Unsolved Murders

Stephen Aitchison

Age: 35

Sex: male

Date: 12 May 1958

Place: Coupland Castle, Milfield, Wooler, Northumberland

Stephen Aitchison was found dead in the grounds of his castle near Milfield on the night of Monday 12 May 1958.

He was a baronet and had come to Coupland Castle, which he owned, for the weekend.

His body was discovered by the gardener as he was walking through the grounds. Stephen Aitchison was found with a gun lying beside him.

He had been shot in the head.

It was noted that the castle had been open to the public the previous day.

After his body was discovered the police were called. They later said that they found no reason to suspect foul play.

It was suggested that Stephen Aitchison might have stumbled and that his gun had gone off accidentally.

The gardener said that Stephen Aitchison had handled guns since he was a boy and that the gun he was found by was a 12-bore which he said he would have ordinarily have used to shoot pigeons or ducks. He said that the gun had been lying slightly under his legs and that the right barrel had been fired.

The Coroner said that there was insufficient evidence to enable him to determine how the shooting had occurred. He said, 'There is no direct evidence as to how the shooting occurred. No one witnessed it. The cause of death was head injuries caused by a gunshot wound'.

Stephen Aitchison had lived in Morpeth for some time but had also owned Lemmington Hall near Alnwick and Coupland Castle. He was also the chairman and managing director of Walker Willsons Ltd and a director of De Lancey Lands, Ltd.

He was the third baronet and had and as born in 1923 and educated at Rugby after which he went to University College at Oxford. During the Second World War he gained a distinguished war record, having served with the Royal Tank Regiment and the 13/18 Royal Hussars in which he rose to the rank of Major.

He married in 1950 and had two sons who were aged 4 and 7 at the time of his death. However, it was understood that Stephen Aitchison had been living apart from his wife for over a year at the time of his death and that a contested divorce petition had been filed. His mother said that the divorce had resulted in Stephen Aitchison losing his children and his home.

It was noted that one of his hobbies was to go yacht racing and that he had designed his own craft.

At the time of his death Stephen Aitchison's home in Morpeth was up for sale and he was due to go and live in a flat in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne after his visit to Coupland Castle.

His mother said that Stephen Aitchison had a flat in Newcastle but that he had never moved into it and that his home was with her.

She said that on the day of his death Stephen Aitchison had been quite normal and cheerful and had been out on estate business. She said that she saw him just before 6pm when she told him that there was tea if he wanted it, but said that he replied, 'It's too late'. She said that about half-an-hour later that she heard a gunshot.

An estate agent said that he had been with Stephen Aitchison for about four hours earlier in the day and that whilst he had been with him that he had been very relaxed and had discussed autumn work with him.

At the inquest, Stephen Aitchison's mother said that Stephen Aitchison had had no enemies and had been loved throughout the district. She added that he had suffered some nervous strain since his marriage and home was broken up, but said that he would never have considered taking his own life.

It was also noted that Stephen Aitchison had previously told his lawyer that he would never consider taking his own life because of his religious beliefs and for the sake of his children.

An open verdict was returned at his inquest.

His heir was his 7-year-old son.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see The Berwick Advertiser - Thursday 15 May 1958

see Belfast Telegraph - Tuesday 13 May 1958

see Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail - Tuesday 13 May 1958

see Halifax Evening Courier - Tuesday 13 May 1958

see Shields Daily News - Thursday 15 May 1958