Russian Edna's Last Customer - High Hazels Park Tinsley Sheffield March 1954

Melanie Firth was known by her nickname "Russian Edna." Born in Russia in 1901, she married a soldier who after a few years of marriage abandoned her. Living in Darnall, she worked as a prostitute, and it was whilst pursuing her trade, she met her death in High Hazels Park in the Tinsley district of Sheffield. 

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Wednesday 24th March 1954

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Thursday 25th March 1954

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Friday 26th March 1954

Evening Express dated Friday 26th March 1954

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Saturday 27th March 1954

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Wednesday 14th April 1954

The Sportsman Pub in Cambridge Street Sheffield where George Pullan met Russian Edna - Photo taken 20th October 2014

George Pullan, a 24-year-old lorry driver had left the Sportsman pub, on Cambridge Street, with her the night she died. In a statement to police Pullan said Edna approached him and he offered to pay a pound for her services. They went to Darnall in a taxi - she said she knew a place at the back of the park where nobody could see us. They walked down past the Halfway House and up between the allotments. Pullan claimed when they lay down on a bench in a hut Edna upped her price.Pullan said: "I put my coat on the floor. We started our antics and then she said, 'Make it two pounds now', and I said, 'I can't'. "She said, 'I'll scream and shout,' or words to that effect, and I heard footsteps coming and men's voices. I moved my hands from under her and put one hand over her mouth to stop her shouting. "She started struggling as the voices got near us. I put more pressure on her mouth, and when they'd gone away I said, 'Come on now, I'm off'. "She didn't answer me, and I thought she was shamming. "I left her where she was on the ground and I walked into Darnall."

The next day he realised what he had done. When I came out I bought the evening paper. I saw it on the front page that she'd been found dead.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury dated Thursday 8th July 1954


He was committed for trial at Leeds Assizes, where on July 6 Pullan denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a plea rejected by the prosecution. Pathologist Dr Gilbert Forbes told the court Edna's neck would have had to be squeezed for at least four minutes to cause death. The prosecutor said Edna's earrings had broken and one of her bra straps to be ripped in two in the struggle.

But the two-day trial ended with Pullan convicted only of manslaughter and he was sentenced to serve twelve months in prison. George Pullan can consider himself fortunate. The prosecution refused a manslaughter plea and pressed ahead with a murder charge. And there was evidence to suggest that there was more to her death than Pullan alleged. The Pathologist Dr Gilbert Forbes said that her "neck would have had to be squeezed for at least four minutes to cause death." And her clothes were in disarray with broken earings and bra-strap. And although DCI Butler ruled out robbery as a motive, Edna only had one bent penny on her person when found. George must have taken his money back (and some more?)

The jury and the judge however believed George's assertion that the death was accidental. There were a number of instances in post-war Britain were lesser charges to murder were returned. At the time the death penalty was in force, and was mandatory for verdicts of murder. I am sure that this would have been a factor in the deliberations of all concerned and the fact that Edna was a prostitute re-enforced a reluctance to return a verdict of murder, and sentence of death. As the judge quite rightly remarked it was an illegal killing.     

George then served his sentence and on release he must have returned to the Sheffield area for there is a record in the BMD registers for a marriage

Name: George W W Pullan
Date of Registration: Jul-Aug-Sep 1956
Registration district: Sheffield Inferred County: Yorkshire West Riding
Spouse: Sylvia O Taylor
Volume Number: 2d Page Number: 510

 George died in Scarborough in 1992 (see notes).

Russian Edna is buried as Melanie Birch in Sheffield's Burngreave Cemetery. Buried in the same section of the Cemetery, is another Sheffield "character", a certain Billy Foulke. 

BIRCH, Melanie (~, age 52).
Died at High Hazels Park; Buried on April 9, 1954 in General ground; Grave Number 3, Section KK of Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield.
Parent or Next of Kin if Available: . Remarks: Otherwise SILING: Removed from Sheffield Parish.


Notes

1. A writer on the Sheffield Forum gave this information

My mother was brought up near to George Pullan and knew him and the family well. She says that George met up with Edna and agreed to pay her 10 shillings for sex they went to High Hazels Park. After he had had sex George was not happy and asked for his 10 bob back she refused and they started fighting. George said that she was wearing a long cardigan and she had put the money up her sleeve, he went after the cash and in doing so strangled her. I think he was done for manslaughter not murder. Years later I met George when he worked as a Chef in the Fiesta. He seemed a simple soul but not at all dangerous.

2. An account of the case appears in the 2010 Summer Special of True Detective. It is the only photograph I could find of George Pullan

3. George was born in North Leeds - Births Mar 1930 Pullan George W W Thompson Leeds North Volume9b Page406. He was the eldest son of Frank Wood Pullan and Kathleen Pullan nee Thompson

Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page 
Marriages Jun 1929 
Pullan Frank W Thompson Leeds North 9b 706 
Thompson Kathleen Pullan Leeds North 9b 706 

In the 1939 National Register they were living in Birmingham - they were transcribed as being called Pullar. George was the eldest son of a church minister. His father died the year after the Register was taken

Pullar Household (4 People)
32 Sutton Street , Birmingham C.B., Warwickshire, England

FIRST NAME(S) LAST NAME(S) DOB              SEX     OCCUPATION            MARITAL STATUS SCHEDULE SCHEDULE SUB NUMBER 
Kathleen               Pullar                   17 Mar 1903 Female Unpaid Domestic Duties Married                        256              2 
Frank W               Pullar                   25 Feb 1902 Male     Incorporated Seamers Boat Man Missionary Friends Married 256 1 
Ruby Battersby    (Pullar)               27 May1931 Female At School                           Single                           256              4 
Charles E              Pullar                   07 Mar 1939 Male    Under School Age            Single                           256              5

Sources

BMD

Sheffield Indexers

Find My Past

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury 24th - 27th March 1954, 14th April 1954 and 8th July 1954

The Times

Evening Express dated 26th March 1954 

The Sheffield Star dated 24th May 2010 

Notes

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This page was last updated on 24/01/17 16:32