'She dared me to do it': Murder at Horley
11 June 2021 (Updated 7 September 2021)
In 1952 the small village of Horley in North Oxfordshire was the scene for one of the most curious murders in Oxfordshire history.
On 19 May 23-year-old Oliver George Butler ran into the railway signal box at Moor Mill near Horley. Butler was greatly distressed and asked the startled signalman to call the police, telling him that he had just committed a murder.
A doomed romance?
The victim was 21-year-old Rose Margaret Meadows, a young woman who Butler had met at his place of work, the Northern Aluminium Company of Banbury. Butler was already married, but Butler claimed that the pair had fallen in love and started a secret relationship.
Butler claimed that Rose had a morbid obsession with death, frequently talking about murder and suicide. Butler said that this stemmed from a visit to a fortune-teller who had told Rose that she was destined to be murdered. Rose was apparently convinced that this prediction would come true, and had asked Butler to be the one to murder her!
Butler is brought to trial
At his trial, Butler repeated his claim that Rose had egged him on to strangle her. He claimed Rose had a weak heart, that when he put his hands around her neck he had only done so to frighten her and that her death was a terrible accident.
The jury found him guilty but recommended mercy on account of the circumstances. Despite this recommendation, Butler was sentenced to be executed. The sentence was carried out on 12 August 1952. As it turned out, Butler was to be the last person to be executed at Oxford Prison.
Notes on location
I haven't been able to track down the exact location of the murder, or the location of the railway signal box where Butler confessed his crime to the signalman, so the map location given is an estimate.
The railway in question, the Oxfordshire Ironstone Railway, was an extension of the Great Western Railway that operated between 1917 and 1967 to carry ironstone between the quarry at Wroxton and the GWR junction at Banbury.
- 'A Grim Almanac of Oxfordshire' by Nicola Sly (The History Press, 2013, ISBN: 978752465814)