The Isles Of Scilly are home to beautiful gardens, exotic flowers, and enjoy the best climate in the British Isles, so when teenager Stephen Menheniott went there in 1974 to live on the family farm near St. Marys, he might have thought he had come to paradise. Instead, he had come to hell.
For Stephen was mentally retarded and was treated like a slave by his domineering, powerfully built father, Thomas Menheniott. When, aged 19, he disappeared on Christmas Day, 1975, local people thought he had at last escaped his evil parent. They didnt hear anything about him for more than two years, until MARCH 1st, 1977, the day his body was found crudely buried in St. Marys churchyard.
The story told at Bodmin Assizes, where Stephens father was arraigned for the murder of his son, was a terrible catalogue of cruelty. The prosecution said that Stephen was beaten savagely and routinely with a high-tension cable, a scaffold pole, a fence post, broomstick, shovel, and a potato tray. When his father left the farm he tied the youth to a post in case he ran away.
A dentist told the court that he found Stephens face had been subjected to so much violence that his front teeth were beyond repair. A pathologist said four ribs had been broken in the summer of 1975, some weeks before Stephens death, and a fourth had been fractured twice some time in the last few days of his life.
When the youth died of his appalling injuries his father dug a shallow grave in a field. The body was taken by car and wheeled to the graveside in a wheelbarrow covered with tarpaulin. The body was put in the grave and earth and logs were put on top of it.
Later Menheniott dug up the body and hastily buried it in a local graveyard, but in such a way as to hope that it would not be found.
So how had all this happened unnoticed, unchallenged, Mr. Justice Willis wanted to know? It emerged that Stephen had been in the care of another local authority in the south-east, separated from his family in Cornwall, for several years. When the boy was 15 the council could find no work for him, nor a home. He wanted to return to his family, so they let him go.
The other local authority said it was a matter of deep regret that when Stephen was discharged into his fathers care in 1972 they did not visit him to satisfy themselves that he was making satisfactory progress.
The jury took four hours to find Thomas Menheniott guilty of murder. He was sent to prison for life.