On Valentine’s Day 1945 in Warwickshire, England, police found the murdered body of Charles Walton. The seventy-four-year-old was discovered on a farm called The Firs, his body resting on the side of a hill. He was last seen alive the morning of February 14th leaving his home with his thirty-three-year-old niece Edith heading out to work in the local field. Charles carried a pitchfork and slash hook, his standard field tools. At the scene, police found very little evidence to indicate a suspect. Then things got really weird.
Charles was a loner. Although not disliked, he didn’t really socialize with his neighbors. An old man who farmed in the fields most of his life, Charles now walked with a stick because of his arthritis. Charles was known to take work where ever he could. For the last nine months, he worked for Alfred Potter on his farm, known locally as The Firs. On February 14th, Edith (his niece whom he had adopted after her mother’s death) returned from work expecting to find Charles already home. Edith was immediately alarmed when she realized he had not yet come home; because of his solitary nature it was highly unlikely that he was out with his friends.
Edith gathered a few neighbors and set out looking for Charles. When they found him, he had been beaten by his own walking stick, his throat had been cut open by his slash hook, and he had been stabbed through the neck by his pitchfork pinning him to the ground. An autopsy revealed that not only had his trachea been severed, but he had also sustained several broken ribs and a cross had been carved into his chest. Despite such a grisly scene, police had a great deal of difficulty finding a suspect.
Over the years, several strange theories began to emerge. One theory revolved around a similar case from 1875. On September 15th, Ann Tennant was returning from the market when she encountered local resident James Heywood. Heywood was known as a simple-minded individual who enjoyed bouts of heavy drinking. On that day, he was drunk on cider and carrying a pitchfork. Without warning Heywood attacked Ann, stabbing her several times with his pitchfork before finally pinning her to the ground with it. Heywood was immediately arrested and later sentenced to live out the rest of his life in an asylum for the criminally insane. It would later be revealed that Heywood was suddenly overcome by an intense feeling that Ann was a witch and needed to be killed. Then nine years after the murder, it was discovered that Ann Tennant was actually Charles Walton’s great-grandmother.
Because of this relationship, it was theorized that Charles Walton, just like his great-grandmother, was also a witch. Even before his death, there were witchcraft rumors about Charles circulating the small village. Some claimed Charles could cast spells and kept toads as pets which he would unleash on the crops of anyone who crossed him. After a particularly poor harvest in 1944, it is theorized that a few of the local farmers decided Charles was the cause and had to die.
The case has become Warwickshire’s oldest unsolved murder investigation. Over the decades, several more theories have emerged. Some are more grounded in reality, theorizing local residents as potential suspects. Other theories center around suspected witchcraft, black magic, and bizarre Druid rituals of the region. However, none of these theories have brought the authorities any closer to uncovering who was responsible for the death of Charles Walton.