In his notebook, Herbert Golledge twice mentions the name of Enoch Dix, who was sentenced to 15 years penal servitude by Justice Shearman for “shooting the keeper”. We can now reveal the circumstances surrounding this case.
Events took place on October 10, 1927 when just before midnight, Enoch, a known poacher hid his bicycle in a hedge near the village of Twerton, Somerset and made his way to the little wood of Whistling Copse.
He soon killed a pheasant with his shotgun, but the blast was heard by the local gamekeepers who hurried to investigate. In the wood they came face to face with Dix, who allegedly raised his gun and fired. William Walker, the head keeper, fell dead shot in the throat. The under-keeper, George Rawlings, fired both barrels after him as he ran away.
Enoch was an obvious suspect and was arrested at home the following day, taken to the police station and asked to strip. This he was very reluctant to do and when his clothes were eventually removed it was obvious why. From his neck to his thighs, his back was peppered with buckshot, much of it still under the skin.
Considering the evidence it was pointless for Enoch to deny his part in the affair, but it was his story that he had only fired accidentally after being hit by the gamekeepers buckshot. The case therefore hinged upon who was telling the truth. Was it Enoch or the gamekeeper who fired first?
Ballistics expert, Robert Churchill, was called in to investigate. Whilst making measurements in the wood it was observed that the tree by which Enoch had been standing when he received the charge was also peppered with buckshot from which the spread of the shot could be measured.
Churchill conducted a series of tests with the shotguns to see how far the shot spread and as a result of these experiments concluded that Enoch had been 15 yards from the under-gamekeeper’s gun when he had been hit. William Walker on the other hand had been hit at close quarters, about five yards.
The inevitable conclusion was that it must have been Enoch who fired first, unless he had been running towards the under-gamekeeper. Which was of course impossible since he had been shot in the rear.
After a two day trial a sympathetic jury found Enoch guilty only of manslaughter, but on November 9, 1927 an unsympathetic Justice Shearman gave him the maximum sentence of 15 years.
Enoch Dix was released from Maidstone Prison on February 10, 1939 having served 11 years and three months of his 15 year sentence lucky to be alive as Churchill’s investigation had also revealed that that the tree had taken most of the pellets, and he had been lucky and only hit by the fringe of the blast.