Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Village That Would Not Talk PT 1

This was the title of a 1979 documentary into an unsolved murder that happened in a very small village situated on the border between Lancashire & Yorkshire.  I remember watching this on TV but very nearly all the facts I had forgotten.  Subsequently, some things presented as fact, are actually incorrect.  Some of these errors are still presented as facts when you research this case.  It all happened on March 18th 1934, a Sunday evening, when farmer Jim Dawson, a 46 year old farmer and veteran of World War 1, was on his way home from a pub when he was shot in the back, yet he knew nothing about it.  All he recalled on the wet and windy night, was a tap on his shoulder, and hearing a click.  It was not until morning, that it was discovered that he had been shot.  His stubborn nature was later to have said to have contributed to his death.

    That night, Jim Dawson was to meet friends at a pub called the Edisford Bridge Hotel, but one, Tommy Kenyon, did not show up.  He left at 9pm to go home to Bashall Hall, by the small village of Bashall Eaves.  He lived at the hall with his family, and one of the tenants of the hall was Kenyon, who was employed by Dawson.  On his way home down a country lane, the headlights of two passing cars, showed a man hanging around a gate, but had no idea who it was, and the figure vanished.  He did recognise the people in one of the cars, which included Tommy Kenyon.  They had been for drinks at the Red Pump Inn in Bashall Eaves, then went to the Star & Royal Hotel in Clitheroe.  Dawson felt something hit his shoulder and heard a click but thought that he had been hit by a stone.  Later, at home, after a meal, he went to bed, but was very uncomfortable. Tommy Kenyon arrived back at the hall at 11pm.  Dawson was soon in agony and noticed some blood but decided to say nothing as it had appeared to stop bleeding.  He realised that he had been shot with something, and the man he saw illuminated in the headlights was responsible.

    He had his sister take a look at his back, where she saw a wound in his shoulder, but due to his stubborn nature, it was some time before the Police and a doctor was called.  The doctor persuaded Dawson to have an x-ray on his shoulder which revealed a bullet-like object lodged there.  He advised immediate surgery but Dawson, again, refused, so the doctor took to visiting him to check up on him.  Dawson soon started going downhill so he was taken to a private nursing home, where he was operated on, and the bullet removed.  Except it was not a bullet.  It was a piece of steel cut from a rod.  Whilst in the home, he gave a statement to an assistant clerk at Blackburn magistrates, but could not explain how anything had happened because he heard no shot.  Some hours later, Jim Dawson died from Septicaemia.  Now it was murder.

    Detective Chief Superintendent Wilf Blacker was called in to lead the investigation but ran into problems.  Nobody was saying very much, despite one of their own being killed.  Blacker had all firearms, regardless of age, taken for examination, and all local garages, sheds & workshops were all searched for cut pieces of steel.  Blacker had a problem; a man shot but no sound was heard.  So he called on the leading firearm expert at that time, Robert Churchill, who had contributed enormously to the investigation into the murder of PC George Gutteridge, some years earlier.  His contribution to forensics was the introduction of the comparison microscope.  Churchill believed the murder weapon had to be an airgun, such as a Poacher`s Arm, which consisted of two rods, one to take a slug of some kind, the other to take compressed air.  Powerful enough to injure somebody at reasonably close quarters.  But no such weapon was ever found.  Until the 1990`s, when such a weapon was found in a barn close to the pub Dawson drank in that night.

    Who were the suspects and why?  Dawson had a neighbour, Tommy Simpson.  Amongst his children was a daughter whose behaviour was scandalous.  Nancy Simpson was a young woman who enjoyed nude swimming in a local river, with local men, who naturally, loved her company.  Women hated her.  This was very much a no-no at that time.  Nancy was also mother to a child, but unmarried.  Another scandalous trait.  She had many admirers, one being Tommy Kenyon, but was said to have had an affair with Jim Dawson, who was double her age.  Police discovered that Dawson was a bit of a romeo and had a number of girlfriends, all who had to be interviewed by Blacker.  Tommy Kenyon had a fight with Nancy`s father, over his affections for Nancy.  But the investigation failed to turn up any conclusive proof.  Then a TV documentary was made about the case, and a book written by the great-niece of Jim Dawson.