January 23, 2022

HANGMAN’S END . . . Between the covers

Hangmans header

Where would crime-writers be without dog-walkers? Michelle Kidd’s latest novel begins with this most reliable of tropes when a dog sniffs out a suitcase in the low tide mud beneath a bridge over the River Thames. The contents are not for the squeamish. Inside is the torso, arms and legs of a little girl. The head is elsewhere. DI Jack MacIntosh and his team are soon on the case, but there investigations of the crime scene are hindered by the rising tide of Old Father Thames.

Screen Shot 2022-01-06 at 18.37.43We have the advantage over the police in that we are introduced early on to the man who dropped the suitcase from the bridge into the mud. We are not sure if he is the actual slaughterman, or merely the butcher, but we do learn the whereabouts of the child’s head. The victim is soon identified as Maisie Lancaster, but a visit to her parents’ house brings MacIntosh into a collision with the metaphorical runaway car of one of his previous cases.

“Previous” is the key word here, as Michelle Kidd delicately negotiates the problems of having a main character with a troubled past, with the  events having occurred earlier in the series. This is the fifth in the Jack MacIntosh series, and so Kidd has to strike a balance between boring the readers who are well aware of the back-story, and not baffling those new to the books. She carries out this piece of legerdemain very cleverly. Looking at the title, readers will think, “Hang on, we haven’t had capital punishment in the UK since the mid 1960s, so why the reference?” Again , Michelle Kidd has the answers, and they lie in a macabre piece of London history While dodging the tides and trying to investigate the gruesome suitcase, the investigators find more human remains, but this time they are much older. The bleached skull and assorted remnants of its skeleton pose just another headache for MacIntosh and his team.

At one point, I was beginning to feel that there were too many loose ends and plot threads going off at a tangent, and I wondered if Michelle Kidd could – or would – resolve them, but my lack of faith was knocked firmly on the head as the different directions merged, and even the back-story behind the back-story became transparent and lucid. In a startling conclusion, Jack MacIntosh comes face to face with the demons – both human and metaphorical – who plague both his dreams and his waking hours

This is a tense and brutal journey through the dark waters of life that Jack MacIntosh and his colleagues have to wade through. Past and present collide in unpredictable ways. Hangman’s End is published by Question Mark Press and is out now.

I reviewed an earlier book, Guilt, from a different series by Michelle Kidd, and you can read what I thought by clicking the link.

Michelle Kidd is a self-published author best known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels set in London. She has also recently begun a new series which is set in her home town of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk – starring Detective Inspector Nicki Hardcastle.

She qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently five DI Jack MacIntosh novels, and the first DI Nicki Hardcastle story was released in August 2021. Follow her at:




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THE SWAFFHAM HORROR . . . Tragedy at Town Farm (3)


SO FAR: 1925, and Swaffham farm labourer Herbert George Whiteman (now calling himself Bloye) has been sent for trial at Norwich Assizes for the murder of his mother-in-law Clara Squires. In the same attack, he badly wounded his wife Alice, and she has subsequently died of her injuries.

The Assizes opened on Monday 19th October and, as was customary, the dignitaries – in particular the Lord Chief Justice himself, Lord Hewart went to the cathedral, no doubt to pray for wisdom.


There is very little on record about the trial of Herbert George Whiteman, probably because it took up little of the court’s time. Whiteman’s barristers on Tuesday 20th October went down the only route available to them, which was to plead that when he struck the fatal blows back in June, he was temporarily insane. Neither the jury, nor Lord Hewart, were having any of this. Whiteman, under his adopted surname Bloye, was found guilty and sent back to Norwich Gaol in Mousehold Heath to await the ministrations of the hangman. Photographs rarely appeared in local newspapers in those days, but the Daily Mirror provided the only surviving image of Herbert George Whiteman, (even if they didn’t get his name quite right) and I post it alongside the image of the man who sentenced him to death.


What does deem unsatisfactory, at least in my eyes, is that Whiteman’s murder of his wife was not proceeded with. Perhaps this was so as not to ‘waste the court’s time’. The outcome of the case – as well as the sentence – was never in doubt, but it had the effect of reducing Alice Whiteman to a mere footnote, as shown on this document recording details of criminals.

Calendar of Prisoners

On Thursday 12th November, Herbert George Whiteman paid the ultimate penalty for his crimes.This is a detailed report from The Lynn News the following day.

“George Bloye, who was recently sentenced to death by the Lord Chief Justice at the Norfolk Assizese, for the murder of his mother-in-law, Clara Squires, was executed at Norwich prison yesterday (Thursday) morning. It will be remembered that the man was charged also with the murder of his wife, who died as the result of injuries inflicted by him on the same day – June 15th – but this indictment was not proceeded with in the Assizes Court. Punctually at o’clock yesterday morning Bloye walked from a cell near the coach-house with the support a warder on either hand, at the bead of the procession being the Rev. T. E. Hoyden, chaplain of the prison, who recited the usual sentences from the Burial Office. The Sheriff for the County (Mr. Walter K Hansen) was present, and there were also present a prison doctor, the prison governor, and two representatives of the Press. Baxter was the executioner and Taylor his assistant.

Bloye, who at the time of his conviction was stated to be 27 years of age, and was described as a labourer. was a sturdily built man of middle height. He walked firmly and with no sign of acute feeling to the chalk mark on the flap-doors of the scaffold. His death was instantaneous. Less than thirty seconds must have elapsed between the time when he first saw the instrument of death and the time of his decease. There was no tremor or other sign of life after the drop had fallen.”

There were more than two victims of Whiteman’s murderous acts on 15th June 1925. His own blood family would be shamed by his infamy for the rest of their lives, while the Squires would have their own grief to deal with. What became of the two youngest players in this grim drama, Herbert RW Whiteman and his sister Evelyn? They were, of course, orphans. It is always easier to trace males in genealogy research, and the 1939 wartime register has Herbert working at Moat Farm, Tutbury, Staffordshire. He died at Haverford West in September 1992. Evelyn is more tricky. We have two Evelyn E Whiteman possibilities; one marrying a Mr Tingley in Eastbourne in 1954, and another marrying a Mr Jeffrey at Tonbridge in 1947. Either is feasible, but let us end with hoping that Evelyn had no memory of that tragic day in a field just outside Swaffham as she lay in her pram.

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