On Sat 14th Feb. A postman named John McHugh, while on his rounds, made an altogether shocking discovery. He had been approached by Mrs. Waddington of 192 Edge Lane Rd. who, on returning from shopping, was unable to gain access to her house. Her daughter who lived nearby was sent for as she kept a spare key. Having gained access, McHugh accompanied them into the house. Checking around McHugh went into the cellar. In the cellar, much to his horror, he found Ivy Wolfenden, age 7, of 170 Edge Lane Rd, at the bottom of the steps, seriously injured with a wound to her head. She was carried upstairs and placed on a couch. There were still signs that she was alive, the alarm was raised and a doctor sent for. The police were also alerted. The ambulance from the Central Fire Station attended but by the time it had reached the infirmary Ivy had died. The body was then moved to the morgue to await an inquest.
The Police immediately suspected foul play and after enquiries circulated a description of the man they suspected. The man was named as William Waddington, age 35, of 192 Edge Lane Rd. He was last seen going in the direction of Royton over Oldham Edge. His description was circulated to Police Stations all over the county by means of telephone broadcast. Every available man was assigned to the task and instructed to scour the town and its outskirts. Several taxis were requisitioned to carry plain clothes officers and detectives to the outlying areas of Manchester, Ashton, Rochdale, Todmorden and other towns. All Lodging Houses and Public Houses were thoroughly searched.
It was reported that the Constabulary were on the scene as soon as possible and no expense was spared in trying to apprehend Waddington
Local children had reported that Waddington had been seen going over Oldham Edge. From this the Police concluded he may have been heading for Rochdale. From there it is assumed he walked to Todmorden where he was caught some time later. He cannot have had his wits about him for when Detective Wrigley and the taxi driver, who had paused the search for a moment, thought they recognised a passer by from the description given.
As Waddington walked past, Detective Wrigley said, “hello Bill, what are you doing here?” Waddington looked up straight away. Convinced they had their man he was arrested and made no attempt to get away. The promptness of the police response and the alertness of the Detective were once again commented upon favourably.
A verdict of wilful murder was returned, against William Waddington, at an inquest in the Oldham Town Hall on Feb 24th, on Ivy Wolfenden. Waddington appeared before the inquest in a very unkempt state of dress. Waddington made no reply to the charge but, asked if he wanted to account for his actions, he stated:
"I went to work until dinner time and then went to the Royal Public House until turnout. I went home, had my dinner and then went to see my pal Jack. That is all I know."
The evidence against Waddington stated that he had given Ivy sixpence and asked her to go to the shop and get change for it. He said she could keep a penny from this. When her body was discovered a penny was found nearby.
The coroner's statement was reported in the Oldham Chronicle and read as follows:
This was as foul and revolting crime as the mind of a man could conceive. The little girl was lured into the house and after being inhumanely assaulted was dragged to the cellar and battered to death. In all the annals of crime he should think it would not be possible to find a more unnatural beast than the assailant of this child.
William Waddington was admitted to prison on the 3rd March 1920. He was tried on the 21st of April 1920 and sentenced to hang. He was hanged at Liverpool on Tues. 11th May 1920.
Ivy Wolfenden was the youngest of 11 children; her father had been killed in the war in 1916. Ivy was buried at Greenacres Cemetery. On the day of the funeral mourners were to leave the house at 11.30am but, almost an hour before, a large crown had assembled near to her home. There were so many people – mainly women that the police had to step in and clear the street. The onlookers took up position on higher ground opposite. When the funeral party left the house there was almost a thousand people present. Some women and girls had left their place of work for a short time in order to observe the procession. Representatives from Ivy’s school were present. The service was conducted by the Revd. W. Hindes Wesleyan Minister. All along Edge Lane Road households paid tribute by drawing the house blinds. Many tears were observed among the women. A wreath was sent from the family of William Waddington it read:
'Deepest sympathy from Mr, & Mrs, Waddington, brothers and sisters'.
From Pat Etchells