Roger Panes — Death by Heartbreak

This is Andover in Hampshire, where 41-year-old Roger Panes murdered his wife and 3 children, then hung himself after being ostracised by the ‘cult’ church that he loved

Roger Panes was a member of The Exclusive Brethren aka The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church before he brutally murdered his wife and their 3 children with an axe, then hung himself with a length of electrical cable.

Why on earth would a loving Christian family man, who was happily married, absolutely dedicated to his faith, and loved his church kill his entire family and then himself? Well, I am trying hard to understand that question and I will try to unravel it here.

In November of 1973, Roger Panes was ‘shut up’ by the church for a minor misdemeanor of shunning another member, which he admitted to being wrong in doing. For those of you not familiar with the practices of The Exclusive Brethren, being ‘shut-up’ means to be shunned by all other members of the church, isolated from them and personal family.

In this case, Panes was ostracised not only from the church but was also told to isolate himself from his wife and children, as of course, they were members of the ‘cult’ themselves. He did not sleep with his wife and did not associate with her or their children even within the family home for 3 solid months. I cannot even imagine just how difficult and distressing that must have been for a loving family man, who adored his wife and children as well as being totally dedicated to his Christian faith and the church to which he belonged.

During the period between November 1973 and February, 1974 leaders/elders of the church had called at Roger Panes home to discuss the ‘punishment’ but no decision as to the long term future for him was able to be decided and the isolation continued unabated.

On February 21st 1974 Roger Panes felt that he had reached the point of no return and attempted to take his own life by taking an overdose of tablets but was rushed to the hospital and survived. Mrs Panes contacted the head of the Andover branch of the Exclusive Brethrens, Mr Fennell, and told him of her husband’s attempted suicide.

We don’t know what was said during that call but when a Doctor at the hospital, Vanessa Heath spoke to Mrs Panes and advised her that Roger should see a psychiatrist, Mrs Panes replied: “It is between him and God”.

Now, this seems like a very unusual thing for a concerned wife to say, I know if that were my partner in Roger Panes’ situation I would want to get him the help that he needed. Clearly, Mrs Pamela Panes had been so deeply indoctrinated by the cult that even her husband’s narrow escape from death did not touch her conscience or snap her back to reality.

On 2nd March 1974, just two days before the dreadful murders and ultimate suicide were discovered, a meeting was held by the Exclusive Brethren but still, no decision was made as to Roger’s future with them and his ‘punishment’ of being shunned by the cult’s members including his own wife and children had been continued.

Om 4th March 1974 a telephone engineer called at the Panes household to fix a fault when he found Roger Panes hanging from the stair bannisters at the family home and alerted the emergency services. The police went on to find Pamela Panes aged 39 in a double bed, (presumably the marital bed) she had severe head injuries inflicted by an axe.

Upon further investigation of other bedrooms Roger Panes children were also found dead; Graham aged 7, Adrian aged 4, and Angela aged 6 had all suffered dreadful head wounds from an axe. In another bedroom of the house, an axe with a seven and a half-inch blade was found covered in blood. This room was believed to have been Roger’s bedroom as the bed had been made as if ready for sleeping in but had not been used.

A note was found in the pocket of a jacket belonging to Roger Panes which 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 and the dear children. The Lord is coming very soon”. An inquest into all the deaths was held and a jury decided that Roger Panes killed his family and himself whilst his mind was disturbed.

What a very sad and tragic thing to happen, clearly Roger Panes had become ill of mind due to the dreadful separation inflicted upon him by the cult to which he belonged. According to witnesses that knew Roger, “he was a wonderful man that lived for his family and the church, he would never have done anything to harm anyone, least of all his family”. During an interview, a witness known as Glynis Ward (an outcast of the Exclusive Brethren cult herself), went on to tell a documentary “as far as I am concerned, the church killed Roger and his family. Roger and Pam and the kids were the most Christian family that I have ever met. They would do anything for anybody, they were just lovely and they lived for the Brethren. In my opinion, the Brethren killed them”.

I will bring to your attention here that Glynis Ward and her family had been ex-communicated from the Exclusive Brethren for breaking a church rule. What was that rule that caused a Christian family to be completely removed from a church?

Believe it or not, they were ex-communicated from both the church and their children because Mrs ward, Glynis’s mother allowed their next-door neighbour into their house to see a 6-week-old baby, as the weather was too cold for Mrs. Ward to take the child outside. Glynis ward’s brother reported the rule-breaking to the church and they were removed.

The actual rule that was broken was that an Exclusive Brethren cannot invite any ‘non-believer’ into the house. Sorry, I will go back to Roger’s case, I just felt this was an important point to highlight.

Exclusive Brethren — Rare 1976 Expose Documentary

The words of Roger Pane’s friends echo loudly in my ears, as I think of just how many cases I am being sent where people are being ‘shut-up’ or ‘isolated’ from their church friends and more importantly their families.

Roger’s case was by no way an isolated one and if the policies of this cult, calling itself a church continues then there will be more deaths from suicide and murder because of them. This is nothing short of manslaughter, the behaviour and doctrines of the Exclusive Brethren caused an otherwise perfectly sane and loving man to commit murder and suicide, of that there can be no doubt at all.

According to witnesses, Roger Panes was a committed Christian and a very loyal husband and father yet after he had been ‘shut-up’ and isolated from his fellow church members, his wife, and children he killed three innocent children, the wife he loved, and finally himself. Surely this is absolutely clear evidence that he committed the heinous crimes because his mind was disturbed by the draconian rules and controlling behaviour of the church to which he was absolutely dedicated.

During the inquest into Roger and his family’s deaths, a statement was read out by a man that was deemed “a responsible member of the Brethren”, Mr George Fenalh. he told the court “Roger Panes was ‘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 this, he was shut-up”.

Detective Chief Inspector Atkinson of Hampshire police gave an explanation to the court of the meaning ‘to shut-up’, He said “It means that he is shut up from the other Brethren, none of whom are allowed to associate with him and his family. It was mutually agreed that he was to be shut up from 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”.

The coroner at the inquest Mr Ronald Bowker directed the jury to return a verdict of murder on the wife and children and suicide on Mr Panes. The coroner said: “We have purposely not embarked on the prophecies and beliefs of the Exclusive Brethren and their discipline”.

Mr Bowker, the coroner during his summing-up, 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 not matters for inquiry here in the coroner’s court”.

I absolutely agree with the judge; these are matters for inquiry and my questions are; Why have these inquiries not been made? Why are there still people out there being indoctrinated by a cult that conducts its “religious meetings” in buildings with no windows? Nothing is being done to stop these people and that my friends are very worrying indeed.

Children are being born into this cult and being indoctrinated, completely brainwashed into believing that the doctrines and teachings of the Exclusive Brethren are right and appropriate. Clearly, that is not right, people that are living in the belief that they are living a Christian life with the best future ahead are deluded and this needs to be halted.

Before I close I will just say that six months after the tragedy that befell the Panes family a high court barrister spent a year looking at the way in which the Exclusive Brethren organization operates as it needed to be decided if they were suitable to be deemed a charity and to be granted charity status. His findings were that “The teachings of the Exclusive Brethren were detrimental to the community and the organization should NOT qualify as a charity.

The Barrister, Hugh Elliot Frances gave his own reaction to the doctrine of the Exclusive Brethren by saying he was “appalled and shocked that a sect that professes to be a Christian church should teach people to cause so much distress and unhappiness”. Mr Frances stated that he identified as a Christian himself and that his personal reaction when learning about the Exclusive Brethren’s teachings and ways of operating were of ‘shock and disbelief’ that there were such things happening unabated in modern times.

I will close there, but just before I go I will leave you with a question: If these kinds of ‘religious teachings’ are being allowed to continue where will it all end, murder? Sexual crimes? Who knows, but I have to say I am looking at the case of the murder of a dedicated Exclusive Brethren that took place in 1976 in Plymouth, England for which no one has ever been questioned or indeed convicted. That is for another day and another blog. Take care friends and I’ll see you again soon.

Please leave me a comment or get in touch if you wish, I am always ready to discuss a true crime case.

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