The trial of Brian Cawley at Winchester Assizes on Monday, DECEMBER 14th, 1959, for the murder of Rupert Steed has been described as the shortest murder trial on record disingenuously, perhaps, since at that time all guilty pleas to murder, requiring no evidence, were perforce very short.
Steed, 67, a bachelor, befriended Cawley, 30, his wife and their three children and bought a home in New Road, Basingstoke, where the Cawleys could live with him rent-free. Lonely and desperate for companionship, Steed lavished gifts on his adopted family. But Cawley, an unemployed radio engineer, began drinking heavily and his wife left him, taking the children with her.
Returning home on the night of Monday, August 3rd, 1959, Cawley found Steed alone in the house, and for no apparent reason battered him to death. He pleaded guilty to the crime, and was sentenced to life in a trial lasting only 30 seconds.