The Wigwam Case gained its infamous nickname as the case involved a Canadian soldier of North American Indian ethnic origin and the residence of the murder victim. The case also involved the famous British Pathologist Professor Keith Simpson.
On 7 October 1942, two soldiers were strolling on Hankley Common (near Godalming, Surrey) when they noticed an arm protruding from a mound of earth. A badly decomposed fully-clothed woman was found to have been loosely buried up on the mound.
Professor Keith Simpson concluded that the woman had been stabbed with a hooked-tipped knife, and that she was then killed with a heavy blunt instrument. He also deduced that the attack had occurred elsewhere, and the woman’s corpse dragged to the ridge where it was buried. The woman was eventually identified as Joan Pearl Wolfe, who was living rough in a crude shelter made of tree branches, and so the newspapers gave her the nickname of “Wigwam Girl”.
The police search of Hackney Common found the dead woman’s Identity Card and a letter to a Canadian soldier called August Sangret. The letter informed Sangret that she was pregnant. When the police interviewed Sangret, he admitted having intimate relations with the girl and living with her tree wigwam. A heavy birch branch, with blood stains, was found near the body’s grave. Sangret’s recently washed battledress was found to have blood stains. Finally on 27 November 1942, a hooked-tip knife was found blocking a waste pipe.
August Sangret was charged with Wolfe’s murder and tried during February 1943. He was found guilty of murder, with a recommendation to mercy, and sentenced to death by hanging. The Home Secretary choose to disregard the jury’s recommendation. Sangret was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 29 April 1943.
L/27572 Private August Sangret, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, is commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial. His entry can be found on Panel 23, Column 3.