The unusual story of the Sheffield man tried twice for the murder of a 10-year-old girl

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By all accounts Frederick Nodder was a pretty vile individual - a drunken car mechanic, he was endlessly out of work and moving around, but records show that he was resident in Sheffield in 1934 and probably originated from the city.

His case is rare in English legal history, because he was tried twice for the same murder and effectively changed the law on whether someone could be charged with murder if no body could be found.

At the time ie was hiding out with the Grimes family in the Hunters Bar district - he was operating under the alias of Frederick Hudson after abandoning his wife and child.

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She had gone to court and secured a warrant for his arrest in a bid to secure some financial support for herself and their child, but Nodder had other ideas.

Frederick Nodder, who was hanged for killing a child in 1937Frederick Nodder, who was hanged for killing a child in 1937
Frederick Nodder, who was hanged for killing a child in 1937

The Grimes knew about the deception but kept it hidden and, eventually, possibly because the law was closing in, Nodder left the city and moved in with the sister of Mrs Grimes, Lilian Tinsley, in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

But he only stayed for three weeks before pulling another vanishing act, leaving for the Retford area without paying any rent.

But his habits remained as unpleasant as ever and he was effectively shunned by the local community.

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Then, on Tuesday January 5, 1937, the 10-year-old daughter of his former landlords in Newark, Mona Tinsley, vanished on her way back to school.

She had gone home for lunch and returned for the afternoon classes and when she hadn’t returned by 9pm that evening her parents had become worried enough to contact the police, and an extensive search of the area was carried out overnight and an appeal for information was issued.

A schoolboy gave information saying he has seen Mona at the bus station with a man, but couldn’t give an accurate description but another neighbour who had a child at the same school told police that she had seen Nodder loitering outside the school gates, and recognised him as the Tinsley’s former lodger.

But when detectives spoke to the Tinsleys about him, they seemed evasive, and when they were asked if they had ever had a lodger, Lilian exclaimed: “Oh, it can’t be him!” Reluctantly they passed on contact details or the Grimes back in Sheffield.

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Only the Grimes proved equally unco-operative, flatly denying that they knew of Nodder’s whereabouts, until eventually Mr Grimes crumbled under questioning and admitted that Hodder had visited them over Christmas but still denied knowing his address.

It was only after a neighbour was able to offer a description of Nodder visiting on December 27, arriving in a lorry with a sign saying Retford on the side that officers finally got a breakthrough.

By an extensive trawl of haulage firms in the Retford area, they were able to track Nodder down and, when they discovered some of Mona’s belongings at his hope, he came up with a story that beggared belief.

Claiming that he had bumped into Mona outside school, and her remembering him from his brief period of lodging with her family, they had begun to talk and she had expressed a wish to travel to Sheffield to see her relatives, the Grimes.

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Nodder had agreed and said he had put her on a bus to Worksop and instructed her to travel on from there to Sheffield, where she should take a tram over to where the Grimes lived, he told poliBut with no sightings of Mona in either Worksop or Sheffield, and the Grimes confirming that Mona had not shown up and wouldn’t have known her way, Nodder was arrested and charged with “wilfully taking a child” - as there was no body, a charge of murder could not at the time be laid - and he was eventually jailed for seven years at an Assizes court in Birmingham.

But then, in June of 1937, a family out rowing near Bawrty discovered Mona’s body floating in the water and a medical examination revealed that she had been strangled.

Nodder was brought from his cell and taken to Retford Police station where he was charged with her murder and was found guilty by the jury and sentenced to death.

The judge’s final sentencing remark was: “Justice has slowly but surely overtaken you.”

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Nodder, 45, was hanged at Lincoln Prison on December 30, 1937, almost a year after the killing.

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