6-year-old Mary Clare Hackett was one of 4 children – Patrick [b 1946], Mary Clare, Geraldine [b 1948], and Teresa [b 1950] – of Martin and Anastasia Hackett.
Following Martin's sister, Sarah Buskin, the family had moved from Limerick, Ireland, and had lived in Halifax since December 1951.
On 12th August 1952, Mary disappeared whilst playing outside her home in Lister Lane, Halifax. A search was conducted, and 6 weeks later, her body was discovered in a space between the foundations and the floor at Park Congregational Church, only 150 yards from her home. Her fully-clothed body was lying face downwards, and she had suffered multiple skull fractures. Mary was buried at Stoney Royd in September 1953.
Albert George Hall, the caretaker at Park Congregational Church, was arrested for the murder.
On 19th November 1953, at Halifax Borough Court, he pleaded Not Guilty to murder and was committed for trial at Leeds Assizes. During the 4-day trial in March 1954, he admitted that he suffered blackouts, and that he had had a breakdown in December 1952. He was a voluntary patient in a mental institution, and had a history of mental problems, including a fascination with little girls. He continually protested his innocence and claimed that he had never set eyes on Mary Hackett. An appeal was dismissed.
He was hanged at Armley Jail on 22nd April 1954 – the last local man to be hanged.
In 1972, a man walked into Hull police station and confessed to Mary's murder. Scotland Yard looked into the matter but upheld Hall's conviction
In 2005, in his book, The Inglorious Twelfth, judge Patrick Edward Robertshaw claims that vital evidence – which might have put Hall in the clear and ultimately spared his life – was held back from his lawyers and the jury.
In researching the book, Judge Robertshaw interviewed barristers, a former policeman, friends of the Hall family and others involved in the case, and he also gained access to case papers and transcripts of the proceedings, some of which have been made public for the first time.
They report that a suspicious stranger, who had been hanging around near Mary's house for weeks, was spotted again by various witnesses on the day of her murder. The same unkempt man was seen several times that day with a little girl matching Mary's description. Others claimed to have seen Mary alive and well an hour later than the time of her death which had been determined by a pathologist.
The time that the jury were given to evaluate the evidence is also highlighted in the book
Revised 11:19 /19th November 2020 / 5076
Page Ref: MMH321
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