He couldnt speak. He couldnt hear. He could neither read nor write. If that wasnt enough, George Roberts, 46, was in deep trouble. He was on a murder charge.
His misfortunes began when on the foggy night of Saturday, January 10th, 1953, screams were heard coming from the whitewashed cottage of Miss Elizabeth Thomas, in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. A neighbour, investigating, heard the sounds of a scuffle inside the cottage and called the police.
Miss Thomas, 78, was lying moaning on the floor. She was taken to hospital where she died next day.
The last man to have been in her house was George Roberts, a man of exemplary character. Interviewing him, detectives had a mountain to climb. Roberts did not understand deaf and dumb language and communicated by drawing crude pictures. A sign language expert was later to say, It would be simply useless to put all this to him. I cant do it.
None the less Roberts, known locally as Booda, was charged with murder, whereupon the interpreter commented, He would not understand sufficiently to make a plea of guilty or not guilty. Not surprisingly, therefore, when the case came to court the judge instructed the jury to return a not guilty verdict.
That satisfied the poet Dylan Thomas, who lived in Laugharne.
Booda was always quiet and harmless, he said. Everyone in the village liked him.
Throughout his trial Roberts seemed unaware of what was happening. That he was free to go was conveyed to him by his solicitor with a thumbs-up sign.