Date: 2 Oct 1931
Edward George Welham was found shot dead in a hut at Coverdale Kennels near Blandford.
When he was first found his death was thought to have been accidental, but a few days later reason was found to suspect foul play.
He was found dead on 1 October 1931 and Scotland Yard were called in on 4 October 1931.
Coverdale Kennels was at the western end of Tarrant Keynston, a straggling village at least a mile long situated about three and a half miles south east of Blandford in Dorset.
Edward Welham was a dog trainer and was employed as a manager at Coverdale Kennels where between 40 and 50 sporting dogs were kept.
He had been found shot in the kennels office between 9.30am and 10am on 1 October 1931 by his assistant who was 18 years old. The assistant said that he had been instructed, 10 minutes earlier, by Edward Welham to go and find a blind spaniel dog from a Kale field on the opposite side of the road to the kennels. The assistant said that he had been in the Kale field when he had heard the shot, but didn't take any notice of it as he thought that Edward Welham had been shooting a pigeon or jackdaw in the trees outside of the kennels. He said that he continued to search for the spaniel and returned a few minutes later to find Edward Welham lying on the floor of the office, unconscious and bleeding from wounds in his head and with his gun beneath him.
The assistant said that he then rushed off to the cottage where Edward Welham lodged, about 330 yards away, for assistance and returned with several people.
Edward Welham was made as comfortable as possible and then later removed to Blandford Cottage Hospital where he died at 12.20pm on 2 October 1931.
At first it was thought that the shooting had been either accidental or suicidal but at the inquest the surgeon stated that he didn't think that his injuries could have been self-inflicted.
On 6 October 1931 at 3am a post-mortem was carried out and the cause of death was stated as having been due to shock and loss of blood due to injuries to the back of his head, neck and brain. However, the pathologist stated that it would have been impossible for the injuries to have been self-inflicted. The pathologist carried out experiments by sitting Edward Welham and placing his head as far forward as possible as though sitting at a desk and determined that the line of the shot in the back of the left shoulder and the back of the left side of the head was consistent with Edward Welham having been sat at his desk when shot in the back of the head. He concluded that Edward Welham had probably been sat at his desk at the time but had probably received some warning of what was going to happen and put his head down in a crouching position to avoid the shot.
The kennels consisted of an army hut about 70 feet long and 15 feet wide and were situate in a piece of triangular ground. the sides of the triangle were the roadway, the river Tarrant and a barbed wire fence with some hedging in it which divided the land from an adjoining field.
The centre of the hut had an apartment used as an office and to the left and right there were corridors leading to six and five kennels respectively with the fifth and sixth kennel on the left side merely being a division of the fifth kennel.
The entrance to the office was on the same side as the base of the triangle and about 30 yards from the entrance gates and in full view of them.
There were dog runs on the opposite side of the kennels from the entrance door which ran towards the apex of the triangle which were overlooked by the office window.
The office itself was 15 feet, the width of the building, by 9 feet 8 inches and the floor was 14 inches above the ground and there was no step to the door. The entrance was on the left of the office and opened inwards and to the right. Then, immediately on the left inside was the passage leading to the kennels on the left and a similar passage opposite to the kennels on the right.
Against the partition on the left of the office was a large bin and opposite the entrance door was a similar door that would have led out to the runs but it was not used and was permanently secured.
Inside the unused door was a small chair and to the right of it a small tin trunk and then next to the trunk a writing desk which reached the diagonal corner from the entrance door. The desk was 4 feet 1 inch long, 1 foot 10 1/2 inches wide and 2 feet 6 inches high and had drawers on either side and a single drawer over the leg space in the middle. In front of the desk was a window which was 12 inches above the desk and extended half way in front of it with the remaining two feet of the window extending past the desk to the left and immediately above the tin trunk.
In front of the desk there was a small chair and on the right and behind of it against the partition, on the right from the entrance door, was a cupboard in which, amongst other things such as dog medicine etc, were some cartridges.
There were three guns used at the kennels and when in their proper place they were kept on the right side of the desk chair in the corner made by the partition and the cupboard against it. the guns were a 16 bore, a 12 bore and a .410. The 16 bore was Edward Welham's own gun.
Next to the cupboard on the side nearer the door was a small gate or hurdle used to keep four sacks of feeding stuffs above the level of the floor.
On the boards above the desk was a portion of a pattern or spread of shot which measured 8 1/4 inches across, with a blank space accounted for by the shot that had entered Edward Welham's head and shoulder. The spread or pattern indicated that the shot had been fired at a distance of at least 10 feet measured from the muzzle to the target and with the barrels pointing slightly downwards. Further tests indicated that the person firing the shot must have stood in the office to the left of the entrance door with the muzzle 12 feet 6 inches from the boards of the wall opposite.
On 5 and 6 October 1931, the police made a detailed examination of the kennels and surroundings and stated that they were satisfied that no one had entered the kennels from any other point other than the entrance gates leading from the roadway.
It was also said that, particularly in view of the noise made by the 40 or 50 sporting dogs when anyone unknown to them approached, that it didn't seem possible that any stranger could have got into, or near, the office without attracting attention.
At the time, the only employees at the kennels were Edward Welham, his assistant and a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of Edward Welham’s landlady, who at the time had been at the house where the assistant had run for help.
Edward Welham and the assistant started work at 7am and each had a key to the office.
Edward Welham had had his breakfast at his lodgings between 8am and 9am but his assistant didn't have a break for breakfast as he had eaten breakfast before he had come to work. He lived about 5-6 miles away and had come to work on a motor cycle or push bike.
The 16-year-old girl only worked at the kennels from 3pm until dusk unless Edward Welham was away at a dog show and was at home at the time of the shooting with her mother.
Edward Welham generally also worked until dusk but the assistant would go home at 5pm each day.
It was noted that Edward Welham seemed to have little interest in life beyond the dogs and that they occupied nearly his whole time.
The kennels itself came with 600 acres of shooting for the purpose of training the dogs and that also provided a recreation for the owner of the kennels who was a brewer, corn and coal merchant and who ran the kennels as more of a hobby than a business.
The 16-year-old girl's brother, aged 18 was an Odd Boy and resided at The Rectory in Tarrant Keynston and would often go out in the evenings with Edward Welham with a gun and several dogs which were in the course of training.
On 30 September 1931, the Odd Boy and Edward Welham went out at about 6.30pm. When they left the office Edward Welham told the Odd Boy to take the 12 bore as he was going to take the dogs but before they started out the Odd Boy cleaned the 12 bore gun as well as Edward Welham's 16 bore gun. He cleaned the guns by running through the barrels, two rods, one with wire and the other with tow at the end. He said that he didn't clean the outside of Edward Welham's 16 bore as the day had been dry and after cleaning its barrels he put it in the corner by cupboard near the desk where it was usually kept. They then went out shooting and when they returned at dusk the Odd Boy put the 12 bore back in the same corner. The Odd Boy said that as it was dark he could not say whether the 16 bore gun was still in the cupboard but the police report states that there was no reason to think that it was not.
It was believed that that was the last time the gun was handled before it was found beneath Edward Welham's body after he was shot.
When Edward Welham and the Odd Boy returned from shooting, the kennel owner and his wife were in their car outside the kennels. They generally visited about three times a week, usually in the evenings, to discuss business. Edward Welham got into their car and they discussed the business relating to the kennels. Edward Welham also asked the owner about a dog being sent away on approval, mentioning that he had been unable to finish two letters until he had spoken to him. The owner then drove Edward Welham to his lodgings and it was arranged that they would meet again on the evening of 3 October 1931 after Edward Welham had returned from a trial with some dogs, so that they could learn the results.
It was said that on the morning of 1 October 1931 things seemed to have gone on as usual with Edward Welham and the assistant arriving at the kennels first thing, just before 8am. Edward Welham was seen by a gardener employed at Tarrant Crawford as he was going to work through some fields on the opposite side of the river Tarrant. The gardener said that he saw Edward Welham wheeling a bicycle and said that he had had two loose dogs with him, a black dog and a spaniel.
The gardener was called to later identify the two dogs on 13 October 1931 as they were significant to the investigation. He identified the black dog as a Labrador retriever named Patch, but was not certain about the spaniel but thought that it might have been a liver and white spaniel called Peter.
It was noted that the two dogs were significant in the investigation because they had both been returned to the kennel some months before on account of their condition.
The Labrador retriever had a skin complaint although it was still a brisk and active dog, whilst the spaniel, although only three years old was practically blind owing to previous neglect to its eyes. They were both kept together on account of their condition and had been kept in a separate kennel near the fence and isolated from the main kennels.
The police report stated that there was a field of Kale opposite the side of the road from the kennels and that it was known that it was Edward Welham's practice to leave the spaniel in the Kale field to roam about instead of taking the dog back to the kennels before breakfast and that the spaniel would run about the field and then usually return when tired. The report stated that there is no reason to doubt that Edward Welham left Peter in the Kale field that morning and every reason to believe that he did.
At about 8am Edward Welham went to his lodgings for his breakfast and whilst there the postman called and Edward Welham was given his letters. As the manager of the kennels he usually had several letters every morning. It was said that there was nothing in the letters that appeared to upset him and he had jokingly remarked that one of his correspondents from Scotland was sending him a long-legged springer to train as a retriever.
He then left at 9am back to the kennels.
The wife of a grocer and sub-Post Office at the other end of Tarrant Keynston passed the kennels at 9.25am and didn't observe anything unusual or suspicious. She said she did she a motorcycle and a push cycle leaning against the kennels which were thought to have been the assistants and Edward Welham's respectively.
Edward Welham's landlady said that it was about 30 minutes or a little later after Edward Welham had gone off back to the kennels that the assistant came to her door and said 'Oh, Mrs, Ted's shot'. The landlady then asked him 'Oh, who's shot him?' and said that the assistant looked frightened and said something about 'Peter'. The landlady said that she thought that the assistant was talking about the son of a farmer at Manor Farm opposite her house where her husband was employed as an Odd Man but he was referring to the spaniel. She said that she then informed her husband and son and they ran off to the kennels.
When they got there, they found Edward Welham lying on his back and bleeding from the head which was towards the door, and his feet under the writing desk.
A sack cushion which was usually on the chair along with some periodicals, was under his loins and one of the periodicals was on the floor partly in front of the chair near his feet. The barrels of Edward Welham's 16 bore gun were under his back.
It was said that the fact that the sack cushion was found on the floor on the left of the desk chair, although slightly behind it, and under Edward Welham's lions, lent colour to the suggestion that Edward Welham had received some warning immediately before the shooting and whilst crouching over the desk in an endeavour to avoid the shot, had moved from the chair to the left and thus caused the sack cushion and the periodical to slide to the floor. The chair was otherwise as usual, in a standing position at the desk. However, it was thought that the murderer had then attempted to stage a suicide and it was said that that it could not be ruled out the chair had been placed where it was found.
However, it was later found that when the landlady's husband had gone in he had seen a stick with a piece of string attached to it and thinking that Edward Welham had committed suicide he had untied the string from the stick, put the stick in a corner and put the string in his pocket. He later told the owner of the kennel about the stick and string on 29 October 1931, saying that he had done it to spare Edward Welham's mother the shock of knowing that her son had committed suicide.
The string was 2 feet 9 inches long and had been attached to the end of a hazel stick by a loose slip knot. The stick was 3 feet 6 inches long.
The landlady’s husband said that he concealed the finding of the stick and string believing that the Jury's verdict would be one of accidental death but that when the verdict of Wilful Murder was returned it played on his mind that someone might be arrested for a murder that had not been committed. He said that he had been in the office for about a minute and a half before he noticed the stick and string.
It was later said that the landlady's husband, the landlady and their daughter had nothing to gain from Edward Welham's death as he was a paying lodger and that the daughter worked at the kennels and might have become more involved there and that there was also the possibility that the daughter might have married Edward Welham.
It was further heard that when the policeman arrived he had asked the landlady’s husband if there was any string about, and that the landlady’s husband, knowing that the policeman was referring to string attached to the gun, had made no reply. The landlady’s husband later said that he could not remember what he had said in reply. At the time, he had the string in his pocket.
It was said that the landlady’s husband was one of five from his family that gave evidence at the inquest and that it was strange that being so intimately concerned with the case that he could have anticipated a verdict of accidental death and further noted that it was a failure, in general, on the part of the residents in Tarrant Keynston to appreciate that a murder had been committed and that that had proved to be one of the difficulties in the case. The police report further stated that it was found necessary to convince the majority of the many persons interviewed that Edward Welham had been murdered and that when having done so, to assure them that persons other than the murderer, or an eye witness, might be able to give information and assistance.
When the 16-year-old girl when into the office she said that she noticed that Edward Welham's jacket was unbuttoned and the sides of it were lying back on the floor exposing the lining and that his wallet and some papers were sticking out about two inches from the inside right pocket. She said that she had been very friendly with Edward Welham and had often seen him taking out £1 and 10/- notes from the back pouch of the wallet when paying his lodgings her wages, the assistants wages and also making different purchases.
She also said that before she went into the office she had seen Peter, the Spaniel, loose, standing near his kennel.
When the policeman came into the office just after 10am he said 'This is something. I can't see any stick or string by which he could have done it, you usually find a stick or string'. It was heard that that had been said in the presence of both the landlady's husband and the assistant and that neither of them made any reply. the policeman then said he asked if anything had been touched and said that the landlady’s husband said 'No'.
After the policeman arrived they lifted Edward Welham up by the shoulders and moved the sack cushion up to his shoulders. The policeman then pulled the shotgun from under him and gave it to the landlady's son to unload. It was then found that the trigger of the left barrel was cocked and ready to be pulled.
The ambulance arrived at 10.45am and Edward Welham was taken to Blandford Cottage Hospital where he was seen by a doctor at 11.10am. He never regained consciousness and died at 12.20pm on 2 October 1931.
The kennel owner was called at 10.20am and told about the situation and then immediately left for the kennels and arrived to find the office empty at 10.50am. The kennel owner said that the assistant then told him what had happened.
The kennel owner said that he had never known a more careful gun owner than Edward Welham saying that he would never load the gun at the kennels and would often wait until he was well into the Kale field before loading and said that he would never cross the road with his gun loaded and that he would always open the breach, even if he didn't unload the gun, when crossing a hedge. It was said that the kennel owner could not entertain the idea of suicide from the very start.
The kennel owner said that he looked about to try and see if he could figure out what had happened and said that he saw the open letter book on the table. There were three letters on the desk ready for posting and a carbon copy dated 30 September still on the desk. The kennel owner said that he didn't think that it was Edward Welham's practice to place the carbon on the desk when he had finished writing. It was noted that even though the letters were dated 30 September 1931, and that Edward Welham was a slow writer, the kennel owner did not think that Edward Welham was that slow a writer and that it was thought that Edward Welham had finished writing, and that the letter book had been placed out with the carbon as part of the staging by the murderer after the shooting. It was also stated that the letters included the letters that Edward Welham had told the kennel owner that he needed to speak to him about before finishing and that he could have written them the day before, 30 September, and then finished them in the morning, 1 October, just before he was shot.
The kennel owner also formed the opinion judging by the shot in the board above the desk that Edward Welham had been shot from outside the door at a distance of at least 15 feet away. He then had his chauffeur shoot the 12 bore from a distance of 15 feet into a door and found that the spread was 7 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches and showed that the 16 bore, which would not have spread so much must have been fired from at least 10 or 11 feet away. As such the kennel owner said that he could not account for how the gun could have been found under Edward Welham's body.
It was noted that the kennels assistant had been summoned by the Wimborne Police to appear at the Petty Sessions on 2 October 1931 upon a charge of stealing a generator from an unattended motorcycle. He was convicted and boundover for 12 months and ordered to pay an 8/- fine. It was said that the events that led up to that were of importance.
When the Chief Constable became involved and visited the kennels on 5 October 1931 he said that it became apparent that Edward Welham had been shot by someone else and said then that the assistant’s version of events was not satisfactory, however, there was no evidence to state that he was not telling the truth despite the suspicion surrounding him.
The policeman that was heading the investigation said that he deliberately put off interviewing the assistant in the hope that something would come up. He then interviewed him on 7 October 1931 and found that he had left school at 14 and become an errand boy for a Wimborne baker and that he then went on to work as a helper and errand boy for a cobbler in Wimborne where he worked for 3 years. He said the assistant told him that he left the cobbler’s when he had thought that his father was leaving the area, but that that didn't happen and so he started helping his father on his farm and that when he heard that there was a position at the kennels he had applied and started working there. He said that neither the landlady nor her daughter had complained about his work and said that he was not interested in the daughter as he already had a girlfriend that he had been seeing for a year.
The assistant said that he had gone out shooting with Edward Welham on 30 September 1931 in Ashley Wood and mentioned that they didn't do much shooting near the houses that adjoined Ashley Wood because there had been a complaint about shooting near a house and said that Edward Welham had told him that a certain man had put an axe through one of the windows of the kennels in protest.
When he was interviewed he said that he had not asked Edward Welham about having a half day off to go to court on 2 October and had not told him about stealing a generator and said that he was going to ask Edward Welham for a half day on the day that Edward Welham was shot, that being the following day. When the policeman asked him what he was going to tell Edward Welham the assistant said that he was going to tell him that he had to go to Wimborne and that if Edward Welham asked him why, then he said that he was going to say that he had to go to the police station because he had taken a generator. The assistant agreed with the policeman that stealing would have been a better description.
He had said that on 1 October 1931 he had arrived at the kennels at 7am and that Edward Welham helped him to do the pups and that he then went into every kennel but didn't clean them out and only picked up the droppings which was thought wouldn't take that long. He said that after Edward Welham came back from breakfast he saw him sit down to write and said that he then took some shavings that were used as bedding in the kennels out to the incinerator. He said then that Edward Welham asked him how much cleaning he had to do and that he told him 'One more kennel', and said that Edward Welham then told him 'Because I want to go out shooting. I want you to go and fetch Peter'. The assistant then said that he could hear Peter barking in the field. He said that he then finished the last kennel and went off to the Kale field and said that Peter was at the far end and that as he was half way he heard the gun shot but that he continued on to get Peter. He said that he took about another minute or two to get Peter and then brought him back on the lead to the kennels and put him in his kennel. He said that he then went to the office and found Edward Welham shot and then went off to the house to get help. It was noted that he just looked in and then ran off and didn't go in to see if he could help Edward Welham.
The policeman said that he questioned the assistant closely but said that he was unable to shake him on his story of having gone into the Kale field. However, he said that there was every reason to believe that he was not speaking the truth and that his whole statement was most unconvincing. The report further stated that he was not intelligent but that he had a good deal of animal cunning which stood him in good stead and that he never seemed at a loss for an answer. The police interviewed him again on 17 October 1931 during which the assistant said that he remembered Edward Welham going off for breakfast but could not remember him going out on his bicycle exercising the dogs. He said that Edward Welham brought Patch home before breakfast but had left Peter out in the Kale field. He had emphasised that by stating that he remembered hearing the clock strike 8am just before he left. However, the police said that they determined that the Tarrant Keynston Church clock was stopped at that time that morning.
He also said that Peter did not come home by himself and that if he did then he must have gone out again. He also said that when he was in the Kale field he saw no one and also said that he had never even seen a car coming down the road. The police report stated that that was an important point because no one had mentioned anything about a car. However, the police said that they did have a witness who had driven past in a car who had said that they had seen Peter coming home alone. It was assumed that assistant had heard about the car from other sources.
The police also had the assistant stand in the Kale field where he said he had been when the shot was fired and they fired a shotgun in the office and he agreed that he had heard that quite plainly although in his statement he had said that the shot was not very loud.
The assistant said that he thought that someone had come in to the office and taken the gun while Edward Welham was at breakfast and the police said that he would surely have seen him and that the assistant said that the person might have hidden behind the foul house or in the field. The police said that they took the assistant to the foul house and they looked behind it and the assistant then agreed that there was no room to hide behind the foul house with all the nettles. The assistant then said that the murderer might have hidden in the lavatory as he said he never went in there. The police then noted that if there had have been then the dogs which were close by and particularly noisy when any stranger was about would have been noisier than normal that morning.
The police report then concluded that the assistant would stick to his story of having gone to get Peter no matter what happened and that there was practically no hope of getting anything in the shape of an admission from him.
The report stated that they only managed to find four people that had heard the shot fired and that none of them could carry the case any further other than establishing that the shot happened sometime between 9.30am and 10am.
The police interviewed the wife of an Under Dairyman who was employed by Coleman's farm whose cottage front overlooked the dog runs and was about 30-40 yards from the Kale fields who said that she had been cleaning the outside back of the house when she heard the shot and said that she had not heard anyone calling for a dog in the Kale field either before or after she heard the shot and said that she thought that she would have heard if there were. She said that she then heard the church bell ring 10am and said that she thought that shot happened about 10 minutes earlier. It was noted that the church clock was started again at 9.56am. She said then that a few minutes after 10am a servant employed at the farm said to her 'Have you heard what happened?' and that she said 'No' and that the servant said 'Ted has met with an accident'.
The gunshot was also heard by a girl guide who had been sent off to the 42-acre field of which the Kale field was part of to give her brother, who was a shepherd in the field, his breakfast. Her mother said that at about 9.30am she had given her daughter the breakfast and said that their clock was set from Big Ben on the wireless although it was thought that it was a little after 9.30am that her daughter left. The girl guide, who was described as very intelligent, had ridden her mother's bicycle to the gate leading into the Kale field by the gateway at the bottom which was opposite the runs. She then wheeled her cycle along a footpath through the Kale to the wire netting fence that divided the Kale field from the remainder of the field. She then left the bicycle by a hay rick, crossed a fence and then walked to a shepherd’s hut about 400 yards away, but her brother was not there and so she walked out of the field to the Downs where she found him and handed him his breakfast. It was noted that her time to cycle from her home to the Kale field was about four minutes. She had said that on the way she had seen another brother who was employed as an assistant carter on the farm who was hitching his horse to a water cart.
The girl guide said that she didn't see anyone in the Kale field or see a dog there on either the forward or return journey.
The other brother that had been seen with the horse who also worked at the farm which was about 300 yards from the kennels said that he had travelled about 600 yards on horseback in what was described as a quarter of a circle bearing to where the water cart was in the 42-acre field at a point 400 yards from the entrance to the Kale field opposite the dog runs. He said that the journey took about ten minutes and for about 250 yards of the journey he had had a good view across the Kale field and had not seen anyone in it. He said that he saw his sister when he harnessed the horse to the water cart but no one else.
A general Smith aged 48 that lived in Rose Cottage said that he left in his 1923 Wolseley two-seater car on his own to go to Lop Hill Farm and said that on his way just before reaching the Kale field opposite the dog runs he saw a black and white dog, larger than the usual spaniel but of the same appearance cross the road from the Kale Field to the gate leading to the kennels. He said that the dog was very wet and dejected looking as if it had been in the river and had been out all night. He said it looked very tired. The police report stated that his description was consistent with the description of a blind dog that had hunted about in the kale for at least an hour and a half. The police report noted that the general smith would use the word 'fancy' in the sense that most people use the word 'think' and said that he fancied that the dog went in through the gate as he passed the kennel. The general smith later saw the spaniel Peter that he recognised from the other dogs as the dog that he had seen although said that he fancied that Peter might have been a shade bigger. He said that on his return her said the landlady and that assistant and some other people looking upset near a person’s gate.
It was noted that the general smith later had a breakdown on 15 October 1931 after imagining that he was suspected of the murder and it took the police some effort to convince him that he was not and that he was merely one of 20 ordinary witnesses.
Later on 26 October 1931 the police asked the assistant to leave the office as he had done on the day of the murder and go into the Kale field taking the same time that he had done to fetch Peter and return and it was measured that his journey took 7 1/2 minutes. He was then timed for his journey to the house which was about 307 yards away as he did on the day of the murder and that that took four minutes to reach as he had run on the day, and 5 1/2 to return.
The police report then puts together some of the times reported from the witnesses and states that if the general smith left his house at 9.20am and met the farmer at 9.37 1/2 then he would have passed the kennel at 9.36am when he saw Peter. On his return, he saw the landlady and the assistant at 9.42 1/2am and the assistant had said that he had left the kennels at 9.38 1/2am and been in the Kale field where he said he heard the shot at 9.35am and caught Peter at 9.36am. However, it was noted that the general smith had seen Peter go in alone at 9.36am and the daughter had seen Peter loose in the yard when she had arrived just before 9.44am. It was said that from the road at the top of the Kale field to the Kennels gate it would have taken the assistant 1 minute 15 seconds to walk to the gate and then another 35 seconds to get to the office assuming he had put Peter away. It was then stated that if the assistant had left the kennels for assistance after having found Edward Welham shot at 9.38 1/2am he would have been leaving the top of the Kale field with Peter at 9.36 2/3am, 40 seconds after the general smith saw Peter loose at the gate. The police report stated that Peter could not have gone back into the Kale field and been caught by the assistant and that Peter was not seen after the assistant said that he had brought him back to the kennels. It also stated that if the assistants story was true then the general smith would have seen Peter on the lead with the assistant and that the assistant would have seen the general smith in his car.
When the police investigated the assistants background they found that Edward Welham had been paying him £1-0-3d weekly and that he had been promised a pay rise after a year but that that had not happened. He had not discussed it with Edward Welham but had discussed it with his family and had agreed to mention it in the spring and if no pay rise was offered to consider finding another position. His father had bought him a motorcycle for £13 around 1929 and then in March 1931 they had part exchanged it for another that cost £6. When the father was questioned about the murder the police were unable to get much information and said that he had endeavoured to explain how he didn't know by saying 'I do not ask and then I am told no lies'. The police reported stated that they did not think that the assistant’s father was in his confidence but said that they thought that he had said something to his mother whose demeanour they described as very apprehensive and said that they thought she knew more than she said.
When they questioned his girlfriend, she said that when she asked him if he knew who had done it he had said 'I don't know at all. They can't find out. He never did it himself I don't think, he seemed so jokey in the morning.'. His girlfriend said that he should have called in the usual way at 7pm one day after the murder but that he didn’t, and said that he had told her that he had gone to sleep at 1pm and that his mother didn't wake him and that he had then woken up at 7pm by which time it was too late. He said that he had had to go to the kennels at 10am to see a policeman to go into the woods to see about some poachers. She said that she saw him the following day at 7pm and they went to the pictures in Wimborne but said that he didn't say anything about the poachers or the murder and she didn't ask him.
She said that on 9 October 1931 she read in the newspaper that he had been charged with stealing and so she didn't go to meet him again and when he called she told him that she had read that he had been had up for stealing and that she didn't want to go out with him anymore. She said that he denied it and so she got the newspaper cutting but he still denied it saying that they got the name right but that he hadn't done it. She said that he then told her that he would take the clipping and go to the police station about it and went off but he didn't call again until 21 October 1931. By then she had been to the police station and told him 'I have been down to the 'Super' at Wimborne, and the 'Super' says that its right enough, it was you', and said that the assistant replied, 'I have been down myself and saw the 'Super' and he said it was a mistake. It was a man at Spring Hill, near Witchampton'. She said that the assistant then asked if she wanted to go for a ride and she said that she would only go for a walk to the police station to prove that it was him and he said that he would take her there on his bike but she refused and he would not walk there and so she then said, 'We had better finish', and then went indoors.
The police then said that having in mind that the assistant was a thief and knowing that there had been several losses at the kennels, it occurred to them to ask the assistants girlfriend whether the assistant had given her any presents and she produced a Kodak camera that he had given her in March or April 1931 that was identified as being the one used at the kennels for taking photos of the dogs which were for sale. It was found missing just after the kennels moved from the other end of Tarrant Keynston in March 1931.
At the inquest, a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown was returned.
After the inquest, the police arrested the assistant. They said that they had not arrested him before so as not to appear to prejudice the inquest.
When he was asked about the camera he said 'I bought the camera from a man I met on the road one night on my way home. I gave 2/6 for it. It was a long time ago. I don't know who the man was, but I have seen him before.'.
When the police then went to his house they found a pair of gloves valued at 16/6 that had also gone missing from the kennels at the time of the move. They also found a dog chain, alarm gun and a valve lifter all from the kennels. When they questioned about the gloves the assistant about it he said that he had taken them because he thought they were of no use but they were said to have been nearly new. The assistant then appeared at the Petty Sessions on 30 October 1931 charged with stealing the camera and gloves but the charges were dismissed. The police report stated that it was difficult to understand the reasoning of the Justices in dismissing the charges in two such absolutely clear cases.
The police examined the background to the kennels and Edward Welham's past. They said that in 1926 a man had some kennels in Blagdon Hill near Taunton and that he employed a man as a dog trainer. The man then opened another kennel in at Steppleton near Dorchester in 1927 and sent the dog trainer there and employed Edward Welham as his assistant. Then in the spring of 1928 the dog trainer took some of the dogs from Steepleton to Taunton and moved Edward Welham to Taunton as there were more dogs there. The dog trainer had rented about 1,200 acres of shooting for £275 a year payable in 3 instalments between September and February. Then in September 1928 the dog trainer moved all his dogs from Steepleton to Taunton and the man at Stapleton started to train dogs on his own account at the Steepleton kennels that the dog trainer had lent him. The man gave the dog trainer a letter in which he acknowledged that he took over all liabilities including the rent of the shooting, however, the dog trainer had not cancelled the agreement made with the landowner and when the man that was training his own dogs in Steepleton failed to pay for the shooting, the landowner held the dog owner responsible and he had to pay. It was also said that not only did the man fail to pay for the shooting but he had also disposed of the game derived from it. It was found then that the dog owner found that the man that had been training the dogs had no money and so the dog trainer felt much let down by the man.
Then in the spring of 1929 the dog owner left Taunton and moved back to Steepleton with a reduced number of dogs and as such let Edward Welham go.
In April 1929, the kennel owner established the Coverdale Kennels which were then on Wimborne Road and appointed the man that had originally worked for the dog trainer in Stapleton and who had failed to pay for the shooting. The kennel owner had known about the man after being a customer of the dog trainer. Edward Welham then went to Coverdale Kennels and became the man's assistant. It was found however, that the man from Steepleton's wife was not keen to move to Tarrant Keynston and they went to Dorchester. Shortly after, the man that had worked for the dog trainer and had not paid for the shooting died after shooting himself accidently.
It was then found that the dog trainer that was by then in Stapleton considered Coverdale Kennels as a rival concern which Edward Welham was engaged in and had by then become the manager of and that he bore Edward Welham some ill will and had unsuccessfully prosecuted Edward Welham for stealing what were described as two worthless ferrets that Edward Welham had been allegedly instructed to destroy. However, the police report stated that whilst on the face of it the prosecution looked trivial, the dog trainers story was different and more likely. It was said that the dog trainer had been using the ferrets a good deal more than he had usually done and that when he had moved from Taunton to Steepleton he had decided not to take two of them which were worthless and ordered Edward Welham to destroy them. However, the dog trainer said that he later found that Edward Welham had left him with the two worthless ferrets and had handed the other two to an ex-employee of the Taunton kennel for breeding in the agreement that he would profit from the accruing breeding. Edward Welham had said that it was the ferrets that he had given away that the dog trainer had instructed him to destroy and not the two worthless ferrets that he had left the dog trainer with.
The dog trainer said that he didn't bear Edward Welham a grudge over the incident and said that he was shocked when he heard of his murder and added that the Coverdale kennels did not affect his business in Brighton.
The police said that they interviewed the dog trainer extensively about the murder and concluded that he was in no way involved and that any suspicion on him was unfounded.
The background to the other kennel manager's death in 1929 was also looked into. Before, in 1927 Edward Welham had met a school teacher in Steepleton and in February 1928 they had become engaged. After Edward Welham and the other man moved to Tarrant Keynston they would often visit the other kennel manager's wife as well as Edward Welham’s fiancée, the school teacher, together. When they first arrive in Tarrant Keynston Edward Welham and the other kennel manager lived in the True Lover's Knot Inn but soon moved into lodgings at Rose Cottage. Soon after Edward Welham moved into the lodgings that he had been at until he died.
Whilst at Rose Cottage it was local gossip that the other kennel manager had been intimate with the landlady's daughter. Then on 28 December 1931 a poultry farmer who had lived in Tarrant Keynston for twelve years invited the other kennel manager to go and catch or shoot rabbits with him at his poultry runs. However, the other kennel manager didn't show up, but at 10.45am Edward Welham did. The poultry farmer said that he was surprised and thought that he might have expected Edward Welham to turn up with the other kennel manager, but not on his own as the appointment had been made with the other kennel manager. The poultry farmer said that he asked Edward Welham where the other kennel manager was and was told that he had gone to Ashley Wood and would be along later. The poultry farmer said that he remarked to Edward Welham several times about when the other kennel manager would show up and said that Edward Welham said that the other kennel manager had to go to a Dog Trial that afternoon and that by noon he said that Edward Welham seemed quite definite that the other kennel manager would not be coming. The poultry farmer said that they were together until about 2pm.
Then, after leaving the poultry farmer Edward Welham went to the other kennel manager's lodgings but said that he could not find him and said that he then went to Ashley Wood where he had left the other kennel manager at about 10.30am and said that at about 5pm he found the him dead near a Badger hole across which he found the man's gun lying with the right barrel discharged and a live cartridge in the left barrel. It was said that there was no sign of a struggle.
At the other kennel manager 's inquest on 31 December 1929 it was found that he had a circular hole about an inch across which was slightly charred over his breast. There was no exit wound and when the doctor inserted his finger he found the man's ribs shot away and a large cavity within his chest. It was said that the wound might have been caused by a 12-bore gun fired in close contact to his clothing and a verdict that he had accidently shot himself by misadventure was returned. It was thought that his hounds had run a badger to earth and that whilst in the act of examining or stopping the badger hole his gun had gone off.
However, it was noted that the other kennel manager's books were hopelessly muddled and that he was in financial difficulty, and that as his injuries were also consistent with suicide it may well have been that he had taken his own life. It was also noted that the man was 6ft 3in tall and that any ordinary man would have had trouble taking the gun off of him and shooting him at such close quarters and also that there was no sign of a struggle.
The police report stated that the two tragedies, the death of the other kennel manager and Edward Welham's murdered were closely examined and it was determined that there was no apparent connection.
However, it was noted that it had been suggested that Edward Welham might have been murdered by someone that thought that Edward Welham had murdered the man, especially in the light of the fact that Edward Welham then succeeded the man as manager of the kennels. However, it was said that there was no evidence for that theory.
On 13 March 1930 Edward Welham's girlfriend received an anonymous letter that read: To Miss, I don't know if you are aware that Ted Welham is flirting and fooling about with all the girls in Keyston especially the schoolteacher she is always running up to the kennels to see him and also he is always taking the landlady's daughter about on his motor bike he is a rotter I thought you would like to know. From one who knows a local residient'. After receiving the letter, it appeared that Edward Welham had regretted being engaged and that a short whilst after his fiancee received it they broke up. It was thought that the letter might have been inspired by Edward Welham or written with his knowledge. It was considered that the letter might have been written by the landlady with the intension that her daughter would become more involved with Edward Welham and although the handwriting was not hers, she also made the same miss-spelling of the word Residient'. The landlady strenuously denied writing the letter.
It was also noted that the wife of the other kennel manager that had shot himself received an anonymous letter in the first week of September 1931 which read 'Dear Mrs. You may be required to attend an inquest on Mr E Welham on Thursday'. It was said that the letter was poorly written in an illiterate handwriting. She said that she showed the letter to her daughter and they both thought that it was a cruel joke as they realised that proper notice would be sent to anyone required to attend an inquest. Then on the following Thursday she got a postcard that read 'You will not be required at Blandford to-day'. She said that she had connected the postcard with the rumour that Edward Welham had been drowned. The rumour was also heard by Edward Welham's ex-fiancee and was thought to have originated from a newspaper account regarding a man of the same name two weeks earlier. However, the other kennel manager’s wife destroyed both the letter and the postcard. The police said that the letters further brought back the theory that Edward Welham was shot by someone that had been under the impression that Edward Welham had shot the other kennel manager by the badger hole.
However, it was further thought that if the latter and postcard had been written by a person intend on revenging the woman's husband's death that they might have been clearer regarding their intend and also that it was strange that the murder would take place 21 months after the other kennel manager 's death.
The police also further investigated the man that had thrown a chopper through one of the kennel windows. It was said that the man who was a retired grocer's wife was pregnant and during the end of June 1930 she had been in the orchard near their house and had been upset to see Edward Welham in Ashley Woods with a gun pointing in her direction. Nothing was said but a few days later the retired grocer was in his garden when he heard Edward Welham fire a shot and that when he looked he saw Edward Welham with a gun as though to shoot a rabbit. The retired grocer said that he then went and told Edward Welham that he had very good reason for not wanting shooting near his house for the time being. It was said that Edward Welham didn't seem to say anything although he had seemed about to but that the retired grocer did not stop to hear as he was very annoyed. Then, later, on another occasion the retired grocer saw the kennel owner in Ashley Wood after he had fired a shot at a rabbit and said that he had gone to his hedge and called the kennel owner over and told him not to fire near his house as it was disturbing his wife but that the kennel owner didn't reply and so the retired grocer said that if he didn't stop then he would have to summon him. He said then that the kennel owner said, 'Get on with it' and that he then went on to fire three more shots whilst pointing the muzzle in the air. The grocer said then on another occasion he heard another shot in Ashley Woods and that when he looked through his hedge he saw Edward Welham about six yards away but did not see whether he had a gun. He said that he also saw the kennel owner and a woman. He said that he then shouted 'There's plenty of room to shoot in the wood without coming near the houses. How would you like it if your wife was ill?’. However, he said that he got no reply.
The retired grocer said that he thought then that he would throw a stone through one of the kennel windows and when he went there Edward Welham, the kennel owner and his wife were there but he could not find a stone and so he threw a chopper that he found. He said then that he said, 'Summon me and I'll pay for the damage' and that as he walked away Edward Welham followed him and put up his fists but that he said 'I don't want to fight, summon me and I'll pay'.
It was noted that as a result the retired grocer was summoned to attend Blandford Police Court and was fined £1 including costs and told not to take the law into his own hands and that outside the court they all shook hands.
Around the same time there was a petition made to remove the kennels because of the noise from the dogs and they were later relocated in March 1931 to the other end of the village.
It was also noted that on 21 July 1931 that a 22-year-old undergardener who had been riding his motorbike collided with Edward Welham who was riding the kennels motorbike with the landlady's daughter in the sidecar. As a result, Edward Welham was thrown into a hedge and rendered unconscious and was off work for two weeks. Both motorbikes where damaged and claims were made but that man's claim had not been settled by the time of Edward Welham's death although the undergardener said that he bore no ill will towards Edward Welham.
The police said that they had difficulty in establishing a motive and endeavoured to account for how much money Edward Welham should have had on him at the time of his murder. The kennel owners brother went through the books and found a note case containing £9 in a locked drawer and then after going through the books determined that the kennels owed Edward Welham £4-15-11 in respect of the business and determined that he should have had at least £20 in his possession. However, the only money he had in his wallet was a folded £1 note that was in with other papers and would have been hard to see.
When the police examined the string after it was handed in they found that it was a two-ply sisal cord that had probably come from a parcel of 200 cartridges that he had paid £1-6-0 for and that had been tied up with five feet of string. It was said that when Edward Welham had paid for the cartridges he had taken money from his wallet and was seen to have about £14 in £1 notes.
It was also noted that the kennel owner’s wife said that a customer that had purchased a dog on 26 September 1931 had said that when he did so he had noticed that Edward Welham had a lot of notes in his wallet.
It was concluded that it could not be proved how much money Edward Welham would have had on him at the time but that he should have had more money in his wallet than was found.
It was also noted that the murderer found everything they needed at the kennel, the gun, cartridges, stick and string and that he would have had to have loaded the gun without Edward Welham being present. It was said that there was no sign that the office had been forcibly entered. it was also said that if a stranger had committed the murder they would probably have been more concerned with escaping than staging a suicide.
It was also heard that whilst Edward Welham was in hospital after the crash that the daughter would work from dawn to dusk whilst the assistant would go home at 5pm and she had told Edward Welham of it who told her, 'Never mind kid, it won't be any better for him, he won't get anything by it after I am well.'.
Also, whilst the assistant was in hospital the police had called to speak to him and asked to see his tool bag and took away several tools that it was said he had taken from an unattended motorbike at Badbury Rings and which had been reported stolen on 22 July 1922. Edward Welham was told about it and he then instructed the daughter that the door to the shed where the motorbike was kept was to be kept locked.
The daughter said that after Edward Welham returned to work he would keep more of an eye on him and said that it was Edward Welham's practice to buy oil for the motorcycle in 5 gallon drums and that on one occasion at the end of August 1931 he had filled up a drum and that after filling the oil container of the motorbike once, he later found the drum almost empty. He was heard to say 'I will have to get some more oil. I have only filled up once before and the drum is nearly empty. When I get another I will get a lock and key for it because I expect he had been helping himself'.
Later, on the evening of Thursday 24 September 1931 before Edward Welham set off for Poole to get a puppy he found that the bulb from the rear lamp of his motorcycle was missing and said that the lamp had been all right before he had gone to tea. The daughter said that she told Edward Welham that she had seen the assistant earlier fixing his own rear lightbulb on his bike and said that Edward Welham replied, 'It is quite likely that he did have it'. The daughter said that later that same evening Edward Welham found that the small lightbulb in the front was also missing and said that he had to use the head light.
The daughter also said that the first aid case went missing on 6 October 1931 after it was there on 3 October 1931. When the police questioned the assistant about the missing first aid case on 11 November 1931 whilst he was an inmate at the Wimborne Cottage hospital after his motorcycle collision with a pedestrian on 1 November 1931, he said that Edward Welham had given him the first aid case sometime before they had relocated the kennel. However, the kennel owner said that he had given the first aid case to Edward Welham for use at the kennels in about the third week of March 1931 indicating that Edward Welham could not have given the case to the assistant at the time of the move and also that the case would not have been Edward Welham’s to have given away. The same thing was said of the dog chain and alarm gun that were found at the assistant’s home which he had said Edward Welham had given to him which he would have had no right to have done. The assistant had said that the valve lifter had been given to him by someone else. However, it was found to have been the property of a man that had lent it to Edward Welham.
Another incident happened in August 1931 when the daughter said that the assistant had failed on three occasions to water the dogs and had gone off and that she had had to do it which involved lifting 20 buckets of water from the river each evening. It was said that Edward Welham had become angry about that as he was particular about the dogs having water and said that he would have to get the assistant to do the watering in front of the office where he could see it. He had said that he would speak to the assistant about it but it was not known whether he had.
It was also noted that it was understood, beyond saying, that the assistant would never make a dog trainer.
A letter the police received mentioned a similar case in which a boy killed two children but had only been convicted after the second murder and it was said that in those youthful cases the criminals were usually mental defectives.
No further developments were made and the case was never solved.
see National Archives - MEPO 3/866