SO FAR: Swaffham, in the summer of 1925. Herbert George Whiteman and Alice Squires had married in 1921, and after the premature deaths of two babies, they now have a healthy son and daughter, Herbert and Evelyn. The marriage is on the rocks, however, and Alice has been granted a separation order, taken the children and gone to live with her parents.

On the morning of Monday 15th June, William Squires was working in a field known as Heathlands  near Town Farm. His wife Clara was similarly busy in an adjacent field. Just before mid-day, Alice Squires, with her two children brought her father his lunch, and walked off in the direction of her mother. Shortly afterwards, Squires heard a terrible scream. He threw down his tools and ran in the direction Alice had taken. He found her lying on the ground, blood pooling around her head. Baby Evelyn was still asleep in her pram, but two year-old Herbert looked on, uncomprehending. Alice was unable to speak, but Squires looked across to where his wife had been working, and saw her tussling with a man. Before he could reach her, she fell to the ground. Running away from the scene was a man, later identified as Herbert George Whiteman.

Others, working nearby, ran to the scene. The police were summoned, as was Dr William Thorpe, and an ambulance was called to take the stricken women to Swaffham Cottage Hospital. Clara Squires died two days later without ever recovering consciousness.

Screen Shot 2022-01-22 at 18.30.45Meanwhile, what of George Whiteman? After the attack on the two women he had headed north across the railway line in the direction of his mother’s cottage near what was known as Great Friars Thornes. Mrs Whiteman was standing in the yard of the farm with another woman, Frances Turner, who later testified:

‘Whiteman came round the corner of the yard. He had blood on his coat and hands, and said to his mother, “Don’t grieve for me, they can’t make you suffer for my sins. I’ve done the two in. I could not kill my two dear children. I want to say goodbye to my father, as the police will be after me in a few minutes.”‘

Whiteman was carrying a large agricultural spanner, and when he went with his mother to her house, he asked to hide it. She put it under a pile of firewood, but it was later discovered there by Police Constable Walmsley. Whiteman was arrested and taken to the cells at Swaffham Police Station. He was brought before the magistrates at the Shire Hall, Swaffham (below) on Tuesday 30th June.

Shire hall

Bizarrely, Whiteman insisted that he now be known as Bloye – his mother’s maiden name. The Yarmouth Independent reported the hearing thus:

Remarkable confessions wore made Herbert George Bloye (Whiteman) – labourer, when charged Swallham Tuesday with the murder of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Squire, and the attempted murder of his wife. He declared that after kissing his wife he hit her on the head with piece of iron, and later attacked his mother-in-law in a similar fashion. The older woman died two days later, and the wife is not yet out of danger. The prisoner sat with folded arms and impassive demeanour, head held high, while the evidence was given, even the distress of his white-haired mother apparently leaving him unmoved. When asked if he had any questions to ask of the witnesses, he stood smartly to attention and replied, “None at all. sir.”

Only once did he interrupt the evidence, and that was when the police read his statement that he said to the dead woman, when she began to cry before striking her, “Guilty conscience needs no accusing.” He then exclaimed. ” right!”

On the way from the police-station to the court-room, faced with several photographers, he smiled and tried to pose, but was hurried on by the police in charge of him.

It appeared that  in May the prisoner’s wife obtained separation order against him, and the prisoner was apparently under the impression that she was influenced in this by her mother. He seemed have made up his mind to murder his wife’s mother. The attack which formed the subject of the charge occurred on June 15th, and Mrs. Squires died two days later.

Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, Swaffham, said about 1.40 p.m. on the 15th June he was called to the Town Farm, about two miles out of the town, and saw Mrs. Whiteman lying on the side of Green Lane. She was unconscious and bleeding from wounds on the head, which he attended to temporarily. There were 24 wounds in all, and one had fractured the skull. They were not severe in themselves, but the number made them severe. Mr. Squires showed him where his wife was lying in the field. She was unconscious and bleeding from a large ragged wound on the left temple, about five inches long, from which the brain was protruding.

This particular newspaper report also expressed optimism about the condition of Alice Whiteman, even going as far as to say that she was expected to make a full recovery. They were wrong. Alice Whiteman hovered between life and death in the hospital for almost a month, but since her mental state had deteriorated owing to the terrible head wound she had sustained, she was transferred to Norwich Mental Hospital on 23rd July, but she was beyond medical help and died there on Monday 3rd August. A separate inquest on her death was held in Norwich, and was not without incident. By this time, the magistrates had found Whiteman guilty of the murder of Clara Squires, and he was sent to stand trial at the Autumn Assizes in Norwich.


Trial and justice – of a kind