Date: 22 May 1939
Walter Alfred Dinnivan was attacked on 21 May 1939 at 334 Poole Road in Branksome and died a few hours later in the hospital in the early hours of 22 May 1939.
A 70-year-old retired fishmonger was tried for his murder but acquitted.
Walter Dinnivan had resided at 334 Poole Road with his granddaughter. He was a retired garage proprietor and a self-made man who seemed to have been a successful speculator and had owned a number of residential and other properties in the district. It was estimated that his estate was valued at approximately £25,000 to £30,000.
He had also at one time been the President of the local Conservative Club and a well-known figure in the district where he was born and had resided throughout his life.
However, it was noted that despite his alleged respectability, he was undoubtedly an immoral man and was the father of two illegitimate children and that since the death of his wife on 10 November 1938, police enquiries showed that he had habitually associated with women of the prostitute class in Bournemouth.
He was also noted for having boasted about his accumulation of money and to have made a vain display of certain expensive jewellery.
He was described as a man in good health and in excellent physical condition for his age and as someone who was sometimes rather aggressive and not the type of person who readily succumbed to threats of violence or blackmail.
He had had one child from his marriage who had later been the licensee of the Dolphin pub in Kinson Bournemouth but who died on 28 February 1938.
It was stated that the only persons that Walter Dinnivan apparently cared for were two of his grandchildren, a woman and a man, the man being a telegraphist in the Royal Navy. They were with the exception of certain small bequests the principal beneficiaries under his will. He did have four other grandchildren, but except for a small legacy left to one of them, he had made no provision for them in his will.
His home at 334 Poole Road was a detached house that was divided into flats and stood in its own grounds of about a quarter of an acre facing the main Poole Bournemouth Road. The upper flat was self-contained and had its own separate side entrance. The upper flat was occupied by an elderly spinster of independent means who sub-let a portion of her flat to another elderly lady.
The ground floor flat that was occupied by Walter Dinnivan comprised of a drawing room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. The main entrance to the flat was through a small conservatory into a main hall. The drawing room, a bedroom, and bathroom faced south which was to the front of the house, and the other bedroom, dining room and kitchen faced north.
Walter Dinnivan occupied the bedroom facing south and his granddaughter occupied the other bedroom.
The house was concealed from the Poole/Bournemouth Road and adjoining properties by a hedge of rhododendron and other shrubs varying from 8 to 12 ft in height and had a drive of about 30 yards leading to the road. The rear of the house was overlooked by a pair of semi-detached houses in Princess Road which ran parallel to the Poole/Bournemouth Road.
Walter Dinnivan owned both of the houses at the rear and had secured a rear entrance to his residence from Princess Road by maintaining a right of way through a garage that adjoined the two houses in Princess Road. It was noted then, that assuming the garage doors were not properly fastened, that any person could gain entrance to the grounds of 334 Poole Road by means of that rear entrance.
It was noted in the police report that evidence was available that would be later referred to that at the time of the murder, the locks on the garage doors were faulty and that it was therefore possible to gain access to the curtilage of the house through the garage without the use of a key.
Walter Dinnivan's grandson, who had been serving on board HMS Suffolk at the China Station returned home on 19 May 1939 on week-end leave. On the Sunday 21 May 1939, Walter Dinnivan and his two grandchildren and a friend went off by car to Lulworth Cove in the afternoon where they had tea and retuned at about 7.15pm to 334 Poole Road. When they returned they were accompanied by two friends of the family who they had picked up in Bournemouth before returning home.
Once home, the party seemed to have spent some time in the drawing room examining various curios that the grandson had brought home from China. The granddaughter and her female friend then prepared themselves to go to a dance at St. Joseph's Hall in Branksome and at 7.50pm the four young people there left the house and went to the dance hall. Before they left, the grandson had suggested that he should remain at home to keep Walter Dinnivan company, but Walter Dinnivan refused the offer and intimated that he would spend the evening quietly reading a book.
The grandchildren said that when they returned from the dance to 334 Poole Road at about 11.05pm they discovered that the main door to the house through the conservatory was locked. They said that they rang the bell but got no reply and assumed that Walter Dinnivan was out and sat on the step and waited for him to return. However, after a short while the granddaughter said that they walked round the front of the house and that when she looked through the drawing room window she saw the light of an electric fire and the body of Walter Dinnivan lying full length on the floor with his head towards the window and his legs pointing towards the fireplace. She said that she noticed that his head was covered with blood and then immediately called to her brother.
It was noted that it was almost invariable practice for Walter Dinnivan to lock the inner main door when he was in the house and so, anticipating the key being in the lock inside the door, the grandson broke the leaded glass panel of the door. However, he said that he found the key missing and so climbed in through the broken panel into the house.
He said that when he entered the drawing room he switched on the electric light and saw Walter Dinnivan there on the floor on his back with his head in a pool of blood. He said that he was breathing but was unconscious. He said that his legs were facing the fireplace and that his head was towards the window, approximately in the centre of the bay of the window.
It was noted that the grandson seemed to have been in a panic and didn't clearly remember what he did. However, he said that he remembered placing a silk table centre taken from a chair over Walter Dinnivan's face and noticed on a small table in the centre of the room a beer bottle, an overturned beer tumbler and a small green whisky glass. He also said that he remembered seeing three cork tipped cigarette ends, one the floor, one on the settee and the other in an ash tray. He said that he didn't touch or disturb anything in the room but opened the window of the room to allow a man that the granddaughter had called from the street in to assist them by leaning in and using the telephone receiver that was standing on the window ledge to call for the police.
An ambulance was also summoned and whilst it was proceeding along Poole Road the driver informed a policeman that had been there on patrol duty that there had been a murder at 334 Poole Road. The policeman was they conveyed by the driver to 334 Poole Road.
When the policeman and the ambulance arrived they was the grandson and granddaughter there and the policeman then climbed in through the window of the drawing room and saw Walter Dinnivan lying on his back on the floor with his hands towards the window and with his legs pointing in the direction of the fireplace. The policeman said that Walter Dinnivan was clasping an upper denture in his right hand and appeared badly battered about the head. He said that there were also fragments of flesh and patches of blood on the floor.
The policeman then assisted the ambulance attendants to place Walter Dinnivan on a stretcher and lift it through the open window and Walter Dinnivan's body was conveyed to Boscombe Hospital accompanied by another policeman.
The policeman at the scene said that there was no disorder in the room except that a beer bottle and a green whisky glass had been turned over on a small table in the centre of the room. He said that there was also a beer bottle on the table but could not say whether it had been turned over or not. He said that a quantity of liquid had evidently been upset on the tablecloth, but that he could not identify it by smell. He also said that there was a plain cigarette end in an ash tray on the table, a cork tipped cigarette end on the tablecloth, two cork tipped cigarette ends on the floor between the table and the settee and a similar one in a cushion that was lying on the settee. He also said that there was a bloodstained brown paper bag and a piece of green paper on the floor.
The police inspector who was summoned to the house by telephone arrived shortly before midnight with certain other officers. It was noted that nothing in the flat had been interfered with and that the inspector seemed to be the proper officer to speak to regarding the condition of the room and the finding of the various articles that were to be exhibited in the case.
He said that there was a small round table standing in the centre of the drawing room on which there was an overturned beer bottle containing a quantity of beer, a half pint tumbler and a green whisky glass that had also been overturned. He said that there was a quantity of liquid on the tablecloth which he said he smelt and said that he was of the opinion was beer. He also said that he was of the opinion that each of the overturned glasses had contained liquor. He said that there were two ash trays on the table, one of which had a small quantity of beer and a plain cigarette in it.
He said that he found two other cork tipped cigarette ends on the floor under the table and a similar one on a cushion on a settee that was near the table. He added that there was no burning of the settee cushion, indicating that the cigarette end had not ben burning when it was placed or thrown there.
The inspector said that he found a metal hairclip and a tortoiseshell or celluloid hair curler under the table on the floor.
He also found a bloodstained brown paper bag on the floor in front of an armchair which was also bloodstained and a piece of green paper. The paper bag and the piece of green paper were creased as though a weapon had been wrapped in them. The paper bag had been torn in the corner which was also said to have been consistent with a weapon breaking the paper.
It was noted that the police inspector agreed with the policeman that had arrived earlier about the state of the room not being in any disorder with the exception of the overturned article on the table.
When the curtains were examined they were found to have been splashed with blood and the back of an armchair where a person would normally rest, and the cushion that was lying in it also bore evidence of blood staining.
When the police went up to Walter Dinnivan's bedroom they found a small safe that was unlocked and when they opened it they found a bunch of keys, one of which was the key to the safe. It was noted that the keys had been taken from Walter Dinnivan. Then, on the floor immediately in front of the safe the police found a jewel case containing a diamond bracelet and a tin box that contained other articles of jewellery and it was noted that they appeared to have been overlooked as they were unopened. It was further noted that the content of the safe had not been disturbed as certain papers in the safe were neatly folded and in order.
The inspector said that when he made a thorough search of the flat and grounds he failed to find any weapon that might have been used by an assailant. He also said that when he examined the windows, doors and exterior parts of the house, he was unable to find anything that would indicate how entry had been affected into the house.
It was later determined that several items from his body were taken including a tie ring, rings and his watch.
The five cigarette ends were then taken to the police laboratory for analytical tests for possible traces of saliva.
At 1pm on 22 May 1939, police from the fingerprint department attended the house and searched for finger impressions. Amongst the various articles in the room the police determined that the beer bottle bore the finger impressions of Walter Dinnivan and that the beer tumbler bore similar impressions and a possible thumb print that could not be accounted for.
When the pathologist attended the house on 23 May 1939, he examined the bloodstains in the room and then later that day made post-mortem examination of Walter Dinnivan at Boscombe Hospital.
The police report noted that the pathologist submitted his report directly to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but that it was understood by them that it was his opinion that Walter Dinnivan had been struck on the top of the head whilst sitting in the blood-stained armchair. It was noted in the police report that the theory was further supported by the fact that patches of coagulated blood that were found on the back of Walter Dinnivan's jacket also corresponded with certain patches of blood on the back of the armchair.
The police report noted that it seemed to indicate that the blood had run down from Walter Dinnivan's head and down the back of his jacket whilst he was leaning back in the chair and that the points where his jacket had pressed against the chair was where the blood flow had terminated.
It was said then that it appeared that Walter Dinnivan either fell or was thrown on the floor where his assailant evidently knelt on his chest, fracturing five of his ribs, and attempted to strangle him.
The police report noted that the clasping by Walter Dinnivan in his hand of his denture was somewhat extraordinary but thought that whilst he was being throttled he might have felt a choking sensation and to release the pressure, he might have taken the teeth from his mouth.
It was noted that his attempted strangulation was followed by a series of blows with a blunt instrument to the head which the pathologist discovered at the post-mortem numbered between 15 to 20 separate blows. This resulted in the front of his skull being so badly damaged that his brain was exposed, being severely lacerated. It was stated that the multiple lacerations to his brain was the cause of his death.
The pathologist said that he thought that the instrument used by the assailant was probably a hammer with a 3/4 inch face.
When he was found at 334 Poole Road he had still been alive and was accompanied to the hospital by a policeman who stayed with him until he died at 2.27am on 22 May 1939.
After he died his clothes were removed and sent to the police laboratory.
When the police questioned Walter Dinnivan's granddaughter she told them that on Sunday 14 May 1939 the retired fishmonger had been to the flat and had asked Walter Dinnivan to take over a certain property. She said that it was her impression that Walter Dinnivan had told her that the retired fishmonger had asked him for money.
As such, the police said that in view of that information they went to see the retired fishmonger late on the night of 22 May 1939 at 1 Ingworth Road in Branksome, noting that he lived there under filthy conditions in one room, the only furniture there being a small bed, chair, table and sundry small articles.
The policeman that went to see him said, 'I am a police officer. I am making enquiries into the murder of Walter Dinnivan at 334 Poole Road. I understand you knew him', to which the retired fishmonger said, 'Yes, very well'. The police then took down a written statement from him in which he said that he had known Walter Dinnivan for about forty years and that up until about four years earlier he and his wife had occasionally visited him and his family at 334 Poole Road. He said that he went about a year earlier when Walter Dinnivan's son was lying ill at 334 Poole Road and that since then he had been twice, once on Sunday 14 May 1939 and another on the Tuesday or Wednesday, 14 or 15 May 1939. He said that his reason for calling on the Sunday was to ask Walter Dinnivan to take over his two houses at 1 and 2 Ingworth Road, adding that they were mortgaged for £700 and that he was in arrears with the mortgage interest. He said that Walter Dinnivan told him that he was not interested in small property but had asked him how much he owed on the mortgage and said that he told him about £40 and said that Walter Dinnivan said, 'You want somewhere about £30 to get you out of trouble', and said that he replied, 'Yes, I expect it will', or something like that. He said that he had a drink of whisky at the flat and remained there until about 9pm.
The retired fishmonger said that on the 16 or 17 May 1939 he had been walking along the Poole Road when he had seen Walter Dinnivan standing at the gates to his house and said that Walter Dinnivan invited him in for a drink and that he accepted and had a glass of whisky. He said that he only stayed for about a quarter of an hour, but said that before he left Walter Dinnivan said to him, 'How do you stand for money now, would a fiver be any good to you?' and said that he replied 'Yes' and that Walter Dinnivan gave him three £1 notes and £2 in silver which he took from a safe. He asserted that Walter Dinnivan also showed him his late wife's jewellery and that although he did not say do, he assumed that Walter Dinnivan had produced it from the safe where it was normally kept.
When the retired fishmonger explained his movements for Sunday 21 May 1939, he said that he left his house at about 8.30pm and purchased a packet of cigarettes at a local shop in the Bourne Valley Road and then returned to his house within about five minutes. He said that he remained home until about 9.30 to 9.45pm, and then walked into Bournemouth. He said that he was too late to get a drink saying that the public houses closed at 10pm, noting that he had heard a clock strike ten before reaching Bournemouth Square. He said that he walked round the pier and through Pine Walk and afterwards caught the 10.58 bus from Bournemouth Hants and Dorset Bus station to Bourne Valley Road, and arrived home at about 11.20pm.
The policeman said that the retired fishmonger struck him as being a peculiar and eccentric person and said that he had the greatest difficulty in getting him to apply his mind to his questioning. He said that he talked about irrelevant matters, but that in spite of that, he exercised care in what was being written in his statement.
The policeman said that he could not say that he seriously suspected him at that time because he had ascertained that he had been smoking ordinary plain cigarettes, adding that he had wondered if the retired fishmonger had been sufficiently intelligent or cunning enough to have dropped the hair curler and cork tipped cigarette ends at the scene of the crime. He added that he had been aware that Walter Dinnivan had been in the habit of having women and prostitutes over to his flat and at that time had turned his attention to that aspect of the investigation. He said that he felt obliged to leave the retired fishmonger temporarily out as a line of enquiry to deal with other suspects, and particularly to investigate what he considered to important information that he had been given by a prostitute to the effect that another prostitute who he knew had been to the flat several times a week, had said that she had been in his flat on the night of the murder. However, the policeman noted that after searching enquiry, he eventually determined that that information was false, which he added brought forward a prosecution in itself for a charge of causing a public mischief.
However, the policeman said that he did not feel entirely satisfied with the retired fishmonger and said that he saw him again on 29 May 1939 at his address and asked him whether he could give him the name of any person who might have seen him on the Sunday evening, 21 May 1939, when he went out to Bournemouth and said that he gave him the name of a Scotch girl who had a collie dog that had been sitting in the gardens at Bournemouth, saying that he thought that she might have seen him. The policeman said that he made a search of the retired fishmongers house and said that he found a bundle of 23 brown paper bags on the floor in the pantry. He said that he asked the retired fishmonger whether he minded him taking them, and said that the retired fishmonger replied, 'No, I have had them for years'. The policeman said that when he examined them he found that they were identical with the blood-stained bag found at the scene of the crime.
He added that after numerous enquiries, he later discovered that the hair curler found at the scene of the murder was of uncommon manufacture and then after much difficulty, eventually traced the retired fishmongers wife to 7 Upper Terrace Road in Bournemouth, where she was employed as a domestic help and that when he took a statement from her regarding whether he used hair curlers, she then produced a curler of identical manufacture to the one that was found at the scene of the murder.
The police report noted that after they had left the retired fishmonger's wife's flat, a man from the Editorial Department at the Bournemouth Daily Echo, interviewed her and that during the course of the interview she handed him a further hair curler that she asked him to give to the police, which the newspaper reporter did on 9 June 1939 at Branksome Police Station, at which point the police said they found that it was also identical to the one found at Walter Dinnivan's flat.
The police later learnt that the retired fishmonger's wife had found the two curlers in a room at 43 Wimborne Road in Bournemouth when she had gone to live there with her husband, before which she said that the retired fishmonger had been living there with another woman. When the police went to interview that woman at 791 Western Boulevard in White Moor, Nottingham where she was then living she told them that she was married but separated from her husband and had lived with the retired fishmonger from 1932 until September 1938. She said that from February 1938 until September 1938 she had lived with him at 43 Wimborne Road where they had run a boarding house. She said that she remembered that while she was at that address she had accumulated some hair curlers that had been left behind by visitors and placed them in a drawer of a dressing table in a room.
When she was shown the hair curler that was found at 334 Poole Road, she said that it was similar to those that she had left at 43 Wimborne Road and said that she had found them in the room of a certain woman that was then living at Rookery Nook in Poole Hill, Commercial Road, Bournemouth.
When the police went to interview that women at Rookery Nook, she said that from about June 1938 she had occupied two furnished rooms with her husband at 43 Wimborne Road in Bournemouth which was a guest house. She said that at that time the retired fishmonger had been living there with a woman and that she ran the guest house. However, she said that in September 1938 the proprietess left, but that the retired fishmonger stayed. She said that a few weeks later a woman came to live at the guest house who she was introduced to as being the retired fishmonger's wife. The woman said that she and the retired fishmonger's wife continued to live there until about Christmas 1938 when they, she and the retired fishmonger's wife, went to live at 1 Ingworth Road in Branksome. She said that shortly after, the retired fishmonger also left and joined them at 1 Ingworth Road. She said that the retired fishmonger and his wife continued to live at 1 Ingworth Road until about February 1939 when his wife left him and said that she herself then also soon after left.
The police report stated that at that stage of the enquiry, particularly as their enquiries had eliminated certain other persons who had been looked on as having possible motives for the murder, they strongly suspected the retired fishmonger of having carried out the murder. The report stated that the police determined that if they could get a good set of finger impressions from him that they would be able to say whether it was his finger or thumb print on the beer tumbler that was found at the flat.
The police said that they made enquiries at the Bournemouth Police Office and of certain local officers who had known the retired fishmonger for many years and were informed that he had not been convicted of any offences and as such, they went to see him at his address on 13 June 1939 and asked whether he had any objections to his fingerprints being taken. He said that he didn't and they were then taken.
After his fingerprints were forwarded to Scotland Yard and examined, it was found that the thumb print on the tumbler was identified as his.
The police said that they appreciated the fact that the retired fishmonger had been to Walter Dinnivan's flat on two occasions within the week preceding his murder and said that in consequence they went to see him again at 1 Ingworth Road on 15 June 1939 and took a further statement from him under caution, noting that on that occasion he was far more serious minded and that they were consequently able to get a better statement from him.
The police report stated that the retired fishmonger first made reference to having loaned Walter Dinnivan £200 many years before when Walter Dinnivan had been in the motor business. He then went on to speak of his financial position and said that the Great Torrington Building Society who held the mortgage on his house had foreclosed and that a court Order for possession had been made on 10 May 1939, which was to take effect within 14 days of that date.
He then said that at 8pm on Sunday 14 May 1939 he had seen Walter Dinnivan alone in Walter Dinnivan's drawing room at 334 Poole Road and told him that he had lost the last bit of his property and had to clear out. He said that he then suggested to Walter Dinnivan that it would be a good investment for him if he were to take it over for £750, but said that Walter Dinnivan declined, saying that he was not interested in small property. He said that he had a drink of whisky at the flat in an old-fashioned glass shaped like a flower vase and curving at the centre.
The retired fishmonger then said that on the afternoon of Tuesday or Wednesday 16 or 17 May 1939 that he saw Walter Dinnivan at the gates to his house at 334 Poole Road. He said that Walter Dinnivan had previously told him that he was going to the Salisbury Races and said to him, 'You still made up your mind not to go to Salisbury Races? How much money have you got?'. The retired fishmonger said that he replied, 'About a fiver', and said that Walter Dinnivan then asked him if a fiver would be of any good to him which he said, 'Yes, thank you very much. If I have any luck at the Derby I will pay you back'. The retired fishmonger said that Walter Dinnivan then invited him into his house and gave him £5 and asked him if he wanted a drink. The retired fishmonger said that he had a small whisky from the same glass that he had used on the previous visit and mentioned that the bottom of it was no bigger than his two fingers. He also went on to say that he had no beer there although he would have preferred it to whisky if he had been asked.
The police report noted that the retired fishmonger was still quite definite that he had not been at the flat on the Sunday 21 May 1939 and went on to say that the two visits he had mentioned were the only occasions that he had been to the flat within six or seven years, which the police report noted was of course in contradiction to his previous statement.
The retired fishmonger then repeated his previous statement that between 7pm and 8pm on 21 May 1939 he had gone out and purchased a packet of cigarettes and that shortly afterwards he returned to his house where he remained listening to his wireless until about 9.40pm. He said then that he walked into Bournemouth and along the way saw the woman with her dog sitting with a man in the pine walk.
He said that when he had gone to buy the cigarettes he had been wearing a plus four suit and that when he had gone into Bournemouth he had changed into long trousers. He said that he had returned from Bournemouth just before 11pm and that a bus conductor had scrutinised a new half-crown that he had given him.
The police said that on 19 June 1939 they consulted with several people and determined that there was a prima facie case for the retired fishmonger to answer and they arrested him the following day, 20 June 1939.
They said that when they went to his home at 1 Ingworth Road in Branksome, they said to him, 'Your fingerprint has been identified on a beer tumbler found on a table in the room in which Dinnivan was murdered. The bundle of paper bags found by me in your pantry are identical with the bloodstained paper bag found in the room where Dinnivan was murdered', and then cautioned him. The retired fishmonger then said, 'I never used a beer tumbler, absolutely. It's a lot of rot, what did I want to murder him for?'. When the police told him that he was going to be charged with Walter Dinnivan's murder he said, 'You are not going to arrest me are you? The whole thing is ridiculous, everyone will be astounded'.
He was then taken to Poole Police Station and charged and then made another statement which was described as a reiteration of his previous statement. It was noted by the police that he seemed to have tested the time that it took to walk from his home to Bournemouth Square, stating that it took him 35 minutes.
When he appeared before the Justices at the Poole Petty Sessional Court on 20 June 1939 he was described as behaving in the most extraordinary manner and appeared to treat the proceeding in a frivolous way.
When he was charged by the Clerk of the Court the retired fishmonger addressed the Chairman of the Bench and said, 'I am just as innocent as you are sire. Of course, I don't know whether you did it or not. I would not kill a cat let alone a man'. He then said, quite audibly in the Court, 'I'm getting damned hungry. I have had no breakfast this morning, you gentlemen coming like that. I had the porridge on the fire and it is still there so far as I know. That is what they give you in prison, isn't it? I have had worse than that. I cannot eat steak, my teeth dropped out on the North Frontier whilst I was fighting for my country'.
The police report noted that whilst the retired fishmonger was under detention he had smoked three cigarettes and had thrown away the ends which were then collected by the police and on 21 June 1939 sent to the police laboratory for analysis. An analyst had already reported that the cigarette ends found in the room that Walter Dinnivan was murdered had borne traces of saliva that belonged to No. 3 Blood Group, which covered about five percent of the population. Then, when the analyst examined the three cigarette ends recovered from the retired fishmonger while he was in detention, it was found that the saliva on them was also from No. 3 Blood Group.
The police then searched the retired fishmongers’ houses and certain articles of clothing were then sent away for examination. They also found a number of lady’s hairpins, a hair slide and a ladies handbag.
On 20 June 1939 the police also searched the sideboard at 334 Poole Road in the drawing room where Walter Dinnivan was murdered and amongst a number of glasses found a small whisky glass that was curving in at the centre and seemed similar to the one that the retired fishmonger had described drinking out of.
They also searched the waste paper and accumulated rubbish at 334 Poole Road and retained all brown paper bags found there and stated that none of them corresponded with the bloodstained bag that was found in the room where Walter Dinnivan was murdered.
The police also examined the route between 334 Poole Road and 1 Ingworth Road, looking for the weapon but said that they found none. They also measured the time taken to walk from one to the other and said that it took no more than ten minutes.
The police then said that in order to provide evidence of the retired fishmonger's embarrassed financial position, which they said they thought would provide a motive for the crime, they took a statement from the clerk employed by the auctioneer at 233 High Street in Poole who said that on 15 March 1939, the retired fishmonger of 1 Ingworth Road in Branksome had sent certain articles of furniture to the auction mart with instruction to sell them by public auction and said that the goods were sold for £35.15.0 and that after deductions a cheque for £28.12.6 was forwarded to the retired fishmonger on 21 March 1939 which was cleared through their account on 23 March 1939.
The police report stated that when they looked into the mortgage on the retired fishmonger's property a statement was provided them by the Secretary of the Great Torrington Building Society in Great Torrington, Devon, who said that in June 1937 the Society had by way of mortgage advanced the sum of £700 to the retired fishmonger on the security of his property’s at 1 and 2 Ingworth Road in Branksome. The statement said that the system under which the advance was made was that the advance was to be repaid to the Society by way of monthly instalments and to include capital an interest thereon.
The Secretary said that the retired fishmonger satisfactorily maintained his obligations for a period of nine months from the date of his mortgage deed, from 2 June 1937 until, and including, February 1938, but that since that date, no instalment were paid by the retired fishmonger and that on 10 May 1938, an order for possession within 14 days was obtained at the Poole County Court by the Society.
The senior clerk at Poole County Court stated that on 10 May 1939, the retired fishmonger was summoned by the Great Torrington Building Society to answer the plaintiff's claim to recover possession of the dwelling house at 1 Ingworth Road in Branksome, on the grounds that he had defaulted in payment of the instalments in respect to the £700 mortgage which he held. He said that an order for possession of the property within 14 days was then made by the judge and service of the Order was effected to the retired fishmonger on 16 May 1939. He noted that the retired fishmonger appeared in person and was present when the order was made.
The police noted that the blood-stained brown paper bag found at the scene of the murder was identical with the bags found in the retired fishmongers' possession, and stated that photographs of the bags were made for the purpose of comparison that would prove beyond doubt that they were identical, due to the irregularities and characteristics of the serrations of the edges. The police report noted that the bags had been made on an obsolete type of machine and that the method of pasting the bottom of the bag definitely determined that the bags had been made on that type of machine.
A statement was taken from a representative of Messrs. Strachan & Hensahw Ltd, Whitehall Iron Works in Whitehall Bristol, in which he stated that he was of the opinion that the bags had been made on one of their obsolete type of machines. The report noted that additional enquiries were also being pursued through the British Paper Bag Federation to find the actual makers of the bag and their source of distribution, particularly in the Bournemouth district.
The report added that enquiries had been made of all paper bag factors and certain shops in the Bournemouth district, but said that no one could supply or assist in finding such a bag. The police said that they had also sent officers personally to Bristol, Maidstone, Ottery St Mary and London to make enquiries of paper bag manufacturers but said that they were all unanimous that the bags were of uncommon manufacture and made on an obsolete type of machine. However, the police noted that there were manufacturers still using such machines in various parts of the country and that it was thought that they would eventually find further information regarding the origin of the bag.
The report stated that it was feasible that the retired fishmonger had retained the particular bags after he retired from his fishmonger business and kept them at his house.
The police report also noted that they had traced two sources of supply to him at Bournemouth for paper bags but said that the bags that he was supplied were different to the ones in question.
The police report noted that it was a most extraordinary thing that the hair curler found at the flat was also of an uncommon make. The police interviewed the director of Messrs. A Burnett & Co., Ltd who supplied the wholesale and chain stores with various kinds of hair curlers and said that the curler found at the scene of the crime was made of celluloid and had not been on the market for at least four years. He added that he was of the opinion that it was of French origin and had been manufactured at Oyannax in France.
The police also interviewed the proprietor of Rosenwald Brothers, Haberdashery Manufacturers and Importers of 27 Noble Street, EC, and said that he recognised a photograph of the hair curler and said that it was popular many years before stating that his firm used to stock such curlers and that it was manufactured at Oyannax in France. He added that the curler in question had been superseded by a curler manufactured from non-inflammable material such as metal, rubber or synthetic matter.
The police said that they also made enquiries at all hairdressers and haberdashery stores in the Bournemouth district, but said that they were all unable to obtain such a curler.
The police said that they were unable to do more with the cigarette ends other than determine the saliva blood groupings, noting that they had submitted them to experts at the firms of Messrs. John Player & Sons in Nottingham, Messrs. Ardath in London, Messrs. Carrerus in London and Godrey Phillips in London but said that neither firm said that they were able to state what brand they were although the experts from Messrs. John Players and Ardath Ltd had thought that they might have been a cheap Turkish brand.
The police report however, noted that a policeman stationed at Bourne Valley said that he knew the retired fishmonger very well and said that in the Autumn of 1938 he remembered the retired fishmonger attending the Bourne Valley Road Police Station in regard to a fire that he had had, and said that he was quite definite that the retired fishmonger had been smoking cork tipped cigarettes in a holder. He said that he thought that that was most unusual as the idea of cigarettes being cork tipped was to dispense with the use of a holder.
When the police reviewed the statements given by Walter Dinnivan's granddaughter they noted that she could give no evidence of entering the drawing room during the period that Walter Dinnivan had been lying there as she had been prevented from entering the house.
However, the report noted that she had said that on the afternoon of 21 May 1939 she had gone with Walter Dinnivan to Lulworth Cove and had returned home with the party at 7.15pm and remained there until she left for the dance at 7.50pm. She said that to her knowledge, the only persons that were in the drawing room on that Sunday evening were Walter Dinnivan, her brother and her two friends, noting that they all left with her to go to the dance leaving Walter Dinnivan alone.
She said that she was certain that there was no beer bottle or tumbler on the table when he had left the house and stated that if the beer bottle had not been brought to the house by some unknown person then it had been brought in by Walter Dinnivan from a chiffonier in the hall or dining room where Walter Dinnivan often kept a bottle of beer. She added that the tumbler found on the table was normally kept in the kitchen, but that there were a number of various glasses in the sideboard in the drawing room and it was said that there was some doubt as to where the tumbler actually came from. She added that the green whisky glass was usually used by Walter Dinnivan when he drank whisky and that it might have been in the room when she had left the house.
She added that Walter Dinnivan was very particular about dirty tumblers and other utensils being washed up after each meal and accordingly said that it was her regular practice to go to the drawing room and gather up empty glasses that might have been used and to wash them up in the kitchen.
She also said that on the Sunday morning, 21 May 1939, that she had gone into the drawing room and had shaken up the cushions on the settee and chairs, washed the ashtrays and replaced them in the drawing room. She also added that she was emphatic that there was no dirty beer tumbler in either of the rooms that morning and added that any beer tumbler brought from the drawing room to the kitchen for washing would have been kept on a shelf in the kitchen until wanted again.
She added that Walter Dinnivan had smoked Kensitas cigarettes and that thre had been no corked tipped cigarettes kept in the house. She said however, that she had smoked corked tipped cigarettes about two months prior to the murder, but was certain that there were no cork tipped cigarette ends in the drawing room on the Sunday in question.
She also added that she did not use the type of hair curler found in the drawing room and that she was sure that the curler found had not been on the floor when she had left the house at 7.50pm.
It was noted that she was not dogmatic about the brown bag and piece of green paper not being in the drawing room but said that she clearly did not remember seeing either of them. The police report added that it could safely be accepted that if they had been lying on the floor in the drawing room where they were found that she would have seen them.
The granddaughter also spoke of Walter Dinnivan's habits in keeping the inner main door locked, noting that Walter Dinnivan seemed apprehensive that some person could easily walk into the house unheard and so accordingly insisted on it being kept locked. She also said that it was also his invariable habit to lock the inner door when sitting in the drawing room and said that she remembered one occasion when a friend spoke about the door always being locked and said that Walter Dinnivan had then observed that it was his habit.
She said that Walter Dinnivan always had his meals in the dining room and that when he was in the drawing room he would sit in the same armchair that was later found bloodstained which was near the fireplace and had its back to the window. She noted that Walter Dinnivan didn't like fresh air and said that she was certain that on the Sunday 21 May 1939 that with the exception of the bathroom window, all the windows in the house had been secure and that the kitchen door was locked.
She also said that her grandmother’s jewellery was kept in the safe in the bedroom that Walter Dinnivan occupied and that Walter Dinnivan always carried the key to the safe on his person, adding that she could identify that key as being on the bunch of keys that the police found in the safe.
The granddaughter also said that when she left the house on the Sunday evening that Walter Dinnivan had been wearing a diamond tie ring, a single stone diamond ring and a wedding ring, as well as a silver watch, all of which were determined to have been stolen from him.
However, she added that when she had left on the Sunday evening there were certain articles of her jewellery that had been visible on the dressing table in her bedroom but that they had not been touched.
The granddaughter also spoke of an important incident that occurred on 14 May 1939 in which she said that when she returned home at 11pm, Walter Dinnivan had told her that the retired fishmonger had called to see him and had stayed for about an hour. He said that the retired fishmonger had wanted to get rid of a house but that he had told him that he was not interested in small property as it didn't pay. She said that Walter Dinnivan had also mentioned that the retired fishmonger was coming back, but that as it was getting late he told her that he was going to tell him that he didn't entertain people at that time of night. She said that she had got the impression that there had been a beer bottle standing on the table in the drawing room and that it was that that had caused her to ask Walter Dinnivan whether he had had company and said that as a result of that she thought that Walter Dinnivan had told her about the retired fishmonger having called.
Walter Dinnivan's grandson said that he went to Lulworth Cove on the Sunday with Walter Dinnivan, his sister and a friend and said that they arrived back at 334 Poole Road at about 7.15pm with Walter Dinnivan, his sister and the friend and her husband. He said that they were in the drawing room and that he had been showing the curios that he had brought back from China. He said that Walter Dinnivan proposed spending a quiet evening on his own and that he and the party then left at 7.50pm and attended a dance at St. Joseph's Hall in Branksome. He said that he was emphatic that when he left that there had been no beer bottle or beer tumbler on the drawing room table. He also stated that Walter Dinnivan smoked the Kensitas brand of cigarettes and that he had never seen him smoke cork tipped ones before.
The male friend that had come back to 334 Poole Road with the party, who was a cinema operator, said that he had had a conversation with Walter Dinnivan who had shown him some valuable wine decanter in the drawing room. He said that he and Walter Dinnivan both smoked cigarettes but that they were not cork tipped. He noted that he had seen a cigarette end with lipstick on it in the ashtray on the table, but the police said that no such cigarette end was found.
The police report noted that on the issue of saliva found on the cigarette ends, they had caused each of the parties in the room to smoke cigarettes and to have the ends taken as evidence such that they could be tested for analysis if required.
The cinema operator said that he saw no corked tipped cigarette ends in the room and was certain that there was no beer bottle standing on the table during the time that he was at the house.
His wife, who had been with him and who was a hairdresser said that she had been with the party at 334 Poole Road and had left together with them at 7.50pm. She added that she didn't use hair curlers of the type found and said that she didn't see any beer bottle on the table or any cork tipped cigarette ends on the floor in the room.
The police report stated that the approximate time of the murder could be probably fixed by reference to the statements of the two elderly spinsters who occupied the top flat at 334 Poole Road.
The first spinster said that on the Sunday evening 1 May 1939 that she had listened to the Church Service o the wireless that started at 8pm and terminated at 8.40pm. She said that after the service, she was occupied in writing letters in her room which was immediately above the drawing room in which Walter Dinnivan was murdered. She said that she was not clear as to the actual time but said that it was during the period that she had been writing that she heard a noise in the flat below that sounded like a person falling and said that she then heard slight murmurings and noises which she described as muffled knocks as though on a carpet. She said that she formed the impression that Walter Dinnivan had probably been celebrating the return of his grandson and had fallen on the floor as a result of his excessive drinking.
However, it was noted that the first spinster had evidently heard unusual noises from the flat below as she then called her other spinster into her room and they both said that they could hear heavy breathing and also heard two dull thuds. They both said that they were so apprehensive because of the unusual sounds that at about 9.30pm they went down into the grounds of the house to investigate and the second spinster said that she looked through Walter Dinnivan's drawing room window and saw the electric fire burning but did not see the body of Walter Dinnivan on the floor. However, it was noted that the first spinster said that she had noticed some dark spots on the curtains of the drawing room which were later found to be the blood splashes that were later found on the curtains.
The two spinsters said that they were satisfied that everything was in order and returned to their flat. However, the second spinster said that she came back down to the garden again at 10pm and discovered that the door to Walter Dinnivan's flat was locked and called out to him but got no reply.
However, it was noted that neither of the spinsters saw any person in the grounds of the place.
The police report noted the the retired fishmonger's neighbours who lived in the adjoining house at 2 Ingworth Road made several statements but noted that although they were honest, they were unreliable.
The police said that when they spoke to the woman from 2 Ingworth Road on the 27 May 1939 she said that on the Sunday 21 May 1939 at about 8.30pm she had heard the retired fishmonger in the adjoining house switch on the wireless. She said that she put her wireless on to listen to the news bulletin at 9pm and that although she remained indoors the whole of the evening she stated that she didn't take sufficient notice as to whether the retired fishmonger remained in after 8.30pm. However, she stated that she heard his wireless on a good bit but could not be definite about it.
The police said that when they spoke to her again on 23 June 1939 and took a further statement she said that on the Sunday 21 May 1939 from 8.30pm until just after 10pm she had been in her living room at the back of the house and after that time she sat in her back bedroom upstairs until just after 11pm and then went to bed. She said that the retired fishmonger's wireless was going continuously in one loud boom from 8.30pm to 9.30pm and that after 9.30pm until just after she retired upstairs the wireless seemed to be on and off as though it was not being attended to and sounded as though it was oscillating. She also said that she heard the retired fishmonger cough just after 10pm and had the impression that he was in the house at that time, and said that in fact she didn't think that he had gone out at all on the Sunday evening.
The woman then said that after she was in bed she heard hammering in the retired fishmongers' flat until about midnight.
She said that the whole of the time that she had been living at 2 Ingworth Road she had never known the retired fishmonger to remain indoors any evening after 7pm and said that she had never heard the wireless going as it had on the Sunday evening, 21 May 1939. The police report stated that the woman seemed fairly conversant with the retired fishmonger's movements as she was definitely afraid of him and used to watch him go in and out.
When they spoke to the woman's husband he said that they had begun renting 2 Ingworth Road from the retired fishmonger on 4 April 1938. He said that there was a fire at 1 Ingworth Road at some point and that after it was reinstated in December 1938 said that the retired fishmonger's wife went to live there and was later joined by the retired fishmonger. The husband said that on 21 May 1939 he had been in his garden during the evening and came into the house just before 9pm and switched on the wireless and listened to the news. He said that just after the news, the wireless was switched off and that he then sat reading in his back-living room until he retired to bed just after 11pm. He said that when he had entered his house just before 9pm he remembered that the retired fishmonger's wireless was going but said that he did not remember whether it was switched off later ot not. However, he said that he heard definite noises in the retired fishmonger's house and thought that the retired fishmonger had been packing his goods as he had previously told him that he was leaving the house. He said that he took no particular notice as to the time that the noises continued but said that after he got to bed he heard the retired fishmonger's wireless going and heavy hammering. The police report also noted that there was no doubt that the husband was afraid of the retired fishmonger who he had described as an erratic and unsociable sort of man.
It was noted that the retired fishmonger spoke to the husband twice at 2 Ingworth Road, once on the Sunday 28 May and then again on either the Wednesday or Thursday, 31 May or 1 June 1939 and that on each occasion had spoken to him about the murder and had expressed the opinion that it would have taken more than one person to commit such a brutal murder and also referred to the fact that the police had not yet caught the murderer.
The daughter that lived at 2 Ingworth Road said that at about 8.15pm on Sunday 21 May 1939 she was with her fiancee on a motor cycle when she saw the retired fishmonger on the Bourne Valley Road, saying that he was walking in the direction of his home. The police report noted that he had evidently been to purchase some cigarettes at the local shop which they said was not disputed. The daughter said that when she had seen the retired fishmonger he had been wearing a brown plus four suit. She said that she didn't return home until about 10.30pm and said that she didn't hear the wireless on in the retired fishmonger's house when she went to bed at about 11.30pm.
The police report noted that it was ascertained that the retired fishmonger had bought a large packet of cigarettes at the general shop in Bourne Valley Road in Branksome on the evening of 21 May 1939. The police found that he had been served by a woman at the shop and that the cigarettes that he had bought were not corked tipped, and stated that there were in fact no cork tipped cigarettes stocked in the shop.
The police report noted that it did not concern them what the retired fishmonger might have done between 10pm and 11pm because if the spinsters were to be believed, Walter Dinnivan was probably dead before 9.45pm.
However, the report noted that when they saw a prostitute at 625a Wimborne Road in Bournemouth who the retired fishmonger had said that he had seen in Bournemouth at 10pm she emphatically denied that she had been in Bournemouth on the Sunday 21 May 1939. The police determined that she was known to the retired fishmonger and had told them that the retired fishmonger had told her about at some point not to go into Bournemouth as the police were looking for a blonde woman in connection with the murder.
However, the police report noted that the prostitute was a most unreliable person and questioned whether any notice should be taken of what she said.
The police report noted that in regards to the Bus Conductor that the retired fishmonger had said should remember him because he had scrutinised a new half-crown that he had tendered him on a bus at about 11pm on the night of the murder, that they had seen all of the conductors who had been on duty that night on the Bournemouth/Poole route and had been unable to find anyone who remembered the incident.
When the police examined the background of the retired fishmonger they found that he was a married man, 70 years of age and a native of Torquay and a retired fishmonger. He was separated from his wife who lived at 7 Upper Terrace Road in Bournemouth, having been legally separated since 1933. He had joined the Dorsetshire Regiment at the age of 17 and saw service in Egypt, India and South Africa for 14 years. When he had returned to Poole after leaving the army he became the licensee of the Poole Arms Hotel and remained there for 12 months after which he took up business as a fishmonger in Parkstone from 1903 until 1914. He then joined the 5th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment and served a few months before being discharged owing to ill health. In 1918 he opened a business at 1 Purbeck Road as a fishmonger and remained there until 1933 when the business failed. Since then he was not employed and had lived on the income from the property that he owned.
It was noted in the police report that he was twice suspected of arson by firing his premises to obtain insurance and was looked on by the police as a plausible and cunning man.
The police obtained a statement from a trades enquiry agent who lived in Lea Cottage, Leigh Lane Wimborne who alleged that on 28 February 1939 the retired fishmonger had demanded £30 from him and that upon his declining to give him the money had threatened to give information that he had been seen coming from the retired fishmonger's house on the occasion that one of the suspicious fires had taken place. The trades enquiry agent described the retired fishmonger as a dirty blackmailer, but the police report noted that the trades enquiry agent was a shady character and had been associated with the retired fishmonger at the time of the fire.
The police also took statements from six people who all spoke of Walter Dinnivan more or less complaining that the retired fishmonger had been pestering him for money.
The police report noted that in reviewing the case, it appeared that there was ample evidence to suggest a motive for the retired fishmonger having carried out the murder. The report stated that from March 1939 onwards, the retired fishmonger was obviously in straitened circumstances, so much so that he sold his furniture in March 1939 and had been in arrears with the interest on his mortgage and had been served with a notice to quit on 24 March 1939. The report further stated that it could be further seen that the retired fishmonger had seen Walter Dinnivan twice during that period of notice at Walter Dinnivan's house in order to obtain money to help him out of his difficulties.
The police report noted that according to the retired fishmonger's statement, he had once loaned Walter Dinnivan £299 and that he might have thought that Walter Dinnivan had a duty to assist him in his current financial difficulties.
The report stated that in view of what they knew about Walter Dinnivan's feelings towards the retired fishmonger, it was scarcely feasible that he would have called him in from the street and given him £5 to go to the races. The report further stated that whether that was true or not, the retired fishmonger had knowledge that Walter Dinnivan's wife's jewellery was in the safe and probably knew that Walter Dinnivan carried the key to the safe on his person.
The police report noted that the most important evidence that they had against the retired fishmonger was the thumb print on the tumbler and noted that the only other prints on the tumbler had belonged to Walter Dinnivan. The police report then noted that if the retired fishmonger later claimed, as they thought he would, that he had drunk beer from the tumbler on a previous occasion, it would have meant hat the glass had not been washed by the granddaughter and that Walter Dinnivan must have picked up a dirty beer tumbler and put it in the sideboard, which the police report stated seemed most unlikely. The report noted that the only finger impressions on the bottle were those of Walter Dinnivan which they stated naturally indicated that he was the only person that had handled it. The report then stated that the evidence then seemed to fit in that Walter Dinnivan had poured beer from the bottle into the tumbler and that the person that was being entertained had then handled the tumbler.
The report then noted that the retired fishmonger no doubt had legitimate access to the flat some days prior to the murder and had probably had a drink there. However, it noted that he had been emphatic that he had drunk from an old-fashioned glass that had in no way resembled the tumbler on which his thumb print was discovered. The report noted that he appeared to have gone out of his way and persisted in saying that he had not used a beer tumbler although he would have preferred beer if it had been offered to him.
The report further noted that the granddaughter had been under the impression that when she had returned to the flat on the Sunday 14 May 1939 that there had been a beer bottle standing on the table in the drawing room and said that Walter Dinnivan had told her that the retired fishmonger had called. The report then notes that it therefore appeared quite likely that Walter Dinnivan had entertained the retired fishmonger with beer on that evening.
The police report noted that the creasing of the blood-stained paper bag with the corner torn off suggested that it had contained the weapon with which the murder had been carried out and that it had been brought to the flat by the murderer and not found. It then stated that it was certain that the bag was of uncommon manufacture and most difficult to obtain which increased the value of that evidence against the retired fishmonger who had similar bags in his possession.
The report also stated that the hair curler was undoubtedly an article that had not been manufactured for years and noted that it seemed to be something more than a coincidence that the retired fishmonger's wife should be in possession of two similar curlers.
The report also noted that the cork tipped cigarettes were undoubtedly smoked or the ends brought to the flat by the murderer and that for what it was worth, bore traces of saliva that belonged to the retired fishmonger's blood group.
The report then noted that the retired fishmonger was unable to provide a satisfactory alibi over the vital period and noted that whilst his neighbours statements might tend to assist him, they could not have been accurate when the woman that lived at 2 Ingworth Road had said that the retired fishmonger had not gone out of his house all evening because if the retired fishmonger's story was to be accepted, he had said that he had left the house at about 9.40pm and had been in Bournemouth at about 11pm.
The report stated that they had no doubt that the woman at 2 Ingworth Road had heard the retired fishmonger's wireless most of the evening, which they stated the retired fishmonger probably deliberately left on to give the impression that he had been in the whole evening. The report noted that he was successful, but also noted that it was important that the woman had said that it was most unusual and that it was booming on and off and oscillating as though it was not being attended to.
The police report noted that they did not advise calling the retired fishmonger's neighbours in for the prosecution, stating that they would probably be called in for the defence and that they would then probably do better in the cross examination of them there.
The report concluded that the police all agreed that Walter Dinnivan had known his killer and that the killer had known that he had carried the key to his safe on his person, knowledge that the retired fishmonger certainly had. The report stated that the retired fishmonger associated with women of the prostitute class and had probably known of Walter Dinnivan's association with similar women and suggested that that might have been the reason that he had dropped the hair curler and cork cigarette ends in the drawing room. The report noted that one of the cigarette ends was found on a cushion on a settee and reiterated that it had evidently either been placed there or thrown there as there was no sign of burning on the cushion.
The report noted that the retired fishmonger was an abnormal and eccentric man and noted that the ferocity in which the murder had been carried out indicated that it was committed by a similarly unstable man. They noted that when the retired fishmonger had been arrested they found a framed newspaper cutting of Walter Dinnivan and his two grandchildren hanging over his bed.
As such, the police report concluded that when taken as a whole, the evidence seemed to provide a series of circumstances that could not be mere coincidences and that they had no doubt that the retired fishmonger was the man responsible for the murder.
However, at the trial on 14 October 1939, the retired fishmonger was acquitted after it was heard that there was no direct evidence against him. The judge noted that despite a wide search, no weapon had been found and none of the jewellery was traced.
It was heard at the trial that the door to the safe in the bedroom was closed but not locked and that only a 10s note and some silver was found in it whereas it was usual for Walter Dinnivan to keep about £25 or £30 there. It was also heard that jewellery from his fingers was also missing as was his wallet in which he normally kept about £10. It was noted that none of the missing money was traced to the retired fishmonger.
When a pathologist gave evidence on the testing of the saliva on the cigarette ends he said that he did not think that the method of telling the blood group of a smoker frm the saliva on a cigarette end was sufficiently accurate yet to be applied in important cases.
When the judge summed up, he referred to the woman's hair curler that was found at the scene and said, 'Is it suggested that the assailant took along with him a woman's hair curler? Is it the sort of thing that people carry about? Ask yourself the question, do you really think, having regard to the very grave duty you have to discharge, that you can rely on this hair curler?'. when the judge referred to the saliva grouping on the cigarette ends to which the retired fishmonger belonged, he noted that there were 15,000 people of that blood group in Bournemouth. the judge said that it was proper that they should punish the guilty, but that they should be quite certain that they were not convicting the wrong person. He said, 'It is better that dozens of guilty persons should escape rather than one innocent person should suffer wrongly'.
When the retired fishmonger gave evidence in court he said, 'I never thought they would suspect an old man like me of killing him. The man could eat me. He was stronger than I am. Mr Dinnivan had arms like a gorilla'. He also said that he had never pestered Walter Dinnivan for money. He denied murdering Walter Dinnivan and said that he had once tried to kill a cat but could not do it.
He also added that when he had met Walter Dinnivan on 14 May 1939 he had noticed that there was something very peculiar about him, saying that he appeared nervous.
The jury were absent for about an hour before returning with their verdict of 'Not guilty'.
As the retired fishmonger left the dock a warder handed him a gas mask.
When Walter Dinnivan's estate was settled, he left £21,956 with net personalty of £5,233.
see Western Gazette - Friday 20 October 1939
see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 11 October 1939
see Western Morning News - Saturday 14 October 1939
see Daily Mirror - Wednesday 07 June 1939
see Birmingham Daily Gazette - Wednesday 21 June 1939
see Daily Herald - Tuesday 29 August 1939
see The Scotsman - Monday 16 October 1939
see Sheffield Evening Telegraph - Saturday 14 October 1939
see National Archives - MEPO 3/808