Jacques Morrell has teamed up with a former journalist Simon Ford to create a new true-crime podcast that takes a fresh look at murder.
The first episode was released earlier this year having been recorded on location in Warwicksire (before the COVID lockdown).
Here’s an introduction:
On Valentine’s Day in 1945 a brutal murder took place which remains unsolved, seventy five years on. This murder was not some gangland killing where people are afraid to speak out. It was not a domestic crime of passion where the suspect got off on some legal technicality. It was not a tragic death where the actual cause is in doubt, or open to interpretation.
It is savage and brutal murder with no apparent motive. Not only that, it occurred in a sleepy village in the heart of England. If that is not enough to get you interested, then let’s throw in some local folklore and superstition, with stories of witchcraft and phantom black dogs roaming the area at night.
Let’s find out more about the location.
Lower Quinton is a small and unassuming Warwickshire village, just six miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. It is also the final resting place of the immortal Bard William Shakespeare, who was buried here in 1616.
There is a mix of the old and the new in Lower Quinton. Tudor period thatched cottages sit side-by-side with modern 1970s houses. English villages like this are not complete without at least one ancient pub or a mediaeval church. Lower Quinton has both, The College Arms and St Swithins.
St Swithins Church dates back to 1100.
It includes the tomb of Sir Henry Knight, who fought with distinction at the Battle of Agincourt.
The village consists of little more than a few streets surrounded by countryside. A place to escape from the rest of the world and find peace of mind and tranquility surely?
The thing is, Lower Quinton has a few dark secrets, and not just what happened on Valentine’s Day 1945. Secrets and superstitions that go back beyond the founding of St. Swithins nine hundred years ago. Events that go back before Lower Quinton was named and even before Julius Caesars armies marched upon these fields and claimed this land as a back-water of the Roman Empire.
If you visit Lower Quinton, you will notice the imposing plateau of Meon Hill.
Meon Hill is 194m above sea level and is visible above the farms and villages in the area. It has an odd look about it that makes it stand out. It has an almost flat top. Imagine a mound of clay with the top sliced off.
Meon Hill has existed here pretty much unchanged since the last glaciers rolled ponderously across the landscape, at the end of the last ice age.
The ancient Britons made their home here. The Druids would have performed rituals on the slopes of Meon Hill. With the arrival of Christianity, there is a local legend that reminds the locals of good and evil. It is said that the Devil tried to destroy the abbey at Evesham by hurling a huge mound of earth at it. The Bishop of Worcester saw the flying mountain and prayed for salvation. His prayers were answered and the missile came down next to Lower Quinton, to form Meon Hill.
Let’s bring ourselves more up to date, to Valentine’s Day 1945 and the events that took place at Firs Farm on the slopes of Meon Hill.
The Second World War had been raging for over 5 years. The war has taken its toll on the country, even in quiet farming communities like Lower Quinton. The farms were providing essential food for the people but farm workers were in short supply. Most young men were serving in the armed forces. Women were taking on roles usually done by the men. There was rationing, and people were struggling. There was also a nearby Prisoner of War camp.
Edith Walton lived with her 74 year old uncle named Charles Walton.
Charles was an agricultural worker and had lived in Lower Quinton all his life.
He had lived at 15 Lower Quinton since World War I.
On the day of the murder, Edith Walton had been working and returned home at 6pm. Concerned that her uncle was not at home, she went to see her neighbour, and together they made their way to Firs Farm to alert the manager Alfred Potter.
Potter had seen Charles earlier in the day, slashing hedges in a part of the farm named Hillground. The three of them set out in the semi-darkness, to check the location where Charles had been working.
When they reached Hillground, Edith was completely unprepared for what she discovered. She was immediately overcome with grief and shock, and began to scream loudly. Harry Beasley tried to pacify her and bring her away from the appalling scene before them.
Charles Walton’s body was lying near to a hedgerow. He was clearly dead. Like all corpses, it take the finder a few seconds for the finder to recognise it as a corpse. Even bodies that have no obvious injuries can appear strangely unreal. The position of their lifeless limbs can often make them not look human. The position of Charles Walton’s body was certainly odd. The injuries told those present that this was a murder, and a savage one.
Charles had been beaten repeatedly over the head with his own walking stick. He had also received horrific injuries from the tools and implements he needed for his work. His neck was cut open with the slash hook. He was also pinned to the ground. The prongs of his pitchfork had been driven either side of his neck and into the earth. The handle of the pitchfork had then been wedged under a cross member of the hedge and the slash hook had been buried in his neck. Charles Walton was not meant to survive this attack. His killer (or killers) had made sure of that.
A Murder Investigation was launched, and the Chief Constable sent the following message to Scotland Yard:
I would like Scotland Yard to assist in a brutal case of murder that took place yesterday. The deceased is a man named Charles WALTON, age 75, and he was killed with an instrument known as a slash hook. The murder was either committed by a madman or one of the Italian prisoners who are in a camp nearby. The assistance of an Italian interpreter would be necessary, I think. Dr Webster states deceased was killed between 1 and 2 pm yesterday. A metal watch is missing from the body. It is being circulated.
Find out more about the case by listening to the Six O’Clock Knock, a brand-new true-crime podcast, taking a fresh look at murder.
More recording in the grounds of St Swithins Church