Real Name: Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest
Location: Erdington, England
Date: May 27, 1817 (Mary Ashford), May 27, 1974 (Barbara Forrest)
Details: Mary Ashford is a native of Erdington, England. In 1817, she was spotted in the company of a man named Abraham Thornton around midnight after attending a dance with her friend, Hannah Cox. At 4AM, Ashford showed up at Cox's house, where she'd left her work clothes, and said she'd been with Thornton.
Hours after she set off for home, her bruised body was found in a water-filled pit in the park by a laborer who followed two sets of footprints from a slick of blood in the grass. Authorities believed Ashford was sexually assaulted and drowned, and Thornton was tried for her murder.
Though he admitted having sex with Ashford before walking her to Cox's house, Thornton maintained he didn't kill her. Three witnesses affirmed his alibi and he was found not guilty.
On May 27, 1974, another Erdington native named Barbara Forrest was also found raped and strangled in Pype Hayes Park. She had been out dancing with her boyfriend until 1AM when he said he walked Forrest to a bus stop. This time, authorities didn't point the finger at the date and instead charged Forrest's co-worker with her murder after bloodstains were found on his pants and an alibi proved false. His name was Michael Ian Thornton. He was later acquitted due to a lack of evidence.
Since these deaths, several people have found similarities in the cases. Before their deaths, Mary and Barbara both said that they felt a sense that something bad was going to happen. Mary Ashford had confided in her friend Hannah’s mother that she had “bad feelings about the week to come” before she was murdered. Forrest had told a colleague that, “This is going to be my unlucky month. I just know it. Don’t ask me why.”
Both Mary and Barbara were 20 years old at the time of their murders; they even shared a birthday. They enjoyed dancing and going out with friends, which is what they both did the evening before they were killed.
Mary went to the Whitsuntide dance at the Tyburn House Inn with her friend Hannah. There, she mingled with Abraham Thornton. Very early the next morning, it is supposed that she went to Hannah’s mother’s house, changed and met up with Abraham Thornton again. She was last seen walking alone in the village at around 4AM. Thornton admits that the two met up to have sex.
Barbara had gone dancing the night before her death with her boyfriend. She ended her evening earlier than Mary, hitting the bus stop for home around 1AM.
Both Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest were raped before they were murdered. Both were strangled to death and left outside in the early morning hours of May 27. They were found in Pype Hayes Park, Mary in a flooded sandpit.
Suspicion for Mary’s murder fell squarely on Abraham Thornton. He admitted to being with her around the time she was murdered. He also admitted to having sex with her, though he outright denied raping and killing her. The blame for Barbara’s murder also fell on a man with the last name Thornton. Michael Ian Thornton worked with Barbara. Police found bloodstains on his pants, and he offered an alibi that later proved to be false. Juries found both suspects not guilty due to a lack of substantial evidence. In both cases, a sibling contested the finding of the court and demanded further investigation. No one was ever convicted. Both Barbara and Mary’s cases are considered cold.
Extra Notes: This case has yet to be featured on Unsolved Mysteries.