The Disappearance of Owen Parfitt

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The disappearance of Owen Parfitt from Shepton Mallet, a rural town in Somerset, has been a mystery for over 200 years old, says L.H. DAVIES

The Disappearance of Owen Parfitt 1

Who was Owen Parfitt?

In June 1763, (or ’68 since records disagree) a former sailor, Owen Parfitt sat in this night clothes on the front porch of his sister’s house in Shepton Mallet.

Surrounded by fields and woodland, Parfitt now almost entirely crippled and needing aid to do even the most menial of tasks would spin tales for anyone passing who was willing to listen.

These tales were of his youth when, he claimed he had been involved in piracy, smuggling and black magic all over the world.

On this particular night, Parfitt’s sister had left him in his usual place as she headed off to complete her chores.

Later in the evening she would return with a younger neighbour, Susannah Snook who would help her return Owen to his bed.

When the pair arrived there was no sign of the old man.

He could not have got up and walked off himself due to his medical state, yet there was no evidence of his ever having been there.

Shepton Mallet - the site of Owen Parfitt's mysterious disappearance
Shepton Mallet – the site of Owen Parfitt’s mysterious disappearance

The surrounding farmland had had many labourers present throughout the women’s absence yet none of them had seen or heard anything; and despite enlisting their help with a search, it was to no avail. Owen Parfitt had completely vanished.

The locals and Owen Parfitt’s sister believed he had been carried away by the devil as recompense for the old man’s past deeds.

Others wondered if perhaps his past had indeed caught up with him and his old ‘acquaintances’ had arrived to silence his tales.

In 1813, as work was carried out nearby to where the Parfitt’s house had been, a skeleton was discovered.

Initially it was believed to be that of a crippled old man and people finally thought the mystery had been solved, yet upon closer inspection the skeleton turned out to be that of a female.

A year later a lawyer, William Maskell decided to reopen the case, yet the witness statements all seemed to contradict one another and so once again the case was closed, unsolved.

In recent years others have attempted to investigate the old sailors disappearance, yet nothing new has ever been discovered and the it remains a mystery to this day.

How could a man so completely crippled just disappear without trace?

Did his old cohorts find him, or was it something more sinister?

What do you think happened? Tell us in the comments section below!


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