On this day in auto history - November 6th

Fri 6th Nov 2020

It was during the early hours of this day in 1930 that, what was to find infamy as the ‘blazing car murder’, occurred on the outskirts of Northampton. 

The gruesome, cold-blooded killing - the first known murder case in Britain to centre around a car - was carried out by Alfred Rouse, a wealthy East Midlands salesman, who bludgeoned to death an unknown victim in a country lane in the Northamptonshire village of Hardingstone. Rouse then bundled the blood-soaked body into the driving seat of his 1928 Morris Minor before torching the vehicle and leaving the scene.

Following his subsequent arrest, it transpired at the ensuing trial that the 36-year-old - a known three-time bigamist and a highly-sexed ‘philanderer’ of staggering proportions - had decided to kill someone to facilitate the faking of his own death. 

The prime motivation for this was to escape mounting financial pressures emanating from maintenance payments on an ever-growing number of illegitimate children, including one whose mother was just 15. Rouse planned to begin a new life in Scotland devoid of financial constraints and free from the pressure of his countless mistresses.

Rouse - who formally pleaded 'not guilty', claiming the victim was a hitchhiker who set fire to the vehicle whilst lighting a cigar - was sentenced to death by hanging. Shortly before his execution at Bedford Gaol, he finally confessed to the murder but wasn’t able to shed any light on his victim.

To this day, Rouse’s victim has never been identified. His gravestone bears the simple inscription “In memory of an unknown man.”