London

'Barnes mystery' of Attenborough garden skull solved

The skull of Julia Martha Thomas, found in Richmond last October
Image caption Julia Martha Thomas, who was in her 50s, died in south-west London in 1879 but her skull vanished

A skull recovered in the back garden of broadcaster Sir David Attenborough in south-west London belonged to a woman murdered in 1879, a coroner has ruled.

Julia Martha Thomas was killed by her maid, Kate Webster, but her head remained missing. The case became known as "the Barnes mystery".

The skull was found during building work in Richmond last October.

The coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing and the cause of death as asphyxiation and a head injury.

Alison Thompson said all of the evidence presented to her pointed to the body being that of Mrs Thomas, who was in her 50s.

Census records and radiocarbon testing had been provided to the inquest by the Metropolitan Police.

"This is a fascinating case and a good example of how good old-fashioned detective work, historical records and technological advances came together to solve the 'Barnes mystery'," said Ch Supt Clive Chalk.

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