Date: 28 Oct 1949
Stanley Victor Graves was found dead in the River Brent on 28 October 1949.
A 12-year-old boy was tried for his murder at the Old Bailey but acquitted.
Stanley Graves had lived in Fraser Road, Perivale and was last seen playing near his home on the evening of 24 October 1949.
The 12-year-old boy who was charged with Stanley Graves's murder was determined to have been the last person in Stanley Graves's company and it was claimed that he had pushed him into the water.
Several people had seen the 12-year-old boy and Stanley Graves together between 4.30pm and 5pm on 24 October 1949, with the 12-year-old boy riding his bicycle and with Stanley Graves either riding on the cross-bar or running alongside him.
A detective who spoke to the 12-year-old boy on 25 October 1949 said that he told the 12-year-old boy that he had been seen with Stanley Graves on the crossbar of his bicycle on the evening of 24 October 1949 and then asked him where he had left Stanley Graves and it was heard that the 12-year-old boy gave several versions of what happened. He said that when he first questioned the 12-year-old boy on 25 October 1949, he first denied having been with Stanley Graves at all. He then later said that the boy that he had been seen with was another little boy and not Stanley Graves, but later that same day he said that he had left Stanley Graves in Horsenden Park, swearing that he had done nothing to him.
However, the detective said that when they were at the police station, he said that he had hit Stanley Graves two or three times on the side of the head with a piece of wood, that his bicycle had fallen against Stanley Graves hitting his head and that some 'red stuff', which was presumed to be blood, had trickled from the wound. It was said then that the 12-year-old boy had offered to show the police where he had left Stanley Graves and he was taken on an extensive search, but that no sign of Stanley Graves could be found.
However, after the search proved to be unavailing, the 12-year-old boy gave a different version of his story, saying that Stanley Graves 'sort of fainted' and that he put him on top of his bicycle and pushed his bicycle into the woods and left Stanley Graves against a tree and then added, 'Well, he must have walked off'.
However, the 12-year-old boy then gave a fourth version of his story and said, in the presence of his father, that he had left Stanley Graves in Pittshanger Park. After his fourth statement the police also made a search there, but their search was again fruitless.
Later, after the police finished searching Pittshanger Park and were leaving the bank of the river, the 12-year-old boy's father asked him, 'Is the boy in the river?', to which the 12-year-old boy replied, 'He slipped into the river, dad, and I pulled him out, but after that I gave him a push and he went in. He went right under the water but came up, said something, and floated away. I don't know what it was. I was so scared I went straight home'.
Then later, whilst at Wembley Police Station, the 12-year-old boy gave his last version of what happened and said that after leaving school at 4pm, he had gone to the canal bridge at Horsenden Hill where a little boy accompanied by another had asked him for a ride on his bicycle. He said, 'I told the boy to jump on my bicycle and put him on my crossbar and pushed him up to the top of Horsenden Hill. He put his foot into the front wheel, and I hit him. He got off the bicycle and kicked me. He got on the bicycle again and we rode down to the bottom of the hill. But he kept on kicking me. I then took him to Pittshanger Park and we played in the trees. I pushed him against a tree, but he missed the tree and went into the Brent. I saw him go under the water and float away. I ran away because I was scared. That is the truth'. The police said that when they asked the 12-year-old boy for an explanation for his actions, he told them that another boy that he knew had taken a little boy into the park and left him and that he thought that he would do the same. The police noted that that statement was similar to another statement that the 12-year-old boy had made in which he had stated that a boy who lived near him had been taking little children away and robbing them and that he thought that he would do the same.
The post-mortem examination of Stanley Graves found that there were two bruises on his head which were caused before his death, one of which was not inconsistent with a blow from a fist or hand and also consistent with a blow from a piece of wood. However, the pathologist added that the bruises could also have been caused by him falling into the water.
The pathologist gave Stanley Graves's cause of death as being due to drowning.
At the trial the prosecution said that the 12-year-old boy had struck Stanley Graves a blow on the head and that he had then fallen into the river and drowned, and asked the jury whether they thought that he could be held responsible for the consequences of his actions stating, 'although those consequences were entirely unexpected and certainly entirely unintended by him'.
At the trial, the prosecution said that it was perfectly obvious that at least three versions of what the 12-year-old boy said had happened were lies.
The prosecution noted that the detective had interrogated the 12-year-old boy on 25 October 1949 had said, 'You will probably come to the conclusion that as this boy was found three days later drowned in the river, the real truth must lie somewhere between the last two versions he gave. If the version given to his father be the true one, that he pushed the small boy into the water quite deliberately, and with the full knowledge of the probable consequences of doing such a thing, it is my duty to say this is a true indictment. I image you would hesitate very long before you came to the conclusion that a boy of twelve and a half had deliberately taken the life of another small boy, with malice aforethought'.
The prosecution also noted that 'Between the ages of 8 and 14 in our law, a child is presumed not to be able to understand that an action which he performs is a wrong action unless it is proved against him that, in fact, he was capable of such knowledge'.
The defence said that it was an invention on the 12-year-old boy's part if he had said that he had hit Stanley Graves on the forehead and some blood had trickled down and then submitted that the Crown had not made out its case. The defence also added that it was impossible to know whether the 12-year-old boy had pushed Stanley Graves into the river by accident or not.
When the judge summed up, he told the jury that they had to find whether the 12-year-old boy had committed the offence of murder or of manslaughter, or if they were not satisfied that he had done neither, that they could return a verdict of not guilty.
The jury acquitted the 12-year-old boy without retiring, and only 30 seconds after the judge finished his summing up, after which the judge quashed a second charge of a lesser offence other than homicide in connection with the same case. The 12-year -old boy was then immediately discharged.
The 12-year-old boy had been due at the Old Bailey for the trial at 9.30am but had not arrived until 12.15pm, having been brought by police car from the remand home where he was being held. After the 12-year-old boy failed to show up at 9.30am, the judge said, 'I am at a loss to understand how this should have happened, the boy should have been here at 9.30am'.
see Gloucestershire Echo - Tuesday 22 November 1949
see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 21 November 1949
see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 21 November 1949
see Gloucestershire Echo - Monday 21 November 1949
see Liverpool Echo - Monday 21 November 1949