Justice Site  |                             Case Name: R v Susan Hilda May

Susan May

d of Murder

Preliminary Draft

Hilda Marchbank (89 yrs old) was beaten around the face and killed by suffocation in her house at 24 Tandle Hill Road, Royton, Oldham during the night of 11th March 1992 between 9.00 pm and midnight . The body was discovered by Mrs Marchbank's niece, Mrs Susan May at about 9.30 am on 12th March. Although death was by suffocation, there was also a considerable amount of bleeding by the victim in the bed where she lay, because it was evident that she had also been slapped or punched about the face.

Susan May was the principal carer for her aunt. She was tried for the murder of Mrs Marchbank at Manchester Crown Court before Justice Hutchison and a jury and was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on 5th May 1993.


Susan May had looked after her aunt for some years on a daily basis and had access to her aunt's house. She admitted visiting Mrs Marchbank about 9.00 pm on the night when she was killed, and had a motive for murder, as she had lavished her savings on a younger man with whom she was conducting an affair, had got into debt, and stood to inherit her aunt's house upon her death.

On the morning of 12th March 1992, Mrs May went to see her aunt, stopping on the way to buy her a sandwich. When she arrived at the house, she saw to her horror that her aunt was lying dead in her bed, having been beaten about the face and strangled. She immediately ran out of the house to report the crime to a neighbour who called the police.

When the police arrived, they believed that the bungalow bore the appearance of a burglary which had been faked, because there was no sign of a forced entry although drawers had been opened, and in some cases the contents turned out.   A box containing jewellery had been carried down from upstairs. Only Mrs May's fingerprints were on it (which was not in itself unusual). Some jewellery was there to be seen but was not taken.

On a wall in the ground floor bedroom where Mrs Marchbank died there were three marks of what appeared to be blood. All the marks were at the same level spread along the wall near to where the victim lay. The 1st mark on the left nearest the bed was of Susan May's right palm and fingers; the second (middle) mark was said to be of her left palm and fingers (although the blood from this print had dripped down the wall, and so the print was not completely distinguishable) while the third mark near to the light switch was merely a smear of blood.

The Crown's case was that Susan May, having attacked and strangled her aunt in the evening, then felt her away out of the darkened room, inadvertently placing her bloodied hands on the wall as she fled, and thereby leaving behind incontrovertible evidence of her guilt. She must have been the murderer, or else how could her blood-stained hand prints be on the wall of her aunt's bedroom? She had not touched the body when she discovered it in the morning.

Six days later, at a police station, Mrs May was also recorded as saying: "You know the scratches on my aunt's face, can they get stuff from down the fingernails at forensic"?

The prosecution claimed that the detail about three facial scratches on the victim's face was only something that the murderer could have known, and in addition to the evidence of the bloodied hand-prints on the wall, this was one of those cases where the perpetrator was caught literally "red-handed", with no sensible ground of defence.

The jury convicted Mrs Susan May of murder and she served out her sentence, being released from prison on 26th April 2005. There is little doubt that in an 'open and shut' case like this, there would have been no shortage of vounteers to be the first to put the noose around Mrs May's neck had hanging still been the sentence for murder.

However, despite the apparently overwhelming evidence of her hand prints which had been impressed in the blood of the victim on the wall of the bedroom where she lay, Mrs May continued to declare her innocence.


The police officer who first arrived at the scene was...... to be contd.



To be continued.
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