On the morning of February 14, 1945, a seventy-four-year-old farm laborer named Charles Walton left his thatched-roof cottage in the English village of Lower Quinton and went to work in the nearby fields, cutting hedges for a local farmer. When he didn’t return home by sunset, his niece—Edith—got worried and went searching for him. It was a cold, misty night. Accompanied by a neighbor and the farmer who employed Walton, Edith went looking in the fields where her uncle worked. In the far corner of one meadow, the light from their torches fell on a horrible site. There lay poor Charles, pinned to the ground with his pitchfork, which had been plunged through his face. The slashing hook he used to trim the hedges was buried in his throat.
The local constabulary was ill-equipped to handle a case of such magnitude and requested assistance from Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad. The Yard sent their most famous manhunter, Detective-Superintendent Robert Fabian—known nationally through his policing exploits as “Fabian of the Yard.” In 1940s Britain, Fabian was almost a celebrity, having cracked some of the country’s most high-profile cases. How hard would it be to track down a killer in a village of 493 people?
In the event, the Lower Quinton murder would prove to be one case Fabian couldn’t solve. The crime remains an open homicide in the files of the Warwickshire Constabulary. The murder is considered by many to be the last ritual witchcraft killing in Britain. It’s claimed by some that Walton was a witch slain because of various activities tied to black magic. Others believe he was simply the unfortunate victim of an exceedingly brutal killer. The book I’m currently working, The Case That Foiled Fabian, to be released in 2014 by UK publisher The History Press, will examine Walton’s murder and the various theories that continue to swirl around it. I’m 45,000 words in and hope to have the first draft done by the end of January. It’s due at the publisher on May 1.
I’ve been so busy with researching and writing, I’ve had little time to update my blog. My apologies—but at least I have a somewhat decent reason for my lazy blogging habits as of late. As I move closer to the finish line, I’ll post more details on the book. I’ll be in England over Christmas and will be venturing to Lower Quinton to conduct a bit more research (I did some there this past February). Through Scotland Yard case files and an old photograph I found, I’ve located the actual field and the spot where Walton died, so I plan on snapping a few pictures.
Apparently, the villagers are awfully sensitive when it comes to the crime. I have to be honest and say I don’t know why. If it was a recent event, I’d certainly understand—but it happened nearly sixty years ago. You don’t see people in London’s East End still bent out of shape over Jack the Ripper—nor do you see San Francisco residents still up in arms over the Zodiac killer. Oh, well. Stay tuned for more details!