Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
   Civilian Patricia Wylie
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Dated added: 14/07/2020   Last updated: 06/09/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Civilian Casualty (Unknown Civilian)
Died: 25/09/1944 (Home)
Age: 7
Patricia Wylie was the daughter of Patrick and Mary Wylie. She was born about 1937, one of four children. The Wylies were a farming family that lived in Killycolpy village, midway between Stewartstown and Ardboe. On 25th September 1944, seven year old Patricia Wylie was raped and killed near her home by a U.S. serviceman stationed at Cluntoe Airfield in Ardboe, County Tyrone.
Further Information
Patricia Wylie was the daughter of Patrick and Mary Wylie. She was born about 1937, one of four children.
The Wylies were a farming family that lived in Killycolpy village, midway between Stewartstown and Ardboe.
On Monday 25th September 1944, William Harrison raped and killed seven-year-old Patricia Wylie.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 30th September 1944: East Tyrone Tragedy – Little Girl Murdered
A horrible murder was perpetrated on Monday night at Killycolpy, some nine miles from Cookstown, on the Lough Shore, when a seven and a half year old child was brutally murdered. She was Patricia Wylie, daughter of Mr Patrick Wylie, a loughshore fisherman, who owned a small farm on which he lives with his wife and four children, the eldest of which was only 13 years old.
It appears that on Monday afternoon, the child went into a country shop, accompanied by a young U.S. soldier, to buy a mineral. As she did not return, her mother became uneasy, and her father, who had been down at the lough, was told when he came in, about 7pm, and after looking for her in vain around the house, decided to phone the Coagh police. Sergeant Partridge reported the matter to Cookstown. And district Inspector Tease, with Head Constable Close and some constables, promptly proceeded to Killycolpy as it was beginning to get dark and organised search parties,
At the same time, the District Inspector put the machinery of the law into operation, so that soon almost every police barracks in Northern Ireland was on the look-out for a soldier whose name and description was given.
Meantime the search parties were scouring the country to find the missing child. One such party, consisting Michael Dornan, Peter Dornan Junior, and Bernard Hagan, all of Carnan, and Daniel Montague, came on the body of the little girl half naked at a hay rick in a field about a half mile from her home. Michael Dornan, a youth of 19, describing the scene, told the reporter how he made the discovery.
‘The four of us’, he said, ‘had been searching for about half an hour, it was a very dark night and we had to use torches, we went inot a field were there about four ricks of hay. We searched around the stacks. One of the others began to pull the hay back and I saw the girl lying face downwards. Her face was covered with blood, her left eye was stolen, and she was half nude.’
District Inspector Kennedy, fingerprint expert, and detectives from Belfast C.I.D., under the direction of District Inspector Tease, and U.S. military police were busy on Tuesday carrying out exhaustive enquiries in the neighbourhood, about 5am on Tuesday, a soldier was detained by police. The body was lying near several haystacks in a field, a short distance from a rough earth track. It was loosely covered with hay, and the basket which the murdered girl had taken with her was lying near the scene. The police had the body removed to Carnan Hibernian Hall. Her face was covered with blood and there were bruises on each side of her throat, and the doctors agreed she had been violated and strangled.
William Harrison was a 22 year old private in the United States Army Air Corps from Ironton, on the banks of the Ohio River to a mother of only 14-years-old. William Harrison was white.
His military record listed five prior Court Martials for being absent without leave or under the influence of alcohol. In England and Northern Ireland, he found himself drinking even more and in 1943 had spent six weeks in a hospital with amnesia.
Harrison was stationed at Cluntoe Airfield in Ardboe, County Tyrone.
Harrison had become friends with the Wylie family. He had visited them in their small rural cottage near Killycolpy, eating meals there over the previous year. He also drank with Patrick in the local pub.
Harrison had being drinking for several days. During the day he had consumed 15 beers, a small gin with each, and 2 port wines in Dorman’s Bar.
On arriving at Patrick Wylie’s farm at around 1700hrs, Harrison was drunk. Harrison owed 3d 10s to Patricia’s father but he was out on a fishing trip.
Harrison asked if he could take seven and a half year old Patricia to the local shop to buy a mineral.
Passing Sadie Wylie on the way into town, Harrison and Patricia took a shortcut through the fields. They never reached the shop. William Harrison led Patricia Wylie into the fields where he raped and then strangled her.
After an extensive search, the party discovered her body in a field half a mile from her home, semi-naked and covered in hay.
One witness, Hugh McKenna, later related that he was delivering to Dorman’s pub when the Jeep with the child’s body on back stopped.
At about 5am on Tuesday morning, Harrison was detained by police.
The Inquest - Tuesday evening
The inquest was opened on Tuesday evening (26th September 1944) by Dr A M Elliott, J.P., and a jury, of Mr Thomas Ferguson, J.P., of Albany (Tyrone), was foreman. After evidence of identification and medical testimony, the inquest was adjourned indefinitely.
The inquiry was held in Carnan Hibernian Hall. The setting was an eerie one. The hall was lighted by oil lamps. Fourteen grim-faced jurymen, American officers and police sat on forms drawer, up in a square in a corner of the room, the sheet draped body of the little victim resting on a table at the other end of the room.
Dr J A L Johnston of Derry, state pathologist, gave evidence of crrying out a post mortem earlier in the evening. In his opinion, death was due to asphyxia caused by strangulation. There was evidence of violation, and there was a good deal of bruising on various parts of the head and neck, particularly the neck.
Mr Patrick Wylie, the girl’s father, was a pathetic figure as he gave evidence of identification. Twice he broke down in answering questions. He said he had last seen his daughter alive at 3.30pm on Monday afternoon.
Mr Thomas Ferguson, J.P., of Albany, foreman of the jury, said he wished on behalf of his fellow jurors, to extend their deepest sympathy to Mr and Mrs Wylie and other members of the family on their most distressing loss.
District Inspector Tease, of Cookstown, said that they all felt very much for the parents. A U.S. Army Major, on behalf of the American personnel, said he wished to express their heartfelt sympathy. ‘I wish to state this will not go unpunished’, he added.
The coroner, addressing Mr Wylie, said:- ‘We all feel very deeply for you,. In expressing our disgust at this terrible tragedy, I think I am right in saying that although we feel it deeply, the Americans feel it even more so. I can only extend to you our sympathy, and hope that providence will help you, your wife and family to bear the burden which has been so suddenly thrust upon you. May God bless you.‘
The Funeral - Wednesday
There were touching scenes when the burial of the victim took place in the graveyard of St Patrick’s Church Mullinahoe on Wednesday (27th September 1944). Hundreds of people from the surrounding areas flocked to attend Requiem Mass, which was celebrated by Rev J P Regan, C.C., of Ardboe. Hard by the church, the school in which the little girl had been a pupil was closed as a mark of respect and more than 100 children attended the mass. A U.S Army colonel, other officers, an Army chaplain, and a large detachment of American soldiers occupied seats at the rear of the church, while others sat in the gallery. The white flower bedecked coffin, which had been taken to the church on Tuesday evening, rested on a catafalque before the altar, and after the service was carried on the shoulders of the children’s father and three uncles. The wreaths included one from the Commanding Officer of a U.S. Army Camp and all ranks, and another from the pupils of Albany P.E. School. The chief mourners were the father, and Messrs William John, Henry, James and Hugh Wylie (uncles).
Rev Father Regan, addressing the congregation in the church, said he would not be doing his duty if, on behalf of the parish, he did not sympathise with the relatives of this girl. Priests were familiar with death in all shapes – people who died from lingering illness and those whose death left great sorrow behind – but the circumstances surrounding the death of this little girl were of a different character.
On an occasion like that, when the parish has lost a member in such horrifying circumstances, their hearts were full and went out sincerely to the parents. The whole parish had been shocked to the innermost core at a death so cruel and horrible. There was no man, be he of their religion or of none, who did not feel in this deed a blow at their manhood, a reproach that he was a man.
This was a blot on the parish of Ardboe that would take a good deal to efface. This little girl had become a sacrifice for the good of the parish. They offered from their full hearts their sincere sympathy to the relatives of one who did not know the meaning of sin. They must pray for the family that had been left behind, for few families would be asked to bear a cross as heavy as theirs.
The Following Weeks
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 28th October 1944:
The trial by General Court-Martial of Private William Harrison Jnr, United States Army, on the charge of murdering the little girl, Patricia Wylie, near Cookstown, will open in Cookstown Courthouse on Monday 8th November. The trial, which will be open, is expected to last two days.
In August 1943, the Cluntoe airfield was transferred to United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and was called USAAF Station 238. It was used to train Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crews with additional Consolidated B-24 Liberators being added during February 1944. During March 1944 it was designated No. 2 CCRC and was closed during November 1944. Afterwards it was transferred back to the RAF and was closed during June 1945.
The Trial - General Court Martial
William Harrison’s murder trial took place on 18th November 1944. The General Court Martial took place in Cookstown.
His legal team of Lieutenant Ted Kadin claimed that Harrison possessed insufficient moral awareness. They claimed the GI did not understand the nature of the offence and could not tell right from wrong.
During the court martial, Harrison admitted murdering the young child, but said he didn't know why.
A US Army Medical Officer assessed Harrison and found him sane and able to distinguish right and wrong.
The members of the court returned their verdict after only half an hour of deliberation. Harrison was found him guilty of rape and murder. The US Army Air Force private admitted his guilt. His defence of diminished responsibility due to being drunk and suffering a traumatic childhood fell on deaf ears. Harrison sat calmly in a hushed but tense courthouse.
The killer was then whisked away and it was not widely known what happened to him.
The Adjourned Inquest Concludes
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 10th March 1945: The Killycolpy Murder – Adjourned Inquest
The adjourned inquest on Patricia Wylie, aged seven and a half, whose body had been found near her father’s home at Killycolpy on 24th September last, was resumed in Carnan A.O.H. Hall on Wednesday, before Dr A M Elliott, J.P., coroner, and 13 of a jury, the foreman being Mr Thomas Ferguson, J.P. Head Constable Close, of Cookstown, conducted the examination of the witnesses. Sergeant Partridge, of Coagh, gave evidence of being present at a U.S. Army court-martial in Cookstown, when Private William Harrison, who had been stationed at Cluntoe, was convicted of the murder of the deceased. The verdict returned was that of death caused by asphyxia, due to choking or strangulation by Private Harrison of the U.S Army.
The Execution
On 7th April 1945, Harrison was hanged at Shepton Mallet prison in Somerset, England. He was one of only 17/18 American servicemen hanged for rape or murder while serving in Great Britain during World War Two.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 14th April 1945:
It has been officially announced that Private William Harrison of the U.S. Army, who was sentenced to death at a U.S. Court-martial in Cookstown last November for the murder of seven and a half year old Patricia Wylie, daughter of My Wylie of Killycolpy, was hanged at Somerton on 7th April.
After the execution Harrison’s body was initially interred at Brookwood Cemetery, near to Woking in Surrey.
In 1949, the bodies of the men executed at Shepton Mallet were reburied in Plot E at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in France. Plot E is a private section intended for the "dishonoured dead" and is situated across the road from the main cemetery.
Patricia Wylie is buried in Ardboe Roman Catholic Parish Church Cemetery, known officially as St Patrick’s Churchyard, Mullinahoe.
Patricia is buried across the road from St Patrick’s Primary School, Mullinahoe, which she used to attend.
Patricia’s father, Patrick Wylie, died on 22nd October 1957, aged 59. Her mother, Mary Wylie, died on 1st April 1988, aged 84.
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Field - Back Lower Road Killycolpy Field where murder took place 54.581492 -6.581221
2 Dormans Bar Killycolpy Pub mentioned in story 54.581045 -6.591114
3 Sweet shop Killycolpy Road Killycolpy Sweet shop mentioned in story 54.584124 -6.586452
4 Ardboe Chapel Graveyard Ardboe Buried in Ardboe Chapel Graveyard 54.612413 -6.559584
5 Cluntoe Airfield Ardboe Cluntoe Airfield 54.620912 -6.533230
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 BBC - your place and mine 2005 Witness report
2 Belfast Telegraph - 04/07/2008 Details of incident
3 Facebook - Capital Punishment UK Details of incident
4 Details and photo regarding incident
5 Irish News - 20/11/2013 Details of incident
6 Wartime NI Details of incident
7 Wikipedia - Cluntoe Airfield Details of the Cluntoe in Ardboe
8 Wikipedia - Plot E Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Plot E
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2021