When Chief Inspector Hambrook and Detective Sergeant Bell from Scotland Yard arrived in Blandford to investigate the crime, it was like a scene from Midsomer Murders. They had arrived at Blandford Station after a long and uncomfortable train journey down from the capital. Two successive managers at the Coverdale Dog Kennels in Tarrant Keynston had lost their lives from shotgun injuries. Both bizarrely had happened in the village within two years. The two detectives soon felt they were receiving little help from the locals and were being met by a conspiracy of silence. They did however uncover tales of marital infidelities, anonymous poison pen letters and petty jealousies.
Blandford's Doctor Kenneth Wilson had examined the body and concluded that the injuries could not have been self inflicted. So the Scotland Yard Chief Inspector called in the Home Office Pathologist, Sir Bernard Spilsbury who shared the Blandford doctor's opinion.
The villagers were convinced that both deaths were caused by shotgun accidents. Such was their reticence to come forward that in his Sunday sermon, the Reverend Mann, Tarrant Keynston’s Rector made a special appeal to his parishioners to help the police in their investigations. The police quickly concluded that the murderer was known locally as the dogs would have barked if the intruder had been a stranger to the village. Edward Welham (25) had been found in the Kennels office in a pool of blood. He was discovered during the morning of the 1st October 1931 by kennel lad, Frederick Deamen. Welham had extensive wounds on the back of his head and beneath his body was a double barrelled shotgun one barrel of which had been discharged. The unconscious Kennels manager was rushed to Blandford Cottage Hospital where he died the next day.
At the Inquest, the Coroner, Mr W H Creech declared: ‘There was someone who knew more than was told and they were standing in a precarious position…. If the gun was fired at the distance stated by experts you can come to no other conclusion than that there was a third party responsible for this – that the man was murdered.’ The jury then returned a verdict of murder by a person or person’s unknown.
Although the kennel lad was a convicted thief, the Coroner added: ‘It cannot be said for a minute that there is sufficient evidence on which you can say that Deamen is responsible for murder.’
Owner of Coverdale Kennels, Ethelbert Frampton, who was from Christchurch, had said that Edward Welham was a most careful man with a gun. Frampton did not believe there was the slightest suggestion that his deceased employee would commit suicide. Coverdale’s previous manager, William Steer had been found dead in a badger hole two years earlier with a shotgun by his side. Edward Welham had found the body and it had been finally concluded that Steer had committed suicide.
While the Coroner had returned a murder verdict the perpetrator remained at large. The murderer had taken money from Welham’s wallet which had contained around nine pounds. This further suggested that the death was not suicide. The file of the crime involving the murder of the Tarrant Keynston Kennels manager Edward Welham was listed and filed away as ‘unsolved’. Murder of Edward Welham remains a case that Scotland Yard has been unable to solve. A senior police officer reckoned he knew who had committed the murder but that there was insufficient evidence to justify a charge.
Image: crime scene reconstruction.
(Credit: National Archives, Kew & unsolved-murders.co.uk)