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Byline: MIKE LOCKLEY Staff Reporter

ALFRED Rouse, a Midlands travelling salesman with the morals of a sewer rat, was a liar, cheat, serial womaniser and a bigamist. He was also a cold-blooded KILLER.

Rouse is also among a small band of chancers who attempted to fake their own deaths, a list topped by former Wednesbury MP John Stonehouse, who, in 1974, hoodwinked the world into thinking he had drowned.

But unlike the shamed politician, Rouse, a cad who became a killer, decided someone really had to die in order to convince the authorities he had slipped this mortal coil.

On November 5, 1930, Rouse bludgeoned an individual to death, then bundled the body into the driving seat of his Morris Minor and torched the vehicle. He chose Bonfire Night to mask the explosions and fire in a country lane near Northampton.

The case was to be known as "The Blazing Car Murder" and, to this day, is shrouded in mystery.

Despite DNA advances, the identity of the killer's victim remains unknown.

Born on April 6, 1894, Rouse would pay the ultimate price for his dastardly plot - a sickening scheme hatched simply because the twisted door-to-door salesman wanted to avoid paying child maintenance.

He was tried at Northampton Assizes and hanged at Bedford Gaol on March 10, 1931.

Despite shouting "I'm innocent, sir" when the death sentence was announced, Rouse later wrote a letter of confession from his cell to the Daily Sketch.

He said he'd met his victim at a London pub and, noting the drinker was his height and weight, promised the man employment if he came with him to the Midlands.

He encouraged the man to drink from a bottle of whisky and when the individual was drunk, turned his car into Hardingstone Lane, Hardingstone.

Rouse pulled up, strangled his passenger to the point of unconsciousness, then removed the petrol tank from the Morris Minor. He placed that in the back of the car, doused the poor man and interior with petrol, then started his own deadly bonfire.

Rouse was almost spotted by two young men returning from a Guy Fawkes night, but managed to slip the scene and travel to one of his many mistresses in Glamorganshire.

He reported his car stolen, but when named as "chief suspect" in the press, the mistress tipped off the police, who arrested Rouse at Hammersmith coach station.

To the very end, Rouse maintained he had never asked his victim's name.

Born in London, he was not born evil. From all accounts, he was a quiet, polite child. And he was no coward. He fought with courage, and sustained serious injuries, in the Great War. Perhaps the atrocities Rouse witnessed on the Western Front turned him into a savage.

A private with the 24th Queen's Regiment, Rouse married fiancee Lily May Watkins only days after the outbreak of war.

He arrived in France on March 15, 1915, and, two months later, was thrust into the carnage of the Battle of Festburt.

On the mud-splattered battlefield, one incident shaped Rouse's future. His bayonet poised, Rouse came face-to-face with a German, but hesitated before lunging with the weapon. He missed and the enemy got away.

The killer-to-be was haunted by that incident and vowed, in future, to act first and think of the consequences later.

Just 10 weeks after his arrival on the Western Front, Rouse was seriously injured by shell fragments. He spent a year in hospital, his head, knee and thigh riddled with shrapnel. Ominously, the head injuries sustained caused memory loss and severe personality changes.

With his walking capacity reduced by 75 per cent, Rouse was discharged from the Army on February 11, 1916, and awarded a military pension of 20 shillings a week. He and his long-suffering wife set up home in Stoke Newington.

He slowly recovered and certainly regained his libido. Rouse cheated on his wife time and again, quickly dumping mistresses when they fell pregnant. A 15-year-old girl was tossed aside after announcing she was expecting Rouse's baby. Alone, the teenager gave birth in a home for unwed mothers.

In 1925, Rouse began an affair with Nellie Tucker, a domestic servant from Hendon. Tucker gave birth to a daughter in 1928 and Rouse was saddled with a child support order. It would be one of many - and the cash demands were the catalyst for Rouse's vile crime.

In June 1929, he gained a job as doorstep salesman with a Leicester company selling braces and garters.

The pay was poor - just PS4 a week - but for a man with a skyhigh sex drive, the job was ideal. He began flings with a number of customers.

In fact, he bigamously married at least three of them and fathered a string of illegitimate children. The child support orders piled up.

Rouse later confessed to the police he'd simply "wanted to start life afresh" and had taken out a PS1,000 life insurance policy to ensure his wife and their six-yearold child were comfortable following his "death".

KILLER'S CONFESSION (made to the Daily Sketch) "A MAN spoke to me near the Swan and Pyramid public house. He was a down-andout, and he told the usual hard-luck story. I took him into the public house and he had some beer. I had lemonade. Of course, I paid for the drinks.

He told me he usually hung about there. He did not tell me his name, but he did say that he had no relations, and was looking for work - and that he was in the habit of getting lifts on lorries.

He was the sort of man nobody would miss, and I thought he would suit the plan I had in mind. I suddenly realised I should do it on November 5, when a fire would not be noticed so much.

I think it was November 2 or 3 when I searched out the man. He was having a drink of beer and we talked. When I said that I intended to go to Leicester on the Wednesday, he said he would be glad of a lift up there.

I made an appointment with him for the Wednesday night for eight o'clock. I met him outside the Swan and Pyramid.

We talked a lot on the journey to Leicester, but he did not tell me who he actually was. I did not care.

The man was half-dozing - the effect of the whisky. I gripped him by the throat with my right hand. I pressed his head against the back of the seat.

He slid down, his hat falling off. I saw he had a bald patch on the crown of his head.

He just gurgled. I pressed his throat hard...

he did not resist."


| The burnt-out car in Hardingstone Lane. Inset, the grave of the unknown victim and Alfred Rouse, during World War 1 and later life
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 10, 2017
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