The verdict of the Crewkerne jury on award-winning crime writer Diane Janes’ presentation of two past real-life murder trials, was hailed a success. Twelve people sat on the jury to hear two cases, one dating from 1961 and the other from 1924. Both cases were presented by Diane Janes at the George Reynolds Centre, in an event organised by Crewkerne & District U3A. Diane read out summaries of the evidence before inviting the Crewkerne jury to discuss each case – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In the case of the murder of a 72 year old doctor in 1961, the local jury came to the same conclusion as at the original trial, that the accused was not guilty. The second case, which will be dramatised on TV later this year, known as the Chicken Run Murder, resulted originally in the accused, a Sunday school teacher, being hanged for the murder of his fiancee. The Crewkerne jury’s verdict was not guilty, and they found themselves in agreement with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous writer who said that the ‘trial had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty’.
Jane Pearce who took part as a member of the recent Crewkerne jury said: “It was a most enjoyable day that absolutely flew by. As a keen student of crime fiction, I really enjoyed it. We learned a lot about the law and how to interpret evidence, ignoring hearsay and pursuing only what could be proved.” Chris Dubery, another member of the Crewkerne jury said: “Diane is an excellent presenter. Some of the things we heard were disturbing but thought provoking and all of us would jump at another such day in the jury box.” Member of Crewkerne & District U3A, Betty Spanswick summed up the proceedings: “A fascinating experience that concentrated our minds and improved our legal knowledge. Crewkerne U3A have been asked to run a similar event in the future. Crime writer Diane Janes’ seventh novel, A Stroke Of Bad Luck, has just been published.