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The Charles Walton Mystery, Warwickshire


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Mauro
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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-


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Daniel Parkinson
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Charles Walton

Great post Mauro.
I think I first read about this in a book by Robert Fabian, but it has appeared in occult literature many times. Amazing how much it was elaborated on, and begs the question: how much trust can you put in some literary sources after there has been a lot of media interest, especially when there is an occult angle.

Mauro
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Thanks for the compliments,

Thanks for the compliments, you are too kind. I have always been more than intrigued by these cases which seem to be completely impossible.
Most of us are way too young to remember but Britain was swept by a "witchcraft scare" in the '50s. Both Sunday tabloids and more respectable daily newspapers frequently published livid accounts in their pages, accounts which hinted at the presence of sinister cults in the midst of our society. Most of these accounts came either from mentally disturbed persons or were lifted almost verbatim from the works of Rollo Ahmed, themselves plagiarized from those of Rev. Montague Summers. Authorities never seriously looked in the matter, rightly suspecting that it was nothing more than the work of the scandalistic press.
In the midst of this scare the Charles Walton murder was exhumed and those colossal howlers I was talking about materialized in the press, the more livid the better.
And these howlers were rpopagated and found their way into modern literature, not to mention the Internet.

__________________

"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-


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Ian Topham
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Great post Mauro and well

Great post Mauro and well researched.  Personally I had never heard of this case but it does sound fascinating. 

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Ian Topham
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Wychbury Hill

I don't know much about this case yet but in a wood at Wychbury Hill, Stourbridge the body of an un-named woman was found inside a wych elm tree during WWII.  Apparently over the years the graffiti "Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?" has cropped up around the area.  The murder case was never solved.  Wychbury Hill is the site of an Iron Age hillfort and is now a popular site for pagans.

Mauro
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That's one good case

I haven't heard of the Bella case in years, excellent memory Ian.
Margaret Murray again approached the Worchestershire Police offering yet another "occult" explanation for the murder. She believed Bella to have been either put to to death for a crime against some mysterious cult or to have been deliberately killed as to provide a "Hand of Glory" since the skeleton was missing a hand.
There are many problems with this theory. First of all Professor James Webster, the forensic investigator who examined the rests in Birmingham, did an absolutely brilliant job, despite the limitations of the technology available at the time and being stripped of resources by the war. His findings were later confirmed using more advanced analytical methods: there were no signs of violence on the skeleton, but bits of taffeta were found in the mouth. Most likely cause was asphytiation. The body most have been pushed into the hole while still warm because this would have proven impossible after rigor mortis had set in. Also in July 1941 the Worchestershire Police received a phone call from two men who had heard a woman screaming in Hagley Wood and sent patrolmen to investigate but found nothing: this was roughly 20 months before the skeleton was found and Professor Webster had concluded that the murder occured "more than 18 months" before the body was found. It seems highly unlikely that such a forensic expert would have missed cut marks. In fact he concluded that the missing hand was most likely the work of scavenging animals.
Also if I remember correctly the "Hand of Glory" was to be cut from hangmen (please note that the most powerful mandrake roots were supposed to be the ones growing near the gallows, I won't say why) and I seriously doubt Professor Webster would have missed something as obvious as hanging signs.
Also if remember correctly a nearby pub owner claimed that his cellar was haunted by the ghost of Bella, though this may have either been an angle to boost sales or simply influenced by the opera "Who Put Bella in the Wych Helm?".

__________________

"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-


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BaronIveagh
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By the hedgerow with the trimmer, eh?

To be killed with a hedge trimmer (I'm assuming it was of the clipping type, rather like shears) would require the old man to have been over-powered.  They're an awkward sort of weapon to use on a moving target. The choice of weapons suggests a crime of the moment, rather then a premeditated act. 

I don't know enough about this crime to help.  I need more data.  Poor man, the worst is that his killer has probably allready passed on, given the age of the case.

Summum Nec Metuam Diem Nec Optima

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Daniel Parkinson
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BaronIveagh wrote: To be
BaronIveagh wrote:

To be killed with a hedge trimmer (I'm assuming it was of the clipping type, rather like shears) would require the old man to have been over-powered.  They're an awkward sort of weapon to use on a moving target. The choice of weapons suggests a crime of the moment, rather then a premeditated act. 

Probably more likley to have been a billhook, or similar bladed weapon rather than shears, as these are used on country (field boundary) hedges where branches are half cut through and then positioned to grow as a hedge, rather than a pruning tool- which would not work too well. Although again I am not sure.

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Ian Topham
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Re: The Charles Walton Mystery, Warwickshire
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indiagold
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Re: The Charles Walton Mystery, Warwickshire

Hello All
I used to fascinated by the Charles Walton case as a teenager. i mean it had everything-the pitchfork pinning his neck to the ground;Meon Hill which allegedly was called black dog hill by the locals- the harbinger of death (see Ian's recent link);Fabian of the yard:the date of death 14th February and of course the press loving every bit of it and yes over the top and downright inaccurate reporting.
I recently Wiki'd it out of curiousity and this is the result:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Walton_%28murder_victim%29

(sorry my security settings won't let this paste in as a hyperlink)
Just type in charles walton into wikipedia and you should get it.

It looks like murder plain and simple, the motive being money and the chief suspect was the farmer who employed Walton.  However, I am fascinated by the way Walton died (the bill hook, his stout countrymans staff and (was it finally? talk about overkill.) the pitchfork- how apt to pin a so called witch so their spirit wouldn't walk again. Was this final point because of a genuine belief, or because the murderer wanted it to look like a ritual slaying?

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indiagold
Always keep an open mind about things; But make sure your brain doesn't fall out.


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Ian Topham
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Re: The Charles Walton Mystery, Warwickshire

Back in the 1940's I suppose paganism, witchcraft and the occult was looked upon very differently than it is today.



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