A "feeble-minded person"
Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, on commuting Straffen’s death sentence to life in 1952
Straffen is committed for trial for the murders of Brenda and Cicely at Taunton in October 1951 but is considered unfit to plead. The judge, Mr Justice Cassells tells the jury, "In this country we do not try people who are insane. You might as well try a baby in arms."
Instead Straffen is found mentally unfit to plead and is sent to Broadmoor. After his escape from Broadmoor and the subsequent murder of 5-year-old Linda Bowyer, Straffen does stand trial. At Winchester Assizes, the prosecution wins the first battle, as it successfully argues that despite the findings of the previous court, he is fit to plead.
It is still not a straightforward case. The first jury is discharged when the judge feels their opinion may have been unduly influenced by media coverage of Straffen’s first two murders. Then during the summing up the judge makes an odd comment about witness statements and their accuracy.
The jury take less than half an hour to find Straffen guilty and he is sentenced to hang.