Because Mondays are MURDER...

Monday, 23 June 2014

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Carter - Wife Killer

On Tuesday 5th December 1893 at Reading Gaol, John Carter a cowman from Watchfield, Berkshire met his marker at the end of James Billington's rope for the murder of his third wife Rhoda Carter nee Titcombe.

John Carter was born in 1850 In Wachfield, Berkshire to William Carter, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Elizabeth Anger.  John first appear on the 1851 Census aged eleven years living with his parents and siblings in Watchfield, Berkshire.

On 17th July 1871 John Carter married his first wife, Elizabeth Ann Thatcher in Farringdon, Berkshire.  Together John and Elizabeth had six children together, Elizabeth "Annie", Clara, Elizabeth Louisa who sadly died in infancy, Martha, Thomas and William Henry.  The 1881 Census shows John and Elizabeth, along with Annie, Clara and Martha, living in Cottage House in Worton Hamlet, Cassington, Oxfordshire. 

On 18th June 1887 the marriage ended when Elizabeth mysteriously fell down the stairs at Broadleaze Farm in Watchfield, breaking her neck.  The coroner recorded the death as accidental.  Later that year on 19th October John Carter married his second wife, Elizabeth Ann Alder.  John and Elizabeth had one child together, a son Nelson.  In the September of 1889 Elizabeth mysteriously disappeared.

In 1893 John married again, this time to Rhoda Ann Titcombe.  Three months after their marriage things began to sour.  On the night of 20th June 1893 young Thomas Carter lay awake in bed with his younger brother:

"At 11 p.m. on 20 July 1893, 9-year-old Thomas Carter lay in bed with his younger brother listening to an almighty row between his parents; a not unusual event. At just after 11.30 p.m., he heard his mother Rhoda cry, ‘No, John, no!’, then almost beseechingly, ‘Lord have mercy on me,’ followed by silence. The Carter children, who were farmer boys, were up at 4.30 a.m. the following morning to do their chores. Afterwards, as they ate their breakfast, Thomas noticed his father acting in an unusual way. He had lugged a large bath and firewood into the smithy that adjoined the cottage. These items were followed by two more; a pitchfork and a shovel. Both boys knew better than to question their father so they made their way to school in silence."

Rhoda's family become suspicious of her sudden disappearance:

"Mrs Titcombe, Rhoda’s mother, lived with her son David a few yards away. At 9 a.m. on 21 July, she knocked on Carter’s door but got no reply. Through the window though, she could see Rhoda’s new green coat hanging on the kitchen door. Also, only three breakfasts had been laid on the table. Turning, she saw Carter leaving the smithy. She enquired of Rhoda. ‘Gone to her sisters at Eastleech’ came the surly reply. She was then ignored. ‘How long will she be gone?’ ‘Didn’t say, day or two.’ Carter entered and closed the smithy door. Anne Butler, Rhoda’s friend, was hanging out clothes when she noticed thick black smoke accompanied by a sickly stench coming from the smithy. Anne crossed the road and hammered on the smithy door. ‘Where is Rhoda?’ enquired Anne. ‘Go away, you are a loose woman. Rhoda’s up at Eastleech’, was the reply."

Suspicions in the village grew as thick smoke was seen billowing from the smithy attached to John Carter's cottage:

"When smoke was seen gushing from the smithy again on 22 July, David Titcombe knocked on the door. Not being satisfied with Carter’s explanation that he was boiling up offal, David decided to make the thirty mile round trip to Eastleech by bike and also to send Anne Butler for the police. PC Sparkes made a couple of cursory calls at Carter’s farm, without finding John Carter. He was pretty sure that Rhoda was alright and that her brother would have found her at Eastleech. When news came to the contrary, he became alarmed and made a successful effort at contacting Carter. He searched the farm in Carter’s presence and became very suspicious. ‘She’s left me,’ stated Carter. Sparkes thought to himself that it was strange that a woman would depart leaving all her good clothes behind."

However John Carter couldn't keep his terrible secret forever:

"On 25 July, Carter had a drink with his brother in Wantage and confessed to him that he had killed his wife. At 9 a.m. on 26 July, after wrestling with his conscience all night, Carter’s brother walked into Wantage police station and reported Carter’s confession. John Carter was arrested at 11 a.m. Shortly after, Sergeant Benning and PC Sparkes searched Carter’s barn. Three inches under the floor, Rhoda’s body was discovered, the nose smashed and with horrific bruising around the throat. The body had been burned and boiled."

Unsurprisingly speculation was now rife about the death of John Carter's first wife and the disappearance of his second.  A search of Broadleaze Farm where John and Elizabeth worked at the time was made.  Whilst the search was underway John Carter was tried and found guilty of the murder of his third wife Rhoda and he was hanged on Tuesday 5th December 1893.  On the Wednesday after the police made a shocking discovery:

"Colonel Blandy, chief constable of Berkshire, and Superintendent Butcher, of Farringdon, resumed the search on Wednesday, for the missing body of the second wife of Carter.  Digging was carried out on several places and after about two hours' hard work a perfect skeleton was discovered buried about a foot below the surface of the ground, in the rick yard of Broadleaze Farm, Shrivenham, where Carter was employed, and about 100 yards from the cottage where he lived.  The police were induced to resume their search for the missing woman, in consequence of the confession made by Carter.

Coroner's Inquest

On Friday at the Barrington Arms, Shrivenham, Mr. Jotcham, coroner for West Berkshire, opened and inquest on the skeleton found at Broadleaze Farm, about two miles distant in the same parish.

A complete skeleton was found discovered about 10 feet below the surface.  What seemed to be the remains of a flannel petticoat was round the body, stockings on the legs, and the busks of a pair of stays were also found.  The skull was intact, and the jaw contained a fine set of white teeth.

Dr Coniston Spackman, of Farringdon, said he examined the remains found.  They belong to a female of medium height, and when put together formed a compete skeleton.  The nose seemed as thought it had been smashed.  There were no signs of strangulation."

Monday, 16 June 2014

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - Isaac Lee - Bedlem Asylum

Isaac Lee was born in Woodley Green in Berkshire in 1788 and was a successful brush maker in London until the death of his wife.  The passing of his wife affected Isaac badly and he became prone to violent outbursts.  Such outbursts led to Isaac being admitted to St Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum, better know as Bedlam.  In the 1850s a person admitted to the asylum could leave if they were able to find someone responsible to look after them. 

After being admitted Isaac wrote to his relatives, John and Elizabeth Cannon, who lived in Boyn Hill Maidenhead.  After a suitable rent was agreed between the two parties, Isaac Lee moved into the Cannon household.

Living with John and Eliza at the time was their son James, his wife Eliza  and their two young daughters Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Caroline Cannon.  The 1851 Census shows the family, including Isaac Lee living in Boyn Hill, Maidenhead. 

It was at the house on 16th March 1852 Isaac was left in charge his of his four year old great niece Lizzie.  Lizzie had spent the morning playing happily in the house when a piglet suddenly entered room.  This enraged Isaac he set about the piglet with a billhook.  The piglet's screams and the large amount of blood frightened poor Lizzie who made a run for the door.  Suddenly Isaac barred the way and set about little Lizzie in the same manner as the piglet.

Police Constable Simon Frewin was called to the horrific scene and described how it took the strength of three stout neighbours to over power Isaac before he was able to arrest him.

The Observer reported on 29th March 1852

"Murder Near Maidenhead

A labouring man, names John Cannon, residing at Boyne Hill, has, for the last two years, taken as a lodger a relative of his wife, named Isaac Lee, who has always shown indications of weak intellect.  On Tuesday morning week, having been left in the house with a little girl about four years of age, a granddaughter of John Cannon's, he cruelly murdered the poor child, it is supposed by knocking its head against the floor, and afterwards kicking it about the room.  Lee was taken before the magistrates on Friday week, and committed to take his trial at the next assizes for the county of Berks for murder."

Isaac was charged with murder at Reading Assizes, but was found unfit to stand trial due to insanity.  Isaac was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in Bedlam Asylum, the place he tried to avoid by living with the Cannons.

Steel engraving of
St Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum
(New Bethlem Hospital)

Shortly after Lizzie's murder James and Elizabeth moved out of the family home in Boyne Hill, where John and Eliza remained, to Market Street in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  James and Elizabeth had a further four children together, three sons, William born in 1852, Sydney born in 1855, Thomas in 1857 and one daughter, Eugene born in 1860.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Owen/Jones/Jennings - The Denham Massacre

At eight o'clock on the morning of August 8th 1870, at Aylesbury Gaol, John Owen met his marker at the end of William Calcraft's rope for the horrific murder of Emanuel Marshall, his wife, sister, mother and three of Marshall's children.

John Owen had been born in Byfield, Northamptonshire on 3rd June 1832 to John Owen, a tailor, and his wife Elizabeth Bush.  He first appears on the 1841 Census aged nine years old, living with his parents, elder sister Caroline, and brother George and younger sister Elizabeth.  In 1851, eighteen year old John is an apprentice Blacksmith working for and living with Thomas Mason in Byfield, Northamptonshire.

Emanuel Marshall had been born in 1836 in Hillingdon, Middlesex, to William Marshall, a gardener, and his wife Mary.  Shortly after Emanuel's birth his family moved to the village of Denham in Buckinghamshire. 

The six year old  Emanuel can be found on the 1841 Census living with his parents and elder siblings in Cheapside Lane, Denham, Buckinghamshire.  In 1851 Emanuel is working as a shop boy.  William Marshall passed away sometime between 1851 and 1860. 

In 1860 in Suffolk Emanuel married Charlotte Sparke.

On the 1861 Census the newly wed couple can be found living with Emanuel's widowed mother Mary at her home in Cheapside Lane.  Emanuel is now working as an engine fitter.  Emanuel and Charlotte had four children together, Mary Charlotte born in 1861, Thirza Agnes born in 1864, Maude Gertrude born in 1866 and Francis William born in 1868.

In 1870 Emanuel was the blacksmith for the village and a well liked and respected man.  Emanuel's sister Mary Ann had returned to the family home and was due to marry George Amor on 24th May.  everything seemed well, until a shocking discover on 22nd May 1870 at the Marshall family home.  Police Constable Charles Taverner was called to the scene and reported:

"I went to the house and found the doors open.  I found two bodies - the wife and the sister - lying just inside the door and the sister's feet towards her head.  A petticoat covered them.  About two feet from them was a sledgehammer... this was covered in blood.  Then I went into the wash house and found the bodies of the three children.   I found an axe... also covered with blood.  There were extensive wounds on all the heads of the bodies... I found the body of Emanuel, the father, in the forge, lying flat on his face, with his hands stretched out.'

Little Francis William had survived the massacre as he had been staying with relatives to make room for his aunt Mary Ann's return for her wedding.

A thorough search of the property was executed and a rather odd discovery made, a set of blood splattered clothes not belonging to anyone in the family were found.  A pair of boots, trousers, a coat, a cord jacket and vest, a slop (a loose fitting smock or tunic), a deer stalker's hat and a red and white checked neckerchief.  Police Constable Taverner had seen a man wearing clothes exactly like this the previous morning whilst on duty.  The stranger had made an odd remark about seeing a man threatening to throw his wife into the canal before asking for directions to the Marshall's home.

It was also found that the drawers of the bureau had been opened and Emanuel's silver pocket watch was missing.

St Mary The Virgin, Denham Village
where the Marshalls were laid to rest
  © Copyright Jack Hill and licensed for
reuse under this
Creative Commons Licence

Superintendent Thomas Dunham arrived from Slough later that evening and took charge of the investigation.

A few witnesses remarked on seeing a man in the area wearing clothes they believed to be Emanuel's.  One witness, Emma Simpson, initially mistook the man for Emanuel when she came across him on the road coming from the Marshall home.  However the police had very little else to go on and finding the murderer seemed impossible. 

A lucky break came in the shape of Charles Coombes, a bricklayer from Uxbridge, who had become increasingly suspicious of his new acquaintance and his behaviour, so much so that reported his suspicions to his employer.

Charles had shared a lodging house with his new acquaintance he knew as Jack, and had been offered a silver pocket watch by him.  Charles declined the offer and Jack pawned it.  According the Charles on the day of the murders Jack had left the lodgings house and returned much later, 'attired quite differently,' along with a silver pocket watch.  Jack explained away his change of clothing by saying that he had been to visit his brother who had given him his clothes and the watch.

Jack, or John Owen was eventually arrested at the Oxford Arms, Silver Street, Reading.  Superintendent Dunham recalled, 'I went into the kitchen, which was behind the house, and there were about a dozen men and women there.  Coombes at once pointed out Owen.'  Upon being recognised John Owen said, 'I never murdered man, woman, or child.'  Superintendent Dunham then said, 'You are charged with murdering seven people, among them Emanuel Marshall.'  John Owen replied, 'I have not murdered anyone but I know who did.'  It was pointed out to John that he was wearing the murdered Emanuel's boots and some of his clothes.  All John said was, 'That may well be.'

Silver Street, Reading, Berkshire c1891

John Owen was searched and pawn tickets where found on his for a silver watch like the one missing from the Marshall's home and the deceased Emanuel's waistcoat.  Both pawnbrokers used identified John Owen as the man they had dealt with.  John was taken to Reading Police Station before being taken to Slough by train.  A thousand people lined John's route to Reading Station, where they hissed at him.

On Wednesday 24th May 1870, John was brought before magistrates at Slough Police Station where it was found he had a long history of criminal activity, mainly theft in and around London.  Emanuel Marshall's sister in law, Mary Sparke identified the clothes and boots that had been found on John Owen at the time of his arrest as those her brother in law had owned.

John was committed to trail on 21st July 1870 at Aylesbury before Judge Baron Channell.  John pleaded not guilty.  Several witnesses testified to having seen John in the area at the time of the murders and to the fact he was wearing Emanuel's clothes and boots.  Witnesses where also able to testify that goods stolen from the Marshall home where pawned in Reading and Uxbridge.

It surfaced that John had been previously employed by Emanuel, but bore him a grudge as he felt he had been underpaid for his work. 

The defence tried to argue that there was no real evidence linking John to the murders and just because a person was wearing the clothes of a dead man, it did not mean he had murdered him.  The jury was unconvinced and found John Owen guilty.

Aylesbury Gaol

There are rumours that John Owen asked to sleep in the coffin he was to be buried in the night before his execution and that he also threatened to punch  hangman William Calcraft in the face for not visiting him.

In 1881 the only survivor of the Marshall family, twelve year old Francis William can be found living with his grandparents machinist Loyal Sparks and Sophie his wife at 19 Rockingham Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex.  Sadly Francis was to pass away in 1886 aged only eighteen years.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - William Broome/Brooks - A Slough Murder

On Thursday 24th November 1910 at Reading Prison at eight o'clock in the morning William Broome, alias Brooks met his maker at the end of John Ellis's rope for the brutal murder of Mrs Isabella Wilson.

Isabella Wilson was born Isabella Fletcher in 1841 in Towcester, Northamptonshire, in 1857 she married chimney sweep Richard Wilson of Maidenhead in Eton, Buckinghamshire.  Sadly the marriage didn't produce any surviving children.  Isabella and Richard moved address frequently until Richard's death in 1896.  In 1901 the recently widowed Isabella is working as a wardrobe purchaser and living at 14 Dellary's Road in Surbiton, Surrey.  By 1904 Isabella had moved to 22 High Street, Slough, where she ran a second-hand clothing shop.  Next door at number 20 was a branch of Singer's, selling sewing machines.

Not much is known about William Broome, he was born around 1885 and served as a regular in the Northamptonshire Regiment during the Boer War and then later served in the Berkshire Yeomanry.  His father was the manager of the branch of Singer's next door to Isabella Wilson's shop.

Isabella was quite elderly and while her health was good, the vision in one of her eyes was quite poor, for this reason her sister Mariah and her brother in law Edward White would often visit Isabella of an evening, to check she was okay.  Isabella had a rather concerning habit of carrying large amounts of money about her person wrapped in a purse concealed under her dress.  This made her a target for robbery.

Slough High Street c1909
Copyright Slough Library

During the day of Friday 15th July 1910 nothing extraordinary was noted, however when Mariah and Edward White dropped in to visit Isabella something was a miss.  Edward White recalls:

"We arrived there at about twenty past seven, but when we got opposite the shop we saw a motor-bicycle outside.  The handles of the machine were resting against the window, and thinking it was a customer engaged in the shop we did not go in, but decided to do our shopping first and call back on the old lady.  We had been to see her the night before and she was all right.

At about eight o'clock we returned, when the shop door was open as usual, and the motor-bicycle was gone.  As soon as we got into the shop we noticed that the middle door entering the living room was nearly closed.  This was unusual, as Mrs Wilson always kept it open so she could see into the shop.  When we saw that the door was closed we wondered what the matter was, and I called out, thinking she might have gone to sleep.  There was no answer, and on pulling the door open and looking into the room, we saw that she was lying on the floor.  She was in the habit of having a nap in the afternoon, and I though she might have fainted and fallen off the sofa.  When we got to her, however, we found she was cold, and at once saw that there had been foul play.  The cushion from the couch was tied tightly over her face with a piece of gauze or string which went right around her neck and the knot was so tight that we could not release it.  Her hands were tied together with a pocket handkerchief and were across her breast.  My wife tried to get the cushion off her face while I at once went for Dr Fraser, who lives a few doors down.  He came back to the store and found that she was dead.  There was a wound on the left side of her head, by the ear, as though she had been struck by some instrument, and the blood had trickled down over her face.  Her purse was on the table, cut open.  It had been emptied.  This was the purse she wore under her dress.  The purse lay by and ordinary table knife, which had evidentially had been used for cutting it open.  There was also some bread and cheese on the table.  We went upstairs to see in anything was missing, and found that her room had been ransacked.  Some of the boxes were lying open, but there were one or two locked, which had not been forced."

It was clear that the motive for Mrs Wilson's murder had been theft.  Mrs Wilson's skull hand been fractured from blows to her face with a heavy blunt instrument, her hands showed defensive wounds from her attempting to ward off the attack, however the cause of death had been suffocation from the cushion tied to her face.  The time of her death was placed around early afternoon.

Soon after the murder had been made public several witnesses can forward to report a suspicious character seen in the area at the time of the murder.  That suspicious character was identified as William Brooks. 

Slough High Street c1910
Copyright Slough Library

Brooks was eventually arrested on the 17th July in Harlesden, London, he was found to have two parallel scratches on his right cheek.  A statement taken. 

William stated:

"I make the flowing statement voluntarily and of my own free will:  I reside at No. 146, Albany-street, and occupied the front room second floor.  Previously I lodged at Albert-street, Regents Park.

On Friday morning last, the 15th, I got up about 8:30 a.m., and after having a wash, etc., I went out.  I don't think I saw anyone in the house that morning. I went to the place in Villiers-street [a cafĂ©], and had some breakfast.  The woman there always served me.  It is about half-way down on the left side.  I then proceeded to Scotland Yard and went to the public carriage branch.  I saw an officer at the window and handed in a form filled up which I had previously received at the same office.  The officer called my attention to time.   It was then 10:20 a.m., and he said 'You are too late for to-day.  You must call some other day at 10 a.m. sharp.'  I then left the office and remained in the yard where they test the cab drivers who are applying for licences.  I remained there until about 1 p.m. 

Then I went to the public house - I think the Trafalgar - in St Martin's Lane, and I had a piece of bread and cheese and a glass of stout, for which I paid 3d.  Then I went to my lodgings at 146, Albany-street.  As I went in I saw the servant in the passage. She might not have been the servant but a woman living in the house.  I did not speak to her.  I did not pass her as she was standing at the end of the passage furthest from the door.  I sat in my room reading a newspaper for an hour or so.  I was not reading all the time, but messing about.  I left my lodgings about 2:30 that afternoon.  I had a walk around and went to Edgware-road.  I went into a grocer's shop near Cambridge-terrace and wrote a post-card to my girl, Miss Bunce.  I think she lives in Camden Town.  I have known her on and off for about six months and I did not know her address until about a week ago.  I posted the card at about 3 p.m.

I then went to Hyde Park and met a fellow I know by sight.  I cannot recollect his name but I think it starts with a 'P.'  I reached the park about 4 p.m., and left there between 5 and 6 p.m.  I then returned to my lodgings and as I passes upstairs I saw the landlady in the front room.  I wished her 'Good afternoon.'  I stayed in my room and hour and a half, had a wash, a read, etc.  afterwards I went out to a picture show near the Britannia public house, Camden Town.  I remained there about two hours and then went home, arriving there about half past ten.  I don't think I saw anyone as I went in.  I went straight to bed and remained there until about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The scratches I have on my right cheek were done last Saturday by a man I had a few words with outside the Britannia public house, Camden Town.  It was given me during the scuffle and my eye has been discoloured.  The man who did it employs I man I know by the name of 'Ginger' to collect bets for him in and around the lavatory outside the Britannia."

The Britannia, Camden Town
Source - Pubs History

There were several untruths in William's statement.  Firstly an officer from the Public Carriage Department of New Scotland Yard testified that he had seen William Broome on Saturday 16th July at 10:35 when he handed in an application form, not Friday 15th as stated by William.  Also the police officer noticed marks on William's face that seemed to be a day or so old.  Dr Alexander Carson Smythe was able to testify that the scratches on William's right cheek where in his opinion caused by human fingernails and not by the buttons of a coat as William had stated later.

But perhaps the nail in William coffin were the five witnesses that placed him in the area at the time of the murder. 

One witness, Thomas George Dellar testified that having known William by sight for the past two and a half years saw him near 22 High Street, Slough around the hours of 1 and 2 p.m.

William was unemployed and facing financial difficulties.  It was found that a few days before the murder William had tried to sell a diamond and ruby brooch without success.  There had also been some difficulties in getting his Army reservist pay.  Having lived next door to Mrs Wilson for the past two and a half years, William was familiar with her habits, especially that of her having a nap in living room behind the shop at 1 p.m. everyday.  It seemed William had the motive and the means.

On 23rd October 1910, the jury found William Broome guilty of the wilful murder of Mrs Isabella Wilson and he was subsequently sentenced to death.  William immediately appealed the courts decision, however the case was dismissed.

William never confessed to the crime and walked to the scaffold unaided.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Murderous Monday - Catherine Webster - Women Who Kill - Hired Help, The Only Woman To Hang At Wandsworth Prison

The terrible crime at Richmond at last,
On Catherine Webster now has been cast,
Tried and found guilty she is sentenced to die.
From the strong hand of justice she cannot fly.
She has tried all excuses but of no avail,
About this and murder she's told many tales,
She has tried to throw blame on others as well,
But with all her cunning at last she has fell.

Catherine Webster met her maker at the end of William Marwood's rope on 29th July 1879 at Wandsworth Prison, for the murder of her employer Mrs Julia Martha Thomas.

Catherine Webster was born Kate Lawler in Killanne, County Wexford, Ireland in 1848 and from a young age she found herself on the wrong side of the law.  At the age of 15 in the December of 1864 she was imprisoned for stealing in her home county of Wexford.  In 1867 Kate moved to Liverpool, England, where she was soon sentenced to four years imprisonment, again for stealing.  she was released in the January of 1872, but by 1875 she had again been arrested for stealing and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment at Wandsworth Prison.  In the February of 1877 she was again sentenced for stealing and served 12 months.

On 13th January 1879 Catherine entered the employ of Julia Martha Thomas, a widow in her 50's at 2 Mayfield Cottages in Richmond.  At first the relationship between the two women was good, but it soon began to sour when Mrs Thomas became critical of Catherine's poor standard of work, time keeping and general drunkenness.  Matters became increasingly bad in the household until Mr Thomas gave Catherine notice to leave by 28th February.  Mrs Thomas recorded her decision in her last diary entry, "Gave Katherine warning to leave."

2 Mayfield Cottages

By the 28th February however Catherine had yet to find further employment or accommodation and had persuaded Mrs Thomas to allow her to stay until that Sunday, 2nd March.  A decision that was to cost Mrs Thomas her life.  Catherine had Sunday afternoons off to visit her son John who was cared for by her friend Sarah Crease, with Catherine having to return in good time to help Mrs Thomas prepare for evening service at the local Presbyterian chapel.  This Sunday Catherine visited a local hostilely and was late returning to 2 Mayfield Cottages, delaying Mrs Thomas's departure.  The two woman quarrelled before Mrs Thomas left.  Witnesses at the chapel noted that Mrs Thomas seems to be in an agitated state and left before the end of the service.

Illustrated Police News
12th July 1879

What happened next was murder, either accidental or premeditated.  According the Catherine's eventual confession the events that unfolded that evening were an accident caused by a fit of temper.

'Mrs. Thomas came in and went upstairs. I went up after her, and we had an argument, which ripened into a quarrel, and in the height of my anger and rage I threw her from the top of the stairs to the ground floor. She had a heavy fall, and I became agitated at what had occurred, lost all control of myself, and, to prevent her screaming and getting me into trouble, I caught her by the throat, and in the struggle she was choked, and I threw her on the floor.'

Mrs Thomas's neighbour and landlady Mrs Ives recalled hearing what sounded like a chair falling over coming from next door.  However she heard no sounds of quarrelling.

Catherine now had that age old problem, what to do with the body of Mrs Thomas.

'I determined to do away with the body as best I could. I chopped the head from the body with the assistance of a razor which I used to cut through the flesh afterwards. I also used the meat saw and the carving knife to cut the body up with. I prepared the copper with water to boil the body to prevent identity; and as soon as I had succeeded in cutting it up I placed it in the copper and boiled it. I opened the stomach with the carving knife, and burned up as much of the parts as I could.'

Neighbours had recalled a terrible smell coming from the property and Catherine herself confessed to being 'greatly overcome both by the sight before me and the smell.'

Over the next few days Catherine continued to run the house, putting on an air of normality all the while she was packing Mrs Thomas's remains into a black Gladstone bag and a corded bonnet box. However Catherine was unable to fit on of the feet or head into the packages, she disposed of these separately.  She threw the remaining foot on a rubbish heap in Twickenham and secreted the head in a shallow grave in the stables at the Hole in The Wall public house. Mrs Thomas's skull was discovered 131 years later by workmen.

On 4th March, Catherine travelled to visit her old neighbours in Hammersmith, the Porter family, taking with her the Gladstone bag and corded bonnet box.  Catherine told the Porters that her name was now Mrs Thomas, having married and been widowed since she had seen them last.  She then invited Mr Porter and his son Robert to the Oxford and Cambridge Arms public house.  Along the way Catherine disposed of the Gladstone bag, possibly by dropping it into the Thames, the bag was never recovered.  When Catherine left the company of the Porters she disposed of the bonnet box on Richmond Bridge, this was to be Catherine's undoing.  The next day the box had washed up in shallow water by the river bank only a mile downstream.  The box was discovered by coal porter Henry Wheatley, who found the box to contain body parts wrapped in brown paper.  The police were duly summoned and an investigation was underway.

Meanwhile Catherine continued to live at the home of her victim, 2 Mayfield Cottages. Posing as Mrs Thomas she sold a large amount of Mrs Thomas's furniture to John Church, a publican, to help furnish his public house, The Rising Sun.

By now neighbours were becoming increasingly concerned and suspicious about the whereabouts of Mr Thomas.  On 18th March when the carts arrived to remove Mrs Thomas's furniture a neighbour enquired to one of the men who had ordered the removal of the goods.  The man stated that Mrs Thomas had done so, whilst indicating Catherine to be Mrs Thomas.  Catherine realised she had been exposed and fled the scene immediately.  The police were summoned to 2 Mayfield cottages where they found blood stains, charred finger bones in the fire place and fatty deposits in the copper.  A wanted notice for Catherine was immediately issued.

Catherine had fled to Liverpool where she later took a coal streamer back to Ireland.  News reached Scotland Yard that Catherine was hiding out at her uncle's farm in Killanne in Ireland.  It was there that she was arrested on 29th March.

Illustrated Police News
19th July 1879

Catherine was sent to trail at The Old Bailey on 2nd July 1879, the trial lasted for six days while numerous witnesses pieced together the complicated story as to how Mrs Thomas had met her end.  Catherine protested her innocence throughout the trail, even attempting to implicate John church, the Porters and the absent father of her son.  However it only to took the jury an hour and a quarter to find Catherine guilty of the wilful and premeditated murder of Mrs Thomas.  Catherine was hung for her crime, her remains buried in an unmarked grave in Wandsworth Prison.

Illustrated Police News
2nd August 1879

Monday, 19 May 2014

Murderous Monday - Unsolved Murder - Ann Reville, Butcher's Wife.

Mrs Ann Reville, murdered for bad meat?

Ann Reville had been born Mary Ann Chudley in Cheriton Bishop, Devon in 1843 to John Chudley, a carpenter, and his wife Grace Gosland.  In 1874 Mary Ann married Hezekiah Reville in Reading, Berkshire.

In 1881 the Reville family ran a butcher's shop in Windsor Road, Slough, Berkshire.  Living above the shop were Hezekiah Reville, his wife Ann and their two young daughters Alice Jane and Emily Gertrude.

At that time Hezekiah Reville employed two boys,  sixteen year old Alfred Augustus Payne, son of Alfred Payne, a beer house keeper and gardener, and his wife Emily Goldswaine, and fourteen year old Philip Glass, son of Alfred Glass, a fly driver (horse coach), and his wife Mary Ann Pile.

On the 1881 Census, Alfred Augustus Payne cane be found listed as Augustus Payne, living with his parents and siblings at The Royal Oak beer house in Slough High Street.  Philip Glass can be found living with his parents and elder sister, also Mary Ann, at Royal Cottages, Mackenzie Street, Slough, Berkshire.

Both boys worked long, hard hours and it seems Mrs Reville had cause to reprimand Alfred Payne on his habit of frequenting the beer houses of Slough, which resulted him being late for work on several occasions.  Philip Glass remembered hearing Mrs Reville speak sharply to Alfred on one occasion, causing Alfred to threaten to give notice.  However, Mr Reville managed to talk him out of it.  Items from the shop had begun to go missing, including a quantity of steak.  Mrs Reville began to suspect both Alfred and Philip of dishonest practices.

However, everything appeared to be well between Mrs Reville and the two boys on the evening of 11th April 1881 when Mrs Mary Callen of Arbour Vale arrived at the butcher's shop to purchase a half pound steak.  Mrs Callen paid for her steak, giving the money to Philip, after which he passed it to Mrs Reville who was working in a small office room behind the shop.  Mrs Reville's two young daughters were asleep upstairs in their room and Mr Reville had since left the shop, later accounts giving that time to be between 7:30pm and 8:10pm.  Both Alfred and Philip remained at the shop after Mr Reville's departure with Philip leaving around 8:20pm and Alfred following ten minutes after.

At around 8:30pm that evening, a neighbour Mrs Eliza Beasley called on her friend Mrs Reville as she often did for company.  She found the door to the shop open and upon entering the shop she saw her friend sitting in her chair in the little office, facing the window.  The book she had been working on sat open on the table.  At first Mrs Beasley thought her friend had simply fainted but closer inspection found Mrs Reville had been dealt three blows with a meat cleaver, two across her head and one at the back of the neck.  Police Sergeant Hebbes was duly summoned to the scene of the crime.

Sergeant Hebbes examined the body and the little office, the shop account book Mrs Reville had been working on had been left open on March 19th, on the floor he found some money, a pen, a handkerchief and splashes of blood.  Further investigation of the shop turned up a bloodied cleaver, to which a few strands of human hair clung.  Also a note was discovered, addressed to Mr Reville it read:

"You never will sell me no more bad meat like you did on Saturday.  I told Mrs Austin at Chalvey, that I would do for her.  I done it for the bad meat she sold me on Saturday last. 

H. Collins, Colnbrook."

Naturally suspicion first fell upon Mrs Reville's husband but several witnesses could attest to his whereabouts that evening.  After leaving his house, Mr Reville had called on Mr James Wilmot's bakery on William Street before visiting Mr Richard Jenkins grocery shop.  From there he stopped off at Mr George Cornish's shop to purchase some tobacco before ending the evening in The White Hart Pub in the High Street.

Suspicion then passed to Alfred Payne, he was arrested at his home, The Royal Oak in the High Street, the same evening and taken to Slough Police Station.  There he gave evidence that:

"I've only got to say that Mrs Reville was sitting at the books when I came out of the door.  She said 'Good night' to me and I asked if I should shut the door.  She said, 'No, turn the gas down and leave the door open'.  The tools where all laid together on the block when I came outside except the knife, and that lay out against the weights and scale.  It was 8:32 when I came out of the door, and I made straight home.  I looked at the clock.  That's all I've got to say. I don't want to say any more."

It was concluded that by the positioning of the body and the fact Mrs Reville had not risen from her chair when her assailant entered the room, the murderer was known to her.  The mysterious Mrs Austin and H. Collins mentioned in the note could not be traced.  Alfred Payne's clothes were sent to be checked for possible bloodstains.  The mysterious note and a  suspected sample of Alfred's handwriting from the account book were sent for analysis by a handwriting expert. 

Too small spots of blood were discovered on Alfred's shirt and the handwriting expert concluded that the handwriting on the mysterious note was that of Alfred's.  Superintendent Thomas Durham felt that there was enough evidence to charge Alfred Payne with the murder of Mrs Ann Reville. 

The trial started on 26th April 1881 and concluded on 29th April with Mr Attenborough for the defence of Alfred arguing that the case against rested on the fact that it seemed impossible for anyone else to have slain Mrs Reville, rather than actual evidence against Alfred. He also argued that no one could be certain that the samples of handwriting taken from the account book thought to be Alfred's were his.  The judge then summed up the case and the jury retired.  They wasted no time in coming to their verdict.  Alfred Payne was declared innocent of the murder of Mrs Reville and he left the court a free man.

No one else was ever charged in relation to Mrs Reville's murder.

On 6th September 1881 Alfred enlisted with The King's Royal Rifle Corps, later serving in World War One with the Bucks National Reserve then later the Royal Defence Corps, reaching the rank of Sergeant.  Alfred continued to live in Slough, later marrying Susan Davis in the September of 1890, until his death in 1941.  However, Alfred never worked as a butcher again, instead supporting his family as a general labourer. 

Mr Reville also no longer worked as a butcher after his wife's murder.  Instead he moved to Brighton and ran a bakery with his daughter Alice.  His other daughter Emily was sent to live with an aunt in Brighton until leaving to work as a housemaid in London.  Hezekiah later remarried to Alice Tullett in 1913.  He remained in Brighton, Sussex until his death in 1933.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Henry George Lee - The Man They Couldn't Hang

On 23rd February 1885 at Exeter Goal, John Henry George Lee went to the gallows, conivicted of the murder of Miss Emma Ann Whitehead Keyse.  James Berry the executioner had earlier checked the scaffold and trapdoor and found them to be in good working order.  However when the time came to drop John into eternity, the trapdoor failed.

John Henry George Lee was born at 1 Elm Cottage Abbotskerswell, Devon on 15th August 1864 to John Lee, and agricultural labourer and his wife Mary Stevens (sometimes Stephens).

On the 1871 Census, six year old John can be found living with his parents, elder sister Amelia Mary and grandfather John Lee, at Tree Cottage in Abbotskerwell, Devon.  John's mother Mary had a child from a previous relationship with a man named Harris.  Elizabeth Harris, John's half sister was brought up by her maternal grandparent William and Betsy Stevens.

John's sister Amelia Mary entered the employment of Miss Keyes at The Glen, Babbacombe, Torquay and at the age of 15 John followed her.  However in 1879, against his parents wishes John joined the Royal Navy.

On the 1881 Census John can be found stationed on the training ship the Implacable at Devonport under Captain Thomas S Jackson.  Later he served on the training ship Liberty.  Unfortunately John's naval career was cut short after he contacted pneumonia and was invalided out of service in 1882.  John went back into domestic service and towards the end of 1882 was employed by Colonel Edward Brownlow, however only six months later John was accused of stealing from his employer.  John was arrested and later found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment at Exeter Gaol  After serving his sentence, John returned to his old job as gardener at The Glen in Babbacombe.  By this time John's half sister Elizabeth Harris was working at The Glen as a cook.

For reasons not quite clear Miss Keyse became disappoints in the quality of John's work and docked his pay from 2s 6d a week to just 2s.  This is not have the desired affect as John decided that for less pay he would do less work.  Eventually Miss Keyse gave John notice to quit his employment at The Glen.

Three weeks later on 15th November 1884 fire broke out at The Glen.  Elizabeth Harris awoke the the smell of burning, he roused two other servants in the house, Jane and Eliza Neck.  John was apparently already awake and helped lead the woman to safety, during this rescue, John left a bloody hand print on Elizabeth's nightdress.

Coastguards and local fishermen helped douse the flames.   It was then discovered that three fires had been set in different locations, Miss Keyse bedroom, the drawing room and the dining room where they discovered the dead body of Emma Keyse laid out on the sofa.  She had been bludgeoned with a heavy object on the left side of her head her throat had also been cut with a knife, so deeply that the neck bones were notched.  The window of the dinning room was broken, something John admitted doing to 'let the smoke out of the house'.  Further investigation of the property revealed a large pool of blood in the hall by the stairs.  An oil can containing paraffin used to start the fires was found to be covered in blood.   Also a towel, knife and pair of trousers belonging to John were found in his quarters, all stained with blood and smelling of paraffin.

John was arrested and charged with the murder of Miss Keyse, he was sent to trial on 2nd February 1885.  He pleaded not guilty and protested his innocence throughout the three day proceedings.  At the trail Elizabeth Harris testified that John had made several threats against Emma Keyse's life and had threatened to burn the house down, especially after Miss Keyse reduced his wages.  The jury only took forty minutes to find John guilty, he was sentenced to death.

On 23rd February 1885 John walked from the condemned cell to the gallows.  Three times he stood in place, thee times the rope was adjusted around his neck and three times the lever was thrown.  Each time the trapdoor failed to open.  John was returned to his cell as a stay of execution was ordered to allow time for the Home Secretary to be contacted.  John's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. 

The Guardian reported on 24th February 1885,

"The scene which occurred at Exeter Goal yesterday morning will go far to justify those who have long urged the need for some alteration and improvement in the manner of conducting executions in this country.  Without going into revolting details, it is sufficient to say that three unsuccessful attempts were made to carry out the sentence which have been pronounced upon John Lee for th notorious murder at Babbicombe [sic].

After the third failed attempt the miserable man was taken back to the prison and the execution postponed, with the view of affording the Sheriff time to communicate with the Home Secretary.  In spite of the peculiar atrocity of his crime, it is impossible not to feel some pity for the man, who was thus doomed to undergo three a great part - perhaps the greater part - of that penalty of which the law had condemned him to suffer once; and it will be learned without surprise that the convict has been respited."

John was sent to Plymouth Convict Prison to serve out his sentence.  He appears as an inmate there on both the 1891 and the 1901 Census.  John was eventually released from prison on 18th December 1907

On 22 January 1909 John married Jessie Augusta Widger Bulled.  They had two children together, John Aubrey Maurice born in 1910 in Newcastle Upon Tyne and Eveline Victoria May born in 1911. 

Just before the birth of his daughter John abandoned pregnant Jessie and his son John in the Lambeth Workhouse and left for America with barmaid Adelina Gibbs.  Together they arrived in the United States on 28th February 1911 on the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm.  They lived in Milwakuee until John's death on 19th March 1945 aged 81 years.  Adelina passed away on 9th January 1969.

It's not known what happened to Jessie and John Jr, but Eveline later married in 1939

Monday, 11 February 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - William Hussell - The Angry Butcher

On the 19th November 1877 William Hussell met his maker at the end of William Marwood's rope for the wilful murder of his wife, Mary Hussell.

William Hussell was born in 1839 in Eastdown, Devon to John Hussell, a coachman, and his wife Mary Ackland.

In 1851, 12 year old William is a scholar living with his parents at Watermouth Cottage in Ilfracombe, Devon.  In 1861, 21 year old william is lodging with the Mouse family in the High Street, Ilfracombe, Devon.  Unfortunately William's occupation listed on the census return is too worn to read.  At some point between 1861 and 1870, William becomes a butcher, setting up shop at Butcher's Row in Barnstaple

In 1870 in Bideford, Devon William marries Mary Bellew.  In 1871 the newly married couple are living in Newport Road, Barnstaple where William is now described as a master butcher.  The couple's first child, a daughter Mary Ann is born in 1872, followed by William Charles Bewell in 1875, Thomas Bellew in 1876 and baby Edith in 1877.

By 1877 the family had moved to their present house at Diamond Street, where they employed a maid by the name of Emily Dockery.

By all accounts William liked his drink and as a consequence, Mary bore the brunt of his drunken rages.  On the evening of 5th October 1877 William was much the worse for drink, even so he and his wife Mary worked together at their shop on Butcher's Row until 8:30pm.  At the end of the evening William returned home to Sander Cottages in Diamond Road, however, having argued with William previously that day, Mary was afraid to return with him. 

14 year old Emily Dockerty was the sole witness to the events that unfolded in Sander's Cottage that night.  She testified in court that,

"He returned home between 8 and 9 that evening, he was not sober, my mistress was not at home.

When Prisoner came home two of the Children were in bed and the baby was in the Cradle. I then put the eldest Child to bed, and by Prisoners order went to the Market to fetch my Mistress leaving him in the kitchen. I did not find her at the Shop but on my return home I found her in the Court outside the front Door. Prisoner was inside where I had left him on a chair. The baby was crying and the deceased asked me to go and fetch it to her. I took it out into the Court to her.

Prisoner came into the Court and asked her to come in, she replied "I am afraid to go in William as I fear you will hurt me." He said " I will not hurt you". He then pushed her into the kitchen, as he was pushing her in he said "You dirty [unclear] you shall never go outside this door again alive." She went through the kitchen into the back kitchen and sat on the stairs that lead to the bedroom and gave the baby the breast. Prisoner then asked me to make him some Tea, whilst I was doing so and he was sitting on the Chair at the table I heard him say "I will wait until the Clock strikes" he then took a knife (now produced) out of the pocket of his Coat. He held it up in his right hand and said to deceased who was still in the back kitchen "I have got it ready for you", at the time he said this he could see her from where he was sitting in the Chair. She said "You can't do it, my mother's prayers will be answered for me." I don't take any notice of what you say and when I look at the baby I feel happy." He then returned the knife to his pocket. A few minutes afterwards he took it out again and holding it up said to deceased "It is what I kill the Pigs with." He again put it into his pocket, almost immediately he took it out a third time and walked into the back kitchen towards deceased with the knife in his right hand. I heard her say "I will scream murder if you touch me." I then ran out being very much frightened and went to Mrs. Sanders's house which is four or five doors off.

As I was running down the Court towards Mrs. Sanders's house I heard my Mistress scream "Murder." I returned to the house having been absent about a minute and a half, I met the prisoner walking down the Court he said "I have finished her." I went into the Prisoner's house, deceased was lying in the back kitchen on the floor on her face. I saw blood on the floor. The knife was lying on the floor beside her I heard the baby crying but could not see it. It was under her. I said to her "Mrs. Hussell can I do anything for you." She made no reply and did not move. I then went to tell Mrs. Sanders. While I was at Mrs. Sanders's Mrs. Giddy called to me. I went up the Court, and found her standing just outside Prisoner's Door. She asked me to fetch the Baby, I told her I could not do so. Mrs. Giddy then went in and brought it out to me. There was a quantity of blood on its Night dress and its Arms.

During the time I lived with Prisoner and deceased, Prisoner drank a great deal and very often came home tipsy. I have very often heard him threaten to kill his Wife. On Monday night before her death (1st October) he came home to have his supper, he was very tipsy, he then began to abuse the deceased and said he would finish her.

The Deceased used to find fault with the Prisoner for his intemperate habits and for not attending to his business. She was a hardworking industrious Woman and very temperate. The Prisoner was not in the habit of killing Cattle at home and knives or butcher's tools were not kept there and none of the Butcher's work was done in Sander's Court. I never saw the knife now produced in the house in Sander's Court until the Prisoner took it out of his Pocket on Friday night."

It must have been an extremely frightening experience for poor Emily.

Mary had been attacked by her husband whilst she sat on the stairs breastfeeding Edith, the medical evidence supported this has Dr. Andrew Fernie testified,

"I am a Surgeon and live at Barnstaple. On Friday night 5th October instant I was called by Police Constable Thomas Downing at Eleven o'clock P.M. and proceeded with him to the Prisoner's house. Superintendent Longhurst was there when I arrived. I found the body of the deceased on the floor partly in the front and partly in the back kitchen. Her face was covered blood. She was quite dead, but warm. There was a great deal of blood in her mouth and throat, there was a large quantity of blood in the back kitchen.

On Saturday the sixth instant by direction of the Coroner I made a post mortem examination of the body in which I was assisted by Mr. Jackson. I found the following incised wounds on the body. One on the upper part of the right breast which had penetrated very deeply into the flesh into a large blood vessel below the collar bone. A wound on the lower part of the same breast which had passed between the ribs and into the Chest, close to, but not wounding the lung and liver. A wound on the back of the left blade bone not very deep. A wound on the back of the left upper arm, and a wound on the left side of the face which passed very deeply down to the lower jaw, from hence across the mouth and through the palate on the right side, which had opened a large blood vessel there, and caused a great deal of hemorrhage (sic). I opened the body and found the organs all healthy. There were 2 bruises on the right breast and 2 on the right side of the face.

The body looked blanched as if a great deal of blood had flown from it. I am of the opinion that the deceased's death was caused from loss of blood occasioned by the wounds which I have described. The wounds are of such a character as might be caused by such a knife which the Superintendent of Police has produced. The wound which was on the left cheek and which took a downward course was a fatal one. Having regard to the course of this wound I think the deceased was struck by some person standing at a higher level than she was."

William was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang.  On 19th November 1877  William walked to the scaffold with a firm step, but broke down and cried bitterly before he was dropped into oblivion.

But what became of William and Mary's children.  Thomas Bewell Hussell was first taken in by his mother's sister, Ann Clarke and husband George Clarke, then later by his mother's brother, Thomas Bewell and wife Alice Maria.  Where he is still living in 1911.

Mary, William and Edith were sent to The New Orphans Houses in Bristol, where they all appear on the 1881 Census, strangely though Mary Ann is listed as Sarah Ann.  Edith is still living at the home for orphans in 1891.  In 1899 Mary Ann Hussell marries Arthur Ernest Britton in Bideford, Devon.

 In 1901 Edith is visiting her sister Mary Ann and husband Arthur at their home in Glamorgan.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - William Frederick Horry - Wife Killer

On 1st April 1872, William Frederick (Fred) Horry met his maker at the end of William Marwood's rope.  He was also the first of William Marwood executions and the first at Lincoln Castle using the more human 'long drop' method.

William Frederick Horry was born in the December if 1843 to William Horry, a brewer and his wife Elizabeth Bland.  On the 1851 Census, 7 years old William, then known as Fred is living with his parents and two younger siblings in Lincolnshire.  In 1861 the now 17 year old William is an assistant brewer with his father.

In 1867 in Staffordshire William married his future wife Jane, the couple then took over the running of The George Hotel in Burslem Staffordshire.  But not everything was well in the Horry household.  William began to drink and became abusive towards Jane, believing her to be having an affair.  So much so that by the September if 1871 the couple had become estranged.  Jane had taken their three children and gone to live with William's parents in Boston Lincolnshire.  William continued to visit his family but his behaviour became so violent that William's one father banned him from the home.

William was unable to maintain The George Hotel and sold the business before moving to Nottingham.  In the January of 1872 William pleaded once more with his wife for her and their children to return to him, being unsuccessful he travelled back to Nottingham and purchased a revolver.

William then returned to Boston, and gained entry into his father's house where he lay in wait for Jane, shooting her dead as she entered the dining room.  William then then calmly handed the revolver to his stunned brother Thomas, saying -

“You have no notion, Tom, how I loved that woman, but I could not stand the jealousy.”

William then stayed at the home awaiting his arrest.  At his trial on 31st March William pleaded insanity, but the prosecution was successful in it's argument that the crime had been premeditated.  William was found guilty of the murder of his wife and sentenced to death.  He showed no interest in appealing his conviction and was executed the next day at Lincoln Castle by William Marwood.

William is buried in Lucy Tower in Lincoln Castle were a simple stone baring his initials and death of death mark his final resting place.

Supporters of William erected a granite obelisk in his and Jane's honour at St John the Baptist Churchyard in Burslem, Staffordshire.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - George Henry Lamson - Dr. Death - The Wimbledon Poisoner

On 28th April 1882 George Henry Lamson met his maker at the end of William Marwood's rope at Wandsworth Prison for the murder of his disabled brother-in-law Percy Malcolm John.

George Lamson was born in New York city in the United States of America to William C Lamson, a clergyman and his wife Julia.  At some point before the 1870's George travelled with his parents and siblings to England.  He can be found aged 18 living with his family at Sydney Lodge on the 1871 Census, his occupations is described as a medical student.  After George graduated from medical school he volunteered as a surgeon in Eastern Europe before returning to England.

In 1878 Dr Lamson married Kate George John in the Isle of Wight.  On the 1881 Census Dr Lamson can be found listed as Henry G, physician surgeon, living in Cambridge Road in Christchurch, Bournemouth.  Kate is visiting her sister Margaret and brother-in-law William Greenhill Chapman, along with her baby daughter Agnes in 1881.

Percy John, who had a deformity of the spine which resulted in partial paralyse, was boarding at Blenheim House School, Wimbledon in 1881.

On his return to England Dr Lamson had become addicted to morphine, his addiction had eaten away at his assets.  Deep in debt Dr Lamson could see no way out other than murder.  Desperate to bring the finances of his wife's family under his control, George decided to murder his 18 year old brother-in-law Percy John.  On 3rd December 1881 Dr Lamson visited Percy at his school lodgings where together they had tea and Dundee cake.  Dr Lamson was then able to convince Percy to take some pills laced with aconite, a poison derived from the plant Monkshood.  That night Percy suffered serious stomach cramps and died shortly after.  Suspicion soon fell on Dr Lamson, who had suddenly departed to Paris.  Soon the newspapers had picked up on the story of poor Percy's death, which prompted Dr Lamson to return to England to protest his innocence.  Dr Lamson had been taught during his medical student days that aconite was undetectable, however forensic science had progressed since then.

An examination was made of Percy's vomit, stomach fluids and urine.  All were found to contain aconite, as were the pills Dr Lamson had given Percy, which were found in Percy's room after his death.  Dr Lamson was brought before magistrates at The Old Bailey in the February 1882.  It took the jury only 25 minutes to convict him of the wilful murder of Percy John, a sentence of death was passed.  When asked if he had anything to say, Dr Lamson simply stated, "merely to protest my innocence before God."

Dr Lamson's execution date was set for the 4th April 1882, but this was delayed due to the intervention of the US president and Dr Lamson's family and Friends in New York, who wished to provide evidence of insanity in Dr Lamson's family.  The New York Times reported -

"Dr Lamson's American Friends.
Efforts To Obtain A Reprieve On The Ground Of Hereditary Insanity.
The case of Dr, George Henry Lamson, who was convicted in London, England, on the 13th Inst (February 13th 1882), on the charge of causing the death of his brother-in-law, Percy Malcolm John, by giving him poison, has aroused a deep feeling of sympathy among Americans, not only in this city, but else-where.
Young Dr. Lamson was arrested in December last, on the specific charge of having wilfully poisoned his wife's brother by giving him aconitine pills at Blenheim House School, Wimbledon.  Percy John was only 19 years of age and suffered from a serious affection of the spine.  The friends of Dr. Lamson have been more or less-firm in the conviction that the prisoner is insane, and since the close of the trial evidence is accumulating rapidly to show that insanity hereditary in Lamson's family.
An investigation of the records of the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane, was made and it was found that the Rev. William Lamson's mother, maternal uncle and sister died in that institution."

The evidence of the supposed hereditary insanity was considered not to be strong enough to change the sentence passed and Dr Lamson was hung for his crime.

George Lamson's father William was to later write to the London newspapers stating that all of George's debts could have been cleared and medical attention given for his addictions, possibly preventing the murder of Percy, if George had only said the word.  I am sure that came as little comfort to Percy's family.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Murderous Monday - Women Who Kill - Florence Maybrick - The Flypaper Poisoner, Miscarriage of Justice?

Florence Maybrick was born Florance Chandler on 3rd September 1862 in Mobile County Alabama to John Chandler, a banking partner and Caroline Holbrook.

After her father's death and her mother's remarriage to Baron Adolph von Roques, Florence travelled with her family to Liverpool in England.  It was aboard ship that she met her future husband, James Maybrick, a cotton broker 24 years her senior.  They were soon married on 27 July 1881 at St James Church, Picidilly, London.

Unfortunately their marriage was an unhappy one.  James had several mistresses and was obsessed with his health, to the point of self administering arsenic and strychnine.  Florence had lovers of her own, one is believed to have been local businessman Alfred Brierley and even James's own brother, Edwin.  After a violent argument with James regarding her faithfulness, James threatened to divorce Florence.

Florence was in the habit of buying flypapers and soaking them in water to extract the arsenic as a beauty treatment.  Florence bought some flypaper from a local chemist in the April of 1889.  On 27th of that month James Maybrick was taken ill.  At first it was thought that James has accidentally self administered a double dose of strychnine, doctors treated him for a stomach complaint but James's condition deteriorated.  Florance wrote a compromising letter to Alfred, which was intercepted by the family nanny, Alice Yapp and passed onto James's brothers. 

On 11th May 1889 James Maybrick died at his home in Liverpool.  His brothers were immediately suspicious and arranged for his body to be examined.  The post mortem found small traces of arsenic throughout James's body, but not in quantities sufficient to kill a person.  It was also unclear as to whether James had been poisoned or had administered the arsenic himself.  Yet Florence was arrested for her husband's murder.  The Liverpool Echo reported -

"Florence Maybrick has been arrested on suspicion of murdering her husband James Maybrick, her children are being cared for by their godmother, Mrs Jannion at Gateacre."

Florence stool trial at St George's Hall, Liverpool, were she was convicted of her husband's murder and sentenced to death.  A public outcry followed, the was then concluded that while Florence had administered the arsenic to her husband with the intent to murder, there was reasonable doubt as to whether the amount of arsenic was the cause of death.  Florence's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Florence was first held in the Female Convict Prison in Woking, Guildford, where she appears aged 27 on the 1891 Census.  Later Florence was transferred to the Female Convict Prison and House of Correction on Bierton Road in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Where she appears aged 37 on the 1901 Census.

Florence was finally released in 1904 after having spent 14 years in custody.  She returned to the United States where towards the end of her life she became a recluse.  Florence died at home in her three room cabin in Gaylordsville, Connecticut on 23rd October 1941.

It seems perhaps the courts where preoccupied with punishing Florence for her suspected adultery, rather than the actual death of her husband as the evidence against her was thin to say the least.  A doctor and chemist both testified to James having self administered and purchased arsenic for his personal use.  Many Victorian men believed arsenic to be a tonic and aphrodisiac.  Florence had very little to gain from James's death and would have been finanically better off if she had legally separated from James.  Maybe the thought of divorce and the resulting ruin in Victorian society drove her to desperate measures.  Found in Florence's possessions after her death was a tattered family bible, pressed between it's pages was a ageing piece of paper with instructions on how to soak flypaper to obtain arsenic for use as a beauty treatment.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Hannah - The Armley Murder

On Saturday 27th December 1856 at York Castle, John Hannah a tailor from Manchester, met his maker at the end of Thomas Askern's rope for the wilful murder of his common law wife Jane Banham.

John Hannah was born sometime in 1836 in Ireland to William Hannah, a tailor and his wife Lelia.  John was one of nine children born to his parents.  On the 1851 Census, 15 year old John can be found living with his parents and siblings at 11 Warriners Buildings, Bishopsgate, Manchester.

At some time after March 1851 John started a relationship with Jane Banham, a married woman ten years his senior.  Jane Banham, a dancer in a travelling corps of performers, and her children had been abandoned by her husband William when he emigrated to America.  She began to live with together with John as husband and wife, baring him two children.  However things between them began to sour.

Two weeks before the Christmas of 1855 Jane and John separated.  Jane took the children to live with her father John Hope, a member of the same performing troupe.  In the June of 1856 the company were performing in Halifax.  John Hannah walked to Halifax from Manchester and pleaded with Jane's father to be able to speak with her.  At first John Hope refused but John Hannah persisted until a meeting was set up between them back in Armley at in the parlour room of the Malt Hill Inn on 11th September.

During this meeting John Hannah pleaded with Jane to return to him with the children, upon her refusal John asked Jane's father to speak to her on his behalf.  John Hope was reported to have said that he would, 'have nothing to do with the matter.'  John Hope left John Hannah and his daughter Jane still talking in the Malt Mill Inn.  Witnesses reported that at one point Jane left the Inn saying, 'I want nothing more to do with you!'  It was at this point that John Hannah pulled Jane back into the parlour room.  A little while later the scuffing of chairs was heard in the parlour, causing the landlady of the Inn and some patrons to investigate.  They found John Hannah kneeling upon Jane grasping her throat tightly with his hand.  One of the witnesses exclaimed, 'what do you mean, you rascal!'  To which John replied, 'I mean murder,' before slitting Jane's throat with a razor.  He then calmly got up and left the inn saying, 'I have done what I intended.'

Poor Jane staggered from the inn into the street, streaming blood from her neck.  She was taken to her lodgings and medical assistance was sort.  Sadly Jane passed away two hours later.  Doctors remarked that it was a miracle she lived so long.  John was soon found, arrested and brought to trial at York assizes on 13th December before Justice Erle.  John's defence relied heavily on the suggestion that this was a case of aggravated manslaughter rather than murder due to Jane's provocation of John.  Justice Erle stated that he could not find anything that was provocation by blows, and it was his opinion that Jane's refusal to live with John was not provocation at all.

The jury retired and a mere 15 minutes later found John guilty of the charge of wilful murder.  Upon hearing the death sentence John fainted and had to be helped from the court.

John Hannah's father, William Hannah sent a letter to Queen Victoria pleading for John's life to be spared.

"To Her Gracious Magesty,

Manchester, December 17th 1856.

This is the humble pettion of William Hannah to Your Gracious Magesty, praying that you will spare the life of my unfortunate son, John Hannah, that is now lying in York Castle under the sentence of deth, for the murder of Jane Banham, at Amrley, on 11th September.  Your humble pettioner served in the Royal Artilrey for twenty years, and was at the taking of the Flushing, in 1809 and shortly after joined Lord Wellingtons Armay, whare i was engaged in the prinsebel ingagmanets in that contary; and for my service your most Gracious Magesty granted me a shilling a day and a medal with six clasps; i also lost a son in the Canidian war, fighting against the rebels.

My unhappy son's twin brother as lastly been discharged from the 7th Royal Fusiliers at Chatham, with a pension of 8d. per day.  He landed in the Crimea with the expedton, and fought with his reghment at the Alma, and at the Battel of Inkerman, and was severely wounded in the assult of the  Grait Redan, and was presented with a medal and three clasps from your most Gracious Magesty.  i also have a nother son that is following in the steps of his father and two brothers; he is serving in the 5th Royal Lancashire Militia.  Your humbel pettioner hopes that your most Gracious Magesty will take it into your consideration the service that this familey has doen for thare Queen and contary, and spare the life of my unfortunate son, for my sake and that of his poor mother, that was with me through the Peninsular War.  This is the humble and sincere wish of your humble and faithful servant, and father of my unfortunate son, William Hannah.'

Sadly the Hannah family's military service was not enough to save John from his appointment with Thomas Askern.

The execution took place at noon, some 5000 spectators turned out to watch the hanging.  The bolt was drawn, John dropped and after a few struggles, fell still.  John's body was left hanging until 1 o'clock when it was cut down and taken for burial in the castle grounds.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - William Henry Bury (Berry) - Ripper Suspect

On 28th April 1889, William Henry Bury (Berry) met his maker at the end of James Berry's rope for the murder of his wife Ellen Bury (Berry) in Dundee, Scotland.

William Henry Bury was born on 25th May 1859 in Stourbridge Worcestershire to Henry Bury, an employee of a local fishmonger, and his wife Mary Jane Henley.  Tragically William was orphaned at an early age.  His father Henry was killed in a horse and cart accident on 10th April 1860, when he fell under the wheels of his own cart as his horse bolted.

Mary Jane, already suffering with depression after the birth of her fourth child, William, and the death of her eldest child, seven year old Elizabeth Ann from a fit that same year, was committed to the Worcester Pauper and Lunatic Asylum on 7th May 1860.  There she remained until her death at the age 33 on 30th March 1864.

William Henry Bury

On the 1861 Census, one year old William can be found being cared for by Mary Jane's younger brother, Edward Henley and his wife Ann.  By 1871 William, then aged 12, is a boarding pupil at Stourbridge's Blue Coate Charitable School.  At the age of 16 William found work as a Factor's Clerk in Wolverhampton, where he remained until the early part of the 1880s when he left after being unable to repay a loan.  He found work with a lock manufacturer in Lord Street, Wolverhampton, until he was sacked for a theft in 1884.  After that William lead an unsettled life as a street hawker.

Sometime in the October of 1887, William moved to London where he found work as a sawdust seller.  It was in London that he met and later married Ellen Elliot on 2nd April 1888.  William and Ellen left London and travelled to Dundee to escape William's debt, arriving in the Scottish city on 20th January 1889.  On the 4th of February, William bought a length of rope from a provisions store.

The evening of 10th February 1889 William walked into the Dundee Central Police Station in Bell Street and reported the supposed suicide of his wife Ellen.  William was reported to say that he had been drinking the night before and woke in the morning to discover his wife's body with a rope around her neck.  He also made several rambling references to being mistaken for and arrested as Jack the Ripper.  Officers were immediately dispatched to search William's home address, 113 Princess Street, where they made the gruesome discovery of a woman's mutilated body stuffed into a wooden packing crate.

Ellen had been strangled to death with the rope William has purchased earlier, her body stabbed several times with a penknife and her abdomen had been cut open from the pubis bone upwards, exposing 12 inches of intestines.  To fit the body into the small packing crate her head had been bent to rest on her on shoulder, her left leg was broken in two places and twisted so that the foot rested on her left shoulder and her right leg had been smashed.  It soon became apparent that William had lived with the box for several days, even using it as a table, before going to the police.

William was arrested and sent to trail for the murder of his wife, either by strangulation or stabbing. The hearing lasted only 13 hours before the jury convicted William of the wilful murder of Ellen and he was sentenced to hang for his crime.  William Henry Bury was executed on the morning of 28th April 1889.

Due to the similarities between Ellen's death and that of Jack the Ripper's victims, detectives investigating the Ripper murders were sent to Dundee to interview William  They however, were unconvinced that William was the Whitchapel murderer.  James Berry the executioner remained convinced that he had hung the infamous Jack the Ripper and supposedly recounted an exchange he had with one of the detectives from London -

 'I think it is him right enough.'

-James Berry 

'And we agree with you.  We know all about his movements in the past, and we are quite satisfied that you have hanged Jack the Ripper, there will be no more Whitechapel crimes.'
- London Detective.


Monday, 31 December 2012

Murderous Monday - Men Who Kill - John Gould, last man to publicly hang at Reading Gaol.

John Gould went down in history, in more ways than one, as the last man to be publicly executed at Reading Gaol.

“Good people all I pray attend, 
On earth my life will shortly end,
For dreadful murder my life is took away,  

I my dear child did basely slay,
I gave her the sad and dreadful wound,
And left her bleeding on the ground,

John Gould is my name,
I bought myself to grief and shame,
To grief and shame it does appear,
In Windsor Town in Berkshire,

My early grave will be made soon,
No tears will fall on my earthly tomb;
No flowers or grass on my grave will rise,
No stone will mark where m body lies.”

(Verse written at the time of Gould’s execution in 1862)

On 30th December 1861 at his home in Clarence Clump, Clewer near Windsor, Berkshire, John Gould a hod carrier, aged 39, murdered his seven-year-old daughter, Hannah.

John Gould was born in Windsor Berkshire in 1823.  In Newington in 1851 John Gould married Caroline Miller.  Their only child, a daughter Hannah Gould was born in Clewer, Windsor in 1854.  The family can be found living at Clarence Clump, Clewer Berkshire.

Little Hannah had spent the 30th December playing with her best friend, 9-year-0ld Harriet Clarke and Harriet’s younger brother.

Around one in the afternoon, John returned home after drinking at The Prince of Wales beer shop to find that Hannah had not cleaned the house to his satisfaction, nor did she have the fire ready for him to warm himself by. John started shouting at Hannah: “You naughty child, why didn’t you clean up the place!”

“Oh, father I couldn’t do it,” Hannah cried, but her tears only served to anger John further.  Taking his cut throat razor, John slit Hannah’s throat.

He then summoned his neighbour Mrs Clarke, Harriet’s mother, to his home.  Pointing at his daughter he exclaimed, “I have done it! I have done it!”  Horrified, Mrs Clarke ran into the street shouting for help to all that would listen.  John, still in a terrible rage grabbed Hannah’s limp body and threw her into the street shouting, “you little s**t, I will die for you!” 

According to witnesses, John threw Hannah with such force that her head hit a wall with a “sickening squelching noise”. 

Samuel Wilkins, aged 12, who lived next door managed to drag Hannah, hardly breathing and struggling for life, away from the house before shouting for help.  Another neighbour Mr Coker, helped Samuel carry Hannah to the nearest infirmary, where Hannah’s mother worked as a nurse.
Unfortunately, nothing could be done and Hannah died on the way.

Mr Coker and Samuel returned with PC Radbourne to find John waiting in the doorway of his home still with the blood-soaked razor. 

John Gould was tried on 26th February 1862, evidence was submitted as a formality as John had repeatedly confessed his guilt.  The jury retired for a short time before finding him guilty of murder.

On 12th March 1862, 4000 men, women and children gathered to watch William Calcraft send John Gould to his maker.  Once the bolt was withdrawn, John struggled for a minute or two and then was gone.

Such was the outcry over the manner of John Gould’s execution that it was to become the final public execution performed at Reading Gaol.

Orginally posted on Spooky Isles.