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Look back in time: Murdered farmer had been 'dead' for 39 years
5:00pm Friday 16th August 2013 in News
Fifty years ago today, the Packet covered the amazing case of the brutal murder of a reclusive Constantine farmer who “died twice.” The case was even more notable for concluding with two of the last hangings in Britain.
William Garfield Rowe, 64, died officially when he was stabbed to death in the doorway of his isolated cottage at Nanjarrow Farm on August 14, 1963 - but for 39 years William had been “dead” to the outside world, with neighbours believing he was a victim of the 1914-18 war.
Russell Pascoe from Constantine
In 1917 he was conscripted to the Army, only to desert and be back home within a week.
Home then was Venton Vedna Farm at Porthleven. Armed with £50 and his parents’ blessing, he went into hiding in another part of the country.
The Military caught up with him and he was sent to a detention centre on the Isle of Wight – from where he escaped and went into hiding for the rest of the war. Then he returned to the family home and began his 39 years of living death.
He hid from authority in an upstairs room and earned his keep through farm work during the night. With family members sworn to secrecy, the farm was able to provide all he needed to lead his secret life.
Remote Nanjarrow Farm where William Rowe lived and died
Following the death of his father, William, his mother and brother Stanley moved to the Constantine address – with William hiding beneath a pile of sacks in a hay cart.
His brother and mother died in 1954 and 1956 respectively, but William was spared the dilemma of what to do by the granting by the Queen of a general amnesty to the deserters of both world wars.
The Packet reported: “Steadfastly, William Garfield Rowe marched into the local police station to tell the world of his existence . . . but there was no wild whoopee to make up for those missing 39 years.
“He carried on quietly at the isolated farmhouse, shopping once a week, visiting market now and again, but always happy to return to his cattle, pigs and cats at Nanjarrow.”
He met his brutal end at the hands of two uninvited visitors one summer’s night. Dennis John Whitty, 22, of St Keverne, and Russell Pascoe, 23, of Constantine, were arrested within two days.
Police escort for 22-year-old Dennis John Whitty, of St Keverne
Three days later, they made the first of their remand appearances before Penryn magistrates, with their arrival witnessed by several hundred spectators lining the streets.
As the case subsequently unfolded, it became apparent that the pair had believed Mr Rowe was keeping a fortune in cash hidden on his farm. He did have £3,000 in his farmhouse, but Pascoe and Whitty – after beating and stabbing him to death – escaped with just £4.
They were charged with murder, tried, convicted and condemned to death. Simultaneously, at 8am on December 17, 1963, Pascoe was executed at Bristol’s Horfield Prison and Whitty at Winchester Prison.
Both men were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of the prisons where they had been hanged, as was the custom. Only two more prisoners were executed in Britain, both in August, 1964.
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