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"Mary Ann Garner"

MARY ANN GARNER . . . A life and death (2)

Mary Ann header

SO FAR: March 1891. Mary Ann Garner, a 32 year-old widow, is living with her three children and teenage step son in a tiny end-of-terrace cottage in Stanley Place, Lincoln. She has been in a relationship with Arthur Spencer, a 22 year-old pork butcher. He has asked her to marry him, but she has refused. Spencer has not taken kindly to the snub.

On the evening of Monday 30th March Arthur Spencer arrived at 19 Stanley Place. He knocked at the door, and Mary Ann’s step son, John Henry Garner answered the knock. The subsequent conversation was later reported in court:
Mary Ann said, “Who’s there?”
“It’s me,” answered Spencer. (Earlier, Spencer had threatened to shoot Mary Ann and then himself if she wouldn’t marry him. She had not taken him seriously.)
She called out, “Have you got that pop-gun?”
Spencer replied, “No.”
Mary Ann said, “Let him in, John.”

At a court hearing, it was revealed that Mary Ann, despite appearing not to take Spencer’s threat seriously had thought of contacting the police. Spencer had previously lodged at the house, and she assumed that the young man had come back to collect his clothes and belongings. The sequence of events that followed was reported in a newspaper.

The shooting

Mary Ann was, sadly, beyond medical help, and she died in the small hours of the Tuesday morning. Spencer had been true to his word, and turned the gun on himself. It is debatable whether he exhibited the same fatal intent, however, as although he was taken to hospital, he was well enough to appear in court within a few days, charged with the murder of Mary Ann Garner.

At the subsequent coroner’s inquest, the effect of Spencer’s bullets was revealed:

“There is not much to add to the details published yesterday of the dreadful tragedy at Lincoln, except perhaps that later information only tends to intensify the horror which was felt at the cold-blooded premeditation of the murderer, for it was found at the post-mortem examination held on the body of the unfortunate victim that her assailant had fired four shots at her from the revolver. Two of these did no injury beyond causing superficial wounds on the woman’s body, but one fired into her breast and another at her back were both serious wounds. Either of them would have proved fatal.”

The melancholy sequence of events that follows a murder took their course. Mary Ann Garner was buried in Canwick Road cemetery on 3rd April, 1891. Arthur Spencer was brought before a coroner’s inquest, then the magistrates’ court, and finally the Assizes Court at Lincoln in July, where he appeared before Mr Justice Roland Vaughan Williams (below left), an uncle of the celebrated composer. The conclusion was inevitable, and on Tuesday 28th July, Arthur Spencer paid the ultimate price for killing Mary Ann Garner. The hangman was James Berry (below right)

Execution

VW_Berry

The Gods of Misfortune had not finished their business with Mary Ann’s family, however. On Friday 28th June 1895, a newspaper ran this story:

Lightning

It is a sad reflection on life that most murderers are men, and their victims are frequently women. The women should not be forgotten in Lincolnshire or anywhere else. Click the names below to read the stories of Lincolnshire women who met their deaths at the hands of men. By doing so, you will not bring them back to life, but at least they will not be forgotten. They are in chronological order according to when they were killed.

Louisa Hodgson
Louisa Hay
Mary Ann Garner
Harriet Rushby
Mary Eliza Bell
Ellen Kirk
Lucy Lingard
Sarah Ann Smith
Catherine Gear
Ivy Dora Prentice
Minnie Eleanor Kirby
Janice Holmes

MARY ANN GARNER . . . A life and death (1)

Mary Ann header

Mary Ann Elizabeth Witrick (or Witterick) was born in Wereham, Norfolk in 1857. Her baptism (above) is recorded in the village church (below) as taking place in 1859. Her parents, John and Ann (née Rust) were poor, hard-working and, like so many other families across the land, produced children on a regular basis. There was no contraception other than abstinence, and child mortality tended to keep a lid on the birth-rate.

St Margarets Wereham

Her life was to end, violently, in a Lincoln terraced house on the evening of 31st March 1891. We know that the family were still in Wereham in 1861, but the remainder of her youth  – and where she spent it – remains something of a mystery. We do know that in 1880, she married a Lincoln widower, Henry Garner. Garner’s wife Charlotte (née Foster) had died in 1879. They had one son, John Henry, who had been born on 23rd April 1875. Mary Ann and Henry went on to have three children, Arthur Garner (b1882) Ernest Witterick Garner (b1883) and Ada Florence Garner (b1886).

Bracebridge

What was to be a run of misfortune for Mary Ann Garner began in 1889, with the death of her husband. He died on 19th August 1889, in Lincoln Lunatic Asylum, Bracebridge (above). ‘Bracebridge’ was a potent word in Lincolnshire, certainly when I was growing up. I spent many hours being looked after by my grandmother in Louth, and when I played her up (which was frequently) she didn’t mince her words. “You’ll have me in Bracebridge, you little bugger!”

Henry Garner had just turned 40.  I can only speculate on his cause of death. One possibility might be, given his age, was what was euphemised as GPI (General Paralysis of the Insane) or Paresis. When researching family history one has to be prepared for unpleasant surprises, as was the case with my great grandfather. He died in an asylum, of Paresis. It is actually the final and fatal stages of syphilis. The disease could be contracted when young, but then the visible symptoms would disappear, only for the disease to return later in life, manifesting itself as delusions of grandeur, erratic behaviour, brain inflammation and, finally, death.

It is unlikely that Henry Garner left his widow very much by way of an inheritance. The early spring of 1891 found her in a tiny end-of-terrace, 19 Stanley Place, pictured below as it is now. To make ends meet, she was taking in washing and, according to a newspaper report, was also taking in lodgers. This is scarcely credible from a modern viewpoint, looking at the size of the house, but that was a very different time in terms of privacy and living space.

Stanley Place

At some point after the death of her husband, Mary Ann met a young man called Arthur Spencer. He was ten years her junior and came originally from Blyth in Nottinghamshire. His trade was pork butcher. For a time, he lodged at 19 Stanley Place, and one must assume that he shared Mary Ann’s bed. He asked her to marry him, but she refused, saying they were better off apart. After this, he left the house, and went back to live over the shop where he worked. Spencer was clearly besotted with Mary Ann, and on the evening of Sunday 29th March, he returned to Stanley Place and told her that if she wouldn’t marry him, he would shoot her and then turn the gun on himself. Mary Ann did not take him seriously, and sent him packing. The following evening, 30th March, Spencer came again to see Mary Ann. A newspaper reported, rather cryptically:

“They appear to have gone upstairs together, leaving the eldest child, a boy of 14, in the kitchen, the other children being in bed.”

What happened next was to send a shudder or revulsion through both the citizens of Lincoln, and cities, towns and villages across the land.

IN PART TWO
Gunshots
Trial and retribution

THE OUTRAGE AT OUTHILL . . . A brutal murder in rural Warwickshire (2)

Outhill header

SpudSO FAR: 23rd April, 1862, rural Warwickshire, and a 21 year old ploughman, George Gardner,  employed by farmer Davis Edge at Outhill Farm, near Studley, has shot 24 year-old Sarah Kirby, employed by Edge as a domestic servant. Gardner’s peculiar state of mind before killing Sarah Kirby could almost be described as existential, in that it seemed to recognise neither logic nor the law – just his own obsession. He did, however, seem to have acknowledged the presence of chance. He had been uncertain that morning about killing Sarah Kirby, so he adopted a rural version of tossing a coin. Ploughmen used a hand-tool known as a “spud”. It was basically a flat blade, usually mounted on a wooden handle, (left} and used for clearing earth from the blades of the plough. Gardner decided to toss the tool in the air, and if it landed blade first, then Sarah Kirby would die. It did, and so did the young woman.

Garner needed to escape, and for that he needed protection from his pursuers – and money. He smashed open Davis Edge’s bureau, but found only small change. He took this, as well as the gun, the powder and the *shot flask.

*This was in the days before shotgun cartridges. There were three elements to a shotgun load. (1) the gunpowder tamped down via the barrel (2) the lead shot, likewise loaded from the muzzle, and (3) a small primer, known as a primer cap. This, when ignited by the gun’s hammer, would set off the powder which would, in turn, expel the shot.

Leaving the scene of his crime, Gardner set off to put distance between himself and the police. He managed to get to Stratford, where he sold the gun, powder and shot. Meanwhile, he was a hunted man:

“The police joined the villagers and gamekeepers, scoured the woods and surrounding country, and got upon the track the fugitive, whom they traced to Wootton, and thence to the Stratford Railway station, and ultimately to the junction of the Stratford branch with the West Midland main line at Honeybourne, where the police captured him.”

Gardner’s brutal nature was only matched by his stupidity. Waiting in Honeybourne to catch the next train to Oxford, he decided he had time for a drink, and went into a nearby inn, where he was later found by the police, almost unable to walk due to the amount of cheap gin he had drunk.

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Gardner’s subsequent trial at Warwick Assizes was something of a formality. His defence barrister made a half hearted attempt to prove that the gun had gone off by accident, but the jury knew a killer when they saw one, and the judge – Baron Pollock – duly donned the Black Cap, and sent Gardner back to the condemned cell. His execution was set for Monday 25th August. A newspaper report described the days leading up to the Gardner’s appointment with the executioner:

“Exactly a fortnight has therefore elapsed before the sentence was enforced. During his incarceration in Warwick Gaol Gardner has learnt to write ; and since receiving sentence has spent good portion of his time in both reading and writing. There is really no condemned cell in the gaol, and the one occupied by Gardner after condemnation differed in no respect from the others except that it was larger, and situated in that portion of the building nearest to the sleeping-rooms of the turnkeys, two of whom attended him day and night.

Since condemnation, he has dined on the usual prison fare, which consists of ½lb. of mutton chop, 1lb. of potatoes, 11b. of bread, and a pint of ale. He has slept well every night, and conducted himself altogether as well as could be expected. Mr. Carles, the chaplain, has afforded him what consolation of spiritual nature his state required, and latterly he appeared to be very penitent, and made a confession to the following effect:”

Confession

Screen Shot 2022-11-16 at 19.58.53Gardner had one further misfortune. His executioner was none other than George Smith (right), a former criminal and noted drunk, known – with rough humour – as The Dudley Throttler. This was to be a public execution, and a perfectly respectable form of cheap entertainment at the time. A reporter described the scene:

“At precisely eighteen minutes past ten the prisoner appeared upon the drop, attended by four warders, and Smith, the executioner. The clergyman did not, as is customary now, make his appearance upon the scaffold, and this, coupled with the absence of any tolling of the bell, robbed the ceremony of much of its impressiveness. The prisoner was dressed in the same clothes wore the trial—a short white smock and fustian trousers. The executioner also wore long white smock frock. After he had removed the prisoner’s neckerchief, and adjusted the rope upon his neck, Smith shook hands with the wretched man, and left the scaffold to draw the bolt.

A murmur of horror ran through the crowd, it being evident that the hangman had forgotten to place the cap over the culprit’s face in the usual manner. There the poor wretch stood, pinioned, the rope around his neck, facing the crowd. Everyone who saw him expected momentarily see him plunge downwards, and the horror of witnessing the wretched man’s death-agonies depicted in his face, unmasked, caused those who were even accustomed such scenes to turn away. The omission was noticed by one of the warders upon the scaffold, who called the executioner back, and he then produced the cap from his pocket. Altogether the wretched culprit must have stood face to face with the crowd for the space of ten minutes – to him it must have been a century of agony.

The bolt was drawn immediately afterwards, and the prisoner being a heavy man, the body fell with immense force, sufficient, we should imagine, if the rope had been properly adjusted, to have caused dislocation of the neck and a very speedy death. As it was. however, life was not pronounced extinct for at least twelve minutes. The body was afterwards buried within the precincts of the gaol. Owing to the position of the scaffold persons standing in the road can see very little of what takes place, and after the drop nothing but the cap of the culprit was visible. The number of spectators was between twelve and fourteen hundred, of whom least one third were women and children.”

FOR MORE WARWICKSHIRE MURDERS, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

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TRUE CRIME

TRUE CRIME HEADER

EACH LINK IS CLICKABLE AND WILL TAKE YOU TO THE FEATURE

Outrage feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Bowser feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

MAG feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

PH Feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

ll-feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Wrangle feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

BE feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Janice feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Patchett feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Whittlesey feature

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

White Horse feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Frith feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

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PART ONE
PART TWO

Rumbold feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

MARWOOD FEATURE

PART ONE
PART TWO

Duddles featurePART ONE
PART TWO

 

TKSS feature

PART ONE
PART TWO

Swaffham feature

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

In Heaven featurePART ONE
PART TWO

TSP FEATURE
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

THE OXFORD STREET ATROCITY – Murder most foul in Leamington, 1907
PART ONE
PART TWO

MURDER COMES TO LADBROKE – Death in a Warwickshire farmhouse
PART ONE
PART TWO

THE KILLING OF ROBERT ROUGHTON – A December Drowning
PART ONE
PART TWO

HORROR IN HOLLY STREET – A shocking murder in 1901 Leamington
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

DEATH ON A QUIET STREET – The killing of James Greatorex
PART ONE
PART TWO

THE HANGMAN’S SONG – Executions in 19th century Warwick
PART ONE
PART TWO

THE STRANGE AFFAIR AT NEEDHAM HALL – A mixture of farce and malice from 1956
PART ONE
PART TWO

DEATH IN DARK WATER – The murder of Ann Chapman
PART ONE
PART TWO

A CHAPTER OF HORRORS
A tragedy from 1890
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

THE STEN GUN KILLERA brutal murder in 1949 Leamington
PART ONE
PART TWO

DEATH COMES TO NEWMARKET– A savage murder in Victorian Louth
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

DEATH AT SANDOWN VILLATrue crime in Leamington Spa
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

THE ST MICHAEL’S ROAD MURDERA grim tale of misfortune and insanity in Louth
PART ONE
PART TWO

THE MURDER OF MINNIE MORRIS The Walsoken Tragedy
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN – An 1886 summer romance in Warwickshire that had tragic consequences
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

THE MADNESS OF GEORGE TIMMS – A gruesome murder in 1888 which shocked the historic town of Warwick
PART ONE
PART TWO

A LOUTH TRAGEDY – A 1927 in a quiet Lincolnshire market town that was as violent as it was inexplicable.
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

THE MEON HILL MURDER – An infamous killing on a lonely Warwickshire hillside that baffled local police – and even defeated Fabian of The Yard.
PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

A WARWICKSHIRE TRAGEDY – After being bullied and physical assaulted by his son, a father is pushed beyond the limits of endurance.

THE EASTER MONDAY MURDER – An 81 year-old widow meets a savage and tragic end.

THE WISBECH TRAGEDY – Part two – Is there to be justice for Frances Parlett?

THE WISBECH TRAGEDYPart one – A woman’s painful death at the hands of her lover

THE FIVE LITTLE MARTYRS Part two – Justice is served, or is it? The case attracts the interest of the national press.

THE FIVE LITTLE MARTYRS – Part one – A 1930s juvenile gang, or just boys growing up?

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK Part two, in which a young man is laid to rest and a town mourns a suicide.

THE STRANGE DEATH OF HORACE DIMOCK Part one, in which a dispute between doctors in a quiet English town leads to death and civil disorder.

THE KILLING OF GEORGE BELVERSTONE – How an easily-led and impressionable young man met his death at the hands – and fists – of a man known as ‘The Russian Hog’.

DEATH IN THE FENS – the killing of John Robbie Auger

THE ADVERSARY by EMMANUEL CARRERE the true story of Jean-Claude Romand, and his living lie.

KILLING GOLDFINGER – Wensley Clarkson tells the story of British gangster John “Goldfinger” Palmer

“and OVER HERE!” The story of wartime executions of American servicemen at Shepton Mallet prison

A CRIMINAL ANCESTOR – The story of a man transported for theft, and the family he left behind

A PILGRIMAGE – In search of William Tyler and Ralph Joscelyne

THE WYLIE – HOFFERT CASE: A guest post by Robert K Tanenbaum, lawyer and writer. He believes that this double rape-murder was the biggest murder case of the century.

THE FRAUDSTER WHO FOOLED THE BANK OF ENGLAND: A guest post  by Nicholas Booth. The tale of Austin Bidwell.

LONDON HAS DRAWN CRIME WRITERS to itself like a flame beckoning moths. This is hardly surprising since, in real life, the capital has been the stage set against which some of Britain’s most sensational crimes have been played out. This account is, of course, highly selective – and subjective. Some old favourites – like The Whitechapel Murders – could not be left out, but there are also some lesser known horrors selected, particularly representing the less-than-leafy suburbs. Most modern crimes have been left out, not through any judgment on their significance, but rather from the view of practicality. The almost weekly butchery of young men due to gang crime is a national scandal, but would take up a website of its own. Coverage of these twenty four crimes moves not chronologically, but on a general north – south axis.

The Crimes of London Final

Each link takes you to a separate page with details about the crime.

1. THE TOTTENHAM OUTRAGE 

2. DENNIS NILSEN

3. DR CRIPPEN

4. RUTH ELLIS

5. CLAPTON ROAD – MURDER MILE?

6. BEN KINSELLA

7. THE BLACKOUT RIPPER

8. THE KRAYS

9. JOHN CHRISTIE

10. THE HOLBORN MURDERS

11. JACK THE RIPPER

12. THE SHEPHERDS BUSH MURDERS

13. THE HYDE PARK and REGENT’S PARK BOMBINGS

14. THE HOUNDSDITCH MURDERS

15. SIR HENRY WILSON

16. THE MINIVER PLACE MURDER

17. LEE RIGBY

18. THE RICHARDSONS

19. THE HAMMERSMITH MURDERS

20. THE DARBY FAMILY MURDERS

21. JILL DANDO

22. THE NEW CROSS DOUBLE MURDER

23. STEPHEN LAWRENCE

24. THE PLOUGH BOYS KILLING

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