SO FAR: It is 25th May, 1897. Donington Farmer Joseph Bowser has been in bed most of the day and has been drinking heavily. Late in the afternoon he staggers downstairs, in a foul mood, and attacks his wife Susan, kicking her brutally. She staggers to her feet and seeks refuge in the doorway of a building used to rear calves. The Bowsers’ servant, Elizabeth Berridge, sketched later (below) by a court reporter, witnessed what happened next.
Lister, and a young woman called Eliza Drury were distant relatives, and had been staying with the Bowsers. It remained a matter of some controversy that Lister had apparently made no effort to restrain the murderous Bowser, while being fully aware of what he was about to do. The Bowsers’ farmhouse was isolated, there were no telephones, and information only traveled as fast as someone could run, or a horse could gallop. Let The Lincolnshire Echo take up the story:
Dr. E. W. Jollye next gave evidence. He was called between 5.30 and 6 on the evening in question, and was asked to go Bowser’s directly. He, asked what was the matter, and was told Bowser had shot his wife, and that it was thought she was dead, but he was wanted to go and see. On arriving he saw the girl who fetched her master, who came out, to meet him. On witness saying “What is the matter?” Bowser replied, “You’ll see, she is there.” He examined deceased and while doing so Bowser stood close by, and kept saying over and over again “She has tantalised me.” Bowser further said “I have done it, and I am ready to go when they fetch me.”
“The charge had entered the skull just over the right eye and in a mass, that was, the shots had not spread. The charge went downward and to the left, coming out at the nape of the neck on the left side. The socket the eve was completely smashed, the brains scattered on the door, and there was a deal of blood under the head. The bones on the top of the head were all broken, though he would not say the skull was completely shattered. The cause of death was the gun-shot wound. The shots had made a clean way. By Mr. Crawford: He found one recent bruise just on the right buttock, and other smaller ones close to, apparently connected. There was a smaller bruise on the left buttock, but nearer the centre line of the body. There were other discolourations of the skin, but these had accrued after death. He would give no opinion as to the cause the bruises; they might nave been caused by a fall on a hard substance.”
“Bracebridge Seward, labourer, said that on the afternoon of the day question, as he was passing along the road, he saw Bowser kick his wife very badly twice. Bowser then went to the tumbril, and leaned over it for some two or three minutes, and then groaned out. saving the woman. “You –,” and went to the house. Witness heard no report of gun, having gone then. The woman had a difficulty in getting up, and went to the fowl-house in a “staggery” manner, which led him to think she was rather intoxicated.”
Joseph Bowser was quickly convicted of murder by the local magistrates and packed off to Lincoln to await trial at the next Assizes. Meanwhile Susan Bowser was interred in Donington churchyard.
On Wednesday 7th July Joseph Bowser was found guilty at Lincoln Assizes by the judge, Baron Pollock, and sentenced to death. An artist made sketches of some of those present.
Joseph Bowser was executed at Lincoln Prison on Tuesday 27th July 1897.
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