A real murder mystery approached through dowsing by Alan Neal
Everyone has a specialist subject to draw on in a Mastermind emergency. For some it would an author, a machine or a battle. For me it would be beermats of the UK. For Alan Neal it is the tragic murder of Charlotte Dymond.
Alan gathered the 24 TDs together at Davidstow church. The church itself is unusually clean, both physically and psychically. All the usual earth energy and water lines are there, even through the font, but the building exudes little atmosphere - almost like a nonconformist place of worship. Around the back of the churchyard is a Holy Well, which dowsed to having still been in use during the last century. The still solid stonework, repaired in the not-too-distant past is now sadly being reclaimed by the rampant brambles and the seeping marsh. In the church graveyard lies the last resting place of the luckless Charlotte Dymond. She died in 1844, a bottom-of-the-social-order maidservant, just 18 years old. Some of the assembled sleuths felt her presence as Alan gave his introduction to this most uncomfortable episode.
Her body was found by a stream below Roughtor a few miles away on Bodmin Moor. Her boyfriend of the time, Mathew Weeks, was the last person known to have seen her alive. They walked out across the moor on the fateful afternoon of April 14th, deep in conversation. Charlotte never returned. In the days of Victorian justice, young Mathew, who could not read or write and had little in the way of defence or alibi, was convicted - on a mixture of circumstantial evidence and long-distance sightings in poor visibility - by witnesses with their own axes to grind. Mathew was hanged at Bodmin goal and buried beneath the coal yard. A memorial was erected at the murder site to the hapless Charlotte. QED.
Well, not quite - and this is where Alan Neal and his TD colleagues have an important role to play. While the details of the case and the list of potential suspects are covered in great detail in Alan's own book - Dowsing in Devon and Cornwall (Bossiney Books 2001), Alan has long been an exponent of the art of remenancing - finding and following the traces of people long departed. Here was a very practical and relevant application.
Leaving Davidstow and the formerly unmarked grave, now given some decency by a 20th century slab, laid by public subscription, we headed for Down Gate. We arrived at the spot where Mathew and Charlotte were last seen alive together. With a little help from Alan, we traced the footsteps of the pair taking their fateful last journey towards the moor - walking a pace apart, not arm in arm, as if the two had argued. But at Down Gate the track of Mathew turns away abruptly - and can be traced meandering disconsolately along and across a now-tarmacced side road. That of Charlotte continues, after a brief break, on to the moor itself.
Milling around with our rods and pendula, by a busy tourist route on the edge of the Second World War airfield at Davidstow, it was difficult to envisage what two young lovers, living in the reign of the almost-as-young Queen Victoria, would have made of it all. But Charlotte's energy imprint strode away across the open moorland - and we 21st century softies got back into our cars and drove after her.
The end of the story - the physical end, that is - occurred near by what is now a car park and popular picnic spot. The assembled time detectives retrieved their tools and located the tracks of Charlotte entering the final scene. But she was not alone. Another track, that of a man, enters the area at that time on that day. The tracks become tangled as if describing first a disagreement, then a violent struggle and there the remenance of Charlotte ends. We traced the various movements and debated the exact place of the murder - and whether it was the same as the place of death. In the days before helicopters and forensic science - and while dowsing was still regarded as black art - her decomposing body lay here, by the ironically named River Alan, for nine days.
The adjacent memorial states, rather too explicitly, that young Charlotte was murdered by Mathew Weeks at this spot - but Mathew's tracks are nowhere to be found at this place on that day. As one would expect with any group of dowsers, there was much debate as to the identity of the man in the final struggle - even the most experienced members of the group were divided between two of the names on the list of possible suspects. However, one man's name did not appear on anyone's list of potential murderers - the upset, but absent, Mathew Weeks. Mathew was a youngster from 'away', a lad who had argued with some of the locals and had won the heart of a local girl, at a time when there were not too many opportunities for meeting potential partners. Many would have been pleased or relieved to see him gone - and keen to hammer in the final nail by seeing his name embossed on Charlotte's oversized memorial stone. Little did they reckon with the TDs on tour in 2005.
This was a truly fascinating afternoon's dowsing, undertaken in improving weather and pleasant company. But for all the overtones of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, this is no ordinary whodunit. Here is a tale of real people and real injustice in our land. The facts may be reduced to traces of energy, but the impact and implications of that Sunday in April 1844 rattle on down the millennia - the unbalanced energy of guilt and frustration; the descendants who live on and the children who never were. Perhaps Charlotte really was there in the churchyard, hoping we would help redress this unstable and incomplete event in our history and allow things to move on.
The heavyweight press rightly takes up the cudgel on behalf of the victims of crime today, but it is sobering to note that our legal system has come a long, long way since the rough justice at Roughtor in 1844.
By way of a footnote, Gordon noted that Charlotte's granite memorial stele seemed to be on crossing earth energy lines - albeit fairly weak ones. We concluded that it would have been unlikely that the stone had been deliberately placed on the lines with such accuracy - and therefore the bulk of the memorial had, in some manner, attracted the 'passing' energy to itself over the last 160 years. A cameo of mystery in itself.
Many thanks indeed to Alan Neal for a most interesting afternoon. The handouts were ideal and the personal tuition was, as ever, invaluable.