Roger Panes’ sad tale:
March 21st, 1974
Father Ostracised by Sect Axed Family to Death
A member of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect murdered his wife and three children after being ostracized by fellow members, an inquest was told yesterday.
Roger Panes, 41, cattle dealer, axed to death his wife Pamela, 39, his two sons Graham 7, and Adrian, 4, and his six-year-old daughter Angela, as they slept in their beds at their detached home in Salisbury Road, Andover, Hants.
He then hanged himself from the bannisters with a length of electric flex.
Det. Chief Insp. Stanley Atkinson, head of Basingstoke CID, told the inquest at Andover that he found Mrs. Panes lying in a double bed in a front upstairs bedroom in the house. She had severe head injuries. The children were found with similar injuries in other bedrooms.
In another bedroom a blood stained axe with a seven and a half inch blade was found. Also in the room was a bed which had been prepared but not slept in.
Mr. Atkinson then read part of a statement he had taken from a Mr. Fennell, the sect’s leader in Andover in which he said Mr. Panes had been “shut up” by other members of the Brethren.
The statement said: “Roger Panes was shut up during November 1973, because of the way he treated another member of the brethren over a minor technical offence, and shut up that person wilfully.”
The statement said that this “shutting up” was carried out by Mr. Panes without the consent of other members of the brethren.
Between November and February, members of the brethren had called on Mr. Panes five or six times but the matter had not been resolved.
On Feb. 21, Mrs. Panes contacted Mr. Fennell to tell him that her husband had taken an overdose of tablets and had been admitted to hospital.
Cut off from family
On March 2 — two days before the murders were discovered — a meeting was held by the Brethren but no decision was taken to “withdraw from him or excommunicate him.”
Mr. Atkinson said the term “shut up” meant that all other Brethren were not allowed to associate with the member concerned or his family.
“If it is mutually agreed between him and his wife, he can be shut up from them (his family) — that is to say he is cut off from the rest of his family within his own household,” he added.
This meant he did not sleep with his wife or eat with the rest of his family.
Dr. Vanessa Heath said she saw Mr. Panes after he took the overdose in February. When she suggested to his wife that he should be seen by a psychiatrist, she said that it was a matter between him and God.
In a pocket of a jacket found in the house was an unaddressed note in Mr. Panes’ handwriting.
It read: “There’s never been such a wicked man. This house will have to be left empty or bulldozed. You go to the Brethren. I trust they will take you in.
“Cry to God for mercy for you all and the dear children. The Lord is coming very soon.”
The jury returned a verdict that Mr. Panes murdered his wife and three children and then committed suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed.
In his summing up to the jury Mr. Ronald Bowker, the coroner, said: “It is up to anyone in this country to follow such religious beliefs as he pleases, without question. The only qualification I suppose one would make is if such beliefs are thought to be injurious to the community as a whole or individuals in particular.
“These might be matters for inquiry, but matters for inquiry elsewhere and not here.”
The Exclusive Brethren is notorious for the severity of its discipline and was ruled with an iron hand by its world leader, Big Jim Taylor, until his death in 1970.
Words that spelt death
by Jack Hill
A religious fanatic was driven to provide his own Day of Judgment after other members of his strict sect turned against him.
That meant death not only for himself but for the family he was devoted to — his wife and three young children.
He killed them one by one with an axe and hanged himself from a banister.
Then he left instructions that to obliterate completely all memory of the family of “such a wicked man,” even their house should be bulldozed to the ground.
As the story of horror was told to an inquest in Andover, Hants, yesterday, more than 150 members of the local Exclusive Brethren filled the public benches.
They heard Detective Chief Inspector Stanley Atkinson tell how, when they cast out 41-year-old Mr. Roger Panes from their group, the anguish was more than he could bear.
First he tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of drugs. But he was saved by hospital treatment.
On March 5 a Post Office engineer called to fix the phone in the Panes home in Salisbury Road, Andover.
He found Mr. Panes hanging from the bannister with a length of electric wire round his nect.
When police arrived they found Mrs. Pamela Panes hacked to death by an axe in the front bedroom. The children, Graham, aged seven, Adrian, four, and Angela, aged six, were found in other rooms, all killed by axe wounds.
In Mr. Panes trousers, found neatly placed in his bedroom was a note which said.
There’s never been such a wicked man. This house will have to be left empty or bulldozed and you to to the Brethrne. I trust they will take you in.
Cry to God for mercy for you and the dear children. The Lord is coming very soon.
In a statement read to the inquest, Mr. George Fenalh of Barlow’s Lane, Andover, who was said to be a “responsible member” of the Brethren, said Mr. Panes had been “shut up” in November, 1973.
He was shut up because of the way he treated another member of the Brethren over a minor technical offence. He shut up that person wrongly. That was not right. It was contrary to the accepted code and violations of the Divine Principles involved in the Brethren.
As he was unable to accept these, he was shut up.
Detective Chief Inspector Atkinson gave the inquest jury a definition of being “shut up.”
He said: — “It means he is shut up from the other Brethren none of whome are allowed to associate with him and his family.
“If mutually agreed between him and his wife he can be shut up by the rest of his family in his own household. He doesn’t sleep with his wife and he doesn’t eat with the rest of his family.”
Dr. Vanessa Heath, from Winchester Hospital, said that when Mr. Panes was admitted with a drug overdose she asked his wife why he had taken it. “She told me it was a matter between him and God. She would offer no further explanation.”
Directing the jury to return a verdict of murder on the wife and three children, and suicide on Mr. Panes, the coroner, Mr. Ronald Bowker said: “We have purposely not embarked on the prophecies and beliefs of the Exclusive Brethren and their discipline.”