AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1948.

A HEREFORDSHIRE music teacher escaped the hangman's noose after shooting his best friend.

Gilbert Charles Dundonald Griffiths was sentenced to hang after being found guilty at Hereford Assizes in February 1948 of the murder of Cyril Ronald Barnes.

Griffiths appeared for his trial at Hereford Assizes wearing a heavy overcoat and flanked by two warders, with the jury consisting entirely of men and many women crowded into the public gallery, it was reported.

The court heard Barnes and Griffiths, who lived just doors apart, at 29 and 24 The Southend, in Ledbury, had been very friendly for a number of years before the 23-year-old mechanic was shot dead.

Prosecutor Mr Sachs said Mr Barnes had been married some eight or nine weeks before his death in Griffiths' home.

He had been shot in the back with a shotgun from a range of around three feet and there had been no struggle, Mr Sachs said.


Their friendship had been such that Mr Barnes had gone to Griffiths' home several times daily, and Griffiths had cried bitterly when Barnes went into the army, the court heard.

But, after Mr Barnes' marriage, he had visited Griffiths so infrequently that the prisoner, who had played the organ at the wedding and helped with the preparations for the day, had declared there was nothing left for him to live for.

In October, Griffiths had written a note to his sister telling her he was leaving her his money, piano, wireless, and wardrobe, and later that day, voices and a bang were heard from Griffiths' yard, where Mr Barnes had been keeping a motorcycle.

Some 15 minutes later, Griffiths arrived at the police station, where he said he had shot his best friend, claiming he had been showing him a gun belonging to his father and that it had gone off accidentally when he stumbled.

He said he had not known it was loaded and that he had written the note to his sister after he was told by his doctor that his heart was in a bad state.

It was later found that the gun did not belong to his father and that he had bought the cartridges at the same time as the gun.

Griffiths was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

The Home Secretary recommended a reprieve for Griffiths, who had been due to hang on March 10 at Gloucester Prison just days before his appointment with the executioner.