Black magic link to Cornwall's murder riddle

The talk in the bars and restaurants of Mylor harbour in Cornwall normally revolves around nothing more sinister than fishing, weather and the state of the tides. Yesterday it was of black magic and murder.

Police had interviewed 200 people overnight in the seaside town, a popular stopping off point for cruising yachts en route to France. They were questioned over the death of a parish councillor, 56-year-old Peter Solheim, whose body was found by fishermen 13 miles away, off Black Head on the Lizard Peninsula, two weeks ago.

His small white dinghy, Izzwizz, its key still in the ignition, was spotted adrift in Mylor harbour by the day before his body was found. The coastguard said he could not have fallen from his boat and drifted to Black Head on the natural tides, drift or currents.

Initial suspicions that he drowned have been discarded after unexplained injuries were found during a post-mortem examination. And yesterday one of the officers leading the inquiry said he was examining links with the occult.

Detective Sergeant John Trott, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "His interest in the occult has been made known to us. It is a line of inquiry that we are now pursuing. His injuries are still unexplained, but at this stage we are unable to go into more detail as it could be crucial to the investigation."

Mr Solheim, who was divorced and had three children, joined a Druid sect in St Merryn, Cornwall, several years ago. A school friend, John Bastin, said he had become increasingly interested in the supernatural after the flooding of his mother's home four years ago.

"The old clapper bridge over the river Budock was replaced by a proper road bridge next to his mother's house," Mr Bastin said. "He was convinced that the flooding, it happened twice, was due to the spirits of the river. He thought they had been upset by moving the old bridge and were punishing him. This is what got him interested in the council. To get the bridge changed back."

One member of the Druids, who wished to remain anonymous, said Mr Solheim's interests had become too extreme for the group and they parted ways at around the time of the floodings. "It became clear that he wanted to go into areas that everyone else felt uncomfortable with," the Druid said.

"He started to get involved with Satanism and liked to go off and perform rituals on his own. He was always making knives and swords, and he showed them to us. We all became really worried about him.

"Once he tried to perform black-magic spells on two other people, and that really upset them. I don't know what his rituals involved, but he would always do them on his own. Eventually, he stopped coming to gatherings."

Ed Prynn, the Arch-Druid of Cornwall, said his behaviour alarmed other members. "He was a good guy and he loved the pagan way of life, but he seemed to want to go his own way, and the others didn't want to go that way. He went off on his own to do pagan worship, but it's really meant to be a shared experience."

Mr Solheim, who lived part of the time at Carnkie, near Helston, was described by friends yesterday as a committed environmentalist and strong Cornish nationalist. He had developed an interest in antique guns and built up a collection despite being unemployed after suffering an industrial accident at his job at a printworks.

Police said they were working on a dozen positive leads they had received during the overnight operation to interview Mylor's residents. One line of inquiry is that he was going to meet a man called Charlie on the day before his body was discovered.

Detective Inspector Neil Best, who is leading the inquiry, said the two men were to meet to take Charlie's larger boat to sea, possibly to France. He said Mr Solheim had towed his dinghy behind a green Citroën to Mylor harbour, with his partner Margaret. She left him with the boat and drove home. "Charlie could be very significant to this investigation because he may have been the last person to see Mr Solheim alive," Det Insp Neil Best, said.

The Falmouth Coastguard has drawn up computer simulations of prevailing winds and tides on 16 and 17 June, when Mr Solheim was last seen. The coastguard says his body could not have travelled south to Black Head unassisted but would most likely have drifted towards France.

Photographs of the dead man and his partner have been displayed around the harbour, home to the world's last sea-going oyster fleet, to jog people's memories. Yacht owners have also been questioned. "We are open-minded about motive," Det Insp Best said. "There are a number of things about his background that are interesting."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test