Unsolved Murders

Charles Walton

Age: 74

Sex: male

Date: 14 Feb 1945

Place: Upper Quinton, Stratford-on-Avon

Source: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Charles Walton was killed with his own trouncing hook and pinned to the ground with a pitchfork in a field called Hill Ground at Firs Farm in Upper Quinton.

His body was found in the field at about 6.30pm on Wednesday 14 February 1945.

When he was found it was noted that his trousers were undone, and it was considered that they might have been undone by his murderer looking for a money belt as it was thought that he had a bit of money. The police report noted that if robbery was the motive that the murderer was likely to have been a person with local knowledge, although it was also noted that that might not be the case.

Charles Walton was a casual farm labourer and had lived at 15 Lower Quinton in Warwickshire. He was a widower, his wife having died in 1927.

He had resided in a small cottage with his 33-year-old niece whom he had adopted when she was 3 years old and who since his wife had died had acted as his housekeeper. His niece, who had latterly been employed as a printer's assembler at a printing works of the Royal Society of Arts in Lower Quinton, invariably left home at 8.30am, having first prepared breakfast for Charles Walton, who, owing to suffering from rheumatism and sciatica, only went to work when his health and the weather permitted.

On such days that he went to work, Charles Walton would leave home at about 8.30am, taking with him a snack that he usually ate at about 11am and would then continue to work until about 4pm when he would return home and have a hot meal that would have been left out for him by his niece who would not return home from her work until about 6pm.

According to his niece, Charles Walton left home on 14 February 1945 at about 8.30am to go to a field on Firs Farm nearby where he was engaged in hedge cutting. He was dressed as usual for the task and, on account of his infirmity, carried a short walking stick. He carried no tools as it was his practice to leave his hedge cutting implements, a trouncing hook and hay fork, at the place where he had finished his last days work.

Charles Walton's niece returned to their cottage after her days work at about 6pm and found that Charles Walton was not at home and that the meal that she had left out for him was untouched. Fearing that some ill had befallen him, she called on her neighbour and they went out to look for Charles Walton in the nearby fields but failed to find him. They then went to Firs Farm and enquired of Charles Walton's employer as to where Charles Walton had been working and told him that Charles Walton had not returned home.

They then all went off to a field known as Hill Ground which was on the boundary of his farm and at which point he stated he had last seen Charles Walton working.

When they reached the field, they found Charles Walton on the ground with his head and face covered with blood and a trouncing hook and hay fork stuck into his throat.

Charles Walton's niece then became hysterical and was taken home by her neighbour whilst Charles Walton's employer summoned a man who happened to be passing in an adjoining field and directed him to inform the police. Charles Walton's employer then remained by Charles Walton's body until the police arrived at the scene at 7.05pm.

After the scene was examined and photographs taken, Charles Walton's body was taken to the mortuary at Stratford-on-Avon hospital where a post-mortem was carried out the following day which determined that his cause of death was shock and haemorrhage due to grave injuries to his neck and chest. It was determined that the injuries had been caused by two types of weapon, namely a cutting weapon and a stabbing weapon, such as the two weapons found in situ in the field, the trouncing hook and pitchfork. It was further stated that the cutting weapon had been wielded at least three times with great violence. It was noted that Charles Walton had defended himself as was shown by a cut on his left hand and bruises on the back of his right hand and forearm. The professor that carried out the post-mortem stated that Charles Walton had died between 1pm and 2pm on 14 February 1945.

In the meantime, the local police had made enquiries in the vicinity of the crime and an extensive search of the adjoining fields was carried out.

An Italian Prisoner-of-War Camp situated at Long Marston, about two miles away, was visited and all Italian prisoners who were known to have been away from the camp on the day of the murder were seen, searched, and closely interrogated with the aid of interpreters at the camp. However, nothing likely to assist in the detection of the murderer came to light and at 10.55pm on 15 February 1945, the Chief Constable of the Warwickshire County Constabulary requested the assistance of New Scotland Yard who sent detectives who arrived on the morning of 17 February 1945.

When the detectives from New Scotland Yard arrived they first apprised themselves of the facts of the case as then known and the extent and result of the enquiries already made and then went off to the scene of the crime which was described as being situated in the extreme corner of a field just over a quarter of a mile from the nearest road that ran through the village of Upper Quinton. The spot where Charles Walton's body was found was marked on a sketch map based on RAF aerial photographs of the area by a red cross and was described as being an almost equal distance from the road at Upper Quinton on the west and Meon Lane on the east. It was noted that the location was approximately three quarters of a mile form Charles Walton's home in Lower Quinton.

The nearest dwelling to where Charles Walton's body was found was a cottage about 300 yards away which was occupied by a 33 year old woman and her 59 year old lodger. The woman said that on 14 February 1945 she had been engaged in domestic duties at another man's house in Upper Quinton by whom she was employed until 12.15pm and that after that she called upon her aunt in Upper Quinton to get some meat and then returned to her cottage to prepare dinner for herself and her lodger. The lodger, who was employed at the printing works of the Royal Society of Arts at Lower Quinton said that he returned to the cottage at about 1.08pm and stayed there with his landlady until 2pm when they left the house together, he returning to work in Lower Quinton and the landlady going off to meet a friend with whom she then went to Stratford-on-Avon. The police report stated that neither of them saw anyone pass their cottage or in the fields nearby and that they heard nothing unusual whilst they were in the cottage. The police report further stateed that both of their statements were verified and that there was no reason to believe that they were in any way connected with the murder.

Another dwelling that gave a clear view of the field where Charles Walton was found dead was a caravan which was occupied by a Flight Lieutenant and his wife. The Flight Lieutenant said that just before he left to go on duty at Long Marston Aerodrome on 14 February 1945 he saw Charles Walton pass his caravan at about 8.15am, at which point it was thought that he was no doubt going to work. The flight lieutenant said that he was away all day and returned back at about 5.30pm that afternoon. His wife said that she remained in the caravan all day and saw nobody in the fields at any time after they had seen Charles Walton pass earlier that morning. However, the flight lieutenants wife said that she had been busy attending to her baby during the day and said that it was quite possible for anyone to have passed her caravan without her noticing it. It was noted in the police report that in fact Charles Walton's employer later said that he had gone to a field adjacent to where Charles Walton was found murdered at about 12.20pm and was not seen by the flight lieutenants wife even though he would have had to have passed quite close to her caravan.

Two elderly people gave statements stating that they had seen Charles Walton pass through the churchyard at 9am and 9.30am. The first was a 73-year-old woman and the second an 83 year old man. The police noted that there did not appear to be anything significant in the discrepancy of the times, 9am and 9.30am and said that it was quite likely that one of them had made an honest mistake in the time.

Enquiries were made to ascertain if any person was near the scene of the crime when it took place and it was revealed that a farm labourer from Meon Hill Farm had seen a soldier collecting booby traps on Meon Hill at about 11am on 14 February 1945 and a farm labourer had seen a British Officer and a civilian walking from the direction of Meon hill at about the same time. The police traced the soldiers and determined that they were a lieutenant with the 23rd ITC, a sergeant and a lance corporal both with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. It was determined that the lieutenant had been in charge of manoeuvres at Meon Hill on 14 February 1945 and that the lance corporal had been engaged in removing booby traps that had been set the previous day. The soldiers said that they left Meon Hill just after 11am and left the district at about 2pm.

When the lance corporal was questioned he said that at about 11am he saw a youth ploughing a field on Meon Hill and that at about the same time he saw a man aged about 60 to 70 and about 5ft 4in tall dressed in a dark suit, light coloured cap and carrying a walking stick walking along a fence towards Meon Hill Farm which was about half a mile south of where Charles Walton was found dead. It was noted that the boy that had been ploughing the field was the son of a farmer who had a farm at Meon Hill. The son said that he had been engaged in ploughing in a field that overlooked Upper Quinton from 10am until 6pm on 14 February 1945 and that during that time he saw nobody with the exception of a man that he saw at about 3pm. He said that he saw the man standing by a hedge about 150 yards from where he was ploughing but didn't notice anything particular about him and could only describe him vaguely. He said that the man appeared to be looking towards Lower Quinton Church and was there for about half an hour. He said that as the man didn't pass him at any time, he assumed that he came from Upper Quinton. However, the police report stated that the farmer’s son that had been ploughing seemed very undecided as to which day he actually saw the man.

It was noted that the old man seen by the lance corporal was undoubtedly a 64 year old farm labourer who was employed by a farmer who had a farm at Meon Hill. When he was questioned, he said that he visited Meon Hill almost every morning to see to the cattle and that on 14 February 1945 he had walked along the hedge as described by the lance corporal at about 11am, adding that he was dressed as described by the lance corporal and had been carrying a walking stick. The 64 year old farm labourer said that he remembered seeing somebody ploughing in the field but didn't recall seeing any soldiers.

The police report stated that the only other person that they determined had been working near the vicinity to where Charles Walton was murdered was a 72 year old odd man who had been a life-long friend of Charles Walton and with whom he had, for a number of years until the winter of 1944, worked together with at hedge cutting. He said that on 14 February 1945, he had been working on his employers farm, where he was employed as an odd man, starting at about 8.30am, and working in the barn at the back of his employers bakery until twelve noon when he went into the bakehouse to have his lunch. He said that he later left the bakehouse at about 12.30pm or 12.40pm and returned to the barn where he worked until about 4pm when he finished work for the day. The police report noted that the field adjoining the farm, which the odd man would no doubt have been in from time to time was no more than 300 yards from the field that Charles Walton was found dead in and that he could have easily reached that field from the adjoining field beside the bakehouse unseen.

The police report stated that so far as opportunity was concerned, that the odd man could have quite easily committed the murder and then returned to his work without his absence being noted. However, the report went on to note that he was a frail old man of 72 years, small in stature and partially crippled. It further reported that there was no evidence other than that he was always on the friendliest of terms with Charles Walton and that it would be difficult to imagine that he could have committed a crime of such savagery as the murder of Charles Walton.

Charles Walton's employer was first interviewed at 11pm on 14 February 1945 by a detective with the Warwickshire Constabulary who made shorthand notes of the conversation that he had had with him. Charles Walton's employer said that Charles Walton had been casually employed by him for about nine months, noting that he only worked when the weather was fine. He said that on 14 February 1945, he had been in the College Arms public house until 12 noon, noting that when he left he particularly notice the time as being 12 noon, and said that he then went straight across a field adjoining Hill Ground where he saw Charles Walton working about 500 or 600 yards away. He said that he noticed that Charles Walton only had about six to ten yards of hedge to cut. He said that later, at about 6.15pm, Charles Walton's niece and neighbour then came to see him to say that Charles Walton had not arrived home and that they then went out to look for him and then together found his body in the field.

When Charles Walton's employer gave a further statement on 17 February 1945, he said that at about 12.10pm on 14 February 1945 he had gone across to a field on his farm called Cacks Leys to see to some sheep and feed some calves, reaching it at about 12.20pm and said that he noticed Charles Walton working at the hedge in the next field about 500 yards away. He said that Charles Walton was working in his shirt sleeves, noting that he was quite sure of that fact and said that he had thought to himself, 'He's getting on with it today'.

The police report noted that Charles Walton's employer then went on to relate to what had happened after that, and it was stated that in view of his later statements, that the following part of that statement could be regarded as being of particular importance. In part, Charles Walton's employer went on to say, 'I would have gone over to have seen him, but I had a heifer in a ditch nearby which I had to attend to. I went straight back home and got there about twenty-to-one. I then went to see to the heifer'.

Charles Walton's employer said that when Charles Walton's niece and neighbour then called at 6.15pm and they went out to find him that Charles Walton was about ten yards from where he had seen him working that day at about 12.20pm.

When Charles Walton's employer was questioned over the wages he paid Charles Walton, he said that the last time he paid him was on 10 February 1945 when he had given him £2.15.0 for work done over the previous fortnight.

However, when the statement was read out to Charles Walton's employer, the employer added, 'Although I cannot be positive, I am almost certain it was Walton who I saw working at the hedge at twenty past twelve on the 14th February 1945. Whoever it was appeared to be trimming the hedge'.

The police stated that when they made enquiries with a view to verifying the employer's statements, it was learned that the heifer mentioned by him was, in fact, found dead on the 13 February 1945 and not removed from Firs Farm until the late afternoon of 14 February 1945. The report noted that statements from another one of the farmers employees as well as five other people all referred to the finding of the dead heifer, arrangements made for collection of the carcase and its subsequent removal.

The police report noted that in the meantime they had collected Charles Walton's clothes from the West Midlands Forensic Science Laboratory and found that his shirt sleeves had been cut away above the elbows and that a woollen cardigan worn by him over his shirt at the time of his death had long sleeves and that as such it would have been impossible for Charles Walton's employer to have seen him working in his shirt sleeves on the day of the murder. The police report stated further that when Charles Walton's body was found he had been wearing his jacket which was evidenced by the fact that it had a cut in the shoulder caused by the trouncing hook and by the way his clothing was saturated with blood, and considered that even if Charles Walton been working in his shirt sleeves at 12.20pm as detailed by his employer, that it was very improbable that he would have suddenly decided to put on his jacket unless he had made up his mind to finish work for the day.

The police then determined that Charles Walton's employer had had difficulty in the past in paying his employees’ wages, a fact which two of his other previous employees verified.

The detectives from New Scotland Yard said that soon after they arrived at Stratford-on-Avon they spoke to one of the local policemen whose beat comprised the district around Upper and Lower Quinton and who for some time past had been on friendly terms with Charles Walton's employer and instructed him to keep in close touch with the farmer, without arousing any suspicion, to find out all he could about him and his movements on 14 February 1945. It was noted that subsequently the policeman reported that on 20 February 1945, during a conversation that he had had with Charles Walton's employer, the question of finding fingerprints on the weapons used in the murder arose, and said that the farmer seemed greatly affected by it, and said, 'I have told the police that I caught one of the tools with my hand to see what had happened. I told them more than once. They know that'. However, the local policeman said that he was certain that that was the first time that the farmer had mentioned anything about handling the weapons. The report further stated that they found that up to that stage, Charles Walton's employer had made no remarks to any police officer about his having touched anything at the scene of the crime.

The police took a further statement from Charles Walton's employer on 23 February 1945 at Stratford-on-Avon police station in which he admitted to making one or two 'mistakes' in his statement of 17 February 1945 and said that after he had been to Cacks Leys to see some sheep and feed some calves, he had gone home and then sat down and looked at the paper for about five minutes and had then gone out into the cowshed and helped a cowman there to finish pulping some mangolds. He said that he fed the machine for about five minutes and said that when the cowman asked him the time, he replied, 'If we go and fetch some flour we can see the clock'. He said that they then went together to the meal house and saw that the church clock said that it was just one o'clock. The farmer said that the cowman then went off for his dinner and that he went into the farmhouse for his.

Charles Walton's employer said that he remained in his farmhouse for about an hour and ten minutes and then went back out and saw the cowman and made arrangements with him for the removal of the dead heifer. He said that he then milked the cows until 5.50pm when he finished work and went in for his tea.

Charles Walton's employer then went on to detail the finding of Charles Walton's body, and said that as Charles Walton's neighbour was about to walk away, Charles Walton's niece said to him, 'You had better have a look to make sure he had gone', and said that he then went up to the body and caught hold of the trouncing hook which he found was firmly fixed. He added that he didn't think that Charles Walton's niece or neighbour saw that as they had been walking away at the time.

Charles Walton's employer then said that on 14 or 15 February 1945, when he was talking to the local policeman, that he mentioned the fact that he had touched the trouncing hook and said that the local policeman replied, 'God, I think I did too'.

When Charles Walton's employer was then shown the clothing that Charles Walton had been wearing at the time of his death, he said that he realised that he could not have seen Charles Walton working in his shirt sleeves, however, he was still emphatic that he had seen someone in the field in shirt sleeves near the spot where Charles Walton ought to have been working.

When the issue of Charles Walton's wages was brought up, Charles Walton's employer said that the £2.15.0 paid to Charles Walton on 10 February 1945 was for a week’s work and not a fortnight work as he had previously stated. He then added that on some weeks he had drawn wages for Charles Walton when Charles Walton had not been working at all. The police report noted that Charles Walton's employer was not the owner of Firs Farm and that the property was owned by his father and that he had to draw all wages due to his employees from his father. Therefore, it was noted, any wages in excess of those due to employees which were drawn by him would have gone into his own pocket.

Charles Walton's employer then went on to say that there were occasions when Charles Walton had asked him for his wages and that, having already spent them, he was unable to pay him and noted that the last such occasion was just before Christmas 1944, but added that he would always pay him later in the week.

The police then took possession of Charles Walton's employers clothing which included a pair of Bedford cord breeches. It was noted that as the farmer gave the police the breeches he said, ''You may find some blood on the knees. I got it there when I took a calf from a cow last Monday'.  It was noted that that would have been Monday 19 February 1945. The police report noted that after the farmers clothes were submitted to the West Midland Forensic Science Laboratory for examination that the only interesting outcome of the examination was that two areas on the breeches gave presumptive tests for blood, but that they had been so well cleaned that it was impossible to say whether or not the blood on them had been human or not.

The police report stated that in the light of the fact that there were considerable discrepancies in what Charles Walton's employer had said he had done between 12 noon and 1pm on 14 February 1945, they thought that it was worth considering them in the light of certain passages that he had given in evidence at the inquest into Charles Walton's death on 20 March 1945.

It was heard that in reply to the coroner's question as to whether he had seen Charles Walton early in he morning, on 14 February 1945, the farmer had replied, 'No, Sir, Not before he began work. I saw someone at about 12.30pm but I would not say it was him'. Then, when he was asked about the man that he had seen in the field, he said, 'I am not sure it was him, but I saw someone in his shirt sleeves'. When he was asked if the man he had seen had been using tools, Charles Walton's employer replied, 'Well, I can't say. I never saw him move. I just thought at the time it was him and went on'. It was heard that the remainder of his evidence was the same as he had given in his statement of 23 February 1945, except he said that after leaving the College Arms at 12 noon he had gone to another farmyard and looked at a tractor for about ten minutes and had then gone home and put away some tools that he had been using before going off to Cacks Ley.

It was noted that in his first statement given on the night of the murder he had said that he had left the College Arms public house at 12 noon, stating that he had especially noticed the time, and had gone straight to a small field adjoining Hill Ground (the field where Charles Walton was murdered) and had seen Charles Walton hedging about 500 to 600 yards away. The police report stated that if his first statement was true that it would have been no more than 12.10pm when he saw Charles Walton for it would not have taken him more than ten minutes to have reached the field from the College Arms pub.

In Charles Walton's employer's 17 February 1945 statement he had said that it was about 12.10pm when he had gone across Cacks Leys and that it was 12.20pm when he had seen Charles Walton working at the hedge but, in a later statement, he had said, 'Although I cannot be positive I am almost certain it was Walton whom I saw working at the hedge. Whoever it was appeared to be trimming the hedge'. However, at the inquest on 20 March 1945 he said that it was 12.30pm when he had seen someone in shirtsleeves in the field and that the person he saw didn't move. As such, it was noted that Charles Walton's employer's story gradually changed from him seeing Charles Walton working at hedge cutting at 12.10pm to seeing a man standing stationary in the field at 12.30pm.

The police report stated that Charles Walton's employer in his earlier statements had said that from the point where he had seen Charles Walton working to the point where he later found Charles Walton's body would constitute about half-an hour’s work and stated that if the man who he had seen was not Charles Walton that it would be interesting to know who did the half-an-hours work on the hedge.

The police report further noted that in the farmer's statement of 17 February 1945 he had said that he had seen Charles Walton working in a field at 12.20pm and that he would have gone over to him but he had a heifer in a ditch and had gone straight back home, arriving at 12.40pm and then gone on to see the heifer. However, he had said in his 23 February 1945 statement, 'I went home and looked at the paper for about five minutes. I then helped the cowman for about five minutes. I looked at the church clock. It was just one o'clock'. The report then went on to note that the discrepancies were most significant because they affected the very time that Charles Walton was probably being murdered. The report noted that the farmer had said in his 17 February 1945 statement that it was only pressure of work that had prevented him from going over to see Charles Walton at 12.20pm on 14 February 1945 whilst in his 23 February 1945 statement he had admitted that he had gone straight home and read the paper. It was further noted that the business of attending to the heifer in the ditch was not carried out until about 3pm that day. As such, the police report said that Charles Walton's employer, the farmer, was undoubtedly lying about his actions at that critical time, but that the reasons for the lies could only be a matter of conjecture.

The police report further noted that the question of Charles Walton's employer handling the trouncing hook when he had found Charles Walton's body also gave rise to some suspicion. They noted that in the farmer's 23 February 1945 statement he had said, 'On the 14th or 15th February I told the local policeman I had touched the trouncing hook when I found the body'. However, the police stated that the local policeman that Charles Walton's employer had referred was emphatic that no mention of touching the tools had been made to him by Charles Walton's employer until he (the local policeman) had broached the subject of fingerprints with him on 20 February 1945. It was also noted that neither had Charles Walton's employer ever mentioned to any other officer that he had touched the trouncing hook.

The police report noted that when the farmer explained how he came to handle the trouncing hook, he had said that Charles Walton's neighbour  had said to him, 'You had better have a look to make sure he is gone', and that he had then caught hold of the trouncing hook. However, when the police questioned Charles Walton's neighbour over that he denied saying any such thing and said that whilst he was there, the farmer touched neither Charles Walton's body, the trouncing hook or the hay fork. Charles Walton's neighbour added that when he first saw Charles Walton's body, he had no doubt from his first glance that Charles Walton was dead and said that he was confident that the farmer would have realised that too.

As such, the police report stated that Charles Walton's employers’ story of handling the trouncing hook was most unsatisfactory. The report stated that although he had endeavoured to lead people into believing that he had mentioned touching the trouncing hook too the police soon after the murder, that there could be no doubt that he, in fact, did not do so until the question of fingerprints was raised with him by the local policeman. The police report stated that the farmer had also endeavoured to explain in a convincing way how he came to touch the trouncing hook, but noted that Charles Walton's neighbour, who was part of that explanation, said that he was quite sure that things did not occur in the manner suggested by the farmer. The police report concluded by stating that whatever the reason, Charles Walton's employer had gone to great pains to explain away any of his fingerprints that might be found upon the weapons with which Charles Walton was murdered.

However, it was also noted that there were apparently no finger impressions found on the weapons used.

The police said that when they spoke to the cowman, a 37-year-old who lived in Friday Street in Lower Quinton, he said that he had been working for the farmer's family for about three years and for the farmer specifically for the previous three months. He added that he had found the heifer dead in the ditch at Firs Farm at about 12.45pm on 13 February 1945 and that it was removed by the farmer and others the following day at about 3.30pm, 14 February 1945.

When the cowman gave details about 14 February 1945 at the farm he said that he saw the farmer at the farm at about 10am that day and that the next time he saw him was at 12.40pm when he came into the mixing house where he was pulping some mangolds. He said that he remembered the time exactly because he had asked the farmer the time and said that he had replied, 'I'm not sure but it must be getting on', and that then after pulping some mangolds they both then walked into the yard and looked at the church clock which stated that it was 1pm. The cowman said that they both then went for their dinners and that he next saw the farmer at about 2.15pm in the farmyard when they discussed getting the heifer out of the ditch.

The police report noted that it should be realised that the cowman corroborated, in detail, the statement that Charles Walton's employer made on 23 February 1945 as to his movements after he had seen Charles Walton on 14 February and observed that it was curious that the farmer, having such a witness, did not mention the fact of the mangold pulping in his earlier statements. The report added that it was therefore possible that the farmer had bided his time to make sure that the cowman was prepared to vouch for his movements at that critical time.

When the police spoke to the farmer’s wife, a 40 year old woman, she said that she had seen him at 11am on 14 February 1945 come into the house and fetch some implements to castrate some calves, noting that he was only in the house for a few minutes. She said that he asked her, 'How long will dinner be?' and said that she told him that it would not be long. She said that he then said, 'I've got to go and help the cowman to pulp some mangolds' and then left the house. She said that it was about 12.40pm when he left, saying that she was sure of the time because of the wireless and her clock. She added that the farmer then came back in at 1.05pm for his dinner and noted that the baker's roundsman called whilst they were having a cup of tea after dinner and that he had a cup of tea with them. She said that the farmer then left at 2.10pm or 2.15pm and then returned shortly after and telephoned about the removal of the heifer.

The police report stated that it was remarkable that whilst the farmers' wife was certain about the exact times her husband came and went around dinner time that but could not recall what they had had for dinner or be sure of any other times during the day.

The police further noted that although the farmer's wife said that she was in the house all day and mentioned the time that the farmer came into the house to fetch some castrating implements at 11am, she had said nothing about him returning some tools shortly after 12 noon as stated by the farmer at the inquest.

It was also noted that the farmer's wife said that on the day after the murder her husband had mentioned to the local policeman that he had touched the 'slashing' hook after the neighbour had asked him to make sure that Charles Walton was dead.

Also, when she had spoken of her husband’s breeches which were taken away by the police, she said that she was sure that her husband had never cleaned them.

As such, the police said that it was perfectly obvious that the farmer had made sure that so far as the material times were concerned, that he was amply corroborated by his wife, although noted that, under the circumstances, that could only be expected.

The police report noted that other corroboration respecting the farmer's movements on 14 February was supplied by a farmer from Lower Quinton who said that he had arranged with Charles Walton's employer to castrate two calves that morning and that after they had done that they had both gone to the College Arms where Charles Walton's employer had had a couple of Guinness’s, noting that they had been there from 11.45am until 12 noon.

The farm labourer who worked at the farm at Meon Hill said that he passed the garage of the farmer from Lower Quinton in Lower Quinton at about 12 noon and saw him and Charles Walton's employer there examining a tractor at about 12 noon and the police report stated that there was no doubt that after leaving the College Arms, that the farmer from Lower Quinton and Charles Walton's employer had stopped to look at the tractor there.

The police report noted that every effort was made to check the farmer’s movements that morning, but that other than his wife, who had said that he had returned to the farm house at 'sometime after half-past twelve', nobody could say they had seen him from about 12noon until 12.40pm when the cowman said he had seen him come into the mixing house and helped him to pulp some mangolds. The report noted that that time was fixed by the fact that the cowman said that he and the farmer had gone into the farm yard and had looked at the church clock and that it was therefore more likely it was much later than 12.40pm when the cowman first saw the farmer. The police report noted, however, that the fact remained that whatever the farmer did between 12 noon and 1pm, that he would have had ample time to have committed the murder, for, by his own admission, he was in an adjoining field at 12.20pm and that after returning home he had sat down and looked at the paper for about five minutes.

When the police looked into the matter of the wages paid to Charles Walton, they took a statement from the company that owned Firs Farm and found that out of the previous thirty-five weeks Charles Walton had worked for the farmer and for which wages had been claimed, on only eight weeks was less than £3 claimed. The police report stated that that suggested that Charles Walton was generally working a full week, whereas, as could be seen by his nieces statements, as well as those of his employer, the farmer, Charles Walton had actually only worked when the weather was fine and his health permitted. As such, the report concluded, that by his own admission, the farmer was guilty of claiming more wages than were due and that there was no doubt that he was making a good thing out of Charles Walton's employment by him.

The police report stated that although the suspicion attaching the farmer was well appreciated, that there was no real evidence to connect him with the murder itself and that no reasonable motive could be found for his committing it. It was noted that there was not the slightest evidence that the farmer was of a violent disposition and that neither was there any suggestion that the farmer and Charles Walton had ever quarrelled.

The police report noted that whenever the farmer was interviewed, he always appeared morose and sullen and even when closely interrogated he had never lost his temper or become other than respectful. The police report noted that the farmer was unkempt and appeared on the surface to be dull witted, but that they were convinced that he was far from that and noted that he was a man of considerable strength and that in their opinion was an extremely cunning individual.

The police report noted that throughout the enquiry, one of the most extraordinary features was the entire absence of motive. They stated that in the early stages they thought that robbery was the most likely motive and that that theory was supported by the fact that Charles Walton's clothes had been disarranged and that an watch that he had been in the habit of carrying was missing. It was further noted that in addition it was generally accepted locally that he was a man possessed of several hundreds of pounds. The police report noted in point of fact however that at the time of his death Charles Walton 's known total assets were no more than £5.

It was found that upon the death of Charles Walton's wife he was left with £297 and that in the early part of 1928 that he had placed £200 in a deposit account with the Stratford-on-Avon branch of the Midland Bank Limited. It was also found that in 1936 he had received £44 from a benevolent club to which he had belonged for a number of years and that during the whole of that period he had been in good employment. However, it was found that by 1938 his bank credit had dwindled to £2.11.9.

The farmer at Magdalen Farm in Lower Quinton said that for seven years prior to 1944 he had employed Charles Walton, paying him an average wage over that period of not less than £3 per week.

The police said that they found that Charles Walton was a man of most frugal habits, noting that his rent was but three shillings a week and that his total outgoings at the most could not be established at being more than £2 per week. They found that he didn't smoke and seldom visited public houses. They also determined that he was a man of solitary habits and that his only known acquaintance was the odd man.

A farmworker who lived in Lower Quinton said that sometime in 1943 whilst he had been working with Charles Walton, another employed lost a pound note and that whilst discussing it said that Charles Walton said, 'You shouldn't carry a lot of money about with you, I never do. I'm not short of two or three hundred pounds. The statement was also verified by the man that had lost the £1 note.

A scavenger who had lived in Birmingham Road in Stratford-on-Avon and who was related to Charles Walton by marriage said that he had always been under the impression that Charles Walton had a few pounds by him.

Also, the police interviewed another woman who lived at Park Farm in Henley-in-Arden and who was a niece of Charles Walton's who said that he would visit her every year for a holiday and assist on their farm and said that she thought that he had a few hundred pounds saved up.

Charles Walton's niece and her partner also both said that they were very surprised that Charles Walton didn't leave a few hundred pounds as he had always led them to believe that he had been well off financially.

The police report stated that the closest enquiry was made into the activities of Charles Walton with a view to discovering how he could have spent the money that appeared to be missing, but no explanation was forthcoming. They stated that his house and belongings were carefully searched, but that no money or valuables came to light. The report also stated that neither was there any evidence that he had ever had any financial dealings with anybody. The report concluded that Charles Walton was a secretive type of man and that the mystery surrounding his money was almost as great as the mystery surrounding his death.

The police report stated that in pursuance of their enquiries into his murder, a complete list was made of every person residing in, visiting, or working in the villages of Upper and Lower Quinton and Admington on 14 February 1945 which amounted in all to some 493 persons. They said that statements were obtained from all of them with the exception of children of tender years. they noted that several of the people spoke of Italian Prisoners-of-War who they had seen in and about Upper and Lower Quinton on 14 February 1945. It was noted that the Italian prisoners came from a camp at Long Marston which was some two miles from the villages of Upper and Lower Quinton. The police report stated that on 14 February 1945 there were 1,045 Italians there, all of whom were classified as 'collaborators' and that in addition there were 39 such 'collaborators' stationed at a hostel at Shipston-on-Stour and another 20 at the RAF Station at Long Marston.

However, the police said that only one person from whom statements were taken said that they had seen an Italian walking anywhere other than on the main roads that day. He was a 73 year old man that had lived in Council Houses in Mickleton who worked as a general labourer in a nursery at Mickleton and who said that between 2pm and 2.30pm on 14 February 1945 he had been working in a field about 300 yards from the Prisoner-of-War Camp at Long Marston when he had seen an Italian walking across the field towards the camp. He said that he had been walking fast and that he said 'Afternoon' as he passed and then disappeared into the back of the camp which was not the regular way in. The police noted that the route taken by the Italian was not a proper footpath and that the spot where he was seen was about two miles away from the scene of the murder. It was noted that although the 73-year-old man said that he would be able to identify the Italian that he had seen, he failed to pick anyone out at an identification parade later held at the camp.

The police examined the route taken by the Italian Prisoner-of-war and found some footprints which they took plaster casts of, but found that they were similar to many of the boots worn by the Italian prisoners-of-war and that all their boots were repaired to a standard pattern and in accordance with regulation and were otherwise unidentifiable.

The police noted that they found other footprints of a similar nature in the vicinity of Meon Hill but were satisfied that they were of some long standing.

Two other Italians were seen by an 11-year old girl in Upper Quinton who said that she saw them at 12.10pm on 14 February 1945 cross the green and go into an alleyway leading to some fields. She said that she saw two Italians again at 4.20pm in Upper Quinton, noting that she thought that they were the same Italians. A woman who had lived in Council houses in Upper Quinton said that she also saw two Italians between 12 noon and 1pm walking towards the green at Upper Quinton and it was thought possible that they might have been the same two Italians seen by the 11 year old girl.

The woman said that she could not identify the Italians, but the 11-year old girl attended an identification parade and picked out a 27-year-old Italian prisoner-of-war as one of the men that she had seen at Upper Quinton on 14 February 1945.

The Italian soldier that she picked out said that he had left the camp at 2pm on 14 February 1945 as it was his rest day and he had gone into Lower Quinton alone and purchased some cigarettes. He said that he then walked to Upper Quinton and met another Italian prisoner-of-war and said that they went together for a walk about the villages of Upper and Lower Quinton and said that sometime after, about 3.30pm, they purchased cigarettes at the post office in Lower Quinton which was verified by a woman who assisted there, who said that they had bought them at about 4pm.

The other Italian prisoner-of-war said that he had not left the camp until about 3pm and had later met the first Italian in Upper Quinton.

They were questioned separately and taken by police to trace their routes, but their stories agreed in detail and it was said that if their stories were true that neither of them could have been the two Italian soldiers seen by the 11-year-old girl at 12.10pm that day. As such, the police said that assuming that that the time that the girl and the woman said they had seen the two Italian soldiers in Upper Quinton was correct, that they had been unable to identify who they were.

The police report noted that a baker's roundsman who was employed by the same man that employed the odd man in Upper Quinton said that he had seen two Italians at about 1.30pm on 14 February 1945 as he was driving his baker's van in Meon Lane going towards Lower Quinton. He said that he saw them both on the grass verge by the side of the road and that one of them was wiping his hands whilst the other appeared to have just risen from the ground or to have come through the hedge. He explained to the police that he only caught a fleeting glimpse of the men but went on to give a detailed description of one of them, even detailing his teeth. He said that one of the men, whom he said did not look towards him until he was past, had an expression upon his face 'as if he did not want to be seen'. However, the police report stated that the baker's roundsman was a most unsatisfactory type of witness and that they thought that little reliance could be placed upon what he said.

However, it was thought that the two Italians were also seen by a farm worker who had lived at The Bungalow in Meon Hill and who had been cycling back to work at Lower Quinton at about 1.30pm on 14 February. He said that he had seen them at about 1.30pm walking along Meon Lane from the direction of Lower Quinton. He said that they had been walking in the road and that as he cycled past them, they both spoke to him but said that he didn't hear what they said.

Both the baker's roundsman and the farm worker attended identification parades at Long Marston camp at which both of the other Italians identified by the 11-year-old girl attended, but they were unable to pick anyone out.

The police noted that in addition to the two Italians identified by the 11-year-old girl, they interviewed 55 other Italians who had been off duty on 14 February 1945 as well as another 11 Italians in order to clear up a few points. They said that in all 1,104 Italians were seen and that their clothing and boots were examined and their persons and kits searched.

It was further noted that whilst being searched, one of the Italian prisoners had endeavoured to conceal two wire rabbit snares. However, it was thought that that should not be regarded as indicative of anything other than that he had at some time been engaged in poaching. The police report stated that their enquiries showed that the Italians had often snared rabbits that they then often sold to villagers.

It was also noted that in addition to the Italians who had had a rest day on 14 February 1945, that it was established that it was the practice of many of them to leave the camp for the purpose of making purchases at Upper and Lower Quinton when they felt so inclined. The police report stated that in fact, the conditions prevailing at Long Marston Camp were such that it would have been impossible, with certainty, to say who was in or out of the camp at any particular time.

A statement was made by woman from the post office in Lower Quinton who said that an Italian that she knew visited her post office on two occasions during the afternoon of 14 February 1945, once to change some two-shilling pieces and once to buy needles and pins. The Italian was later identified, but it was found that he had not been on a rest day on 14 February 1945 although he admitted going to Lower Quinton on his bicycle two or three times during the afternoon to make purchases.

The police report noted that it might have been that the other two Italians who were seen in the vicinity that day were also out of camp without permission as there was no system of booking them in or out and no passes were issued. It was noted that that in particular, might have applied to the Italian who was seen by the man entering the back of the camp at about 2.30pm on 14 February 1945.

The police concluded that from their enquiries they were unable to establish that any of the Italians had ever resorted to violence during their stay at Long Marston and that they could not find one authentic case of any of them even being discourteous to the local villagers. As such, they concluded that the result of all of their intensive enquiries into the movements of the Italians on 14 February 1945 did not reveal any evidence that could connect them with the murder.

The police report stated that during their enquiries, they found three fox snares in the hedges within a few yards of where Charles Walton was found dead. However, they said that they were accounted for by several local youths aged 17, 17, 17 and 11 who identified them and pointed out the places where they had been placed.

The police report also included statements regarding a private in the Pioneer Corp stations at the Long Marston Garrison who performed the duty of rat-catcher there and who was suspected of having been in Upper Quinton at the time of the murder. It was noted that he was regarded as an unscrupulous type of person and was known to frequent the fields about Meon Hill. However, the police report stated that he was cleared of any suspicion after several people vouched for his movements and it was determined that at the time of the murder, he had been in a public house some three miles from where Charles Walton was murdered.

Another person that came under suspicion was a tramp with a ginger beard who was later identified as a 55-year-old man who did casual work for farmers, but for the most part tramped the country. However, the police said that they took a statement from him regarding his movements on 14 February 1945 and said that they were satisfactorily accounted for.

The police report stated that a careful check was made on all mental defectives living in the locality and missing from nearby institutions on the day in question but that as far as could be ascertained none of them had any connection with the murder.

It was also noted that at Long Marston Garrison, in addition to the Italian prisoners-of-war, that there were 3,093 British soldiers stationed there comprising of the Pioneer Corps and the Royal Engineers.

The police report stated that although there was no suggestion that any British soldiers had been seen near Meon Hill on the day of the crime other than the Lieutenant, Sergeant and Corporal who had been removing booby traps, careful enquiries were made into the movements of some 420 officers and men who had been on leave on 14 February 1945. They were each seen and a statement taken from them regarding their movements that day, which the report noted necessitated much correspondence with provincial police forces for the purposes of checking statements. At the time of the writing of the report the police stated that the bulk of the enquiries were completed satisfactorily and whilst not anticipating that any British soldiers were involved stated that they were waiting for every individual soldier to be cleared before making a definitive reference to the garrison soldiers.

The police report stated that in regards to Charles Walton's missing watch, they said that they had considered the possibility that it might have fallen off of his body as it was being taken from the fields to the ambulance or that his murderer might have thrown it away in the nearby fields and so with the help of soldiers with mine detectors from the 407 Company, Line of Communications Troops, Royal Engineers stationed at Compton Yernsey, they searched the route taken as Charles Walton's body was removed from the field looking for it, but although many metal farming implements were found, the watch was not found.

The police report noted that a photograph of his watch was circulated in the Special Notices in the police Gazette of the 24 March 1945.

The police report concluded by saying that the only person whom suspicion fell on to any degree was Charles Walton's employer, the farmer, but noted that the possibility that some other person might have committed the murder was not lost sight of. The report noted that although there was no evidence on which action could be taken, that there was suspicion against the farmer mainly because of the discrepancies in his statements affecting what he said he saw of Charles Walton at the time that he saw him shortly before his murder.

The police stated that the most positive line of enquiry was Charles Walton's watch which was missing.

The murder of Charles Walton was considered to have had connections with local superstitions, folk law and the supernatural. It was also reported that the police were told of these superstations when they first arrived for the investigation, but they had ignored them and had sought a rational explanation. It was said that throughout the investigations strange things had happened, including apparitions, strange dogs being seen and dogs and livestock being found dead. However, the claims were generally unfounded and exaggerated by the press and by word of mouth.

It was also said in a future account of the case that Charles Walton had had a cross engraved in his chest, but there was similarly no foundation for that claim in the police evidence.

However, the police report noted that it later came to the attention of the police that the murder of Charles Walton was in some respects similar to the murder of Betsy Tennant in 1875 at Long Compton, a village about ten miles away from Upper Quinton. She had been murdered by a man named Jimmy Hayward, alias Jimmy Heard, because he believed that Betsy Tennant was a witch and was responsible for the death of his pig.

It was said that he had apparently believed that Betsy Tennant had an evil eye and that the mere looking at his pig had caused it to die and that he had consequently murdered her with a pitchfork. It was noted that the method of killing was evidently a survival of an ancient Anglo Saxon custom of dealing with persons by means of sticking spikes into them.

It was noted that in murder at Upper Quinton of Charles Walton he had been pinned to the ground by a pitch fork and that it was noted that the farmer had had a heifer die on 13 February 1945, the previous day. However, the police stated that whether the similarities meant anything they didn't know.

In 1950 a relative of Betsy Tennant was traced and gave the following statement:

'In the summer of 1875 I remember my father telling me about a man having murdered my grandmother, who was also named Tennant. I believe the man's name was Hayward. The story I heard was that Hayward killed my grandmother by driving the prongs of a pitchfork into her stomach. She was in the village street during the evening and the man went up to her and killed her without warning, and as far as I know, for no reason whatever. I remember her as a very charming old lady. I did not see the body of the murdered lady but I remember seeing the man Hayward being taken away by policemen in uniform. He was kept in Long Compton lock-up all night and then was taken to Shipston-on-Stour. It was when he was removed from the lock-up that I saw him. I later heard that Hayward had been found to be insane and so he was not hanged. I believe he was a farm labourer. Although I was only five years of age when the murder was committed, I remember some of the details I have given quite clearly'.


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


see National Archives - MEPO 3/2290

see Wikipedia

see Morbidology

see Mirror

see Dark Histories

see Historic Mysteries