on opening hours to be introduced across the UK. As Edward's name was on the list we can assume he owned a shop, and, judging by the shop his daughter's later ran, we can assume it was the same tabacconists and sweetshop in Church Street.
Edward and Emma remained at Ivydene until their deaths. Edward was 63 when he passed away in 1930, his wife Emma lived for another 21 years, passing away in 1951 aged 84, leaving the house to Mary and Margaret.
The older Ormesher sisters were, by all accounts, odd. Looking at the available sources they don't fit the family pattern.
Margaret and Mary never married, the two older sisters were separated by just two years from the younger Emily Ormesher who would marry John William Allen, a van driver for a local green grocers, in 1917.
The youngest Ormesher girl, May, was nine years Emily's senior, the truly isolated younger child. She married John Brierley in 1926.
But, despite May and Emily going to start families of their own, Mary and Margaret remained single until their deaths.
We know they both spent time as servants. The 1911 census showed that Margaret was working for the Kelsall family, while Mary Ormesher's name popped up in 1952 in a June edition of the Liverpool Echo.
Her employer, the vastly rich Ada Webster Barnes, had died and left her £100 in her will. This tells us two very key pieces of information, firstly, Mary no longer had a job as of 1952, and, she had been gifted £100, worth almost £3,000 today.
It is safe to assume that around this time, with their mother dying in 1951, the sisters took over the family shop. The Lancashire Evening Post reported, after the sister's were found dead, that Emily and May had died sometime before the Mary and Margaret, meaning that the sisters were possibly the last two people alive in their family.
Mary and Margaret were described as being "diminutive in height" so short that they barely reached five foot tall and were both well known figures in Ormskirk, which makes sense, as they would never leave the town.
By the time the pair were murdered, the Ormesher sisters typified the stereotype of the frail old lady. They were quiet, went out of their way to help others and never seemed to pose any threat.
To add to their sweet and harmless demeanour, Mary was known to regular customers at their sweet shop as "Aunt Polly."
Mrs Josephine Mary Whitehouse lived above the sisters’ shop on Church Street with her husband, John Frederick Whitehouse, from 1952.
The inquiries held after the murder revealed that Mrs Whitehouse almost acted as a carer to the sisters.
She accompanied Mary home every night, walking her to up to the front door of her house (which was bolted from the inside) before Margaret let her sister in. Mary was not permitted to have her own front door key. The sisters always kept the back door locked although Mary had told Mrs Whitehouse that Margaret had a habit of opening the back door if she heard a sound.
There were also reports that the sisters sometimes went to bed as late as 1am.
They were quiet, small, frail, and a little odd, possibly living with undiagnosed learning difficulties in a 10 bedroom house. They were also making a great deal of money and not spending any of it.
In fact, there were rumours on the street, that Mary and Margaret had £3,000 hidden away somewhere, a small fortune that could easily buy them another house outright.
Death and discovery
It was Saturday, May 5 1956.
Mary had walked the kilometre or so back from her shop to her home at Ivydene. She carried with her a brown case which contained the shop's weekly takings. This particular week it amounted to £150, over £3,700 in today's money.
This was the first night in almost six years that Mary had walked home alone, without Mrs Whitehouse, who had gone to visit Southport with her husband, presumably the first holiday they had enjoyed in at least six years.
A labourer called John Wright, who also lived on Asmall Lane, recalled seeing Margaret enter the garden gate of Ivydene at 6.45pm.
The 68-year-old was wearing a dark grey coat and black hat but he did not notice whether she was carrying anything.
Mary Jane Sephton of Halsall Lane which connected to Asmall Lane, saw Mary pass her bedroom window between 10.10pm and 10.25pm. Mary was alone and carrying the brown case containing the shop takings in her right hand.
Mary had walked home alone (the sun had set before nine) in the dark and through street dimly lit by gas lamps.
Other neighbours says she was carrying something in her left hand that they couldn't identify but there was no suggestion that she, or Margaret, had been followed home.
At 10.18pm, another neighbour spotted a man across the road from Ivydene and, within an hour, various neighbours heard noises, which included groans, raised male and female voices, breaking glass and bin lids clattering, all emanating from the sisters' home. They were all dismissed.
Mrs Whitehouse returned from Southport on Sunday, May 6.
As she always did, Mrs Whitehouse took a cup of tea to the shop in Church Street to give to Mary but found it locked. By 11am she was growing worried and decided to walk to Ivydene and knock on the door.
Receiving no reply, she sought the help of a neighbour, one Patrick Cummins. Circulating the house and approaching the back door, Mr Cummins and Mrs Whitehouse spotted a trail of blood. Mr Cummins told Mrs Whitehouse to hang back as he took a look inside the house.
What awaited Mr Cummins was a battleground. He later told The Lancashire Evening Post that the scene awaiting him was "terrible."
Mary and Margaret were found in a pool of their own blood, still wearing their cardigans. They had been battered about the head and upper body with a number of discarded items left about them, candlesticks, a wine bottle and a poker, which had been bent out of shape by the ferocity at which it had been used.
Mary's brown case was found open on the kitchen table and £100 was missing along with a ring and a watch.
The only clue left by the murderer at the scene was a single bloody fingerprint, found on a shard of broken glass from the wine bottle.
The response to the Ormesher murders was immediate and widespread.
The May 6 edition of the Liverpool Echo splashed on the story, with reports that police were flooding into Ormskirk and launching a large scale man hunt for the killer.
Police visited left luggage offices and dry cleaners, hoping to find reports of bloodied clothing, due to the state of the bodies, the killer must have been awash in crimson. Doctors were asked if they had treated anyone for cuts or bruises as the killer must have received wounds of his own in the violent struggle. Liverpool Police even chipped in, visiting lodgings in the city, searching for the mystery drifter who had violently murdered the two women.
But all police enquiries were fruitless.
The only real clue police had to go on was from an 11-year-old boy who lived opposite Ivydene.
Barry Houghton had seen a man leaning against a blue bicycle, with white mudguards, for three nights in a row.
"I remember him quite clearly," the 11-year-old told the Echo, "he seemed to be glancing up and down the road all the time. It was last Wednesday night that I saw him first at about 10pm. He must have been there for about half an hour. I saw him there again on Thursday and Friday night but he wasn't there on Saturday."
Barry told police that the man looked to be in his 30s, was about six feet in height and was wearing a trench coat with dark trousers, he was not wearing a hat and had dark hair with a clean shaven face.
The 11-year-old boy made the front pages of the Lancashire Evening Post and the Echo.
The police were fresh out of real information to go on and, within days, more than 300 posters were up around the town calling for fresh information. Initially the police sought Mr Norman Light, the Ormesher's cousin who had been staying in the area at the time of the murders and was known to travel everywhere by bike but there was no evidence connecting Norman with the killings.
By May 11 it had come to light that the sisters had a run a sideline business in money lending from their home. Loan slips, some for £100, were found at Ivydene, police had possibly found a new motive for the killer.
The sisters had provided accommodation to evacuees from Liverpool during the war and police began checking the names of the children who had stayed with them but nothing came of their investigations.
By the end of May the police were, once again, fresh out of ideas. The Lancashire Constabulary Superintendent Lindsay told the Echo that he was receiving daily anonymous letters about the murder but had no fresh clues.
The summer was a time of tension.
No real leads presented themselves and the police had to resort to rather more methodical and painstaking methods. They had one bloody fingerprint and that was the only piece of evidence that could link the killer to the scene of the crime.
Lancashire police began taking the fingerprints of every man aged 18 and over in Ormskirk, hoping to find a match. At the time this was a sound avenue of investigtion.
Eight years before that very method had been used to catch Peter Griffiths, the 19-year-old who had raped and killed a three-year-old girl in Blackburn. It had taken police months to take 40,000 fingerprints but it had eventually led to a conviction and the hanging of Griffiths for murder.
By September 1956, 10,000 fingerprints had been taken by Lancashire Constabulary with no results. That same month a Black American man was questioned by the police in connection to the killings, unsurprisingly it yielded no results as the man matched none of the characteristics of the police suspect.
But that was the closest the police ever came to finding the Ormesher's killer.
By June 1957 it was revealed that the sisters had been sitting on a £1,700 fortune and had written no will. The monies was divided up between their living relatives and, with the case now stone cold, their shop on Church Street was demolished by the council.
It all came down to money.
It was an open secret that the sisters were sat on a cash fortune. They were money hoarders who worked seven days a week, were fiscally conservative, and had no immediate family. They lent money, didn't deposit their money in a bank, and walked, in plain view of the entire town, with their money in a case, from their shop to their home.
Someone had found out about their fortune and robbed them of just £100, brutally killing them in the process and disappearing without a trace.
In February 1983, someone made an anonymous phone call to the Manchester Evening News.
They claimed to know the identity of the murder. The call is believed to have come from an elderly man in his 70s who deeply regretted withholding vital information from the police since that fateful night in 1956.
The information was passed to Lancashire police who identified and investigated the suspect. Nothing more came of it.
To this day, no one has been arrested in connection to the deaths of Mary and Margaret Ormesher and Lancashire Constabulary continue to investigate the murder.