Unsolved Murders

Jesse Callow

Age: 15

Sex: male

Date: 3 Aug 1927

Place: Souldern, Somerton, Oxfordshire

Jesse Callow was found dead in a canal on the afternoon of Wednesday 3 August 1927.

He was found in the canal near bridge No 194.

He had left home, Chisnell Farm in Souldern, on Wednesday 3 August 1927 at about 11am with his bicycle to take some butter to Somerton as he had been in the habit of doing for the previous two years. However, later in the afternoon some butter was seen floating in the canal and his body was later recovered from the canal close to bridge No. 194.

The inquest was held at Chisnell Farm where the Coroner alluded to the new Act whereby the Coroner only needed to view the body which the jury agreed on.

When Jesse Callow's mother gave evidence she said that Jesse Callow's body was in the other room and that he lived on the farm and helped the farmer on the farm.

She said that as far as she knew there was nothing wrong with his health when he had left at 11am to go to Somerton. She noted that he had 10lb of butter in a basket strapped on a carrier at the back of his bicycle. She said that he had done that journey once a week for about two years, and that he would go down the field and over the drawbridge and along the towing path. She added that his bicycle was a new one and that he had also had a paper bag with him with some peas in it.

She said that the first that she heard of anything being the matter was about two hours later when a woman came and asked her whether Jesse Callow had come back as she had seen some butter floating in the canal. She said that they had some men picking peas at the time and that she shouted to them to go and see where Jesse Callow was and that one of them ran down to the canal with her husband.

She said that the marks on Jesse Callow's head had not been there when he had left home, or the marks on his hands. She said that soon after that his body was brought home.

She added that as far as she was aware that Jesse Callow always got off his bicycle and would walk under the bridge.

The bicycle was brought into the inquest for the jurymen to see with the basket strapped on the back.

A woman that lived at Deep Lock and who was the wife of the lock keeper said that she had known Jesse Callow very well and had seen him most Wednesdays go past her house with his bicycle taking butter to Somerton. She said that he generally rode slowly past her house and that she had seen him get off by the bridge at the top of the slope.

She said that she had seen him the day before pass her house just after 11am and said that he said to her, 'Good morning, it looks like raining'. She said that she replied to him that she thought it did and that he gave her a smile and that she then went into her house. She said that she didn't know whether he had got back on his bicycle and that she didn't see him alive again.

She said that at about 2pm a boatman came to the lock with a pair of boats and told her that there was something floating on the water in paper like butter or something and that she went down to look and saw about three or four half pounds of butter floating on the water between the lock and the bridge. She said that she then thought that there must be something the matter and so went up to Chisnell Farm to ask whether Jesse Callow  had returned home and found that he had not. She said that they then sent someone down to the canal.

She noted that she didn't see anyone else about when Jesse Callow had passed by and didn't hear anything after she went in her house.

A plasterer from Hempton said that he had been working at Chisnell Farm on the Wednesday when at about 2.30pm he heard a woman's shout and that when he came up she told him that they had found some butter in the canal and could not see Jesse Callow.

He said that he ran down the field and told his father and that they went down to Deep Lock and started to search with a boat hook.

He said that as soon as he put the hook in by the bridge that he hooked Jesse Callow's bicycle out, noting that the depth of water at that location was between five and six feet. He said that there was nothing in the basket but that there was a bag of peas on the handlebars.

The plasterer said that when he put the boat hook down again that he hooked Jesse Callow who was underneath the bicycle and that with assistance he pulled his body out and found that he was dead. He said that artificial respiration was tried but without effect.

He said that he sent for a doctor and stayed with Jesse Callow until he arrived, noting that Jesse Callow's mouth had been bleeding and that there was blood coming from his ears.

The plasterer said that he then took a watch out of Jesse Callow's pocket and found that it had stopped at 11.20.

He said that he knew Jesse Callow well and had seen him earlier in the morning at which time he was quite all right.

He said that he understood that Jesse Callow could swim but had never seen him.

The plasterer noted the back wheel of the bicycle had been pointing towards Somerton but that when he looked at the bank and the wall that he saw nothing that could show how he had come to be in the water.

He added that Jesse Callow's body had appeared to have been in a kneeling position with his head facing towards the lock. He noted that he had been informed that once boat had passed through the lock and that it would have had to have passed the spot where Jesse Callow's body was found.

A doctor from Deddington said that he had known Jesse Callow from birth and that he was a strong healthy lad. He said that he received a telephone message at 3.10pm on the Wednesday asking him to go to Chisnell Farm as Jesse Callow had drowned and that when he got to Deep Lock Bridge at 3.40pm that he found Jesse Callow  lying on the grass dead.

He said that he examined Jesse Callow 's body there and then had it taken home. He said that on the right side of Jesse Callow 's forehead that he found a contused lump along with slight bleeding from the alar of the right ear. He also found slight abrasions on the knuckles of both hands along with another on his right forearm as well as a slight mark on his left cheek.

The doctor said that the injuries themselves were not sufficient to have caused death but would say that the one to his forehead was sufficient to have caused temporary unconsciousness and that in his opinion Jesse Callow 's death was due to drowning.

He said that he thought that Jesse Callow had hit his head one some  hard substance which had rendered him unconscious and that he had then fallen into the water.

The Coroner noted that he had examined the surroundings of the towing path and the bridge but had found no marks that could throw any light on the matter.

The Coroner then addressed the jury and said that he did not think that they would have any difficulty in finding that Jesse Callow had died from suffocation due to drowning, but said that when they came to consider what led to that that they would find it rather more difficult.

When he summed up the evidence he said that they had to consider whether anybody put him in the water, whether he fell in by accident, or had some form of seizure and fell in. He then said that they could bring in a verdict that death was due to suffocation from drowning and that there was no evidence to show how he came to be in  the water, noting that it was a matter entirely for them, but that he thought that they would be quite justified in finding an open verdict.

The jury then, having conferred in private, said that they had agreed on a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence, but said that there was no evidence to show how Jesse Callow  had got into the water.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Banbury Guardian - Thursday 04 August 1927