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The Wigwam Murder (Hardback)

A Forensic Investigation in WW2 Britain

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > True Crime

By M J Trow
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 200
ISBN: 9781399042451
Published: 5th May 2023

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Nobody expected a corpse in the tranquil Surrey countryside near Godalming, even though there was a war on and tanks churned the soil on manoeuvres.

The body belonged to 19-year-old Joan Pearl Wolfe, a sweet, convent-educated girl who, according to her own mother, had gone bad. It was 1942 and England was swarming with British, Canadian and American troops building up to what would become D-Day two years later.

The Surrey police, over-stretched as all forces were during the war, called in Scotland Yard, the experts, in the form of Superintendent Ted Greeno, one of the most famous and formidable detectives of his day. One of the Surrey detectives recognized the dead girl’s dress – he had seen it on its owner weeks earlier and from that the body’s identity came to light.

Joan was a camp follower with a string of men interested in her, but her latest beau was the Métis Canadian August Sangret. He had slipped out to live with Joan in woods near to the camp and had built shacks – wigwams – as temporary homes. Charged with her murder, he gave the longest statement ever made to the police – seventeen pages of it – and Keith Simpson, the Home Office pathologist, became the first to produce a human skull in court. The distinctive wounds inflicted by Sangret’s knife convinced the jury of his guilt and he was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint in Wandsworth gaol.

An open and shut case? Far from it. For all the brilliance of forensic science and the dogged work of the police, the jury should still be out on August Sangret. As the judge said in his summing up, ‘there is no blood on this man’.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I haven’t come across this true crime case before and found it both intriguing and compelling. It follows the story of Joan Pearl Wolfe, a young English woman who was murdered in 1942. It was the height of the war and police resources were stretched. A French Canadian soldier was subsequently charged with her murder, but there are questions as to whether he was killer.

The case was complex and M J Trow’s account is comprehensive and thought provoking. Keith Simpson, the famous Home Office pathologist presented evidence at the trial which shocked the jury. But overall, there are so many anomalies it’s difficult to understand how a jury found Auguste Sangret guilty. Joan, although convent educated was not the young woman she appeared to be. Sangret was very much an outsider and despite the so called evidence, there are serious doubts about his guilt. I found this a detailed and rewarding account of real life crime. It’s well written and appears to be meticulously researched.

NetGalley, Anita Wallas

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When Joan Wolf‘s body was found in the Surry countryside during World War II the local police were already over taxed and spread thin and with the rumors going around they had many suspects but no solid proof. Joanne was a nice girl and received a great education from a convent but when she went boy crazy she never came back and her mom wrote her letters pleading with her to get clean because she thought she had a venereal disease which made her want to have crazy sex with anyone and to come home. in reality Joan was in love with the Canadian soldier and they were supposed to marry upon his return to England sadly that would never happen because someone killed her first and thinks to the dogged efforts of the Surrey police and they’re open this to new technology they would fine her murderer. This is really a sad story and what makes it even sadder is that Joan and Charlie could’ve very well been just another couple who fell in love during World War II if not for her tragic ending. The author has done his due diligence and we learned that Crime across the board in England went up during World War II and although this is a tough subject to read about the authors respectful writing style yet at the same time giving you the tragic details makes it so worth reading. Everyone deserves to have their story told and now Joan Pearl Wolf has hers. This is just another great book from pen and sword True Crime and author MJ trow.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

During WWII a murder happened. The victim was Joan Wolfe and the perpetrator was her lover soldier August Sangret. The book gives a very detailed account of their relationship and what lead to the tragic event, followed by presenting circumstantial evidence in the court and prosecution. The main question is: was the right person prosecuted?

NetGalley, Meg Gajda

An interesting true crime book set during WW2. The author walks you through the events, major figures and the investigation as well as the conclusion by the courts. One will have to make up their own conclusion as to whether the right person was tried for the crime. There is sufficient evidence provided by the author to make you wonder if justice was served in this crime.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Accomplished retelling of a wartime murder case. The body, discovered in 1942, prompted Surrey police to call in Scotland Yard and subsequently a man was arrested and charged and then hung following a groundbreaking trial and a guilty verdict. Perhaps that was not the end of the matter - for was he really the guilty party? Well researched and with an examination of the original evidence the author explores this tragic case with empathy and compassion and an intricate eye for detail.

NetGalley, Ruth Giles

Well Detailed History
The Wigwam Murder took place in Britain during WWII. This is an expertly written true crime book melding of war stories and murder which sadly happened a lot during the war. The victim, Joan Wolfe, was British and the accused was a Canadian soldier named August Sangret. They had been lovers but there is doubt as to whether August Sangret actually murdered her. I found there is a lot of information to get through in this book but overall, well worth persevering. I had never heard of either the victim or the accused before and I learnt a lot about this case.

NetGalley, Kathleen RIGGS

4.5/5 stars! WOW! What an expertly written true crime melding of war stories and murder. I had never heard of this murder but am a true crime junkie so I was excited to get the chance to read this telling of it. I found the material around Joan Wolf and August Sangret to be informative and also compelling.

NetGalley, Kelsey Rhodes

So many domestic crimes were no doubt overshadowed by the war, that this type of book is now doing an important job in bringing them to our attention. This is a strong true crime account which gives due weight to the extraordinary context of a nation at war and what complexities this brought to the investigation and associated processes.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

About M J Trow

M.J. Trow is the author of nearly 100 books covering crime fiction, true crime and historical biography. He is a military historian by training, lectures extensively in the UK and overseas, and has appeared regularly on the History and Discovery Channels. He can be heard in podcasts on all the usual platforms, both as a guest and the main presenter on both historical and true crime subjects. He lives in the Isle of Wight.

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