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Grisly find solved old mystery; Time to remember.

Byline: Dan O'Neill

THEY look up at us from across a gulf of 80 years or so - George Shotton and Mamie Stuart. A couple at the beginning of their lives together.

It is 1918. It is the last time they will ever be photographed with each other.

And it will be more than 40 years before their names are linked again - when a skeleton is discovered in a disused lead mine in Gower.

That was the end of a mystery that had baffled police for four decades.

And all because three Bishopston boys decided to explore that old lead mine on a dim November day in 1961.

They stumbled over what was later described as "a sawn-up skeleton" and one of Wales' most frustrating murder mysteries was near its end.

The Echo, quick to make the connection, had no doubts: "Clue to The Chorus Girl Who Vanished, " our report announced.

So who was Mamie? Well, she'd been a chorus girl, a vivacious 23-year-old, touring Britain with a troupe of dancers who seemed to have been a sort of seedy set of Good Companions.

Then she returned to live with her parents in Sunderland. And there, in July 1917, she met Everard George Shotton, known to all as "George" - a marine surveyor from Cardiff.

They married (Mamie thought) in March, 1918, and moved to Swansea, living in a house with a name to earn the thanks of headline writers 40 years on - Ty-Llanwydd, the Abode of Peace.

But there didn't seem to be much peace.

Mamie claimed that her husband beat her.

She told her parents:

"He has put me in a great big house and just comes and goes as he likes. I will write more later."

When Mamie's parents replied the envelope came back marked "House Closed."

A couple of months later the manager of a Swansea hotel told police of a large suitcase left by a guest. In it they found women's clothing - and the address of Mamie's parents.

Enter Chief Inspector William Draper of Scotland Yard. He soon discovered William Shotton living in Caswell Bay with his real wife and small child.

Yes, said Shotton, he had lived with Mamie. No, he insisted, he had never married her. They had quarrelled, parted company, and he had returned to the bosom of his family, leaving the flirty Mamie to go her own way.

Shotton was convicted - no, not of murder, but of bigamy. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and there were no other charges. How could there be? While there was no Mamie there was no body.

And there it might have ended, Mamie just one of the missing millions reported around the globe. Until, on that November day 40 years ago, those three young explorers entered the mine at Brandy Cove on the Gower coast.

The Echo headline the following day trumpeted GOWER SKELETON MAY BE MAMIE.

On December 14 a coroner's jury decided there was no maybe about it.

They found that George Shotton had murdered Mamie Stuart and hidden her body in the mine. What other verdict after the coroner, Mr D R James, had asked them: "Can you imagine any reason for sawing up anyone if the person had committed suicide or if the death was accidental?"

They couldn't. And agreed that Shotton had killed Mamie, then 26, cut her body into three parts, wrapped the pieces in sacking and then taken them to the mineshaft.

The next question: Is George Shotton still alive? He would have been 81 years old, and it's intriguing to wonder what might have happened had he been found. Would he have been charged with murder?

Well, it was a close call. Bristol police confirmed that Shotton had died only three years before the discovery of Mamie's skeleton. Gradually his life after her death came to light.

After release from prison in 1922 he moved to Tintern where he ran a smallholding. Villagers remembered him "practically running the tennis club as well". But when a national newspaper published a photograph of him with Mamie (probably the one on this page) recalling the mystery of her disappearance, he also disappeared. He was remembered in the village as "a charming chap, a real dandy".

After World War II he lived for a time in a home for elderly people and we can only imagine the reaction of his companions had he revealed his secret.

What gossip! But he must have thought the body of Mamie Stuart would lie alone forever - along with his secret.

He died on April 30, 1958, in Bristol's Southmead Hospital. He was penniless, and went to an unmarked grave in Arno's Vale Cemetery.

Those few who witnessed the burial could never have guessed that in just three years this unknown destitute would be resurrected - in every newspaper in the country.

CAPTION(S):

SCANDAL Mamie Stuart and George Shotton, left. Above, from a newspaper of the time.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 26, 2001
Words:822
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