Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest Two Frightening Similar Murders – 157 Years Apart

by Mr. James England, June 2016 – Updated May 2021

Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest

Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest are just two of countless young women murdered across the centuries. However, the murder of these two women has piqued the interest of people around the world because the circumstances of their death are so similar, despite the 157 years that separate them. Both women were just 20 years old at the time of their death and they were both killed after an evening of dancing with friends. Astonishingly, the coincidences don’t end there.

How can two horrific murders which happened over 150 years apart be so shockingly similar? Is it simply an eerie coincidence? Or were Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest connected through an unknown force or the phenomenon of quantum entanglement?

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The Erdington Murders

The story for both unfortunate women ends in Erdington, a suburb in Birmingham, England. Both Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest were murdered in Pype Hayes Park, an extensive park in former working class neighborhood of Erdington. Barbara’s battered body was reportedly found within 300 yards from where they discovered Mary’s body over a century ago. Interestingly, before their deaths, Mary and Barbara said that they felt a sense that something bad was going to happen.

Similarities Between Erdington Murders:

  • Killed on May 27
  • Murdered in Pype Hayes Park
  • Both were 20 years old
  • Killed after a night of dancing
  • Suspects named Thornton
  • Both suspects acquitted

Read More: Creepy Graves and Stories Behind Them

Mary Ashford’s Murder

Mary Ashford was born December 31, 1796. Prior to her death on May 27, 1817, Mary confided in her friend Hannah’s mother that she had “bad feelings about the week to come.

On the evening of May 26, 1817, Mary Ashford, accompanied by a friend, Hannah Cox, went to a dance at Tyburn House Inn, near Erdington. There Mary met Abraham Thornton, and the two danced and chatted. About half-past eleven, Thornton and the Ashford left the dance, and headed in the direction that Mary Ashford lived. Around three o’clock in the morning, a man named saw Thornton, whom he knew, and Ashford, whom he didn’t know but later identified.

Shortly thereafter, Mary went to Hannah Cox’s house in Erdington, alone. She changed and left at four in the morning, intending to meet up with Abraham Thornton again. Thornton admits the two met up to have sex.

They found Mary Ashford’s body in a pool of water at 6:30 am at Pype Hayes Park.

The theory of the prosecution was that Thornton attacked Mary Ashford on her way home from Cox’s, raping her, and that he then threw her body into the water. They found footmarks in a nearby field, a body impression in the grass near the pool and blood leading to the water pit.

Suspicion for Mary’s murder fell squarely on Abraham Thornton. He admitted to being with her around the time she was murdered. He also admitted to having sex with her, though he outright denied raping and killing her.

Barbara Forrest’s Murder

Barbara Forrest, whose murder took place in 1975, told a colleague that, “This is going to be my unlucky month. I just know it. Don’t ask me why.

Barbara went out dancing the night before her death with her boyfriend. She ended her evening earlier than Mary, hitting the bus stop for home around 1 a.m.

Both Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest were raped before they were murdered. Both were strangled to death and left outside in the early morning hours of May 27. They were found in Pype Hayes Park, Mary in a flooded sandpit.

Pype Hayes Park. Image: Michael Westley [CC BY-SA 2.0]

The Pype Hayes Park Suspects

The blame for Barbara’s murder also fell on a man with the last name Thornton. Michael Ian Thornton worked with Barbara. Police found bloodstains on his pants, and he offered an alibi that later proved to be false.

The Mary Ashford and Barbara Forrest Murder Trials

Juries found both suspects not guilty because of a lack of substantial evidence. In both cases, a sibling contested the finding of the court and demanded further investigation. No one was ever convicted. Both Barbara and Mary’s cases are considered cold.

Maybe there is nothing to these eerie similarities. Then again, maybe young women should avoid walking alone in Pype Hayes Park in the early morning hours of May 27th. Especially if they were just out dancing.

Mr. James England

I have always been interested in ghost stories, the mysterious and anything paranormal which can't be explained rationally.