Tuesday 12 March 1963 had been just another day at his St Owen Street, Hereford surgery for respected 41 year old Doctor Michael Wyndham Parker, until just before 7.00pm he was brutally stabbed in the chest and left for dead on the floor of his own surgery.
Parker’s surgery was part of a three man practice and senior partner Dr Herbert Ward-Smith was just seeing off the last of his patients for the day when he heard a loud thud coming from his partners room. The noise was unusual enough for Ward-Smith to investigate – entering Parker’s room he found Parker on the floor. He died from his injuries soon after the stabbing.
At the time of the attack there was no receptionist on duty and people were able to just walk in and wait to be seen. The police immediately began to try and trace the patients Dr Parker had seen that evening. The initial theory was that the killer had waited until the final patient had left before making his attack – but why he had targeted Doctor Parker remained a mystery. There was one vital clue as to who his last patient might have been. A medical card in the name of a man named Robert Perkins.
Parker lived in the suburb of Broomy Hill in Hereford and was married to Noreen. The couple had two daughters Julie (12) and Claire (9). Parker, whose had previously been house physician at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and a captain in the Medical Corp. A friend described him as an “ardent stamp collector and keen gardener” whilst a patient found it hard to believe he had any enemies.”
Within a few hours though the police had detained a man in connection with the murder. 20 year old house painter Robert Barrington Perkins was seen behaving erratically in Tarrington, about ten miles from Hereford. He was spoken to by Inspector E. Cobbe and Special Constable Heath and then taken to Hereford Police Station. At 3.15am, following competition of a post mortem on Dr Parker, Perkins was arrested and charged with murder.
On Thursday, just two days after the murder Perkins appeared at Hereford Magistrates Court and was remanded in custody. On 10 April 1963 Perkins appeared at a trial committal hearing. It was revealed that when stopped by police Perkins said “all right, I killed him.” Prosecuting counsel Mr K.G. Lawrence said that there was no evidence of anything other than a doctor – patient relationship between Perkins and Dr Parker and no motive for the killing. A patient, Dora Handley, saw Perkins enter the waiting room at about 6.30pm and that they could see the point of a knife projecting through his jacket. Perkins waited for his turn to see Dr Parker, a shout or a scream was then heard and Perkins quickly ran out of the building.
Despite admitting to killing Dr Parker, “when I went to see Dr Parker I thought he was giving me something. He just shrugged his shoulders. I killed him,” Perkins pleaded not guilty and was sent for trial.
The trial of Robert Perkins began on 21 May 1963 and was over the same day. The jury found Perkins not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter owing to diminished responsibility. His defence counsel A.B. King Hamilton Q.C. said Perkins was a paranoid schizophrenic and was completely unconcerned about what had happened. Judge Mr Justice Vale committed Perkins to Broadmoor under a restraint order with no time limit. He told Perkins “this was a dreadful thing you did, but you were mentally ill at the time. I am satisfied I can deal with the case by making a hospital order.”
Perkins’ mother Peggy told the court that Robert, who was the third of six children, had been sent to “a special school for backward boys” after he left school he became convinced the police were following him everywhere. Prison doctors who had examined Perkins also gave evidence to say that he suffered from a split personality and persecution mania.
There is no information available to indicate how long Perkins served or if he was ever released. If anyone does know anything more please do get in touch.
Daily Mirror 13 Mar 1963, 14 Mar 1963, 14 April 1963
Daily Herald 13 Mar 1963, 22 May 1963
Birmingham Evening Post 14 Mar 1963, 22 May 1963
Liverpool Echo 10 April 1963
Featured image via youtube Hereford in the 1950’s and 1960’s.