Murder of a Blackburn Babe

Sweet little June Anne Devaney was just one month short of her fourth birthday. The child had been hospitalised at Queens Park Hospital, Blackburn, due to a bout of pneumonia, but after ten days confinement was on the mend and due to head home the following morning. Heartbreakingly, she was never to return.

In the early hours of May 15th, 1948, a nurse investigating the cries of another child, noticed June’s bed was empty. As the safety sides were still up and faint footprints were in evidence, leading toward and away from where June had been sleeping, the authorities were immediately informed and a search begun.

The lifeless remains of the tiny lass were discovered in the grounds of the hospital, she had suffered extensive blunt force trauma to her skull (caused by her head being repeatedly swung into a sandstone wall) leading to multiple cranial fractures. The poor child had also suffered extensive internal injuries after being cruelly violated and she bore the marks of excessive bitting. Her tiny body had then succumbed to a fatal state of shock.

A manhunt for the vile murderer began and police fingerprinted over 2,000 people who had access to the hospital. Yet, a match could not be found.

Detective Inspector John Capstick then extended the manhunt and insisted every male in the town of Blackburn aged 16+ (a city with over 25,000 homes) would be fingerprinted.

The investigation into the murder of June Anne was a milestone in the history of forensic science as it was the first time a mass fingerprinting exercise had been employed to solve a murder in the UK.

The murderer, 22-year-old Peter Griffiths (of Birley St. Blackburn) was eventually arrested three months after the crime. Fingerprint set 46,253, belonging to Griffiths, matched those found on a Winchester bottle found beside June Anne’s bed.

Griffiths had been demobed in the February of 1948 after serving in Germany and Palestine, but had returned to his hometown and taken work as a packer at a flour mill.

After admitting killing the child in a manic frenzy (due to drinking an excessive amount of alcohol) Griffiths refused to discuss his crime, he showed no remorse, and refused to cooperate further. He was subsequently tried and convicted of June Anne’s murder in a trial lasting only 23 minutes and was hanged on 19 November 1948 at Walton Gaol by Albert Pierrepoint.

Eternally resting

June Anne now rests forevermore in Blackburn Old Cemetery, where she is remembered to this day. Her grave is always a riot of colour, bedecked with flowers, trinkets and toys.

My visit to June Anne

Published by Deborah Contessa

Dilettante Historian, Graveyard Detective, Folklore Geek & Paranormal Enthusiast.

One thought on “Murder of a Blackburn Babe

  1. That’s harrowing, besides the fact a crime like that happened its also it happened within the safe confines of a hospital.
    Any other verdict would have been heinous as he deserved his death sentence.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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