The prosecution were determined to prove Helen Duncan was a fraud. Her trial took
place barely a few months before the famous D-
The true story of a Scottish housewife who found herself in the centre of a WWII legal battle which ended with her being convicted under the Witchcraft Act.
During the second world war Helen was in great demand from anxious relatives, especially those who had lost close family on active war service.
Two second degree burns were found across Helen's stomach. She was immediately taken back to her Scottish home and later rushed to hospital.
Helen was sent back to London's Holloway prison, that Victorian monstrosity for female prisoners still being used today.
The Prime Minister had been ordained into the Grand Ancient Order of Druids and was a client and also a keen supporter of Helen Duncan.
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STOP PRESS!! -
He was a Spiritualist Medium for the last three decades, a former British Fleet Street
By Graham Hewitt, Legal Adviser.
NEW LEGAL MOVES to clear the name of Spiritualism's materialisation heroine Helen Duncan are announced to mark the 50th anniversary of her premature promotion to the next world on 6th December 1956, shortly after yet another mischievous police raid.
I can now report that earlier last year I submitted 500 pages of legal arguments to the Criminal Cases Review Commission on behalf of her eldest surviving grandson and his family.
The CCRC replied stating that they did not consider her case to be "in the public interest", declined to consider the application and returned my submission unread.
This curious response has baffled both campaigners and the 60 million global internet
Following advice from prominent Members of Parliament, including Lord Ancram and Michael Howard QC, the Minister who introduced the Commission who explained that cases like Mrs. Duncan's were ‘the very reason that the CCRC was set up’, I sought expert advice from counsel.
We have now secured the invaluable help of the prominent expert barrister, Mr Timothy Barnes QC from the leading London Chambers of Bedford Row.
Mr Barnes has an impressive track record. He is ranked as a leading silk in Fraud in the legal Directories. He has expertise in handling submissions to such technical legal subjects with the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
After reading our detailed submission Mr Barnes has commented; “To state that defence counsel was clearly erroneous in the way that he presented the defence is overgenerous". He adds the flaws in the defence by Counsel showed a level of professional incompetence, most probably caused by Mr Loseby not being a practicing Criminal Barrister.
As a direct result of his advice, we can now submit that Mrs. Duncan’s defence barrister, Charles Loseby, failed to present Mrs. Duncan to give evidence. In the subsequent appeal, he also submitted that the Judge had allowed the prosecution to bring forward her previous conviction. The details of that were given to the jury of her prosecution in the Edinburgh Sheriffs Court when she was found guilty, according to the prosecution, of fraudulent mediumship and affray and find the sum of £10. If he had investigated to that previous conviction, he would have clearly found that she was found £10 for the affray but the case of fraudulent mediumship was "not proven".
Regrettably Mr Loseby being a civil barrister and noted constitutional lawyer, appears not to have known the correct criminal procedure. Neither had he prepared himself adequately in Criminal procedure for this case. But he was no match to the two Prosecution barristers, who were well versed in Criminal law and procedure.
There is no doubt that Mr Loseby had a knowledge of Spiritualism since he had represented the Spiritualist National Union and other Spiritualist organisations in his submission to the Home Office in 1943, to change the law in respect of the Vagrancy Act and Witchcraft Act. Unfortunately, because of the limit on Parliamentary time, the Home Secretary did not have time to put these amendments into law.
However, it is seen from correspondence passing between the Home Secretary and Chief Constables that there was a direction not to prosecute Spiritualist Mediums when they were acting in scientific discovery and sciences.
There is no doubt that Mrs. Duncan was somewhat of an embarrassment to the authorities. In particular, her guide, Albert, in a séance in Edinburgh announced that HMS Hood had been sunk earlier that day in the North Atlantic. The time of this séance was 3:30 pm.
Brigadier Firebrace, a very enthusiastic believer in Spiritualism, who was the Chief of Security at the time in Scotland, attended that séance. He returned to his office and telephoned the Admiralty to see whether, as he called it, the rumour of the sinking was true. At that time it was denied.
By 9:30 p.m., as he was leaving the office, a telephone call was received from the Admiralty confirming the sinking at 1:30 p.m.
The evidence given by Mrs. Duncan's guide was accurate. However, the authorities
were clearly worried that this information coming from a third party rather than
Central Government could undermine public morale. Particularly, when this country
was secretly preparing allied troops for the D-
Within six months, a young man materialised in the séance who had been severely burnt and died in the sinking of HMS Barham. The editor of “Psychic News”, Maurice Barbanell, attended this séance. He returned to make a telephone call to the Admiralty and Home Office, asking why this information had not been divulged to the parents and families of those who had perished. Again, the reason was given that it would have had a serious impact on public morale.
With Helen's name reoccurring, the authorities felt they had a cause for concern. And they acted with a very heavy hand.
The conclusion can only be that Helen Duncan was NOT convicted of being a Fraud instead she was imprisoned because her sources told The Truth. And the Government of the day wanted her out of the way!