Unsolved Murders

Charles George Bowen

Age: 37

Sex: male

Date: 25 Feb 1931

Place: Minehead Road, Pen Elm, Taunton

Charles George Bowen died in a three-car accident.

The two other car drivers blamed each other for the accident.

The collision took place between Cross Keys and the Norton Manor entrance on the Minehead Road at 11pm on 25 February 1931.

Charles Bowen received head injuries in the crash on the Wednesday night and died later on the Saturday at the County Hospital in Taunton.

He had been driving a small sports model car towards Bishop's Lydeard when he came into a head on collision with a large saloon car driven by a woman. The third car had been driving behind Charles Bowen's car and was said to have run onto a grass verge in an attempted to avoid the two cars and had then overturned.

The woman had received cuts and bruises and was taken home whilst the man in the following car had gone with Charles Bowen to hospital. Charles Bowen later died in the Taunton and Somerset Hospital from a fractured skull.

A friend of Charles Bowen said that he had met him at 8.30pm on 25 February 1931 at the County Hotel in Taunton and said that Charles Bowen had had a very little drink and that after Charles Bowen had driven him home. He said that he was absolutely sober.

A gardener from Fitzhead said that he was pedal cycling from Taunton to Bishop's Lydeard when two sports cars passed him travelling in the direction of Bishop's Lydeard. He said that they had been very close together and going rather fast. He said that a little later he heard a crash resembling the falling of sheet iron and then a moment later another crash, but not as loud.

He said that 100 yards down the road a man stepped out from one of the crashed cars and said, 'Stop there has been an accident'. He said that he then saw a man lying on his back in the middle of the road and bleeding from his nose and mouth and said that the two cars were 'stuck together'. He said that there was a third car further down on the grass verge. The cyclist said that he then cycled off to the Cross Keys Inn and telephoned for a doctor and the police.

A policeman that arrived at the scene said that he saw no marks on the road and that the woman's car was on the wrong side of the road and facing Taunton. He said that the off-front wheel was just on the grass verge and that the near side front wheel was on the metalled road. He also said that the off-side rear wheel was about six feet from the grass verge.

The policeman said that Charles Bowen's car was across the road with its front jammed into the front near side of the woman's car.

He said that when he arrived Charles Bowen was lying between the two cars which were about six feet apart.

He said that the other man’s car was on the grass about 32 yards further down towards Bishop's Lydeard, about ten feet from the metalled portion of the road, which he said was 18 feet wide. He said that its rear axle and wheels were broken off and lying to the left of the car. He said that as far as he could see, the man's car had been on its proper side the whole time.

A grocer that had arrived at the scene shortly after said that in his opinion he thought that the accident had been caused when the man's car had collided with the front off-wheel of the woman's car that caused the woman's car to go round and which Charles Bowen's car then ran into.

The woman's husband, a motor dealer, said that he had gone to Bishop's Lydeard to fetch his wife and that on the way back she had driven. He said that as they approached the third milestone he distinctly saw the lights of two approaching cars and said that it seemed only a matter of seconds before the first car struck into the off-side of their car. He said that the colliding car seemed to glance off and that he thought that it had gone straight on. However, he said that the blow on the hub of their car turned their car to the wrong side of the road and that as it went the steering wheel was knocked out of his wife's hand. He said that that then there was another crash into the near side of their car.

The woman's husband said that after the crash he pulled his wife out and then saw the man sitting on the grass and asked him if he was off his ---- head. He said then that his wife said to the man 'You know you drove straight into me' and he said that the man replied, 'Did I'.

The woman corroborated her husband’s story.

The man that had been driving the other car was a farmer from Torweston in Williton. He said that he was driving through Wellington towards Taunton on his way to Torweston and that just after passing the Cross Keys Inn he stopped on the hill just beyond the turning to Kingston because his car was not running too well. He said that he resumed his journey about a minute and a half later. He said that then, while in his car with the engine running he saw the beam of a car's lights behind him. He said that he then saw the woman's car approaching him saying that when he first saw her car it was on the crown of the road. He said that he was already on his proper side but that he then pulled in closer to the verge until his rear wheel touched the grass and that her car then crashed into his just as his wheel was slithering into a ditch and that he went within two feet of a telegraph post. He said that at the time the lights behind him were about 50 or 100 yards away. He said that he remembered nothing after until he was in an ambulance.

When he was asked how fast he had been going he said about 32 or 33 mph and said that he didn't attempt to apply his breaks. When he was asked why he didn't stop he said that he had been driving for 11 years and that he naturally expected the woman to pull over to her proper side.

The man said that he thought that the woman was travelling a few miles an hour slower than him. The Coroner suggested that she was going a good deal slower and the man said, 'I do not agree', and the Coroner then said 'I suggest you were going nearer sixty miles an hour than thirty' and the man replied 'Certainly not. What does it profit me to tell a lot of lies?'.

The Coroner then asked the man if he had met Charles Bowen earlier that evening and he said that he hadn't.

The Coroner said that unless the jury were satisfied up to the hilt that there had been gross negligence on the part of either or both of the drivers involved then they could not return a verdict of manslaughter. He said that the alternative verdicts were misadventure or an open one. The jury returned an open verdict.

Charles Bowen was from Caerceri in Doverhay, Porlock and had been a dental practitioner.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 01 April 1931

see Western Morning News - Monday 02 March 1931

see Gloucester Journal - Saturday 04 April 1931