THE proceedings concluded, the brothers exchange friendly smiles and waved each other goodbye – one to go home with his newly wed wife, the other to a less than certain future.

The scenario was the remarkable culmination of an unlikely drama born out of filial resentment and misconceived betrayal.

Harold Cowell, 25, was playing draughts with his wife, Edith, at their isolated home when a window suddenly shattered.

"There was a loud noise, it sounded like an explosion," she told the Echo crime reporter. "Then I screamed."

She had been horrified to see her husband collapse with blood oozing from his head from a gunshot wound. The blast was heard by her parents whose home stood just a few yards along the lane, partly surrounded by trees and desolate even in daytime.

Cowell, who was rushed to the local hospital for emergency surgery, and his brother, Lesley 23, ran wireless business from the bungalow.

But why was he targeted?

Cowell was highly popular with no known enemies.

A neighbour of the couple in Hurn Way, Christchurch, believed he could have only slighted disgruntled passing beggars on their way to Bournemouth.

"Two or three loutish fellows who asked me for money this week threatened me for not complying," she said.

However detectives were dubious and concentrated their line of inquiry on a man seeking lurking in the vicinity who might have made off into the New Forest, and appealed for information for motorists who gave the individual a lift near Christchurch to contact them.

As Cowell made a slow but steady recovery in hospital from the removal of more than 40 pellets from his head, face and hands, police – who had made transformed their bungalow as their headquarters in the hunt – were desperately trying to trace the weapon.

They were joined by Hampshire's chief constable, Major E R Cockburn, who was driven to the scene from Winchester and held a consultation with Superintendent P J Jacobs in charge of the investigation.

Mrs Cowell, who had been married to her husband for ten months, told the Echo she was still "bewildered" by the motive. The paper learnt she was a former girl guide and through her training had given what medical assistance she could render before the emergency services arrived at the scene that night – April 2, 1931. Detectives by this stage had ruled out the theory the shooting had been the work of a madman but lay great store in an interview with a young Bournemouth motorist who had been driving in the vicinity of Hurn Common on the night of the mystery and witnessed a man armed with a gun walking towards the bungalow.

The story then drifted away from headlines but ten days later police arrested the most unlikely suspect who had called at the the house in his two-seater car – his brother.

He was immediately arrested and taken to Christchurch police station where he was charged with feloniously wounding his brother with intent to murder. The following morning, April 13, magistrate N L Shave there conducted a short hearing in which solicitor Arthur W Malim appealed for bail, saying Cowell's father would act as surety.

But that was fiercely opposed by Supt Jacobs who delivered a few details about the nature of the shooting and the arrest, adding that the accused had made a statement which he did not intent to disclose at that time.

Cowell, a pale, dark man with a crop of dark wave hair and described as a wireless expert, had his bail application rejected and was remanded in custody for three days. As he was led to a waiting car to transport him to Winchester jail, a large crowd who had heard of the arrest, had gathered outside in the hope of gaining a glimpse of him.

Meanwhile police used a heavy electric magnet in the search of a sporting gun allegedly used in the shooting and dumped in the River Stour at Ensbury, some two miles away.

However, it was not until the third remand hearing that the full story was revealed with Mrs Cowell talking warmly of their trio's relationship.

"I think they were very much more close than ordinary brothers," she explained, revealing that apart from sleeping at the bungalow, her brother-in-law lived and worked there. "I have seen my husband's brother daily and have never heard a wry word."

Malin asked: "As far as you were aware, could you suggest the slightest motive for the alleged attack on your husband?"

She could not, she replied.

Cowell told the court how he and his brother had been to Bournemouth in a fruitless search for a French polisher and after they had parted, he did not expect him again that day.

As he and his wife were playing draughts, he did not hear the shot but fell back on the settee with the feeling of having "a bad headache" and an "electric shock" in his left hand.

As he waited for the ambulance, his brother unexpectedly turned up.

Cowell then told the court of their past.

After leaving school, they went to sea for Marconi Coy and Union Castle line but then for three and a half years they separated, with his brother working on a coasting steamship on Portuguese East Africa before being invalided out because of the climate.

After he had outlined how they had established their joint, there came startling revelation.

Malin: "There was a very strong relationship between you and your brother, was there not?"

Cowell:– "Yes."

Malin: "Did you, by way of example, make a compact that you and your brother would never get married and that you would live together for the rest of your lives?"

Cowell: "Yes."

Malin: "Did your brother raise any objection to you getting married?"

Cowell: "No. He said words to the effect the compact was off."

Cowell conceded his wife thought his brother was spending too much at their home but he never repeated that to him and she had never objected to their relationship.

Malin: "Can you suggest to the court any possible or probable motive that would have induced him to commit such a crime to yourself?"

Cowell: "No possible motive. He is the last person on Earth I would have expected of it."

But then came the bombshell, with the younger Cowell revealing his true feelings towards his brother when interviewed.

It read: "I love my brother but I hate him for the way he has treated my mother and his wife. He is a bully and I thought the world would be better without him. I first thought of murdering him 12 months ago when we were bathing in Devonshire.

"I went to the front of the bungalow covered my brother with the gun and pulled the trigger. I didn't stop to see what happened but raced back to my car by the side plot and drove away at 60 miles per hour."

Cowell was committed for trial at Hampshire Assizes where on July 17 he faced an indictment containing three charges – shooting with intent to murder, wounding with intent to murder and doing grievous bodily harm.

The facts were not in dispute and the issue facing jurors was to determine whether the defendant was mentally responsible for his actions.

His brother once more said he could not conceive any motive or reason for the shooting: "There must be something wrong with him."

It was a point endorsed by Supt Jacobs who said from inquiries he learnt there had been suicidal tendencies in the family, five on his father's side and three on his mother's. Two of his father's cousins had taken their lives.

The defence called Dr William Dawson, Inspector of Asylums for Ireland, who said he was satisfied Cowell was of unsound mind and suffered from a mental disease known as dementia precox.

J G Trapnell, defending asked: "Do you think you really knew what he was doing? Could he form an independent judgement about it at the time?"

Dawson replied: "He said to me he could not understand why he was doing it. It looks to me he did not appreciate it. When he was about to pull the trigger he could not understand why he was doing it."

To the barrister's suggestion that he had not been "appreciating the quality of his act," the doctor responded: "He would realise he was shooting at his brother but could not understand why he should be doing so."

That line of questioning was then taken up by prosecutor Scott Henderson: "Do you say this man is certifiable?"

Dawson concurred; "I should certify he is of unsound mind, certainly."

Mr Justice Roche the inquired: "You can cure it (dementia precox)?"

"Yes," he replied. "People get well under treatment."

However Dr C R Smythe, medical officer at Winchester Prison, rejected the witness's evidence.

"I could no find any evidence of mental disease," he testified. "He has done nothing extraordinary. He was very reticent and it was extremely difficult to get anything out of him."

He was supported by Dr Hugh Grierson, senior medical officer at Brixham Jal, who described Cowell as perfectly rational in conversation and showed no abnormality.

"I could find no indication of insanity or mental deficiency. In discussing the case, he showed normal interests and was anxious to see what the result would be. He said he was very sorry for his parents. I could find no sign of dementia precox."

In his closing speech, Trapnell submitted to jurors it was a case of a man needing mental treatment and not punishment.

Jurors found Cowell guilty of the main charge but found he was not responsible for his actions at the time, and the judge directed he must be detained as a criminal lunatic during His Majesty's pleasure.