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Introduction

The case of Edwin Bush is notable as it was the first case in the UK involving the use of the Identikit System. This case also illustrates an aspect of the Homicide Act 1957. If no item had been stolen from the premises, then the murderer could not have been sentenced to death under the Act.

The Case

On 3 March 1961 Mrs Elsie May Batten, an assistant in Louis Meier's 23 Cecil Court antique shop, located in an alley off Charing Cross Road in London's West End, was found dead. She had been stabbed with an antique dagger in her chest and neck.

Nearby shop owners recalled a young coloured man who had been asking about the price of dress swords. This man also tried to sell a sword which was later proved to have come from the murdered lady's shop. After taking the descriptions of the suspect, the police constructed an Identikit picture. Within 4 days of the picture being issued, PC John Cole recognised the person and arrested him on his beat in the Soho area of London.

A 21 year old Eurasian called Edwin Albert Bush was picked out from an Identity Parade by two Cecil Court shop owners. Bush made a statement in which he admitted killing Mrs Batten in order to steal the sword:

"I went back to the shop and started looking through the daggers, telling her that I might want to buy one, but I picked one up and hit her in the back. I then lost my nerve and picked up a stone vase and hit her with it. I grabbed a knife and hit her once in the stomach and once in the neck."

Bush was charged with murder in the course or furtherance of theft. Under the Homicide Act 1957, this type of murder carried the death sentence. At his trail, Bush claimed that Mrs Batten had said that "You niggers are all the same. You come in and never buy anything." Bush was found guilty at his Old Bailey trial and was sentenced to death by hanging.

On 6 July 1961, Bush was executed at Pentonville Prison, London.

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