Because Mondays are MURDER...

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.


  1. Wonder what happeded to poor Emily. Nice bit of research there.

    1. I am unsure as it's hare to locate her on the census returns and I am unable to find a birth for her either. There is an Emily Dockerty on the 1881 census born in 1860 in Liverpool, but I am not 100% sure it's the same Emily.

  2. recent research has shown this women to be the sister of my 3 x great grandfather Thomas Bellew.

    A truely horrific event!

    Paul Seymour

  3. recent research has shown this women to be the sister of my 3 x great grandfather Thomas Bellew.

    A truely horrific event!

    Paul Seymour

  4. Good article and thanks for publishing it here.There are a few William Hussell's about in North Devon at this time and I think his parents were different to those you show, My research shows his parents were William Hussell and Eliza Lock. His father was born in Kentisbury in 1816 and was also a butcher. I traced them in the 1851 census in Bear Street in Barnstaple and then in Bradiford near Pilton on the outskirts of Barnstaple in 1861 - the internet is a wonderful thing!

    Andy P

  5. Wiliam was an alcoholic and when he was not drinking he was still violent and abusive, the last public house he visited on that night is now called "The Golden Lion Tap" where his restless spirit still roams the inn

  6. According to the birth certificate, in the archives of "New Orphan House" (now The George Müller Charitable Trust) "Mary"'s name is Sarah Ada and she was born on 5 February 1873

  7. According to the birth certificate held in our archives, the girl called Mary was born Sarah Ada on 5 February 1873

    1. Thank you for this new information. I shall see what else I can find out about Sarah Ada and why other records have her listed as Mary.