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.