Unsolved Murders

Arthur Hamilton Hawkey

Age: 56

Sex: male

Date: 25 Mar 1963

Place: Wadebridge, Cornwall

Arthur Hamilton Hawkey died following a car crash on 25 March 1963.

The jury at his inquest recommended that a woman that dangerous driving and failing to stop after an accident should be committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter. However, when she appeared at the Assizes, no evidence was offered and she was acquitted.

The woman was later found in a yard of a farm revving her engine in an agitated state and when her car was later examined it was found to be damaged. However, she claimed to remember nothing. Although she appeared at the magistrates on lesser charges and was banned from driving for seven years, she was not charged with manslaughter by the police. however, the inquest recommended that she be committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter. However, it was noted that she had already been charged with causing the death of Arthur Hawkey by dangerous driving, with every form of conceivable evidence against her submitted, but that the charge had been thrown out by them, and noted that the standard of evidence required was much higher at the Assizes than at the magistrates court, and the prosecution offered no evidence and she was acquitted.

Arthur Hawkey was found lying beside his smashed motor-cycle near Westcott filling station in Wadebridge not far from his home on 25 March 1963.

He had lived in Penwarne, West Hill, Wadebridge.

He was taken to the Royal Cornwall Infirmary in Truro where he died.

The pathologist said that he had a lacerated brain due to a fractured skull that could have been caused by a blow, but was also consistent with having been struck by a car.

The woman, who had lived at Retarrick Mill in Mawgan Porth, admitted to the Coroner at the inquest that she had pleaded guilty in a Magistrates court to driving her husband's car whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and to failing to stop after an accident, and in her evidence to the court she admitted that she had taken four tablets of a type prescribed by a doctor during the day of the accident occurred and that in the public house in Wadebridge that night she had consumed seven gins.

She went on to tell the Coroner that she remembered getting into her car after leaving the public-house and finding herself in the car sometime later at Penqueen Farm, Edmonton near Wadebridge, but could not remember anything that had happened in between .

When she was cross-examined at the inquest by a representative of Arthur Hawkey's family, she said that seven or eight gins would not normally affect her and that she had felt quite well when she had left the public house. She added that she didn't normally have black-outs or lapses of memory, and that nor did she know why she should have lost her memory that particular night.

The woman went on to tell the Coroner that in her opinion she had been in a fir state to drive the car when she had left the public house, but that she had pleaded guilty in court to the offences that she had been charged with because she could not remember what had happened and also because she couldn't afford to fight the case.

At that stage, a member of the Coroner's jury asked the Coroner whether they should not hear evidence of the woman's condition when she had left the public house and the Coroner said that he was prepared to adjourn the inquest again if they thought it would help. The juryman noted that he was particularly anxious as to whether the woman's condition was such when driving the car, as to leave them to consider the possibility of manslaughter.

However, the Coroner pointed out that if the police had thought that there had been sufficient evidence to proceed on different charges, that they would probably have done so. The Coroner noted that the fact was that there were no witnesses to the accident. He said:

There may have been a misunderstanding between the two drivers or a signal might not have been given. Again, the woman might have been in the middle of the road.

The Coroner noted that in the doctors evidence, they had heard that the injuries to Arthur Hawkey had been mainly on his left side, indicating that the car struck him on that side.

The jury retired for 40 minutes and when they returned they said that they had come to the conclusion that Arthur Hawkey's death had been the result of the woman driving under the influence of drugs and intoxicating liquor to such an extent that she did not have proper control of the vehicle, but that they were not certain as to whether she should be committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter.

The Coroner then said that if they were not certain of the exact cause of death, that they could leave it as an open verdict and state that his death was due to a collision with a motor car.

The jury then retired again and when they returned they stated that it was their unanimous recommendation that the woman be committed on a charge of manslaughter.

It was noted that it had earlier been heard that the woman had already pleaded guilty before a magistrates court to driving a motor vehicle when unfit to do so through drink or drugs and that she had also pleaded guilty to failing to stop after an accident and that she had been disqualified from driving for seven years and had her licence endorse and been fined £50 in the first case and £20 in the other.

The Coroner noted that the woman had said that she could not remember having been involved in an accident but that there was evidence that linked her car to the accident. and stated that it was still open for the jury to bring in their verdict of manslaughter, but noted that he doubted however that they would be able to find enough evidence to substantiate that.

The pathologist said that he found that Arthur Hawkey had had multiple injuries, including laceration to the brain and a fractured skull. He said that his pelvis was also smashed and that his hip bone had been separated from the spine and that there was heavy bruising diagonally across the front of his body, suggesting that he had been struck by the wing of a car, or possibly by the handlebars of a cycle.

A police constable said that he had been called out to the scene of the accident at West Hill, Wadebridge at about 9.05pmn on 25 March 1963. He said that it had been raining fairly heavily and that there was broken glass scattered over the road and pieces of broken chromium plating that seemed to come from the headlamp of a car.

He said that the following day he interviewed the woman, who said that she had driven a black Ford car, registered in the name of her husband, on the previous evening in Wadebridge. He said that she told him that she had had a few gins at a Wadebridge public house, but that she was used to it. He said she denied having any recollection of being involved in an accident, and when she was told of the circumstances, she said:

Oh, this is awful. If I had had an accident I would have told my husband.

He said that she then told him that she had not been well and had been taking drugs prescribed by her doctor.

The police constable, however, said that he then saw a black car at a farm near Edmonton which was damaged, particularly on the offside front wing.

Arthur Hawkey's wife said that her husband had told her not long before the accident that he never felt so well in his life. She said that he was a particularly slow and careful motor-cycle rider. She said that their house was in a by-road off West Hill and he would have to turn to his left from the main road, but noted that whilst he would have had to have moved out slightly to make the turn, that he would never have gone as far as the centre white line.

A am that had lived in Penqueen, Wadebridge said that on the night of 25 March 1963 he had found a car in his yard, and that he had found the woman in it, revving the engine and saying:

Get me out of this mess.

He said that she had been an a rather agitated condition and that from several feet away he could smell drink.

The woman appeared at the Cornwall Assizes at Bodmin on Tuesday 29 October 1963 but acquitted.

Details of the previous hearings was heard, including those of the proceedings instituted by the Director of Public Prosecutions on 17 September 1963 at Wadesbridge Magistrates court on a section one charge of causing death by dangerous driving. It was heard that every conceivable piece of evidence was could be called was called and that the magistrates had decided that there was no case to answer and that consequently, they thought that it was proper to offer no evidence at the Assizes.

The judge at the assizes told the jury that it was a somewhat unusual procedure, but explained that before the prosecution could make out a charge of manslaughter, they would have had to prove a still higher degree of negligence than dangerous driving, that charge having been already dismissed at the magistrates court, and that it followed therefore, that there was no case to answer in the present charge. He said:

In these circumstances the prosecution, I think rightly, have decided to offer no evidence.

The woman was then acquitted.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Cornish Guardian - Thursday 18 July 1963

see Cornish Guardian - Thursday 31 October 1963

see Cornish Guardian - Thursday 04 April 1963

see Cornish Guardian - Thursday 31 October 1963