Saturday, 20 June 2009

Two Little Angels mark Terrible Tragedy

Two little angels mark the graves of two young girls who were brutally murdered by John Straffen in Bath in 1951. Five-year-old Brenda Goddard lived with here foster parents and, according to Straffen's police statement, he saw her gathering flowers and offered to show her a better place. After lifting her over a fence into a copse, he strangled her and when she did not scream, bashed her head against a stone. He made no attempt to hide the body and went on to visit the cinema.

On August 8, he met nine-year-old Cicely Batstone at the cinema. He took her first to see another film at a different cinema and then took her on a bus to a meadow on the outskirts of Bath. There he strangled her to death. This time, there were many witnesses who had seen him with the girl and he was quickly arrested.

At a subsequent murder trial, an expert witness said: "In this country, we do not try people who are insane. You might as well try a babe in arms. If a man cannot understand what is going on, he cannot be tried. The jury formally returned a verdict that Straffen was insane and unfit to please. He was committed to Broadmoor - then a 'lunatic asylum for the criminally insane'.

He was the longest serving prisoner in British legal history. He briefly escaped from Broadmoor in 1952 and killed again. This time, he was convicted of murder. Sentence, due to his mental state, was commuted to life imprisonment and he remained in prison until his death more than 50 years later. A lengthy account can be found on Wikipedia here.


Next to the two graves is a decaying bench (below). It has seen better days, but I would imagine that for years, the relatives and visitors to this spot in Locksbrook Cemetery sat for hours and grieved. It is a shame that the authorities haven't restored it, so it can be used once more as a site for comtemplation. Perhaps, I should contact them? What do you think?


Margaret Pangert said...

from this angle it doesn't look so bad, with white-washed cement blocks holding it up. I think it very sensitive and fitting of the two families to bury the two girls side-by-side. I can imagine both families finding solace there together.

Laurie said...

Thank you, Margaret. You can see how much wood has crumbled by the space each side of the iron clip. I agree, it is very fitting for them to be side-by-side - quite unusual, I think.
Best wishes

Margaret Pangert said...

hi Laurie, yes, unusual for them to be buried together like that, but it must have made sense to the parents at the time. Best regards, Margaret

Owen said...

What a dreadful story ! As a father of two girls it gives me chills. What a sick bastard ! And that he was able to escape and kill again... unbelievable and shocking. I'm afraid my proposal for how to deal with people like that may not be fit to print. Very touching monuments there to the two girls. Hard to imagine how the nine year old was left unsupervised at a cinema show ?

Yes, the bench should be re-done imho... And good detective work there, Mr GD...

Ann said...

how very sad ..i'm with couldn't print what i would have done.
maybe best to leave the bench as is stands..perhaps the families have been able to go on..the bench shows the sadness..maybe a reminder to all ...i don't know?

lovelyprism said...

I liked the history you added to this story. The flowers by the graves are so fitting for two little girls. It couldn't hurt to contact them, I would think it wouldn't cost much to fix it.

robert said...

Difficult to leave a comment about being out of words...nevertheless would like to say thank you for this entry of yours as it makes history remembered.
Probably also to be even more on the lookout for 'danger' around, especially for my young son.
In my opinion the graveyard authority should be informed with regard to the bench. Another idea: one could introduce a trust taking care of such things, providing help for victims etc.
Please have a nice start into the new week.

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