Ada Constance Kent (a.k.a. Connie Kent) was a British film and stage actress who moved to the English village of Fingringhoe, Essex, after a long period of working in London. She was unmarried, and she lived alone at her cottage, her being a recluse and someone who seldom mixed with others.
Ada had reportedly been missing for ten years before the discovery of her skeleton in March 1949. Most of the villagers assumed she had simply gone away for a long time without telling anyone, which was a habit of hers. A worried friend reported that Ada was missing as she had not seen her for 3 months. She told police that she had visited and searched the house looking for Ada but did not find her. But after one or two brief searches in her cottage, the neighbors simply moved on with their lives and forgot about her.
The Strange Disappearance of Ada Constance Kent
Ada was last seen alive by Alfred Hasler, the landlord of a Whalebone pub, on March 6, 1939, as she would usually come to the pub to buy Woodbine cigarettes. He remembered she looked sick and had a terrible cold.
Numerous individuals had actually been inside her cottage since her disappearance: police officers, council officials, and schoolchildren. Derrick Allen, a local boy from the village, used to play in the cottage with his friends when he was twelve years old. Allen saw some bones on the bedroom floor but only thought that a dog must have brought them there. Another boy who used to play in the cottage was John Hedges, who said, “Thinking back, it’s strange to think that nobody ever noticed the body lying there, but like me, they probably never ventured beyond the lower floor of the building.”
More children had also been to the cottage, and some even claimed to really have seen Ada beneath the bed. The nearby school’s headmistress, Ethel Donnan, even remembered in 1940 that schoolchildren complained about a terrible smell from the cottage. Donnan then reported to detectives about it, suspecting that there might be rats around. It is not known whether the authorities inspected Ada’s bedroom after they later said they did not find rats.
Schoolgirls also complained about boys warning them not to enter the cottage because Miss Kent was lying dead under her bed as they had seen her hair. These rumors were not confirmed and were simply dismissed.
In 1940, George Wyncoll, Ada’s neighbor, visited the cottage with some policemen to secure the cottage. Like the two previous searches, he found nothing out of place. The bedroom appeared to be tidy, but they later admitted that they only took a hasty glance inside the bedroom. He later stated, “It appears Ada just vanished and never returned.”
The local parishioners soon complained about the old cottage as being an eyesore in the village, and the local council decided to order a demolition to the property. To do this, the officials had to visit the cottage once more to find the owner. Reports from the council officials contained the following information:
The door to the cottage was found unlocked, A supper tray, with the remains of a meal, was resting atop the dining table, a copy of Romeo & Juliet was found open in a chair near the fireplace, her coat was still on the hook.
Concerned by their findings, they decided to inform the police, who in turn arranged for a proper search in the cottage.
One of the first people to examine the cottage was police sergeant T. Waylett, who said he saw a large number of bones. Detective superintendent George Totterdell and detective George Kemp were assigned to lead the investigation for the police, and inside the cottage, they found letters and photographs, many of which showed Ada in theatrical outfits and papers that indicated she used the stage name Vera Verchayle—a name not supported by British film archive records. The bedroom was still made up and had apparently been not slept in for years although the floor was covered by fallen debris from the collapsed ceiling. The detectives found the complete skeleton buried under debris between the bed and washbasin.
The following is from the British Newspaper Archive, dated 8 July 1949:
No evidence was found to suggest what caused Ada’s death. Some have claimed that the skeleton may not even be hers but of an unknown individual who found the mystery of her disappearance suitable to commit suicide in Ada’s cottage. Others say Ada may have been murdered someplace else and was later dumped back inside her bedroom. Others also claim she may have died from natural causes and was unable to ask for help. Or perhaps Ada herself died of suicide as an article from Star News, dated 24 March 1949, says, “A bottle labelled poison was found near the body.”
The case remains unsolved and was discussed in the BBC comedy radio series Punt PI.