SO FAR: Lincoln, May 1903. Sarah and Leonard Patchett have a troubled marriage. She works as a housekeeper in Lincoln, while he is a bricklayer in Gainsborough. At the end of May, he has traveled to Lincoln to see her. They have a daughter, Rachel, a few weeks short of her second birthday, and she lives with her mother at the house of John King in Spencer Street. Sarah is John King’s housekeeper. On the evening of Tuesday 26th May, Patchett has pleaded with his wife to come back to him, but she only agrees to walk with him to the railway station where he says he will catch a train back to Gainsborough.
After the evening of 26th May, Sarah Patchett is never seen alive again. The last sighting of her was recording in a court statement:
“Mr. J. H. Gadd, livery stable proprietor, stated that about seven o’clock on the night of Tuesday, May 26th, he was driving to his field in Boultham Lane in the company with one of his men. His man called his attention to a man and woman standing at the gate to the second field in Boultham Lane. The woman looked sad and distressed, and the man was in a leaning position with his foot on the lower bar of the gate. As he passed, the man turned round, and he caught full view of his face. On Saturday he identified the body the deceased as that of the woman saw the gate the previous evening.”
Sarah Patchett’s body was found in a field just west of the Boultham Park carriage road on the morning of 29th May. She had been strangled. When a coroner’s inquest was convened at Bracebridge, the details are still chilling over a century later:
It might be of interest to show where Sarah Patchett was murdered. As far as I can tell, her body was found about 100 yards from the Boultham Board School on the west side of what was then the private carriage road leading to Boultham Hall. Now, of course, the ground where her body lay for three days (red circle) is long since built over. The graphic below may be helpful.
Leonard Patchett was arrested and held in custody. When he was searched, a letter from his wife was found in his jacket. I have made a facsimile (below)
At the coroner’s inquest, the magistrates’ court and the subsequent Assizes at Lincoln, Patchett insisted he was innocent and, to be fair, the evidence against him was purely circumstantial. Unguarded remarks he made after his wife’s death painted a very different picture, however. When asked, back at the Gainsborough building site, if he was going up to work on the scaffold, he said, “The next scaffold I will be on will be the scaffold at Lincoln with a rope around my neck.”
What did he mean when he said to Mrs Iremonger, “I will have her before the night is out”? Did he mean he would come and take his daughter, Rachel, or was it a threat to the life of his wife ?
On Monday 6th July, Leonard Patchett was tried for murder at LIncoln, before Mr Justice Ridley (left). Patchett insisted he was innocent but the jury did not agree. The newspapers reported the inevitable conclusion:
“The jury took twelve minutes to consider their decision, and returned into Court with a verdict of “Guilty.” The prisoner heard the sentence apparently unmoved, and in reply to the question as to whether he had anything to say why sentence of death should not passed, replied firmly: “No, but I am perfectly innocent.” The Judge then put on the black cap and said he was bound to agree with the verdict the jury had given. It had been clearly established that the prisoner’s was the hand that strangled the unfortunate woman. The judge recommended him to try to make his peace with Almighty God during the few days of life that remained to him. Sentence of death was then passed. Prisoner received the solemn sentence without the slightest feeling, and then calmly turned round, and walked down the steps to the cells. His sister, who was in an adjoining room, fainted on hearing the sentence. The execution will take place in Lincoln Gaol.”
And so it did:
Sarah Ann Patchett was buried in Canwick Road cemetery, while the body of her husband joined those of other hanged murderers in the little graveyard within the walls of the Lucy Tower at Lincoln Castle. There is one link to this terrible tale which takes us into relatively recent times (albeit fifty years ago). Rachel Ceciia Patchett was raised in various children’s homes and, by then known as Rachel Patchett-Smith, married James Newman in 1934. She died in 1972, and was buried at St Peter’s, Pilning, Gloucestershire. My thank to Mandy Freeman for the information about Rachel.
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