05 May 2018

Bella in the Wych Elm - Julian Mossop

The West Mercia Police files on the Bella in the Wych Elm mystery contain many interesting documents. There is one file, however, that has the most intriguing title: "Folder 11 - Possible Suspect Julian Mossop". It turns out that Julian Mossop was the son of Jack Mossop and Una Abel. Let's take a look.

Julian Michael Mossop was born on 3 August 1932 in Wombourne, near Wolverhampton. Already, we can see a problem with him being a "possible suspect". Julian would have been 9 years old in 1941. Could a 9 year old have murdered a five foot tall woman in her mid-30s and stuffed her body in a tree trunk? It seems ludicrous and raises more questions. Who was Julian Mossop? What became of him? Was he really a suspect? How far did the police try and track him?

According to the testimony of Jack Mossop's friend and co-worker, Bill Wilson in late 1953, he hardly ever saw Julian and said that the boy was raised by his grandmother (likely Jack's grandmother who had also raised him). Julian attended Campion Elementary School in Leamington Spa until he was 14 years old (around 1946). His father had died in the Stafford County insane asylum in 1942 and his mother, Una Abel Mossop had married Jack Hainsworth in 1943 and settled in Knutshurst, Shrewley Common, near Warwick. After leaving school, Julian worked for his step-father, at a florist shop in Warwick and at a pig farm in Knuthurst.

Lyons Coventry Street Corner House ca 1960
(from British History Online site)
Off to London
In August 1949, at the age of 17, Julian left his step-father's employment and headed to London to seek his fortune. At this point, Julian's story has several different strands. He apparently attended Jack Solomon's Boxing Gymnasium for a few weeks and then obtained a part-time position as a kitchen porter for Messrs. J. Lyons & Co at the Coventry Street Corner House. He worked there from 27 August 1949 to 8 September 1949, less than two weeks. He apparently left of his own accord and this information was verified by the police at a later date.

Julian then claimed that he was employed as a comi-waiter (someone who brings food from the kitchen to the table) at the Grosvenor House Hotel for about three months and then left of his own accord. The police made enquiries but could not confirm that he had been employed there.

He then claimed that he returned to J. Lyons & Co. and was employed as a comi-waiter at the Cumberland Hotel leaving there on 20 April 1951. Again, the police could find no trace of him having been employed there.

On the other hand, Julian apparently used several aliases that the police knew about - Julian Michael Abel and Michael John Kelly - it is possible that he may have used other aliases at the Grosvenor House Hotel and Cumberland Hotels that were not known to the police.

Another report states that when Julian came to London he was employed as a porter at the American Embassy in London and was still employed there when the report was written (unfortunately the report is not dated).

In Trouble with the Law
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952 Copyright West Mercia Police - all rights reserved - used with permission
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952
Copyright West Mercia Police - all rights reserved - used with permission
On 4 May 1950, Julian had his first brush with the law. He was brought before the Marylebone Magistrates' Court and sentenced to twelve months probation for receiving ladies clothing (valued at £15). Likely because the ladies clothing was stolen.

Julian almost managed to make it through his twelve months probation but missed the mark by just over a week. On 26 April 1951 he was arrested again while living in a furnished room at 77 Chippenham Road, London. This time, his offense was a bit more serious. On 7 June 1951, having been in custody since April, Julian was charged at Middlesex Quarter Sessions with:
  1. Housebreaking & Larceny
  2. False Representation re: Identity Card
  3. Stealing a motor car
It would appear that Julian used a key to enter a flat where he had been staying and then stole an unattended motor car. This time around, Julian was sentenced to Borstal Training, a series of youth detention centres operated by H.M. Prison Service. Borstals were intended to reform seriously delinquent young people. On top of the Borstal sentence, Julian was also disqualified from driving for five years.
H.M. Prison Usk - former Borstal Institution
(from Capital Punishment UK site)

Unfortunately, Julian wasn't exactly a model prisoner. Less than three months later, on 25 September 1951, Julian escaped from the Borstal institution. His freedom was short-lived however, as he was recaptured two days later on 27 September. He must have kept his head down after that for on 24 November, 1952, he was released from H.M. Borstal at Usk, Monmouthshire. Following his release, he was under supervision which would expire on 6 June 1955. And that is all that the police had on Julian and his ill-starred career in England.

Off to America
Julian's life as an adult was not off to a great start. Rather than continuing on the same path in England, Julian decided to make a new start in a new country. On 25 August 1953, at the age of 21, Julian boarded the M.S. Anna Salen in Southampton and sailed for America with all of his possessions in a trunk. The ship's manifest noted that he was a student and that his final destination was to be Canada. The ship arrived in New York on 3 September 1953. It would appear that Julian never made it as far as Canada, but remained in New York for the rest of his life. In December 1953, Julian's mother, Una, during her statement to police about the woman in the wych elm, stated that "at the present time, [Julian] is somewhere in America". There is no evidence in the files that the Worcestershire Constabulary attempted to track down Julian in order to question him as a "possible suspect". He was out of the country... good riddance.

Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952 (copyright West Mercia Police Files All rights Reserved. Used with Permission)
Julian Mossop - 26 September 1952
(copyright West Mercia Police Files
All rights Reserved. Used with Permission)
At 6'2", with dark brown hair and hazel eyes, Julian would have stood out from a crowd. He apparently caught the eye of a few ladies as well. On 9 October 1954, Julian married Odette Monplaisir at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. The marriage certificate noted that Julian Michael Abel Mossop was 22 years old and living at 6 East 94th Street in New York, just to the east of Central Park. He stated that his parents were James and Una Ella Abel Mossop.

Odette Monplaisir stated that she was 26 years old (off by 10 years as we shall see), living at 214 West 96th Street in New York, just to the west of Central Park. Her parents were Anibal & Lilian Symo [Sims] Monplaisir. The witnesses to the marriage were Raoul A. Stephens of 214 West 96th Street (the same address as Odette) and Edna May Govan of 240 West 103rd Street.

As it turns out, Odette under-reported her age by 10 years. She was actually born 19 March 1918 as noted on her 1 March 1954 Naturalization certificate. A bit of digging reveals that her father was Louis Joseph Jean Baptist Anibal Monplaisir, born 30 July 1892 in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of Horelle Monplaisir and Sophie Boom. I haven't been able to track down Odette's birth registration, but her parents had another child, Jean Marie Yvan Monplaisir, born 9 May 1934 in Port au Prince, Haiti. Odette may have been born in Jamaica or Haiti, hard to say.

A few years later, in 1958, Julian applied for another marriage license in New York with Maria Vicisoso. What happened to his marriage to Odette? Did his marriage to Maria actually take place? We don't know.

Although, according to the US Social Security Death Index, an Odette Mossop, born 18 March 1918, passed away in New York on 10 April 2008. Odette either never remarried or perhaps patched things up with Julian. The US Public Records note that her address lay within the 10025 zip code area the Upper West Side of Manhattan - sandwiched between the Hudson River (to the west) and Central Park (to the east). This was the same area in which she resided at the time of her 1954 marriage to Julian. In 1974, her address appears to have been 765 Amsterdam Avenue (Apt 3h), New York, 10025-5728.

As for Julian, in 1996 and 1997, he was living in the 10024 zip code area of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, just south of the 10025 area code in which Odette resided. This would suggest that he and Odette were not living together, but also had not moved far from each other. A bit more digging has revealed that his address was 225 West 80th Street (Apt 9c), New York, 10024-7007.

Final Resting Place?
We don't know much about what happened to Julian after 1997, but on 16 October 1998, a Julian Mossop, aged 65 (born 1932) died in New York. He was buried on 12 November 1998 in Potter's Field on Hart Island, New York - Plot 270, Section I, Grave 8. His place of death was redacted from the records.

Entry for Julian Mossop from Hart Island Project
(from Hart Island Project site)
The Potter's Field mass graves have quite a history and are a controversial topic, even today. Individuals were buried in the unmarked graves for a variety of reasons, but mostly because their bodies were unclaimed and became the property of the state. Perhaps they died in prison, or a mental institution, or a hospital, or a long-term care facility. Perhaps their bodies were not claimed within 48 hours of death, or family could not be found, or the family did not have the funds for a burial, or the deceased was homeless. The reasons were many but the final result was the same and profoundly sad. Their bodies were offered to medical schools as cadavers and/or to mortuary schools for embalming training after which the remains were consigned to mass graves on Hart Island. Since 1868, thousands of individuals have been buried in mass graves with no gravestone and no history. The New York Times has an interesting article on Hart Island the mass graves.

Is the Julian buried on Hart Island our Julian Mossop? Given the age, the location, the name, it is very likely.

I had hoped that the Julian Mossop/Odette Monplaisir line of enquiry might have resulted in some surviving relations but... it seems to be a dead end. Odette Monplaisir passed away in 2008 but I haven't been able to find an obituary for her. But perhaps, some day, someone with a distant connection to the Mossop/Monplaisir family will find this blog and reach out.

Sources
Ancestry genealogy site - birth, marriage & death records, US Social Security Death indexes, US Public Records, US Naturalization records, ship manifests

Coventry Street Corner House - apparently quite the place in its day

Lyon's Corner House - the corner houses have an association with gay/lesbian culture

The Hart Island Project - an attempt to document the 67,000+ individuals interned on Hart Island since 1980.

New York Times - article on Hart Island graves that tells the sad stories of some of the individuals

Capital Punishment UK - Borstal Institution at Usk, Monmouthshire 

West Mercia Police Files as released to the Worcestershire Archives- Bella in the Wych Elm case - I received permission to use images from the Bella files on my blog through Lin Allkins, Records and Data Manager, Information Management Department, Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police. Copyright still resides with the West Mercia Police.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Julian looks like Tom Cruise! Wow, that is kinda creepy.

Anonymous said...

I’m a close relative of Julien and jack on the Mossop side and it’s fascinating to see the family stories brought to life,regarding Julian’s brush with the law with much more detail than I could ever abstract myself and to see a photo of Julian is pretty weird as he would have been my cousin well done for some cracking detective work,

Giselle Jakobs said...

Thanks for the comment! And sorry for the late moderation/response on this comment - Blogger hid it away for a while.