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Weird History: The Unexplainable Erdington Murders

trigger warning: sexual assault

Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest were killed at the same age, on the same day, in the same UK suburb. Their bodies were discovered with similar injuries and the main suspects in their murder investigations shared a name. One might jump to the conclusion that the deaths were somehow connected. The catch? Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest were murdered 157 apart.

On May 27, 1817, 20-year-old Mary Ashford attended a local dance in Erdington, a suburb of Birmingham. According to USA Today, she was last seen by friend Hannah Cox at 4 o'clock in the morning when Mary stopped by Hannah's home to pick up some work clothes. A few hours later in Pype Hayes Park, Mary's body was discovered in a watery pit with a trail of blood in the grass. She'd been raped and drowned. A man named Abraham Thornton, whom she'd been seen with after the dance and before she went to visit Hannah, was tried for the murder.

On May 27, 1974, Barbara Forrest went out dancing with her boyfriend. Sometime after one o'clock in the morning, Barbara's body was discovered in Pype Hayes Park. She'd been raped and strangled. Police charged her coworker, Michael Ian Thornton, with the crime.

The similarities are eerie and this sense of macabre symmetry is part of what has kept both murders in the public eye for so long. It is even said that Mary and Barbara experienced similar feelings of impending dread leading up to their deaths. The Lineup claims that Mary Ashford told a friend's mother she had "bad feelings about the week to come" while Barbara Forrest is reported to have told a coworker "This is going to be my unlucky month. I just know it."

Both Abraham Thornton and Michael Ian Thornton were acquitted due to lack of evidence. The murders of Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest remain to this day unsolved.

[Image Credit: map via Wikimedia Commons]

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