When William Brittle, a heating engineers salesman of Hook in Hampshire, found himself short of funds he advertised for a quick loan for an agricultural prospect. One respondent, Peter Thomas, said he was willing to lend him £2,000 at 12 and a half per cent, repayable in six months. But Brittle never repaid the loan. And six months later Peter Thomas, who lived in a tumbledown bungalow outside Lydney, pretending poverty, mysteriously vanished.
His body was eventually found in Bracknell Woods, 100 miles from Lydney. Despite the advanced state of decomposition pathologist Professor Keith Simpson decided that the victim could have been struck by a karate chop across the throat. Brittle, it was learned, had once attended a course in unarmed combat.
Brittle claimed that he travelled to Lydney on June 16th, 1964, repaid the loan in cash, and gave a lift to a hitch-hiker on his way home. And when a witness was found to say he saw Thomas at a bus station on JUNE 20th, the Crown decided not to prosecute.
It must have seemed to Brittle that he had got away with murder. But not quite. A coroners jury not only decided that Thomas was murdered, but named Brittle as the person responsible.
What told against Brittle at his trial was the evidence of Professor Simpson. Thomas must have been murdered on June 16th, he said, because the state of decomposition of his body tallied exactly with that date. Brittle was sentenced to life imprisonment.