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Fountain continued: "After everything came clear to me, I realised she was dead and I thought the best thing I could do was to go to the police. Whatever happened to me, I would like to advise all married people never to smash up their homes for another man or woman. That's all.. I am very sorry for what's happened. I regret the day I smashed up my home. This statement has been read over to me and it's the gospel truth."

 

Various character witnesses then came to speak of Fountain's good character, all agreeing that for 12 years he had been regarded as a respectable and hard-working man.

 

PC Dennithorne said the accused had called at Yelverton Police Station and said to  him: "I have murdered my landlady" He was then cautioned and the PC noticed that the trousers of the accused were blood-stained and his right hand was wrapped in a white handkerchief which was streaming with blood. The accused then asked if the Rector of Meavy could come out to the police station as by this time, he was in very great distress.

 

Police Sergeant Burrow and Dr Graves-Morris then went out to Meavy, to Woodview. They found Mrs Warren lying  face down on the kitchen floor in a large pool of blood. She was fully dressed. There was testimony that blood was on the wall of the kitchen and on a rug. On the draining board was a blood-stained razor. There was blood on the draining board and a quantity of hair. There was also a bowl in the scullery containing blood-stained water and a towel hanging behind the door was also blood-stained as is someone had washed their hands with it. On cross examination, the police witness said there was not the slightest doubt that the accused had said " murdered" and not " killed" when explaining himself  at the police station. He had replied "Yes I have murdered her. She is dead all right. I do not want to give you trouble".

 

Detective sergeant N. B. Young said when he charged the accused with the murder of Mrs Warren he replied " Yes. I did it. I admit it. That is all I can say".

 

A pathologist was called to give detailed medical evidence about the wounds inflicted and said they included defensive wounds on her hands as she had tried to protect herself.

 

Ernest Alfred Fountain (43) a bus cleaner living at Meavy was then committed for trial at the Devon Assize on a charge of murdering Mrs Florence Ada Warren (46) at Woodview, Meavy on 25 November last. The trial took place in February and lasted two days after which the jury deliberated for two hours before returning a verdict of Guilty of Murder.

 

The defence had been insanity and the evidence called in support of this reflects how much has changed in the medical and legal professions since 1948. A Dr. Charles Robert Gibson, lecturer in forensic medicine at Bristol University and who was  Bath City Poilce Surgeon gave evidence in support of this defence. He spoke of poisons which attacked the nervous system during influenza, causing disease of the mind.. Dr Gibson said that if he had the slightest suspicion that Fountain, who did not appreciate his position, had a feigned blackout when he killed Mrs Warren, he would have refused to give evidence.  He was certain however that Fountain had suffered what was known as an organic amnesia.

 

The judge then turned to the jury, observing that amnesia was an important-sounding word for loss of memory. Dr Gibson said there was a difference between hysterical amnesia and organic amnesia, In the former, a person was aware of what he was doing while committing the act but in organic amnesia there was no association between thought and and action. People with hysterical amnesia did not make such a ferocious attack and remain as calm as Fountain had done. He added that Fountain was suffering from post influenzal depression.

 

Fountain gave evidence that he had married in 1932 and built the bungalow in 1934. He and his wife had lived happily until 1940 when differences began to apear between them. He used to visit the home of a Mr and Mrs Mattacott and that is where he met Mrs Warren who was Mrs Mattacott's sister. She had suggested that she should buy the house and that they should live together. "I more or less forced my wife out", he went on, " so that Mrs Warren could come and live with me".

 

The jury were told that they must consider the type of amnesia from which Fountain was suffering - had he only imagined he had forgotten the incident?

 

Fountain heard the verdict of Guilty apparently unmoved. He was asked by the Clerk of the Court if he had anything to say and in a quiet but firm voice replied:  " I am very sorry for what has happened. I put myself at the mercy of the court".

 

At that point the black cap was placed on the judge;s wig and he stood to pronounce the awful sentence:: " You shall be taken to a lawful prison, thence to a place of execution. You will be hung by the neck until you are dead ". The jury was told that their recommendation to mercy would be forwarded to the proper quarter and then it was all over.

 

CONTINUED

 

 
 
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