The Mysterious Disappearance of William Dunkley - Monday 28th December 1931 - Sheffield

I came across this newspaper cutting from The Scotsman newspaper dated Thursday 31st December 1931  

Unfortunately the information given in the article was rather sparse and so I checked to see if the disappearance was covered elsewhere. The Manchester Guardian had stolen a march on The Scotsman because in its edition dated Wednesday 30th December 1931 it carried this report


From this article it appears hat William Dunkley arrived in Sheffield on Monday 28th December 1931 and in the evening at 7.15pm posted a letter to his wife from the General Post Office in Fitzalan Square. In the letter he stated that he was in Sheffield and that he was "probably going on to Birmingham." The following day Tuesday 29th December 1931 his effects were found alongside the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Canal near Sussex Street bridge. His grey trilby hat and an iron mattress bar that was found nearby were blood-stained. The Times newspaper gave the time of discovery as 9.10am and noted that Scotland Yard had issued an appeal for information.

The Daily Mail dated 30th December 1931 added additional information that was not covered in any other newspaper

On the same day the Hull Daily Mail carried this report but made the assertion that "Foul play is suspected." Unfortunately the newspaper did not elaborate on this assertion but merely reported on the events that occurred so far in the search for William Dunkley. There has been no developments in the mystery so far was the police line which was correct.


The following day The Manchester Guardian gave an update on the progress of the search which was making no headway whatsoever. They had spent three days dragging the canal and nothing had been found. In fact on the last day they had chartered  a barge and used drags and grappling irons but to no effect 

 The Manchester Guardian dated Friday 2nd January 1932 carried this report

And this was the last report I could find about disappearance of William Dunkley. There is no mention of any further steps the police took to locate William. 

My own view on the disappearance is that it was engineered by William in advance. His reason for him being in Sheffield is unclear - ostensibly it was to meet a businessman but this was on a Monday three days after Christmas  Day. He left his home at 2.00 pm and so would arrived in Sheffield late afternoon. When was this meeting arranged - for the evening or the following day? If it was the latter, had William booked a room for the night in Sheffield. His wife seemed to have little idea about the trip and its purpose. In fact he posted a letter at 7.15pm  telling her he was in Sheffield and that he might go on to Birmingham. If that is the case the eye-witness who saw a man answering to William Dunkley's description board the 23.18pm night train to Bristol on Monday 28th December just maybe correct.

Did William plant his effects next to the canal in the hours between 19.15 - 23.15 pm on the night of Monday 28th December as a means of faking his death? I am unsure about the observations of Mr. John Nicholson who thought he head a scream at 23.00pm that night in the vicinity of the bridge but what is more enlightening is that the weather that night was stormy with snow. Who would have been out on a night like that if they did not have to be?. In the absence of a body the staging of a death by William Dunkley is the only feasible conclusion that you can reach.  

One other thought crossed my mind - after the report of a man answering to William Dunkley's description boarding the 23.18pm night train to Bristol on Monday 28th December  appeared in the paper, the search came to a halt. The disappearance of William did not appear in the press after that date which seems to indicate that the police had come to the conclusion that he had disappeared on his own accord.  

I did check the BMD Registers to see if a death occurred after the disappearance but failed to find an entry. 

If you can supply me with any more information on William Dunkley and what became of him, please contact me


The Manchester Guardian dated 30th December 1931 - 02nd January 1932

The Daily Mail dated 30th December 1931

The Hull Daily Mail dated 30th December 1931

The Scotsman dated 31st December 1931 

Free BMD

Return To Main Homepage

This page was last updated on 10/03/23 17:06