Date: 9 Feb 1939
Frederick James Paul was found dead, having been shot in the head, in a pond on his property on 11 February 1939.
It was thought that he had been shot on 9 February 1939. He had gunshot wounds to his face and head caused by a sporting gun. At his inquest, it was noted that the chances of his wounds having been self-inflicted were practically impossible.
A labourer from 5 Braywick Cottages near Maidenhead was tried for his murder at the Berkshire Assizes on 18 May 1939 but was found not guilty.
The police were called to his home at 10am on the Saturday and when they went there, they found a trail of blood leading from the front of his bungalow to the pond, suggesting that he had been shot at his bungalow and then dragged to the pond. The pond was about 8 feet deep and about 70 yards from his home. He was found fully dressed in the pond.
They found a pool of blood about four feet from one of the corners of the house.
During their investigation, the police took plaster casts of footprints leading from the roadway along a path to the front of Frederick Paul's bungalow.
The police also drained the pond and thoroughly searched the vicinity, but the gun was not found.
A postman said that he called at The Nurseries between 9am and 9.30am on the Wednesday to deliver a letter. He said that he knocked on the door and said that Frederick Paul came out and that they had a chat and that Frederick Paul was very jolly. He said that he called the following day, Thursday, and again knocked on the door but got no answer, and so he put a letter under a loaf that was in a box beside the door, noting that he saw no sign of Frederick Paul on that day. The postman noted that Frederick Paul generally called out when he came to the house.
He noted that he saw no blood marks at that time.
The postman said that he called again at 10.15am on the Saturday, and that when he arrived he noticed that the door was open a few inches. He said that when he went in he found the place in disorder and that when he came out he saw a pool of blood at the corner of the house and that a pair of spectacles was lying in the middle of the pool of blood. He added that he then noticed a mark from the pool of blood indicating that something had been dragged away from the pool of blood.
He said, 'I followed the mark, which was about 78 yards in length and it led me to a pond situated on the premises. There I found the body of Mr Paul in the water', He said that he was floating in the water with his head above the water and his body lying slightly over on its left side. He said that he could see a wound to the right side of Frederick Paul's temple and that with some assistance he removed the body and a doctor was called.
The postman said that Frederick Paul was fully dressed, with the exception of his jacket which was later found in the pond.
A trilby hat was later found over some wire netting, about eight or ten yards from the pool of blood near the house, and it also had blood on it. The police also found a lantern not far away.
The police said that they found a small cardboard wad near the pool of blood at the bungalow and that about ten inches away from it there was a flattened bullet and then again about 34 inches away there was a felt wad. The police said that the three items were all in a line.
A firearms and ballistics expert said that after he examined the powder found to the side of Frederick Paul's wounds, he concluded that the powder was named, Neoflak Modified, and that the wads that were found at the scene were from a .410 gun.
He added that the gun had been fired from more than six inches but no more than 18 inches away from Frederick Paul's body.
However, the firearms and ballistics expert agreed that at that sort of range there would have been no need to have the lead bullets loaded to have produced a lethal shot.
When the two bullets that were found that the bungalow where weighed. They weighed 54.4 grains and 46.5 grains and were noted as being rather deformed having come into contact with the bone structure. When the police weighed bullets that they found at the labourers home they weighed 52.8, 55.6 ad 59.8 grains, and it was noted that all five of the bullets were of a similar composition. It was noted that they were all made from a very pure form of lead containing similar traces of silver, bismuth, cadmium and copper, and it was stated that it was feasible that all five of the bullets could have been made from the same piece of lead. However, the firearms and ballistics expert agreed that similar lead to the sort that was being examined could readily be found anywhere in the country.
The doctor that was called out reached The Nurseries at 12.30pm on the Saturday. He said that when he saw Frederick Paul, he was dead and thought that he had been dead for about two days.
The body was then taken away to Reading for a post-mortem examination. The doctor that carried out the post-mortem said that rigor mortis was still present to a marked degree but noted that that would have been delayed by the immersion in water and the cold weather. He said that he had suffered from two wounds, one on the right temple, and the other on the upper part of the right side of the neck. He said that they were penetrating wounds, probably gunshot wounds, and that either of them would have caused death. He added that death would have been almost instantaneous and said that he was quite sure that Frederick Paul would not have been able to walk off from the house to the pond after having been shot.
It was heard that a newspaper boy had delivered a morning paper at 7.30am on the Friday morning but had found the front gate locked and had so left it wedged between the palings.
It was also heard that a tradesman had called later in the morning and after seeing the newspaper, he put it in the porch, indicating that the gate had at that time been open.
The newspaper boy came again the following Saturday morning and on that occasion left the newspaper in the porch.
Frederick Paul's son, who lived in Pinewood, Hayley Green Warfield, said that Frederick Paul carried on the business of nurseryman at The Nurseries on Winkfield Lane, Winkfield and lived alone, but said that he was mentally-alert and an able-bodied man. He said that it was his custom to visit him several times a week but said that he had not done so the previous week and that the last time he saw him was on 4 February 1939, noting that at that time Frederick Paul had told him nothing about expecting to meet anyone in particular during the following week.
He said that Frederick Paul didn't have many visitors and mainly went out to see his business associates.
The son said that Frederick Paul had an old obsolete gun that he never used and had no firearms there whatever.
When the police searched his property, they found that the rooms were in considerable disorder, with letters and papers strewn on the floor. It was however, noted that a certain amount of the disorder might have been due to Frederick Paul's method of living, because he lived alone and was rather untidy. The police took away certain items found at his house for evidence and examination. They said that they also found a lamp on the sideboard which was not alight.
They said that they found no money in the bungalow whatsoever.
They said that they thought that his attacker had got nothing, because they found eight £1 notes in one of his pockets and some silver in another.
Following the discovery of his body, the police said that they were interested in hearing from anyone that had heard a shot fired on the Thursday night, or the Friday morning, noting that they thought that he had been murdered around that time.
Frederick Paul was a nurseryman and lived the life of a recluse and was rumoured to have kept a hoard of money in his house. He had lived at the house that he was murdered at for about 21 months.
He rented the land, but the nursery buildings were his own property.
He was said to have been well known in the area and was described as a quiet man who did not encourage people to go to his house, and who spent all of his time cultivating his flowers and looking after his home. He was said to have done all his own cooking and mending, and noted for never going to bed, but instead preferring to sleep in a chair. He was said to have been courteous, but distant with his callers, and although reserved, he was stated to have been popular with other people living in the neighbourhood.
It was believed that his only source of income was his old age pension of 10s a week and what he could make out of the nursery.
His wife had died in 1937 and he had a married son in Winkfield.
The police systematically questioned all owners of guns in the district.
On 14 February 1939, the labourer was arrested and charged with Frederick Paul's murder. The police had gone to his home after receiving certain information and had found incriminating articles there in his possession.
When the police spoke to the labourer on 14 February 1939 at 8.15pm they said, 'I think you knew him', to which the labourer replied, 'Yes, I knew him when I lived over there'. He said that he had lived in Winkfield for 13 years but denied that he knew that Frederick Paul kept money in his hip pocket. However, he added that it was always the son who paid him for shooting rats but said that it was only 6d every now and then. He added that he had never known, one way or another, anything of Frederick Paul's means, and added that he had never spoken about his 'long stocking'.
When he was asked to account for his movements, he said that he had oiled his gun on the Wednesday morning and didn't use it again until the police took it away on 12 February 1939. He said that he then worked in his garden in the morning and then had lunch at his girlfriend’s parents’ house two miles away after which he went back to working in his garden. He said that he had an appointment with his girlfriends at Bray village at 5pm but said that she failed to keep the appointment and said that he then cycled off to her mother's house where his girlfriend arrived sometime after 6pm. He said that he stayed with her until 9.20pm when she had to catch a bus for Bray where she worked and said that he cycled behind the bus and met her again at Bray and that they then went for a short walk and then that he then went straight home, arriving at 10.30pm, noting that he went out with her every Wednesday evening and that after he had left her he had gone home to bed. He said that on the Thursday he had worked in his garden and had lunch at his girlfriend’s parents’ house and then went back to his garden where he worked until dusk, 5pm. He said that he then made himself some tea and that after tea he went out for some cigarettes from a pub in Braywick just after opening time and that he then walked up and down the road towards Maidenhead and then went home and straight to bed between 8.15pm and 8.30pm, saying that he didn't go out again until between 8am and 9am the next morning. He said that he then spent the Friday in exactly the same way.
He denied that he had taken his gun out on the evening of 9 February 1939.
He said that he had last been to Winkfield the previous summer in July, and said that he had known Frederick Paul, saying, 'I used to go there quite a lot'.
He said that he had last used his gun on the Tuesday at Easthampton where he said that he and his friend had permission to shoot rats and rabbits. He added that he didn’t use cartridges with bullets in them instead of shot.
When the labourer was remanded and asked if there was anything he wanted to say, he said, 'Yes. It is like this. I am very pleased to say that my conscience is clear. I have been living here for six months or over and I have been keeping straight all along. I want to continue to keep straight. As for a shot gun, well, there is more than one about, you know, and cartridges and bullets and the like. I do not know anything about it. Could you grant me legal aid?'.
At the trial he said that on 9 February 1939 he had had dinner at his girlfriend’s home in Pley Street in White Waltham and had then gone home and stayed indoors at his home until 6.15pm when he had gone to a nearby pub for some cigarettes and had then afterwards walked off towards Maidenhead and then returned home and stayed indoors. He said that he then went to bed at 8.15pm and didn't leave his bed of house that night.
He said that he had never been in the portion of the bungalow that Frederick Paul had lived in and had not seen him of later years.
There were over 30 exhibits at the trial, including Frederick Paul's jacket that had been found in the bottom of the pond.
At the trial, it was heard that Frederick Paul had lived in very squalid and sordid surroundings, and the KC for the Crown said, 'When people live in these squalid surroundings sometimes it is assumed that they are misers who have stored money away'. The prosecution went on to say, ''In this case you will hear that the labourer had remarked to the old man's son that he expected that the old boy had a good long stocking, meaning that he had money stored away'.
At the trial the labourer’s shotgun was shown as an exhibit, and it was noted that the two bullets found in Frederick Paul's head were clearly homemade. It was noted that when the police went to the labourer’s house they had found the double-barrelled 4.10 gun, a box that contained nails and bullets and a pair of tweezers. The prosecution noted that Frederick Paul's son had said that the tweezers had belonged to his father. He said that he could identify them because about two months earlier he had used them to pull a splinter out of his father's hand. He added that one arm of the tweezers had been broken and that Frederick Paul had filed the other arm down to make it correspond.
The prosecution had said that the bullets used to shoot Frederick Paul were homemade, saying that they were made roughly from lead. They said that what must have happened was that the murderer had opened a cartridge and removed the shot and put in his own homemade bullet into the cartridge, placing paper over it to keep it in place. The prosecution said that in that way they had converted a cartridge fit for killing small birds and rabbits into one capable of killing a human being.
The police said that when they went to the labourer's home they found a .410 double-barrelled gun by the back door. They said that it was 'broken' and unloaded, and that it had been well oiled.
They said that they found a pair of rubber gloves in a chest of drawers in the sitting room which were turned inside out and were marked with earth. when asked about the gloves, he said that he had used them for gardening.
They said that they also found three small lead pellets/bullets in a tin in the kitchen that also contained some screws and in the coal cupboard they found some more lead and also some more lead in another cupboard.
The labourer said that he always had 40 or 50 cartridges in his house. He also said that he had cut the tops off of some of the cartridges to count the number of shot in them to see if they were even, noting that it was a hobby of his.
The police said that they found four .410 cartridges in a wooden box containing nails. When asked about them, the labourer had said that a man nearby, at No.3 had given them too him in a sack containing some nails, screws and other things when he had moved out.
They also found watches and watch parts in different parts of the house and the labourer said that fixing watches was a hobby of his.
When asked about certain items of lead that were found at his house, he said that he had picked them up whilst working with a firm in Binfield and had hoped to collect a quantity of lead and to then sell it,
When the labourer was arrested, he had also said, 'My conscience is clear and I don't wish to get into trouble like that for the sake of my friends and for my own sake too. There are more than one four-point-tens about and more than one cartridge alike, and bullets too'.
The labourer had also been identified in an identity parade on 10 March 1929 by a man from Foliejon Park House in Winkfield who said that he had been cycling down the drive to the South Lodge at 5.10pm on the Friday 9 February 1939 when he had seen a man suddenly appear in front of him. He said that the man was riding a bicycle too and said that he must have come from the nearby plantation.
However, the defence said that even if the man had seen the labourer, it was at 5.10pm and it was half-a-mile from the bungalow and he had a bicycle and there was no mention of a gun.
The prosecution added that it showed that the labourer had been in the vicinity, but the defence noted that so were many other people.
The prosecution added that if the man was right about seeing the labourer, then it showed that the labourer had been lying about being near to Winkfield since the summer.
The prosecution said that the labourer had tried to mislead the police and had lied about the source of some bullets and as to when he had last been to Winkfield.
During the trial, what was described in the Reding Mercury as one of the most dramatic scenes ever witnessed in a murder trial took place.
The prosecution showed the labourer the tweezers exhibited, and the labourer said, 'They are my tweezers. They are useful for taking wheels out of watches and as a screwdriver. I damaged one of the arms when I was taking a screw out'. The prosecution then produced a small wrist-watch which was said to have belonged to the labourer and asked him to take a screw out. It was said then that the labourer spent five minutes in dead silence working on the wrist-watch with the pair of tweezers that were said to have belonged to Frederick Paul. Frederick Paul's son had said that the labourer must have found them at the bungalow after the murder. However, the labourer took out the tiny screw from a wrist-watch, thus strengthening his case.
The defence also added, 'Would a man, on a terrible venture such as the murderer was on that night, stop to put in his pocket a 2d pair of tweezers? Sometimes funny things do happen, but that is about as odd a thing as you can imagine'.
When the judge summed up he said, 'We are dealing with the most brutal murder that has been brought to my notice in during my 11 years on the bench. This is a case of circumstantial evidence and it has rightly been said that circumstantial evidence may be the best evidence of all because circumstances are not subject to the fluctuations of temper and imagination that human beings are. Circumstances are circumstances but, in dealing with cases of circumstantial evidence, the links must be forged one after another and, at the end of the chain, that must be. Is it not a little odd that a man who was so desperate for money, commits the most ghastly murder, drags his victim's body over the grass for 78 yards and throws it into a pond, should go back and, out of the whole of that house, take only a pair of tweezers? It is all very strange. Before you convict this man of this terrible crime you must be satisfied that the Crown have, beyond all reasonable doubt, made out that he, and he alone, committed this crime. If you have any doubt, acquit him'.
He was acquitted after a 15-minute retirement which was accompanied by a spontaneous applause from the public gallery.
see "Alleged Murder Of Man Aged 86." Times [London, England] 16 Feb. 1939: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.
see "Bullets 'Made By An Amateur'." Times [London, England] 15 Mar. 1939: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.
see "Labourer Acquitted On Murder Charge." Times [London, England] 19 May 1939: 11. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.
see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 14 February 1939
see Bristol Evening Post - Friday 19 May 1939
see Reading Mercury - Saturday 20 May 1939
see Gloucestershire Echo - Friday 19 May 1939
see Leicester Daily Mercury - Wednesday 17 May 1939
see Birmingham Mail - Wednesday 17 May 1939
see Cambridge Daily News - Thursday 18 May 1939
see Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 18 May 1939
see Western Daily Press - Friday 19 May 1939
see Leicester Daily Mercury - Thursday 18 May 1939
see Reading Mercury - Saturday 25 February 1939
see Reading Mercury - Saturday 18 February 1939
see Reading Mercury - Saturday 25 February 1939