The chauffeur and the maid – The murder of Irene Wilkins

On 20 December 1921, 31 years old Miss Irene Wilkins from Streatham, South West London sent an advertisement to the Morning Post advertising her services as a cook. It read,

‘Lady cook, 31, requires post in a school. Experienced in school with forty boarders. Disengaged. Salary £65.’

By noon, on 22 December she had received a reply which read,

‘Morning Post come immediately 4.30 train Waterloo Bournemouth Central car will meet train expence no object urgent. Wood Beech House.’

Excited at the prospect of new employment, she dressed for the occasion, gathered her testimonials in her attaché case and headed for Waterloo. The train arrived at Bournemouth Central in fact a few minutes late pulling in at 7.03pm. Irene was next seen in a cow field in Seafield Road, Tuckton at 07.30 the next morning, her head having received multiple wounds. She had been hammered to death.

Charles Nicklen who had found the body alerted the police. Superintendent Garrett was in charge.

A local doctor, Harold Simmons examined the body who said that Miss Wilkins had been dragged from the nearby road over a gorse hedge and through some barbed wire, the body bleeding on the way as it was dragged. The head had numerous wounds, some deep, some superficial. The right arm was extended with its fist clenched while the left arm was stretched out at the shoulder.

The victim was wearing a brown coat which was opened at the bottom and which revealed a blue skirt and petticoat which had been pushed up to the waist. She was wearing a pair of combinations and black stockings which were torn and her legs were 45 degrees apart. A subsequent post mortem showed that she had been violently punched in the mouth, her left cheekbone had been fractured leaving a gaping hole and an even larger hole appeared at the front of her forehead. Taking into account the weather and condition of the body, the time of death was estimated at some time between 7.15 and 8pm the previous evening. In other words, very shortly after she had disembarked her train at Bournemouth.

The officers at the scene were well aware of the need to preserve evidence and were quick to spot some tyre marks in the mud on the nearby road. It was beginning to look like whoever had committed the murder had arrived and left the scene by motor car. Examination of the marks by the local bus company manager identified the tyre marks, which were 4’6’’ apart, as those belonging to Dunlop Magnum tyres and they were made by the rear wheels of a vehicle.

Superintendent Garrett was now in touch with Wilkins’ family in London who were able to inform him about the lure of the telegram. A copy was obtained and Garrett set out his lines of enquiry; who owned the car and who sent the telegram?

Enquiries at local post offices revealed that in fact three telegrams had been sent recently by someone with the same handwriting and all were clearly trying to arrange for someone to travel to Bournemouth by train. The addresses provided each time were fictitious. One was on 17 December and two were on 20 December. But the eagle-eyed postmistresses were all able to identify a common factor. Spelling mistakes were a prominent feature in the telegrams and each was handed in to the post office by a man dressed as a chauffeur. The police now had a lead.

Irene Wilkins
Irene Wilkins
The telegram received by Irene Wilkins
The telegram received by Irene Wilkins
Thomas Allaway
Thomas Allaway

Meanwhile, Garrett had set about finding all cars in the area that were fitted with Dunlop Magnum tyres and arranged a series of road blocks to try and find the offending vehicle. He also despatched his officers to addresses to which likely cars were registered.

And by now, witnesses were starting to come forward with some important information.

Albert Samways, a newsagent, was able to recall a chauffeur buying the Morning Post on either 21 or 22 December. Henry Nash, a signalman at Bournemouth Central station remembered a man recently asking which side the 4.30 train from Waterloo arrived. Frank Humphris, who also travelled on the same train as Wilkins on 22 December, remembered seeing a lady who fitted Wilkins description and saw man lurking in the shadows at the railway station when it pulled into Bournemouth. The man was a chauffeur and Humphris saw the pair of them drive off in a car together.  On 4 January, aware of the subsequent murder investigation, Humphris again saw the car and driver at Bournemouth railway station and took the registration number. It was a Mercedes, registration number LK 7405. The car was owned by Arthur Sutton.

On 7 January, Sergeant Ellis, who was being used to trace car owners, interviewed Thomas Allaway at a garage called Portman Mews, Bournemouth. Allaway was 36 years old and was a married man with one child. Allaway was Arthur Sutton’s chauffeur. The car he drove, a Mercedes, was housed in Portman Mews, opposite which lived Allaway with his wife and daughter. The registration number of the car was LK 7405.

It had three Dunlop Magnum tyres though one of the rear tyres was a Michelin. The rear tyres were 4’6’’ apart. When questioned, Allaway said he had not changed the tyres since 22 December and he made a statement outlining his movements for the day in question in which he was effectively unalibied for the important one hour window between 7.15 and 8.15. Further enquiries showed that he had the opportunity to send the telegram and also the opportunity to dump the attaché case where it would later be found. The false addresses on the telegrams were loosely associated to addresses connected to the Sutton family.

Garrett, realising the significance of Allaway, doggedly pursued this line of enquiry and was able to show that Allaway had in fact been seen changing a wheel on the Mercedes on 24 December and a garage proprietor was able to show that shortly before the murder the car had in fact had four Dunlop Magnum tyres. Handwriting samples were taken from Allaway – to compare against the three telegrams – but the writing bore little resemblance.

Despite Wilkins’ attaché case being found in Branksome Woods on 31 January, the case against Allaway was far from satisfactory. He had dissimilar handwriting to that contained in the telegrams, there was a dispute over whether the Mercedes car had moved on the night of the murder, the attaché case could have been dumped by anyone and his account for his movements appeared to be true albeit, for the crucial time, he was unalibied. The investigation lost its momentum.

Three months later, in April, 1922, Allaway decided to leave Bournemouth – he was well aware that people suspected him of the murder – and to facilitate his escape, stole a cheque book from his employer and forged four cheques. He was arrested on 28 April.  At the same time, a hammer and spanner were found in Allaway’s former home together with a key to Portman Mews where Sutton’s car was kept. The items were found not by the police but by Allaway’s successor.

As a result, on 1 May, Allaway’s former house was again searched and postcards were found which appeared to be written by Allaway prior to the murder. Superintendent Garret had also obtained an application form for a drivers licence completed by Allaway. Betting slips were also found together with some letters although Allaway would deny writing them.

Sergeant Ellis then dictated the earlier telegrams to Allaway who wrote them down. Allaway made spelling mistakes but more importantly the writing on the letters written before the murder was identical to that on the telegram forms. The enquiry was back on track.

0n 6 May, an identification parade was held with nine people all dressed as chauffeurs. The result was a game-changer. Postmistress Miss Diplock identified Allaway as the man who posted the telegram on 17 December. Miss Waters, the postmistress from 20 December asked the men on the parade to say, ‘car, car will meet,’ a repeat of a conversation she had had with the man sending the telegram. When Allaway spoke, Waters positively identified him. The newsagent, Samways, identified Allaway as the man who bought the Morning Post on 21 or 22 December. A customer in the shop, da Costa, also identified him. Nash, the signalman at Bournemouth identified Allaway as the man at the station and Humphris also identified him as the man he had seen at the station on the night of the murder and driven off with Wilkins. Humphris also identified Wilkins’ hat among a pile of randomly selected hats. He was a very reliable witness.

Now, quite why these lines of enquiry – the finding of the hammer and the identification parades – had not been carried out back in January is a moot point. Certainly, a senior officer in Scotland Yard would later comment about Garrett’s ‘lax handling of the case.’

In any event, Allaway was now charged with the murder of Irene Wilkins and immediately made another statement denying the allegation.

He appeared at the Hampshire Summer Assizes in Winchester on 3 July 1922 a trial presided over by Mr Justice Avory. Allaway’s defence was that he had an alibi for the time of the murder and that the tyre marks left at the scene were not caused by the Mercedes car.

The prosecution case centred on Allaway’s opportunity to commit the crime, the opportunity he had  and the likelihood of him sending all three telegrams, the identification of him by a number of important witnesses – including being with Wilkins shortly before she was murdered – and he was seen to be changing the wheel of the car a few days after the murder. Other witnesses slowly started to break down his alibi. Finally, a handwriting expert, Gerald Gurrin, confidently stated that the author of the telegrams was the same author of the letters, written before the murder, which had been found in Allaway’s house.

Allaway told the court that he had not written the letters found in his house – despite them being written to his wife and daughter and signed ‘Tom’ – stuck to his alibi and denied ever having seen the key to Portman Mews which would have given him night-time access to the Mercedes. He produced a witness who vaguely claimed he had seen him in a club at the time of the murder but he was unconvincing.

The jury retired and after one hour returned a verdict of guilty. Allaway was sentenced to death and after an unsuccessful appeal he was hanged on 19 August 1922. He allegedly confessed his crime shortly before he drew his last breath.

The case is an intriguing one. On the face of it, Superintendent Garrett carried out an efficient investigation – scene preservation, road blocks, pursuing car owners and specifically the key clue about the Dunlop Magnum tyres – but it appears some basic errors were made. After a somewhat dormant period, the case picked up again and Allaway literally signed his own death warrant.

Probably unconnected, but in 1927, Superintendent Garrett was required to resign by the Chief Constable upon reaching the age of 53. He was widely regarded as a popular, hard working and experienced officer and his resignation was met with much criticism by the Constabulary’s governing body, the Standing Joint Committee of the County Council.


Teignmouth Shore, W. (undated). Crime and Its detection. London: Gresham Publishing Company Ltd

Watt, I.A., 2006. A History of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary. Chichester: Phillimore

Copyright © Paul Stickler 2018

The Stick and String Murder

The murder of Edward Welham, Tarrant Keyneston, Dorset, 1 October 1931

The village of Tarrant Keyneston was a quiet backwater in the Dorset countryside where everyone knew everyone and who went about their daily routine, farming mainly, in apparent tranquillity. Only the Sunday morning sermons from the local vicar seemed to interrupt the villagers from their work.

But on the morning of Thursday 1 October 1931, the peace was shattered. A man lay murdered and the investigation which was to follow would bring to the surface petty crimes, jealousies and a catalogue of illicit affairs.

The kennels in the village, comprising a single hut divided into dog-runs and an office, had moved from its north-eastern edge to a more remote part on the southern side, nestled alongside the River Tarrant, due to complaints from neighbours that the 40 or 50 dogs who were trained as gun dogs or simply boarded there were constantly barking. The new location offered a more isolated position and the noise from the animals less likely to disturb the villagers. If a stranger went onto the land though, the dogs would bark ferociously; little or no chance of an unknown trespasser sneaking it undetected.

The manager of the kennels, 25 year old Edward Welham, had been there since it had moved, a good-looking man very well liked in the village; no-one had a bad word to say about him. Even an engagement he had broken off with a local schoolteacher, Edith Lunn, had ended harmoniously. He was tee-total, a non-smoker and careful with his money.

He had taken charge of the kennels upon the death of the previous manager, William Steer, who had been found dead in nearby fields, almost 2 years ago. An inquest had returned a verdict of accidental death by a single shotgun blast, although many people had suspected suicide. It was Welham who had found the body and since he was already working at the kennels as an assistant, its owner, Ethelbert Frampton, saw fit to make him the replacement. He was a good worker and he could be trusted.

Welham had in turn appointed a new assistant, 18 year old Fred Deamen, who though, quickly proved to a bit of a shirker at work and a number of instances arose which brought his honesty into question. Despite this, Welham chose not to dismiss him.

On the morning of 1 October, Welham was in the office of the kennels writing letters to a number of customers – he always carried out this task at this time of day. He had already taken a couple of dogs for a walk in the kale field opposite, been for his breakfast at his nearby lodgings and was now keeping up with his correspondence. A selection of shotguns were stored in a cupboard by the side of his desk, as usual, all cleaned and all unloaded.

By 9.30 Deamen had finished cleaning out the dog-runs and Welham asked him to go across to the kale field and retrieve one of the dogs he had earlier taken for a walk.

The dog was a spaniel called Peter which was blind, and Welham wanted to make sure he was back in the kennels before the two of them, him and Deamen, went off to do some shooting. Deamen gathered up some straw from the kennels which was used for bedding, took it to the incinerator next to the hut and walked across the road to the kale field. He had only been there a few minutes, when he heard a gunshot from the direction of the hut. Knowing that Welham often shot jackdaws, he ignored it, and carried on looking for Peter, before wandering back to the kennels, Peter in tow.

As he got closer he could see that the door to the hut was closed; this was normal. He walked across to it, opened it and stepped inside to the corridor. He looked into Welham’s office and saw him lying on his back on the floor. Blood was pouring from him and a shotgun was underneath his back, the butt protruding above his shoulders. He panicked, turned and ran to Welham’s lodgings to get help.

The house wasn’t far – about 300 yards. He soon found the family who lived there, the Hathaways, and shouted to the wife, Edith, ‘Oh, Mrs Hathaway, Ted’s been shot.’ She replied, ‘Oh, who’s shot him?’ but Deamen merely mumbled something about Peter the dog. Edith ran to tell her husband, Tom and her 16 year old daughter Mary – who also worked at the kennels – and they raced off to see what help they could give. Tom was in front, followed by Mary, who in turn was followed by Deamen. The son, William, who had heard the commotion and understood what was going on, had the foresight to telephone an ambulance.

Upon reaching the kennels, Tom entered the office and found Welham resting on his back, blood all over the floor and a shotgun underneath his back. Mary now rushed in, and being particularly keen on Welham, started to undo his tie and collar, sobbing, ‘Oh, Ted.’ As she tried to tend to him, Deamen arrived, quickly followed by Edith who immediately told her daughter not to touch anything.  Deamen left to fetch a doctor but met William running towards him who explained that he had already called for assistance.

By chance, the local bobby, Police Constable Head, was cycling past and pulled up to establish what was going on. He was ushered into the hut whereupon, in a somewhat forlorn attempt to make Welham comfortable, removed the shotgun, and using a piece of sacking that was laying underneath him, placed it under his head. It was clear, however, that Welham was at least unconscious, if not already dead.

Constable Head, wise to the ways of the country, had a question. He was already assuming Welham had committed suicide, but how had he done it? The gun was underneath his back and the weapon was a 16 bore shotgun, which would later be shown as a gun owned by Welham himself. It was simply not possible to shoot yourself with a long-barrelled gun; the firer could not reach the trigger if aiming at himself. No, there was something missing, and he knew what it was. ‘This is something’ he muttered. ‘I can’t see any stick or string by which he could have done it. You usually find a stick or string.’ Where’s the string?’ he asked the upset onlookers. The silence was deafening. They looked around. They could see no string. No-one had seen any string. Head looked to Tom Hathaway for some help who merely shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘No, Mr Head. Everything is the same as when I came.’

Minutes later, an ambulance arrived and Welham was taken to Blandford Cottage hospital where, after attempts to save him, he was certified as dead. Constable Head reported to his superiors that Welham had committed suicide. Despite the absence of any string he stuck to his opinion, though somewhat supported by the fact that he had found a piece of looped wire in the office which was probably used to fire the weapon, and, according to Deamen, was not ordinarily there.

Two days later, on 3 October, Coroner W H Creech opened the inquest at the Badger Hotel in Blandford where Head explained that Edward Welham had probably committed suicide, though there was no obvious reason for him to take his own life. He was happy, in no financial difficulties and had a good job.

When Welham had been admitted to Blandford hospital, he had been examined by Dr Kenneth Wilson, and having been instructed to attend the coroner’s court to give evidence, he unequivocally expressed the view that Welham’s injuries could not have been self-inflicted. Quite simply, he had been murdered. To the likely discomfort of the village constable, the coroner directed that the matter should be adjourned to allow further enquiries to be carried out and for a jury to be assembled to consider the evidence.

The sleepy village of Tarrant Keyneston was suddenly thrust into the limelight.

The chief constable of Dorset Constabulary, Major L W Peel Yates, was duly exercised. He had some good men, but the Welham death appeared difficult. He had no hesitation in telephoning New Scotland Yard who dispatched Detective Chief Inspector Walter Hambrook and Detective Sergeant Bell to assist their provincial colleagues. It was now 4 October, three days since Welham had been shot.

Ted Welham
Ted Welham
The kennels at Tarrant Keyneston, Dorset

Hambrook swiftly surmised that Deamen was a suspect. There were only a few minutes between him speaking to Welham and finding him dead. He was never more than 150 yards away from him.  Yes, it was important to keep an open mind, but Deamen had to be the focus of his initial enquiries. He took a statement from him which detailed his version of events.

Deamen reiterated how he had been asked by Welham to retrieve Peter from the kale field, how he had heard the gunshot and how ten minutes later he had discovered his bloodied body. He had run to  get help from the Hathaways and had done everything he could to help save his employer.

Hambrook was not convinced. Was it possible that in the intervening 10 minutes, someone could have sneaked their way into the kennels and shot Welham? And why? Welham was highly regarded, well-liked. Deamen was only a spitting distance away and yet he saw no-one. If anyone had gone onto the property who was not known, the dogs would have broken into chorus. Yet, they didn’t. There were only three people who were known to the dogs; Welham, Deamen and Mary Hathaway. Welham was dead and Mary Hathaway, a sixteen year old, was with her family well over 300 yards away when Deamen heard the shot. Everything pointed to Deamen.

Hambrook and his sergeant though soon came to realise that the Dorset villagers were not keen on the Scotland Yard detectives’ questions. Despite newspapers writing column inches on the death, no-one came forward. The two detectives had to go to them asking the questions, like pulling teeth. Even Reverend Mann, rector for the parish exclaimed from the pulpit,

‘Whether this awful thing that has happened in our midst was due to an accident or was the crime of murder, it is our duty to combine together to find out the truth. It is not only our duty to our community. It is also our duty to our country to help the officers of the law who have come down from Scotland Yard to inquire into this matter. We should give them all the help we can. It is also our duty to God to combine in this way, for the murder – if it is murder – is a crime committed against God, and we have to work for God.’

Progress was made and the Metropolitan officers were able to find a number of people who were in the area of the kennels at the time, all of whom were spoken to, their stories corroborated. A picture started to emerge.

Welham had been seen in the kale field that morning walking the dogs, yet no-one saw Deamen. In fact, Peter the dog had been seen making his way back to the kennels by himself, blindness clearly no insurmountable obstacle, but with absolutely no sighting of Deamen. Deamen’s story did not ring true. Yet, despite the suspicions, Deamen wouldn’t budge from his story.

The kennel assistant was a liar and a thief. He routinely told untruths to the villagers, he stole from his employer or from anyone who could provide him a means to some cash. Indeed, the day after Welham met his death, Deamen appeared at Wimborne Petty Sessions where he was convicted of theft, bound over and ordered to pay 8 shillings. He was, by all accounts, a broadly unintelligent, yet cunning man but this didn’t make him a murderer.

Hambrook knew that despite Deamen being an obvious suspect, he needed to ensure that all other lines of enquiry were pursued. Even though the villagers had ‘clammed up’, he was hearing rumours that village life was rather more colourful than at first met the eye. Tongues were wagging. Scotland Yard’ ears were listening.

The owner of the land upon which the kennels was situated, Arthur Coleman, was top of the list. He was, according to local gossip, having extra-marital relations with as many as eight other women in the village – some of whom were married; indeed, so was he.  Specifically though, he had made an approach to 16 year old Mary Hathaway in an attempt to have sexual intercourse with her, his advances apparently spurned. Welham, so said the gossip, who had got to hear of this, and was friendly with Mary, had challenged Coleman, and thus a reason to cause harm to Welham had been born. Hambrook managed to speak to all concerned, but nothing came of it. He was able to establish that Coleman was some distance away at the time of the murder. The ‘sex maniac’ as one lady described him had been eliminated. But now even more rumours rumbled.

Almost two years ago, William Steer, the former kennels manager had been found dead in Ashley Wood, death due to a single gunshot wound. It had been Welham who had found the body and rumour within the village was that it had been Welham who had killed Steer, and now Steer’s death had been avenged. To add weight to the conspiracy, it now emerged that Steer, a married man, was himself having sexual relationships with many women in the village and perhaps there had been jealousies between Welham and Steer which had precipitated Steer’s death. There was however no evidence to support any of the gossip, but Hambrook needed to make sure he had spoken to everyone.

Conscious that Welham had earlier broken off an engagement to a schoolteacher, a potentially emotive episode, Hambrook decided to visit her. She was a well-educated lady and confirmed everything he knew. She even produced an anonymous letter she had received about him which was clearly designed to poison her thoughts. It read,

‘To Miss Lunn,

‘I don’t know if you are aware that Ted Welham is flirting and fooling about with all the girls in Keyneston especially that Louie Schofield, the schoolteacher. She is always running up to the kennels to see him and also he is always taking that Mary Hathaway about on his motorbike. He is a rotter. I thought you would like to know.

‘From one who knows.

‘A local resident.

Hambrook was right to speak to her but again he established that she was well away from the village at the time of the shooting. In fact, he established that Welham was having an association with a number of women in the village though none had any argument with him, nor were any of them near the kennels at the time of the killing.

Another matter came to the surface. A year or so ago, a neighbour had complained to Welham about discharging his gun too close to his farm, alarming his wife. There had been a disagreement about the incident which resulted in the neighbour, a man called Cripps, throwing an axe through one of the windows at the kennels. Could he be the murderer? Hambrook tracked him down and even though he was able to confirm the incident, the matter had been concluded amicably and the two had even shaken hands. Despite this, Hambrook established that he too had an alibi.

He reported his findings to the chief constable and to the coroner and he returned to Scotland Yard, the case remaining unsolved. However, after the final coroner’s hearing, there was a turn of events.

The jury had returned a verdict of wilful murder by person or persons unknown – the case being clearly established that Welham could not have committed suicide, nor was it an accident. Even Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the eminent Home Office pathologist had examined the body who had explained that it seemed to him that Welham had been shot from a distance of about 12 feet and the deceased seemed to be taking defensive action. The injuries to his back and to his head supported this. This opinion was also corroborated by a local gunsmith, Allan Jeffrey, who after a series of reconstructions, confirmed the theory that Welham had been shot from a distance. The verdict of wilful murder resonated throughout the village.

But one person was extremely frightened – Tom Hathaway.

On the day of the incident and upon being alerted by Deamen, Tom had rushed to the hut as soon as he had been told what had happened and found Welham lying on the floor. He was quickly followed by his daughter, Mary and shortly after that by Deamen and Edith. It was during this episode of chaos that Tom had seen lying next to Welham a hazel stick and a piece of string attached to it. He immediately assumed Welham had committed suicide. In the panic that was now developing there was a time when Edith told Mary to leave the hut with her – the sight was too ghastly – and Deamen left to fetch a doctor. While he was alone, he picked up the stick, placed it in the corner of the room and speedily tucked the string away in his pocket. By the time Constable Head arrived, the string was nowhere to be seen and Tom had hoped that neither Deamen nor his wife and daughter had seen it.

He did not want the community thinking poorly of Welham about taking his own life and so in a fit of misguided loyalty, he took the steps he did to mask the true picture. When Head had asked everyone about whether they had seen a piece of string and all stated they had not, his trickery seemed to have worked.

But now the jury had concluded that Welham had been murdered and Tom was deeply worried that his irresponsible actions could lead to someone being hanged for something they did not commit. The pressure was all too much and so the matter was reported to the police. By 4 November, 34 days after Welham had been shot, Hambrook and his sergeant were back in Dorset.

Despite this dramatic development, Hambrook remained unconvinced. Yes, Tom Hathaway had acted foolishly and hadn’t helped matters but the fact remained that the injuries to the back and head of Welham – most gun suicides were carried out by placing the weapon in the mouth or to the side of the head – and the spread of the gunshot on the wall in front of him, still demonstrated that the victim had been shot from some distance away. Murder was still the right conclusion, but the development of the stick and the string added a twist. To demonstrate his point, Hambrook reconstructed the scene under the direction of the Hathaways, using a local police constable to rest in the position in which Welham’s body had been found, and photographed it. It was a compelling image.

Hambrook’s thoughts though returned to Deamen. Could it be the case that Deamen, having shot Welham, staged a suicide by introducing the stick and string and then ran off to claim he had found the victim already shot? If his story about being in the kale field was untrue, then he certainly had the opportunity.  He also had a motive.

Deamen was due in court the day following the shooting on a charge of larceny and he was planning not to attend since he did not have the means to pay any fine and thus could have been sent to prison; Deamen had already admitted this. When Welham had been found lying on the hut floor, his jacket had fallen open on both sides and his wallet could be seen protruding from his inside pocket. A single one pound note had been found inside but those who had spoken to the police inferred that he should have had a great deal more than that, probably as much as fourteen pounds.

A theory was emerging. Deamen knew that he was due in court, he had no money, and spoke to Welham about being given or lent the money. Welham had refused and so Deamen decided to do what he did best – steal. While Welham was having his breakfast at his lodgings, Deamen sneaked in, removed Welham’s 16 bore shotgun and took it outside. He loaded it. Once Welham returned from his breakfast, Deamen allowed him to settle at his desk – which was his routine – and shot him from the corridor. This was planned and he already had the stick and string to hand. He attached it to the gun, placed it under his back – to nestle against the injuries – and then ‘ran for help.’ He had sufficient time and a motive.

Hambrook was satisfied he was close to the truth and planned to re-interview Deamen. But a thought must have occurred to him.

If his theory was correct, it must have been the case that at some point, both the murderer (Deamen) and the man who had removed the stick and string (Hathaway) were staring at a scene which they both knew to be false and misleading. Deamen must have been having a minor brainstorm when he knew that the stick and string which he had deliberately planted there had mysteriously disappeared and yet when asked, the gathered audience remained silent. Agatha Christie would have been proud of such a fictional plot!

Hambrook needed now to ask Deamen whether he had seen the stick and string but by sheer bad luck, he had been involved in a motor cycle accident and was laid up in Blandford hospital. He was eventually spoken to in the presence of his father – who was particularly aggressive and defensive of his son – in their house at nearby Witchampton but he stated that he had never seen the mystery items at any time. One item of interest emerged from the interview which was that it would appear as though his father had paid his fine at court – finding the money the night before his appearance before the magistrates. It changed nothing of course because by the time his father had come up with the cash, Welham was already dead. Hambrook saw fit to later write about Deamen snr in his report, saying, ‘The father is a sullen type of individual in whose appearance there is a distinctly animal suggestion. It is undoubtedly from him that Deamen inherits his cunning and ‘wooden’ demeanour’.

Hambrook had come to the end of the road. His suspicions surrounding Deamen remained but he knew there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, a view later confirmed by the Director Public Prosecutions.

The drama ended almost as quickly as it had started. Hambrook returned to London and Tarrant Keyneston returned to its farming. Quite whether relations between the villagers returned to normality is somewhat a moot point!

Source: The National Archives MEPO 3/866

Copyright © Paul Stickler 2018

Right, Mr Stickler, I have a question for you …………….

Always good to know you’re being tested – particularly by an Egghead! Delighted to see Kevin Ashman in the audience recently during one of my talks in Winchester.

Kevin Ashman from the BBC show, Eggheads