The Quinton Witch & The Unsolved Murder of Charles Walton

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In 1945 Britain, witchcraft was long gone, but ask any local from the sleepy town of Lower Quinton, what happened to Charles Walton, and they’ll tell you it was witchcraft!

This and NINETEEN other true crime stories and mysteries can be found in Bizarre True Crime Volume 1, available from Amazon.

Born in 1870, Charles Walton was a 74-year-old local gardener and hedge cutter who was brutally murdered on a cold Valentine’s Day in 1945. His body was found the same night on Firs Farm, on Meon Hill, Warwickshire. His death remains the oldest unsolved murder in Warwickshire.

Walton had been a landscaper and farm worker for most of his life, and despite walking with a stick, he was still able to take on minor jobs like hedge cutting. For nine months prior to his death, he had been working on Firs Farm, for the owner, Alfred Potter.

The day of the murder, Walton left home with his trusty pitchfork and a cutting hook and made his way to the farm. He was last seen walking past the local church at around nine in the morning. At some point during the day, Walton was brutally murdered.

Murder most horrid

Walton was living with his niece at the time of his death, Edith Walton, and she noticed he hadn’t returned home at his usual time of 4pm. Due to his tendency to end up in the local pub, she dismissed it and visited her neighbour instead. By 6pm, when Walton hadn’t returned, Edith and the neighbour walked over to Firs Farm and informed Alfred Potter.

Potter claimed he had last seen Walton cutting the hedges near the Hillground side of the farm, far away from the main farmhouse. The three of them traipsed over to where Walton had last been seen and stumbled upon a horrific sight.

Beside a hedgerow, hidden from view from the local lanes, was the body of Charles Walton. He had been beaten with his own stick and his neck had been cut open with the cutting hook. To top it off, the pitchfork had been driven through his neck, pinning him to the ground, and the cutting hook was left embedded in the side of his neck. A cross had been carved on his chest.

Potter, who was the only one who wasn’t screaming by that point, alerted a passing local man, who in turn called the police. As the darkness set in across the hills, word was getting around Lower Quinton that witches had killed old man Walton.

College Arms pub has been in Lower Quinton since the 16th Century.

Suspects and rumours

Professor James Webster, of the West Midlands Forensic Laboratory, arrived at the scene, hours after the police, and just before midnight. He was brought in to ascertain exactly what had happened and how many people had been involved in the murder. While he took the body away to work on it, Alfred Potter became the prime suspect.

He told police that he had been drinking at lunchtime with another farmer and had seen Walton in the Hillground cutting hedges shortly after. Due to the location the body was found at and the length of hedge that was cut, it was ascertained that Walton had been killed at approximately 2pm.

Potter hadn’t gone back to check on Walton as he would always make his own way home at around 4pm. On this occasion there had been a cow stuck in a ditch that required Potter’s attention and he claimed he never saw Walton after that.

Before things got out of hand in the town, the local police requested the assistance of the Metropolitan Police, who were better equipped to deal with such evil. Along with witches, rumours were spreading of escaped Italian prisoners of war who were being held at a camp nearby.

Two days after the murder, Chief Inspector Robert Fabian and Detective Sergeant Albert Webb arrived in Lower Quinton. They immediately ordered a local officer to stick to Alfred Potter like glue and report back on every little thing he did.

An interpreter was sent to the Italian World War Two camp to see if the killer had come from there but reported back that every prisoner had been accounted for on the day of the murder.

At the same time, Professor James Webster returned with his post-mortem results and claimed that it would have taken a man of quite some strength to have killed Walton alone.

Prime suspect

Being a farmer all his life, 40-year-old Potter would have been strong enough to overpower Walton and push the pitchfork through him. Three days after the murder, Potter was interviewed for a second time by the detectives from the Met.

But already, his story wasn’t matching up with the previous interview, in terms of the time he had been drinking and when he had seen Walton near the hedge.

The cow that Potter had attempted to get out of the ditch had been tested and was found to have drowned the day before the murder. The cow wasn’t removed from the ditch, known as Doomsday Ditch, until 3.30pm on the 14th, approximately two hours after the murder.

Potter was struggling to account for his time and Chief Inspector Fabian suspected him to be the killer.

On the 20th of February, the local officer watching Potter let slip that the forensics were taking fingerprints from the murder weapons. At which point, Potter said that he had touched the murder weapons when he first came across the body.

He also strongly believed that one of the Italians had managed to escape the camp and kill Walton, calling them all the names under the Sun.

When another officer came by the farm and told them that Military Police had arrested one of the prisoners at the camp, Potter punched the air with joy and celebrated with his wife. Even though, the story of the arrest was nothing to do with the murder of Walton.

Despite the strangeness of Potter’s character and version of events, no fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, and he was ultimately never charged with the murder.

Despite Chief Fabian being certain he was the killer, he also stated there was no evidence and no motive for Potter to have killed Walton and had mostly come across as a calm and civil man.

Enter – witchcraft!

Links to an even older murder

On a warm Autumn night in 1875, 79-year-old Ann Tennant was brutally murdered in the village of Long Compton, just fifteen miles from Lower Quinton. While returning from the shops with a loaf of bread, she passed a local farm, where a drunken local man named James Heywood was sitting.

Heywood was known to be of simple mind and a village outcast and Ann hurried past him. Another farmer nearby witnessed what happened next. Without warning, Heywood grabbed his pitchfork and attacked Ann with it. He stabbed her in the legs, head, and neck, continuously stabbing her until he was restrained by the farmer and his workers.

Heywood was heard screaming that Ann was a witch, as she lay dying from her deep wounds.

He was sent to trial for murder and ultimately found not guilty on the grounds of insanity. He was sent to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, which still stands to this day.

In an interview to discover his reasons for attacking her, he explained that Ann was one of at least 18 witches in the village and surrounding villages, and that he intended to murder every single one of them.

He refused to give the names of the other witches, in case they killed the investigators or other locals, for revealing their identity. He believed that witches had been in the village for hundreds of years and had kept their identities secret so they could live among us.

He claimed to have discovered this news from a local priest, whose job it was to protect the villages.

The ghastly climax of a pagan rite

Nine years after the Walton murder, and still no closer to an arrest, the two detectives made the link between the killing of Ann Tenant and Walton.

Despite being separated by 70 years, the two murders were remarkably similar. A closer inspection revealed that Tennant had a cutting hook embedded into her neck, the same as Walton.

The detectives discovered that the method of murder, using the cutting hook and pitchfork, was an Anglo-Saxon method of killing witches. At around the same time, the Met were provided with evidence and material that has since never been released to the public.

Leading to further speculation of something mysterious going on in Lower Quinton.

Chief Inspector Fabian later left the investigation unsolved, stating they had done all they could for the local police. As the years went by, when asked about the case, he had one final message for anyone looking into it.

“I advise anybody who is tempted at any time to venture into Black Magic, witchcraft, Shamanism – call it what you will – to remember Charles Walton and to think of his death, which was clearly the ghastly climax of a pagan rite.

“There is no stronger argument for keeping as far away as possible from the villains with their swords, incense and mumbo-jumbo. It is prudence on which your future peace of mind and even your life could depend.”

– Chief Inspector Fabian, many years after the Walton murder.

The Quinton Witch

What happened to Chief Inspector Fabian to have him leave the investigation? What material did he and his colleagues uncover? Did they discover evidence of a witch in the small English village?

Over the years, many investigations have taken place and many theories have been put forward, all backed up with tons of supposed evidence, but the most common one is the following.

Charles Walton’s great-grandparents were Thomas Walton and Ann Smith. Smith was Ann Tennant’s maiden name, born in 1794. She gave birth to William Walton who was Charles Walton’s grandfather.

When Thomas died of illness five years later, she remarried John Tennant in 1819. This led some to believe that Ann Tennant was the great-grandmother of Charles Walton.

What does this have to do with Charles’ murder?

An old book about folklore written by a local priest had been sent to Chief Inspector Fabian from another officer. In it, there is a story regarding Charles Walton.

In 1885, a young plough boy named Charles Walton was walking home from work at a farm when he encountered a ghostly black dog. This happened for three nights in a row until the last night when the dog was accompanied by a headless woman.

On the last night, Walton’s sister mysteriously died. To the locals this was proof that Charles Walton was a witch and was even feared by some villagers. It was one of the reasons why he kept himself to himself.

Locals later claimed he could cast evil spells and kept toads as pets, which were used to kill farmers crops. He was even said to have been involved in the death of Potter’s cow, the night before his death.

Locals banded together and murdered Walton using an ancient ritual so that his blood could soak into the ground to replenish the land. Shortly after Walton was murdered, locals reported seeing black dogs on the field and on the lanes around the village.

If Charles Winton was a witch, then it stands to some bizarre reason that his great-grandmother was too. And so, if James Heywood is to be believed that there were 18 witches in the Warwickshire villages at the time of Ann’s death, then Charles would have been the second.

Only 16 witches to go.

Despite the tales of witchcraft, what we do know is that Charles Walton was murdered in a ritualistic fashion in a small English village, and the case has never been solved.

This and NINETEEN other true crime stories and mysteries can be found in Bizarre True Crime Volume 1, available from Amazon.

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