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Unsolved Murders

Arthur Garnet Dove

Age: 79

Sex: male

Date: 15 May 1954

Place: 137 The Midlands, Holt, Trowbridge

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Arthur Garnet Dove died from phosphorous poisoning on 15 May 1954. He died in St Martin's Hospital, Bath a few days after he was taken ill at his home at 137 The Midlands, Holt, near Trowbridge.

Two people, a couple that had lodged with him, were tried for his murder but acquitted.

It was claimed that they had poisoned him with Rodine rat poison. The couple said that he took the poison himself.

The man was a 28-year-old dairy worker and his wife was 21 years old. At the trial, two wills were produced in evidence, the first on bequeathing his estate to his stepson, and a latter will which named the dairy worker as his sole beneficiary and it was claimed that they had arranged for Arthur Dove to make his new will out in their favour, excluding his step-son who was the previous beneficiary, and that they had then murdered him. However, it was later heard that Arthur Dove's estate was worth only £100, and then only £20 after expenses such as Arthur Dove's funeral.

The trial had been preceded by a lengthy magistrate’s hearing during the latter part of 1954.

When the defence had summed up earlier before the magistrates hearing on 4 December 1954, they had said, 'You may well take the view that this is the most extraordinary case of murder which has ever been presented before justices, from which they are asked to consider whether the case should go for trial. You may think, indeed, that that the elephant has been brought to labour and has brought forth a mouse. What is lacking in quality is made up in quantity, since you have listened for four days to a number of witnesses'.

The defence them complimented the way in which the Crown Prosecution Service had presented the case, but said that the evidence in the case had to be separated into watertight compartments and that it had to be considered against each person individually. He noted that the prosecution had said that Arthur Dove might have died in three ways, by accident, by suicide, or by homicide. He said that the prosecution had said that suicide and accident could both be ruled out which left murder, but the defence questioned whether they could discount accident or suicide as possible reasons for Arthur Dove's death, noting that on the point of suicide the prosecution had said that Arthur Dove had enjoyed life, but that the evidence from his step-son had indicated that he was quarrelsome, restless and a sulky person who had had a number of housekeepers who never stayed with him long. The defence submitted that Arthur Dove might have been considered an extremely difficult, irritable and bad-tempered old man and that as the years had gone on he had become more restless and that his memory had got worse. The defence also added the question of Arthur Dove's increasing blindness and noted that his one joy had been reading the newspaper and that it might be thought that one of the chief causes of suicide in old people was bereavement and the risk or fear of losing one's sensibilities and that as such, suicide could not be discounted.

When the defence raised the question of murder, they noted the implausibility that the dairy worker and his wife might have actively helped Arthur Dove to prepare his will and then, 'did him in', noting that the will was never a will and had never started to be a will, stating that it was just a blank sheet of paper and was not made out, with only the name and address put on the outside. The defence then asked whether he couple would commit murder for £100, which was the value of Arthur Dove's estate and which turned out to be only worth £20 after expenses were settled.

The defence then said, 'It is suggested that these two people committed murder for filthy lucre. The young step-son had told the dairy worker the will was no good, and the dairy worker had replied, 'That is right'. You may think it will be a sad day in the English courts that the mere fact that a will was made a few weeks before a person died raises anything in the nature of evidence against the beneficiaries that they had in fact murdered the deceased'. The defence then went on to say that it was not disputed that Arthur Dove had died from phosphorus poisoning, but said that it had to be proved that it had been administered by somebody's hand, and that it was not by accident or suicide and that the hand was that of the accused.

He went on to say, 'What evidence have your heard in the whole of this case upon which you could say a prima facie case had been made out against the accused?'

However, the magistrates ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the case to be heard.

The couple were arrested on 5 October 1954.

The pathologist that carried out the post mortem on Arthur Dove at St Martin's Hospital in Bath on 17 May 1954 said that his body was well nourished and that there was no evidence of violence. She said that there was a degree of arterio sclerosis, but that the condition of his body was otherwise good considering his age. She added that there were no symptoms of haemorrhages, ulceration or gastritis and that the weight of his liver was within normal limits. She added that moderate jaundice was present.

She said that she had seen Arthur Dove before as a patient but that she had never examined him.

She said, 'From my examination I formed the opinion that the cause of death was phosphorus poisoning', adding that she had examined portions of his liver and kidneys which confirmed her diagnosis of phosphorus poisoning. When she was cross-examined, she noted that there was no sign of burning of the mouth or throat.

Arthur Dove's step-son. who lived in Innox Road, Trowbridge, who was a former grocer, said that he lived with Arthur Dove until about nine months after he married in 1931 and that he later returned to live with him in 1947 after his mother died. He said that from then on, until the time of his death, that Arthur Dove had had a number of people living with him and looking after him. He said that from the time of his mother's death, Arthur Dove had been sleeping badly and taking sleeping tablets and also noted that his eyesight was getting bad. However, he said that apart from that he had pretty good health and enjoyed life.

Arthur Dove's step-son said that Arthur Dove was able to get about and that about six months before his death said that Arthur Dove as walking from Holt to Trowbridge each Sunday to have dinner with him.

He said that about 7 February 1954 that he called to see Arthur Dove and found him alone, well and happy. He noted that the only time that Arthur Dove seemed depressed was when he was on his own.

He said that he later saw Arthur Dove in Trowbridge during April 1954 when he was waiting for a bus  and said that he had a chat with him.

He said that later on 13 May 1954 he received a message from St Martin's Hospital in Bath and went there and saw Arthur Dove ill in bed and that he then collected his clothing and wallet containing five £1 notes. He said that the following day, 14 May 1954, he went to 137 The Midlands in Holt, Arthur Dove's home, where he met the couple who were later tried for his murder and introduced himself to them. He said, 'I told them I was Mr Dove's son and I had come to find out if it was right my father had taken poison, and I also asked them why I was not informed before. To the best of my knowledge, the dairy worker told me that my father had said he did not wish that I should be informed'.

Arthur Dove's step-son said that the dairy worker then showed him the will that Arthur Dove had made out in his favour as well as a box of cards and a bank book. Arthur Dove's step-son said, who was at that point in his evidence handed a copy of the will, 'I told him I did not think it was of any use, as I understood that my father had signed the other man's name himself. I asked him where the other will was, and then we went upstairs where my father always said he kept his papers in a wardrobe. While searching, the dairy worker handed me the will in an envelope. We did not discuss this at all. He (the dairy worker) told me that he (Arthur Dove) had made out the other will about a month before his death'.

Arthur Dove's step-son said that during the time that he had been at Arthur Dove's house, and when he had later visited him, that he had never seen any rat poison in the house, nor any rats. He said that he had seen mice in a shed where his mother used to keep corn, but said that mouse-traps were set there to catch them.

Whilst Arthur Dove's step-son was cross-examined, he said that after his mother died in 1947 that Arthur Dove had had between 12 and 15 housekeepers, saying that some stayed quite a short time and that Arthur Dove was particularly difficult with children and that that was his sole reason for leaving. He said, 'He was very childish with children at times'. He went on to say that there were occasions when his wife (step-son's wife) would give the children sweets and that that would cause Arthur Dove to sulk and go outside the house. He later added that some of the housekeepers had left because they had found Arthur Dove difficult to get on with.

When Arthur Dove's step-son was asked whether there were occasions when Arthur Dove had gone out and lain in a ditch and got his clothes wet, Arthur Dove's step-son replied, ''Not to my knowledge'.

However, he acknowledged that there were times when Arthur Dove would indulge in bouts of drinking, saying that sometimes he would go for months without drinking and that he would then have a drinking bout of about a month. He added that sometimes they were quite bad bouts and that during them he sometimes became irrational.

Arthur Dove's step-son added however that in recent months Arthur Dove seemed to lose his grip on things and said that he used to talk a lot of rubbish. He noted that the previous Christmas when Arthur Dove had come to stay with him for the day that he had been very restless and had not known what he had come for, saying that he kept moving about. He said that he was a restless type. When Arthur Dove's step-son was asked whether Arthur Dove had become more restless of late, Arthur Dove's step-son replied, 'Yes'. When he was asked whether there were occasions when Arthur Dove had wandered off and had to have been brought back to have his meals, Arthur Dove's step-son replied, 'Yes'.

Arthur Dove's step-son added that Arthur Dove had recently become concerned about his failing sight as he was fond of reading and said that towards the last there were times when he could not read his newspaper.

Arthur Dove's step-son said that sometime in May 1954 that he went to the dairy worker's house and said that he was pretty certain that it was the dairy worker who gave him a will to look at. He said, 'The will was in my step-father's writing and what I took to be the dairy farmer's writing was also on this will. The writing in my father's hand in this will stated, 'I leave everything I possess to the dairy worker'. On the will appeared the names of two other people'.

When the step-son was asked about Arthur Dove's estate, he said, 'My father's gross estate was not more than £100 and after payment of the funeral expenses there would not be more than £20 left'.

Another witness at the trial, a woman that lived at 92 Kington St Michael, said that she had washed some of Arthur Dove's clothing and had seen no stains on it.

A doctor from the South Western Forensic Science Laboratory in Bristol said that he analysed the intestines and contents from Arthur Dove's body and recovered approximately 22mg, approximately a third of a grain, of phosphorous in its elemental condition from them. He said that he also found a very small quantity of Epsom salts adhering to a spoon and also in the bottom of a small container.

He said that on 20 October 1954 that he received clothing and a piece of rag which was stained but said that he found no Rodine in the clothing but said that the stain on the rag contained a small amount of phosphorous but said that the amount was too small for the stain to have been caused by Rodine rat poison and said that rather, it was in his opinion a faecal stain following the ingestion of phosphorous.

A pathologist from London who analysed the poison said that Rodine rat poison contained two percent of yellow phosphorus in a mixture of bran and sugar. He said that an average fatal dose of phosphorus would have been between one and three grains and that neat Rodine would have been most unpleasant and could cause burning in the mouth. He said that if 22mg of phosphorus was found in Arthur Dove's organs that it indicated that considerably more phosphorus had originally been taken by mouth. He said, 'If one was estimating the amount taken from the amount found in the bowel, it would require consideration of several factors, including whether vomiting had taken place, the diet of the person, treatment of the case and the amount absorbed'.

It was noted that at that point in the proceedings, as the pathologist from London was giving his evidence, that the proceedings were interrupted by a pigeon that had entered the roof of the building and had started to flutter about the room.

After the pigeon had been dealt with, the pathologist from London went on to say that discomfort from swallowing would have been followed by pain in the stomach, intense vomiting, and some degree of collapse. He said that in that stage a person might have died from heart failure and that other symptoms might be wind through the mouth, a characteristic smell, and bowel movements. He noted that vomit and bowel motions were usually luminous in the dark.

The pathologist then said that that stage of the poisoning was then followed by a remission of symptoms if the patient was still alive during which they might appear not very ill and that recovery might ultimately take place. He added that liver failure occurred with vomiting, jaundice and haemorrhage, which would then terminate with death. He added that he had read the doctors statements, the hospital staff statements and the dairy workers and his wife's statements and agreed that the cause of Arthur Dove's death was phosphorus poisoning.

It was later determined that two doses of poison had been administered.

A staff biologist at the South Western Forensic Science Laboratory in Bristol said that he received a tin of Rodine and a jar of scrapings from Arthur Dove's fingernails and said that a microscopic examination of the Rodine revealed a high proportion of wheat bran. He said then that in the finger-nail clippings he found two fragments of wheat bran and from the left-hand scrapings he found eight fragments of wheat bran. He also said that from the right finger-nail clippings he recovered a single fragment of wheat bran. He said that the wheat bran in the Rodine was microscopically similar to that in the nail clippings and scrapings and then went on to give technical evidence about his examination of the stains on the piece of rag.

A doctor that lived in Prospect House in Bradford-on-Avon, said that Arthur Dove had been his patient for about eight years. He said that in November 1946 Arthur Dove was diagnosed with angina and that he from then attended Arthur Dove fairly regularly, approximately once a month. He said that Arthur Dove had been prescribed phenobarbitone for the previous two or three years because Arthur Dove was not sleeping too well and that he also suffered from short-sightedness due to his age noting that he had to have his eyes almost on his plate to see, adding that he always wore glasses. The doctor noted that he had never tested  Arthur Dove's sense of smell.

He said that all the time that Arthur Dove had been in his care Arthur Dove had never given him any reason to suspect suicide.

The doctor added that Arthur Dove had been receiving a bismuth preparation for flatulence and indigestion, another condition that he attributed to his age. He said that in September 1953 that he had sent Arthur Dove to Semington as he felt that he needed care and attention noting that his lodger thought that he was a nuisance. He said that Arthur Dove remained there for a month.

The doctor said that on 8 May 1954 that he went to see Arthur Dove at about 5.15pm at which time he said that he saw both the dairy worker and his wife and said that the dairy worker told him that Arthur Dove was in bed. He said, 'I believe he said he thought it was a stroke'. He said that the dairy workers wife said nothing and that he then went upstairs to see Arthur Dove and found him in a state of stupor and unable to speak. He said that he then formed the opinion that he was drunk or under the influence of alcohol but noted that he didn't see any bottles about the room.  He said, 'I thought at the time that possibly Arthur Dove had taken an overdose of pheno-barbitone'. He noted that he could not remember whether the dairy worker or his wife came upstairs but said that when he went downstairs the dairy worker asked him whether he should go on night duty at his place of work or stay with Arthur Dove. He later noted that he knew Arthur Dove to be a man who had bouts of drinking.

When the doctor was questioned over the dairy workers significant concern for Arthur Dove's health and him suggesting that he stayed up with him, the doctor said, 'I had the impression he would be better by the morning. I thought he might become restless during the night'. When the doctor was asked why he thought it was necessary for the dairy worker to stay with Arthur Dove if Arthur Dove was only restless, the doctor said, 'I thought he might get out of bed and fall about'.

When the doctor was asked whether the condition that he had seen Arthur Dove in was the same condition that he had seen him in when he had previously sent him to St Georges’ Hospital, the doctor replied, 'No, it was quite different'.

The doctor said that he agreed with the dairy worker that it would be better if he stopped with Arthur Dove during the night to keep an eye on him and said that he didn't hear any more from them. However, he said that on 11 May 1954 he was sent a message from a woman from Holt and said that he went to see Arthur Dove again at about 5pm at which time he saw the dairy worker and his wife again in the hall near the front door. He said that they appeared to be agitated and said that the dairy worker did most of the talking. He said that the dairy worker told him that Arthur Dove was in bed suffering from diarrhoea and pains in his legs, noting that he had been brought home drunk by a policeman the previous night.

However, the doctor said that the dairy worker had mentioned to him that he had taken Rodine and that he (the dairy worker) was rather worried about that as Arthur Dove had about a month earlier made his will out in his favour. The doctor said that the dairy workers wife was present at the time but said that he could not remember her taking part in the conversation. He said that the dairy worker then produced an almost empty tin of Rodine, however, he said that he didn't notice where he got the tin from but said that he believed that he took it from the window ledge in the kitchen. He said that neither the dairy worker nor his wife said anything about what Arthur Dove had been eating.

The doctor said that when he then went to see Arthur Dove he found him in a semi-conscious condition and thought that he was very ill but said that he didn't examine him very thoroughly. He said that he detected no smell of Rodine in Arthur Dove’s breath. He said that he then told the dairy worker that he would take Arthur Dove to hospital straight away and wrote him a note to give to the ambulance driver and also told him and his wife to take the poison to the hospital.

The police said that they carried out investigations into the purchase of poison in the district and found several witnesses who picked out the dairy worker and his wife as being people that had bought Rodine rat poison at chemist's shops in Bath and Clevedon, however, both the dairy worker and his wife both denied that they had ever bought rat poison.

It was also heard that on the day that Arthur Dove had been poisoned that he had gone to his local public house where he was said to have drunk much more than usual and it was noted that it was one of the side effects of phosphorus poisoning that the victim had an unquenchable thirst.

It was also heard that when Arthur Dove was treated at the hospital, he had denied having taken any poison.

After the results of the analysis of Arthur Dove's post mortem showed that he had died from suspected phosphorous poisoning the police interviewed the dairy worker and on 20 May 1954, the dairy worker said, 'During the latter part of February, 1954, when my wife and I were living at Broughton Gifford I saw an advertisement in The Wiltshire Times that a man or man and wife were required to look after Mr Arthur Garnet Dove at 137 The Midlands. I went to Holt and agreed to go there with my wife. We provided Mr Dove with food and had free accommodation. We paid 5s a week for coal and half the electric light bill. We got on very well together, although Mr Dove went to the pub most evenings. He did not drink excessively and was in bed most nights by nine o'clock. We occupied a room on the second floor'.

The dairy workers statement went on to say that when Arthur Dove became ill the doctor was called and that Arthur Dove was prescribed some tablets that were obtained from Aplins in Trowbridge. The dairy worker also noted that Arthur Dove had a bad back and used to say something about his eyes watering.

The dairy worker's statement continued, 'On Easter Sunday Mr Dove was in he kitchen and said if we were going to stay to look after him he would make a different will out and leave everything to me. I said we would stop there and look after him. Dove said, 'You are the best two I have had looking after me. I like you both very much and will leave everything to you'. He then went upstairs alone and came down with two wills, one made out to his step-son in Castle street, Trowbridge and the other one was completely blank. Mr Dove asked me in the presence of my wife to write down his name on the outside page of the blank will, plain enough to see. I wrote his name and address on the form and Mr Dove wrote in the date and wrote the remaining particulars himself on the first page. The '£100' and the words 'no property' written on the inside of the will were written by me at the request of Mr Dove and in his and my wife's presence. The will you now produce I can identify by my own handwriting as the will you are referring to. After making out the will Dove said if anything happened to him, I had to burn the will made out in his son's favour. I did not see what Mr Dove had written in the will, and after it was finished he (Dove) took both wills upstairs and I did not see them again until they were shown me by Mr Dove's son'.

The dairy workers statement went on to detail how he started working at the Wilts United Dairies at Melksham from 6.30pm to 6.30am with his average weekly wages being £12 15s. He said that Arthur Dove used to come down and let him in when he (the dairy worker) returned from work at 6.30am. He said that there was nothing unusual about Arthur Dove's health. He said that Arthur Dove would then return to bed and that he would take him a cup of tea. He said that on 8 May 1954 that Arthur Dove did not let him in and that he asked his wife why Arthur Dove had not got up and said that she told him that she didn't know. He said that he then found Arthur Dove sat up in bed and said that Arthur Dove told him that he was not feeling too well. The dairy worker said that he then went to bed and that at 4.30pm he went downstairs and said that his wife told him that Arthur Dove was still in bed. He said that his wife told him that Arthur Dove had been to the public house to buy a half-bottle of whisky and also told him that Arthur Dove had asked her to call the doctor for him. The dairy worker then said that when he soon after asked Arthur Dove what the matter was with him, he remembered Arthur Dove saying that his throat was sore.

The dairy worker said that he saw about a half-bottle of whiskey beside his bed and said that when the doctor arrived he went upstairs to see Arthur Dove and then came down again and told him that Arthur Dove seemed like a man who had had a stroke and that he (the doctor) had seen Arthur Dove like it before when he had arranged for him to go to St Georges in Semington some time before.

The dairy worker said that he then told the doctor that he was on night work and said that the doctor then told him that it would be best if he stopped with Arthur Dove because his wife did not want to stop there alone.

He said that when they went to bed they saw Arthur Dove in bed singing 'The Old Rustic Bridge'.

He said that they were next woken up at about 1.30am by something falling in Arthur Dove's bedroom and said that when they went to look they found Arthur Dove sitting on the side of his bed. He said that he and his wife then helped Arthur Dove back into bed and heard no more of him that night.

The dairy worker said that they got up at about 11.30am on the Sunday morning and found Arthur Dove sitting in a chair in the kitchen. He said that he and his wife had breakfast but that they didn't know whether Arthur Dove had had any.

He said that they later all had dinner together at about 12.20pm with Arthur Dove having a dinner that his wife had prepared for him the day before but which Arthur Dove had not wanted, adding that it contained steak, greens, potatoes and peas. He said that Arthur Dove ate all of it and didn't leave anything.

The dairy worker then said in his statement, 'On Monday, May 10th I returned from work about 6.15am and let myself in the house and made a pot of tea and took Dove and my wife a cup. I went to bed and at about 3.15pm the same day my wife came to my bedroom and told me she had been to my sister's at Broughton Gifford that afternoon to get some rods to sweep the chimney. I got up and went downstairs and saw Mr Dove sitting in his chair in the kitchen. He asked me if I had had a good sleep and I told him I had slept well. On May 16th I returned from work about 6.15am and made my wife a cup of tea but I did not take Mr Dove one. That was the first time I have not taken Mr Dove a cup of tea when I have returned from work in the morning. I must have forgotten to do so because I was so tired. He said that his wife later told him that a man had brought Arthur Dove home the previous night from the pub as Arthur Dove had fallen down on his way back.

The dairy worker said that sometime later his wife called him and he got up and went downstairs and said that he saw Arthur Dove sitting in his usual chair in the kitchen and that his wife then washed some of Arthur Dove's bedclothes.

The dairy workers statement then continued, 'Mr Dove had quite a good dinner, consisting of tomato and cucumber. I did not see him eat any bread. My wife washed up and went outside. I was still with Mr Dove when he said, 'I have taken some poison'. He was still sat in his chair and he said his legs did ache. I went outside and saw my wife and told her what Mr Dove had said about taking poison. Both of us went in the kitchen and Mr Dove was sitting in the chair, I asked him what poison, and he replied, 'The stuff I used under the grate for the mice'. I asked him what he had done with it and Dove said, 'It is in a small drawer in my bedroom'. My wife and I went at once to his bedroom and my wife pulled open a drawer and brought out a tin marked 'Rodine'. The tin was not inside a carton and there was nothing wrapped round. My wife smelt it and said it smelt like what was on Dove's bedclothes. I went downstairs and after wrapping the tin in a piece of cloth I placed it on the window ledge by he side of the wireless. Neither of us touched the contents of the tin. I did not show Mr Dove the tin or ask him if that was the poison he had taken. I asked him what time he had taken the poison and he said, 'Eight o'clock'. I asked him how he took it and he replied, ‘With a teaspoon'. He told me he had taken half a teaspoon and after washing it had put it in a drawer with other spoons. It was then that Mr Dove said, 'Don't tell anyone', or similar words. When the insurance man called I went outside and told him what Mr Dove had told me about taking poison and that I did not know whether to phone for the doctor or the police, and that I asked my wife to phone for the doctor. The insurance man said he thought I had done a good thing. I also told the insurance man that Mr Dove had made out a will on Easter Sunday, but I did not tell him he had made everything out to me. The doctor called the same day and I told him that Mr Dove had said he had taken poison. The doctor told Dove that he would have to go to hospital. After the doctor had gone Mr Dove got out of bed and dressed himself in his blue serge suit. He said, 'I want to look a bit respectable if I am going into hospital'. He went downstairs without assistance, but he held on to both sides. He had a cup of tea but nothing to eat. At 6.40pm the ambulance arrived and my wife went in the ambulance. I did not see a tin of Rodine before seeing it in Mr Dove's bedroom. I did not know it existed in the house. I have not seen any rats or mice on the premises, and Mr Dove had not mentioned anything about it'.

When the police interviewed the dairy worker's wife on 18 May 1954 after having told her that Arthur Dove had died from phosphorus poisoning, she said in the course of the interview that her husband had told her that Arthur Dove had told him that he had taken some rat poison. She added that about a fortnight before he died, she had seen Arthur Dove put a tin in his pocket before he went down for the bus. She said that she told her husband about that and added, 'When Mr Dove first mentioned the will, he said, 'You have nothing to worry about, everything in this house is yours if anything happens to me'.

The detective said that the dairy workers wife then took him to a garden shed and indicated a small shelf inside where she said she had seen a tin of Rodine about two or three weeks prior to Arthur Dove being admitted to hospital. The detective said that there were a number of tins and bottles on the shelf together with a number of rubber heels and soles. He said that all the tins were very rusty and that everything was heavily coated with dust.

The detective said that the dairy worker's wife then took him upstairs to a room that Arthur Dove had slept in and indicated a top right-hand drawer of a chest of drawers as being where she had later found the tin of Rodine.

In the rest of the dairy workers wife's statement she said that her husband had taken night work at the Wilts United Dairies in Melksham on an average weekly wage of £13 of which he gave her £6 and kept the remaining £7. She said that during their whole time living with Arthur Dove that they had not had any quarrels and that her husband had addressed Arthur Dove as Arthur. She said that about once a week Arthur Dove had gone to The Three Lions public house to have a drink but noted that he was not in the habit of getting drunk. She said that Arthur Dove was an old man who seemed happy enough.

She said, 'From time to time Mr Dove said he did not want to have anything to do with his son, and told both my husband and I not to inform his son if anything happened to him. The son did not visit the house at all the time we were there. One day Mr Dove said when he came back from Trowbridge that he had seen his son, who told him that he did not have time to bother with him'.

She went on to say that Arthur Dove had a regular supply of sleeping tablets which he kept in his drawer in his bedroom and said that one day Arthur Dove said to her, 'I made a will out to my son, but I am changing it and leaving it all to you. I am going into Trowbridge to get a will'. She said then, that the following Tuesday Arthur Dove came back and said, 'I have got it'.

The dairy worker's wife then went on to give similar evidence to her husband, but added, 'I showed Mr Dove how to write the date on the back of an old envelope. Mr Dove then said, 'Now I will take you upstairs', and said that Arthur Dove and her husband then went upstairs and said that her husband later told her that Arthur Dove had showed him some pictures on the wall in his bedroom and also where he had put the two wills.

She added that she later heard Arthur Dove say to her husband, 'You know where the two wills are. If anything happens to me burn the first one'.

In her statement she then said, 'On Saturday, May 8th, between 11 and 12 he (Mr Dove) asked me to go to the 'Three Lions' and get him half a bottle of whisky. He gave me 18s 3d. I got it and he drank it out of the bottle. He gave me another 18s 3d to get another half-bottle. He went back to bed and asked me to telephone the doctor. I awakened my husband and he came down for his dinner about 12 noon. Mr Dove told my husband he did not want his dinner, and that he would have it next day. My husband stopped in his (Dove's) bedroom singing songs with Mr Dove until tea time'.

She went on to say that Arthur Dove seemed 'quite normal' on 10 May 1954 and was about the house all morning, saying that he listened to the 6pm news and then went out and was later brought home by a police constable at about 10.45pm. She said that Arthur Dove was almost drunk.

She said that on the day that Arthur Dove was taken to hospital, Arthur Dove's son called and her husband then got the two wills from the wardrobe and gave them to him. She said that on 11 May 1954 that Arthur Dove told her husband that he had taken poison, noting that he said that it was the poison that Arthur Dove had put under the stove to kill the mice and that Arthur Dove had said that the rest of it was upstairs in a drawer.

On 27 August 1954, a police detective said that he spoke to the dairy worker and told him that there were discrepancies between the statements that he and his wife had made, and said that the dairy worker replied, 'I know Mr Dove was in the habit of taking sleeping tablets. Mr Dove told me he had taken too many sleeping tablets. I did not tell the doctor. I just forgot'.

The police detective said additionally that when he had spoken to the dairy workers wife that she had told him that when they had found the tin of Rodine, her husband had said to her, 'Pick it up with a piece of rag or they will find finger prints on it as well as Mr Doves, and they will think we have done it'. However, he said that the dairy worker said that he could not remember having told his wife to pick the tin up with a piece of cloth saying that he had a bad memory.

The police detective then told the dairy worker that he had been identified as a man who had purchased some Rodine from a chemists' in Bath, but said that the dairy worker denied ever having bought any Rodine in Bath or anywhere else.

When the dairy worker was identified by a woman whose husband ran a chemist in Bath as being similar in appearance to a man that had purchased poison at her husband’s shop, the dairy worker replied, 'No not me'. The woman had communicated with the police on 19 June 1954 on the matter.

Later on 28 August 1954, a female chemist from Clevedon attended another identification parade and picked out the dairy worker's wife as a person who had actually bought a tin of Rodine in the week beginning 4 July 1954.

The dairy worker and his wife were arrested on 5 October 1954 and following an unusually protracted hearing, were committed for trial on Friday 3 December 1954 on the joint charge that between 1 May and 15 May 1954 at Holt they murdered, by administering to him rat poison, 79-year-old Arthur Garnet Dove, widower, formerly of 137 The Midlands, Holt, with whom they had been lodging. Following their arrested the dairy worker and his wife had appeared before the magistrates eight times before they were committed for trial.

The final days magistrates hearing had started at 10am and finished at 6.20pm after the defence submitted that there was no prima facie case on which the accused should be committed. However, after a retirement of an hour and forty five minutes the magistrates returned and said, ''We find there is sufficient evidence to put you both on your trial for murder'.

At the trial, after the case for the prosecution was heard, the defence said that he could not say as a matter of law that there was no scintilla of evidence, but said that he did submit that the evidence was such that there should not be a conviction.

The judge however, said that he would not use his power to withdraw the case from the jury and asked the defence exactly what he wanted hm to do as judge, and the defence said, 'I am asking you to say it is right that it is a matter that is within the discretion of the Judge to withdraw it even if it cannot be said that there is not a scintilla of evidence. I ask you to say that in view of the evidence it is not a case which should be left so that these people are left in jeopardy'.

The judge then said, 'The application is, in effect, that if I have formed a view in your favour that I should indicate it to the jury so that they might return a verdict of not guilty?', to which the defence agreed.

The judge then said, 'I am not prepared to withdraw it. What I will do if you desire it is to address the jury now telling them the course they could take and giving them an opportunity to take it'.

The judge then addressed the jury and said, 'It may very well be that you will want to hear the whole of this case and want assistance at the end of it. Then let the normal procedure be followed. But if you are all quite clear individually that the prosecution has failed to make out a case of murder then there is no reason why you should not say so now'.

The jury then retired at 4.40pm, Wednesday 17 January 1955 and returned within eight minutes with a verdict of 'not guilty'.

Arthur Dove was buried on Saturday 22 May 1954. His first funeral had been due to take place earlier, but had been stopped on the Coroners orders.


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


see Aberdeen Evening Express - Saturday 04 September 1954

see Birmingham Daily Post - Tuesday 18 January 1955

see Belfast News-Letter - Wednesday 06 October 1954

see Daily Herald - Saturday 22 May 1954

see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 27 November 1954

see Shields Daily News - Tuesday 18 January 1955

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 25 November 1954

see Aberdeen Evening Express - Wednesday 13 October 1954

see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 07 August 1954

see Western Mail - Tuesday 18 January 1955

see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 11 December 1954

see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 04 December 1954

see Daily Mirror - Saturday 27 November 1954