On August 18, 1944, 6-year-old Sheila Fox, from the town of Bolton, in Greater Manchester, went missing while on her way home from school. World War II coverage directed the press away from little Sheila’s story, but it was a most perplexing one, with contradictory eyewitness accounts surrounding the last moments she was ever seen, and a lifetime of pain for her family.
By all accounts, Sheila Fox was a happy—albeit shy—little girl. Because of her shyness, it was unlikely, her friends and family thought, that she would engage with a stranger. However, in August 1944, Sheila failed to return home from school—and witnesses at the time claimed to have seen her with a man in his mid-20s. Sheila was wearing a green mackintosh at the time of her disappearance, which led the press to dub her “The Girl in the Green Mac.”
Some witnesses recalled Sheila walking beside the man, whereas others said she was riding on the handlebars of the man’s bike. The girl’s timid personality led investigators to believe that this mysterious man must have been someone Sheila knew; when one of the witnesses asked where she was going, she supposedly called back, “with this man.”
Sheila was never seen again. Hers was classified as a missing person case, as there was never any conclusive evidence that Sheila had been abducted. Furthermore, because no evidence of Sheila was ever found—not even a stich of clothing, let alone a body—her family had a hard time believing that their little girl had been attacked or murdered. Her parents left the door to the family home unlocked for years after Sheila’s disappearance, hoping she might one day return home. Tragically, they both died never knowing what fate had befallen their daughter.
Then, in 2001, Sheila’s case resurfaced. An elderly gentleman came forward, claiming that he had seen his neighbor—a man in his 20s—digging in his back garden in the middle of the night around the time of Sheila’s disappearance. This new witness, who had been 13 in 1944, said he had long suspected his neighbor might have had something to do with Sheila’s disappearance. His conscience finally urged him to come forward with this potentially crucial piece of information.
The garden was excavated. To everyone’s dismay, no body, nor anything of note, was found. However, when the identity of the prior homeowner was investigated, authorities found that the man had been convicted of rape in 1950, and of the sexual assault of a child in the 1960s. Whether this man had anything to do with Sheila’s disappearance all those years ago is difficult—if not impossible—to confirm. It’s likely we’ll never know what truly happened to little Sheila Fox on that August day in 1944.
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Feature photos: Wikimedia Commons