The Charles Walton Mystery, Warwickshire
On Saint Valentine's Day 1945 Charles Walton, age seventy-four, left his home in Lower Quinton to trim a hedge on the nearby Meon Hill. When he failed to return home that evening his niece went looking for him. He was found dead in a ditch near the hedge he had been trimming, his throat cut with his own trimming tool.
The Warwickshire Constabulary was immediately called. Despite being stripped of men and resources by the war they did everything in their power to solve the case. Detective Superintendent A.W. Spooner was to lead the investigation.
By examining the wounds Spooner and the coroner quickly ruled out a tragic accident and suicide: Charles Walton had been murdered but who was the culprit?
Det. Sup. Spooner did his very best but quickly run out of leads: Walton was a harmless old man, he wasn't wealthy, he had no personal enemies. The case haunted him so much that for many years he kept returning to the site of the the murder each year on Saint Valentine's day. Scotland Yard even sent one of their finest investigators, Det.Sup. Robert Fabian, to help in the case but to no avail.
The Constabulary invited anyone with a possible lead to come forward.
Margaret Murray (The Witch-Cult in Western Europe) came forward, saying that Walton might have been a human sacrifice in a Candlemass ritual performed by "traditionalist" (whatever that means) witches still using the Julian caleandar. Impossible, said Gerald Gardner (the "Godfather of Wicca"): human sacrifices have to be young and healthy. From here things started to go downhill. Reporters discovered that in 1875, in Long Compton, a man had mudered an old woman, Ann Turner, because he though she was a witch and had put a curse on him. He had slashed her throat and driven a hay fork through her body. Tabloids went crazy over the case as soon as they got wind of the characters involved. Many of them deliberately blew the thing out of proportion, committing huge slanders. The site of the murder was moved from Meon Hill to the Rollright Stones, twelve miles away; details from the old Turner murder were mixed in, for example Walton had now been killed with a hay fork; the time of death was moved to midday or midnight, while Walton was murdered in the afternoon. The Daily Mirror went a step further, by publishing a weird story from a woman who said to have "proof" that Walton had been murdered by thirteen practicioners of Black Magic who came from all over the country for the purpose.
Some stories were just plain silly: Walton was told to own a miniature plough pulled by toads which he used in his small vegetable patch. There are litterally hundreds of rumors about the case, some even concerning the investigators themselves: for example Fabian is said to have seen a Black Dog on Meon Hill during his last visit to the crime scene. When he asked a local youth who the owner of "the large black hound" was, the boy immediately took to his heels.
Many of these stories have made the way into modern literature, mostly by the way of Charles Berlitz, though they are unsubstantied to say the least.
More than sixty years have passed and the case file is still open. The trimming tool used to kill Walton is still carefully preserved as evidence by the Warwickshire Constabulary. But the murder is being forgotten, and fitting conclusion is perhaps the fact that Charles Walton's tomb in the Lower Quinton churchyard has disappeared during some recent renovation works.
"Louhi spoke in riddled tones of three things to achieve: find and catch the Devil's Moose and bring it here to me. Seize the Stallion born of Fire, harness the Golden Horse. He captured and bound the Moose, he tamed the Golden Horse. Still there remained one final task: hunt for the Bird from the Stream of Death"
-Kalevala, Rune XIII-