When unemployed miner Joseph Cowley was taken on as odd-job man in the Pentowan private hotel, Summerleaze Crescent, Bude, he had every reason to imagine his luck had come good. For this was 1931 and the world economy was in a state of extreme depression. It was a fortunate man indeed who had a job.

Yet Cowley blew all his luck on a whim that landed him in the dock on a murder charge. On February 7th, 1931, while the hotel owners had gone out for the day, he took it into his head to rob and suffocate the only permanent guest, Mrs. Annie Dunhill, known as “Granny.” Then he walked out, having stolen only a few shillings.

When he was arrested the hotel owners found it difficult to believe he was the killer. They said: “Everything he did was punctilious. He thought of everything in advance and made preparation so that he would never be behind in his work.”

Even the judge was nonplussed. “I don’t understand,” he said to Cowley, “why, to put it your own way, you did a bunk.”

“That’s what I don’t know myself,” replied Cowley.

“It meant leaving your employers and your girlfriend.”


“What was it all about, then?”

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know myself.”

On the judge’s direction the jury decided it was manslaughter. Cowley, who still couldn’t fathom out why he did it, was sent to prison for seven years.