Attempted Murder of a Cousin

Saffron Walden Weekly News - Friday 07 August 1925

Friday 7th August 1925


Young Girl Pleads Guilty at Saffron Walden.


At a special sitting of the Saffron Walden County Police Court on Friday, Dawn Joan Davies, aged 15 years, was brought up on remand, charged with the attempted murder of her cousin, Robert John Aylwin, in a meadow at Lower Green, Langley, near Saffron Walden, on July 21st.

The girl showed no signs of emotion, and followed the evidence with interest, and put several questions to her cousin when he had given his evidence. The girl was given a seat beside her mother in front of the Clerk's table. During the evidence the girl's mother cried for a few moments, and asked for a glass of water.

The magistrates sitting were Mr. S. W. Crawley (in the chair), Messrs. D. Miller, P. G. Cowell and W. P. Cowell.


Supt. Flack said he had been in communication with the Chief Constable of Essex, and had received certain instructions, and with the consent of the Bench he asked that the charge should be amended from attempted murder to one of inflicting grievous bodily harm with a knife.

The Bench granted the request.

Supt. Flack, outlining the facts, said that on July 21st the prisoner came up to P.C. H. Lomax in King-street, Saffron Walden, and said she wanted to give herself up for cutting her cousin's throat with a knife in a field at Langley. He saw the girl at the police station and noticed that she was in an excited state and exhausted. He told her the serious nature of the statement she had made, and that what she said might be taken down and given in evidence against her. Later in the day, in company with P.C. Lomax, he went to a cottage at Langley Green and saw the boy, Robert John Aylwin, and found that he had two cuts on the front part of his neck which had been freshly done. One cut was about one inch and a half long, and another below it about an inch long, bit was to so severe as the other. He later charged the girl with attempted murder, to which she made no reply. He would call Dr. Hepworth, who had examined the prisoner, and he would tell the Bench that he found no signs of mental trouble with the girl.


Robert John Aylwin, aged 9 years, who found it difficult to answer the questions put to him by the Clerk and members of the Bench, gave his account of what happened in the field. He said he lived with his parents at Water Wick Hill, Langley. About 3 o'clock on July 21st, his cousin, Dawn Joan Davies, came to the school and said she wanted to meet a friend in Langley Meadow. She asked him to go with her, and he went. hen they arrived at the meadow the girl said to him, "Let me look at your teeth"; she put her hand over his eyes, pulled out a clasp knife, and cut his throat with the knife in two places. He recognised the knife produced in Court, which belonged to him, and he kept it in a drawer in the kitchen.

Questioned about what happened afterwards, the boy stated that he told the girl that she had cut his throat, and he kicked out at her, and she ran away and he went home. He also stated that the cuts did not hurt him, an that when the girl put her hands over his eyes she said to him that "there was someone behind him."

Questions further, the boy said that when the girl ran away she threw the knife down and picked it up and went home and told his mother that Dawn had cut his throat with a knife. But he did not know if the girl knew where the knife was kept.

In answer to a question by the Clerk, the boy said they were near the footpath in the meadow, but were close to a hedge, where no one could see them. He also stated that when the girl said to him, "I want to meet a friend," she did not say who the friend was. He could remember seeing a boy walking across the meadow when they arrived, but he did not stop.

Asked if he had quarrelled with his cousin, he said that he had, but they were always good friends afterwards.

Ald. Miller: Was your cousin in front of you when she pulled the knife out? —No; she was at the back of me.

Was she at the back or front of you when she put her hand over your eyes? —At the back. She had her left hand over my eyes and pulled the knife out with her right.

Did you know, when she was at the back of you, that she had a knife? —No. but she took her hand away when she had done it, and I felt the knife on my throat.

Further questions were put to the witness, who stated that as soon as the girl had cut his throat she ran away in another direction, and did not return home any more that day. He did not know whether the girl did it in play or not, but he was sure that they had never played with a knife.

The Clerk: Had you any quarrels? —We had no quarrels that day, but the last time we quarrelled I struck her, but we were good friends afterwards.

Ald. Miller: Did you and the girl fight sometimes? —Yes.

Mrs Ada Aylwin, of Water Wick Hill, Langley, said she was the mother of the boy, and the prisoner, Dawn Joan Davies, was 15 years of age, and had lived with her since August last. The girl's mother was Mrs. Kate Vaughan, who lived at Walthamstow, and her father was dead. The girl came to live with witness for health reasons, and was good, honest girl, but was sometimes a little short-tempered and would resent being reproached. The girl got on well with the other children, and she (witness) never knew the girl to hurt the boy.

A few weeks ago witness had occasion to speak to the girl because she was a long time after the milk. The girl said, "Aunt Ada, you have always been good to me, but there is something that comes over me." She asked the girl what it was, but the girl could not say. The girl was fond of readin, and read a good deal, but not "rubbishy" books.

Questioned about the day when the boy came home with his throat cut, witness said that the girl looked white and felt the heat terribly. About 3 o'clock witness's little boy came running up the garden path crying, and said, "Dawn has tried to cut my throat." She saw the boy's throat, and found one cut and a scratch. There was no blood. She bathed the wounds, which looked fresh. The boy told her that the cuts were done with a knife, and that Dawn had done it. She bandaged the boy's throat, but the wounds did not look deep.

Ald. Miller: Was there any blood on the boy's body? —No; no signs whatever.

Has the boy used his pocket handkerchief at all? —No, the wounds had not bled at all.

Did you consider it sufficiently bad to call a doctor? —No.


Dr. F. Hepworth, medical practitioner, Saffron Walden, stated that at the request of the police he examined the prisoner on July 21st, and found her in a somewhat excited state, but she was quite steady in manner and speech, and was quite clear mentally, and gave him a clear account of what happened in the afternoon. The girl told him that she had been subject to headaches, and the noises in the head had been much worse during the past two weeks. During the afternoon the headache had been very severe, and the "buzzing noises" in her head had been worse also. She had found it difficult to get on with her work, and had got behind with it, and consequently got out of temper. From what the girl said she had apparently had some argument with her aunt.

He questions her further, and the girl said that she went upstairs and took a knife and some money, and went to the school and asked for her cousin, and then they went to a meadow. She covered his eyes with her hands and made cuts on the boy's throat with a knife, and then went on to Saffron Walden. Witness asked the girl why she cut the boy's throat, but she could give no reason, but stated that when she had done it her temper had disappeared, and that she had been reading in the newspapers about a boy murdering a butler.

With regard to her mental state, the doctor was of the opinion that she was probably of an excitable nature and lacking in self-control, but in the examination and subsequent examinations he did not consider the girl was in any way mentally deficient or insane. Her memory was far better than average.

Of her physical condition, he found she was suffering from middle-ear disease, which would probably account for the noises in her head and debility. He had examined her twice since the girl was remanded, and had found her mental powers right above the average.

With regard to the boy, Dr. Hepworth stated that he examined the boy on July 22nd and found two superficial wounds on the front part of the neck, which looked like deep scratches, one was an inch and a half long and the other about one inch, and both were healing, which was about 18 hours after the alleged injuries had been inflicted. He found no signs of any danger to the boy.

Questioned about the evidence given by the boy's mother, who said there was no blood, the doctor said he would have expected a little blood, but not much, as they were surface wounds.

The knife was handed to the doctor, who stated that the wounds were consistent with the knife produced, and he thought that had the girl been in possession of a better knife she would have done more damage, and the knife produced had no doubt saved her.

At this point Supt. Flack handed to the doctor a yellow-handled table knife, and asked the doctor if he thought the knife would have done more damage, at which the doctor replied "Yes."

P.C. H. Lomax stated that on July 22nd he was escorting the prisoner to the Workhouse, when she suddenly said, "I have just thought of something that has come to me which I did yesterday, before I tried to cut Jack's throat." He cautioned her, after which the girl stated that she could just remember that she had sharpened a yellow-boned table knife, which had the point broken off, and she put the knife in her best coat pocket which hung on the kitchen door, and added: "I know it will be there, because my auntie never touches my clothes. I cannot remember why I sharpened the knife, or why I put it in my pocket."

Edith Frances Hodgson, schoolmistress of Langley, gave evidence to the effect that the girl came to the school and asked to see the boy Robert Aylwin. She allowed the boy to see the girl, and the boy did not return to school that day. The girl in asking to see the boy said that she had to go out, and wanted to tell him of the arrangements that she had made. The witness, in answer to questions from the Bench, said it was the usual practice for people to come and speak to the school children. She had spoken to the girl, as she took children to the school regularly last winter, and she thought that she was rather nervous when spoken to.

Mrs. Kate Vaughan stated that she was the mother of the child, and that the girl's father was dead. The girl was delicate, and went to Langley to live for her health.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.


At the resumed hearing on Tuesday the girl was formally charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm upon Robert John Aylwin, on July 21st, in a meadow at Langley. The prisoner pleaded guilty and elected to be dealt with by the magistrates present.

P.C. H. Lomax, Saffron Walden, related the facts, which showed that the girl came up to him on July 21st, and said that she wanted to give herself up for murdering her cousin in a meadow during the afternoon. The girl was taken to the police station, where she was seen and cautioned by Supt. Flack, and later in the day was charged with attempted murder.

Continuing, the witness said that he, in company with Supt. Flack, went to a cottage at Water Wick Hill, Lower Green, Langley, and saw the boy, who had two cuts to his throat. The knife produced in Court was handed to him by the boy's mother, Mrs. Ada Aylwin.

Supt. Flack briefly outlined his evidence given on Friday.

P.C. Aylett, of Elmdon, stated that on July 23rd he went to Water Wick Hill, where the prisoner resided with her aunt. He was shown a mauve coat, and in the pocket he found a yellow-boned table knife, which was produced in court.

Ald. Miller: Could you tell us if the girl was wearing that coat in the fields? —No, it was her best coat.

The prisoner, in a statement to the Bench, said that after she did it the "buzzing noises" in her head ceased. But she could not tell them what made her do it.

Ald. Miller: Do you admit doing it? —Yes.

The Chairman: Did you tell the doctor that you had been reading in the newspapers of where a boy had murdered a butler? —Yes, but I did not take any heed of it. I read the newspaper and forgot about it.

Ald. Miller: Do you think it influenced you in any way? —No.

Did you take some money that day? —Yes, but it was my own money, I had saved up, and I was going to finish paying for a pair of boots.

Ald. Miller: What money had she in her possession?

Supt. Flack: She is correct; she had the money and also a cord.

This concluded the evidence.

The Bench retired, and were absent for some time, and on their return the Chairman, addressing the prisoner, said that the Bench, after a long and careful consideration of the case, had decided to deal with her as leniently as possible. They had decided not to send her to a reformatory school, so that the stigma could not fall on her, but she would be placed on probation for two years, under the care of Mr. B. J. Stanley, who would find her a home which he thought would be the most suitable to meet her case. The Bench were sorry to see a young girl in her position, and they hoped this would be a warning to her. With regard to the mother, she would be bound over in the sum of £5 to observe the conditions laid down by the Bench.

The Bench also announced that Miss C. E. Neville, hon. sec. of the Essex Voluntary Aid Society, would see that the girl would be treated at St. Bartholomew's Hospital for the ear trouble, which it was said she complained of.