Senseless 1919 Slaying Remains a Riddle Today

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), January 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Senseless 1919 Slaying Remains a Riddle Today


Byline: Sophie Doughty Crime Reporter sophie.doughty@ncjmedia.co.uk

IT was a baffling murder that made no sense nearly 100 years ago, and still doesn't today.

John Bianchi was shot as he walked through Walkergate in Newcastle, with his young love Elizabeth Philipson in 1919. The revolver's bullet hit him in the stomach, and as John fell to the ground his attacker turned on Elizabeth.

The girl, John's cousin, was grabbed by the shoulder and hit across the head with the revolver.

Thankfully Elizabeth's hat saved her from serious injury.

But nothing could be done to save 18-year-old John, who died in hospital the next day.

To this day the mystery marksman has not been identified.

And today in the third part of our Chronicle Crime Files series, we examine our archives to discover who John Bianchi was and question how he came to be killed this way.

The murder victim lived with his parents and five brothers on Chapel Row in Bigges Maine, then a small village on the outskirts of Wallsend.

Despite their Italian name the family was North East born and bred, but they had relatives in the North West, one of whom was Elizabeth.

In 1919 the young woman, who was in her early 20s, quit her job as a servant in Blackpool and travelled to the North East to stay with her aunt and uncle and their six sons.

She managed to find a job with accommodation at the-then Walkergate Fever Hospital, but would call into see her relatives at Bigges Main most evenings.

Elizabeth and John, an apprentice driller at the Hawthorn Leslie yard, quickly became very close.

And on Sunday, January 26, 1919, John and Elizabeth met and went to church together before returning to the Bianchi house-hold where they spent the evening.

Eliza-beth, who had to be back at the hospital by 10pm, accepted John's offer to walk her back at 9.45pm. And the pair set off arm-in-arm along a dark secluded path, known locally as 'lovers lane' because of its popularity with courting couples.

They laughed and joked as they walked, until they were stopped in their tracks by a tall stranger dressed in a cap and a long dark overcoat who emerged from the bushes and blocked their path.

Elizabeth, who knew several nurses at her work-work place had complained of being followed on nearby Benton Road, was instantly nervous. …

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