Emma Alice SmithBBC documentary still

No one knows exactly what happened to English woman Emma Alice Smith, who went missing in the 1920s, but a new police investigation hints that the woman may not have been murdered as long thought.

After a film shed new light on the mysterious disappearance of the young woman, the police in Sussex decided to look into the case again.

The curious case of the disappearance of Smith was reignited by a film called “Finding Esther” which hinted that the woman was killed by someone from a local village nearby who took umbrage with her liaison with an Irishman.

All these new questions prompted Sussex Police’s Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles to reopen the case and look for the remains of the woman.

"We have undertaken enquiries on this very old case when other current and more pressing matters have allowed,” said Bowles in a statement, according to the Argus newspaper.
 
"We have, however, done our very best to establish the truth for the family of Emma Alice, who had been unable to have any certainty around her fate. Had her body been lying unburied in the Waldron area, I was determined that we should find her and enable her family to give her a proper burial.

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"However, it has been established, as far as is possible, that Emma Alice Smith was not murdered, but eloped with a man by the name of Thomas Wells, a 33-35 year-old road worker, who left his wife and four young children between October 1928 and May 1930. It is believed that he and Emma Alice went to Southern Ireland.

"Between 1933 and 1936 there is evidence that there was an argument at a Sunday School outing between Emma Alice's mother and the wife of Thomas concerning the relationship between Emma Alice and Thomas.

"It appears that it was on Emma Alice's side of the family that the word of her murder started to evolve. Lillian Smith, a sister of Emma Alice, and now deceased, had told her niece that in the 1950s she had taken a death bed confession from a man claiming that he had murdered Emma Alice on her way to the train station in Horam whilst she was on route to a job as a maid in Tunbridge Wells.

"He had disclosed that he had put her body in a pond. Lillian was the only person who appeared to have concerns that Emma had been murdered. It has also now been established that Emma Alice worked locally and not in Tunbridge Wells.

"I am now satisfied that she was not murdered and this case is now closed."

The policeman said that if she was still alive she would be 101.