SO FAR: It is Sunday 24th August 1902, and in the colliery village of Badley Ensor, the Chetwynd family live on Watling Street Road. The household consists of widow Eliza Chetwynd (62) her son Joseph (24) daughter Eliza (21) and Eliza’s eleven week old son, who had not yet been named. The baby’s father, George Place (29) also lives there, but there is a tense atmosphere, as Place had just been served with am Affiliation Summons, which made him legally responsible for the upkeep of the child.
The events of that fateful Sunday morning were reported thus in a local newspaper:
Late on Saturday evening, after leaving a public-house in Wilnecote, Place told two men that he intended to do for the three of them (meaning the women and the child), and showed the men a six-chambered revolver and a packet of cartridges. He got to his lodgings shortly after midnight, and it was a curious circumstance that at ten minutes past one in the morning Mrs. Chetwynd saw a neighbour, Mrs. Shilton, and told her she was afraid Place was going to do something to them, for he had a revolver and had got a knife to open a packet of cartridges.
The four rooms of the house were all occupied. The victims slept together in one bed in the room the right on the ground floor; the kitchen on the same floor was occupied by the son of Mrs. Chetwynd, who slept on a sofa ; Place slept in one room on the upper floor; and Jesse Chetwynd, another son of Mrs. Chetwynd, with his wife, who had come from Upper Baddesley for the night, used the other room.
At about a quarter to six in the morning Place came downstairs and entering the room where the women and child were asleep, deliberately shot each of them through the head, the bullets entering the right side of the head. The baby was in its mother’s arms at the time. The older woman must have had her hand up to her head, for two of her fingers had been wounded by the bullet. Jesse Chetwynd rushed downstairs on hearing the reports, and found Place sitting on the doorstep with the revolver in his hand. Place had neither hat nor jacket on. Jesse Chetwynd said to him ” Whatever have you been doing ” but Place made no reply.
The other son, Joseph, said Place had threatened him. and that Jesse’s coming down saved him from being shot. The poor old woman and the child died almost immediately, but the daughter lay unconscious for about four hours, when she succumbed. The old lady was heard to exclaim “Oh !” when Mrs. Jackson, a neighbour, went in. The murderer walked, away quietly from the scene of the tragedy. He took the the public road to Atherstone, and was followed by Samuel Shilton, whom gave up the revolver and 14 cartridges. On the way, Place said to Shilton, ” If you hadn’t come after me I would been comfortable at the bottom of the canal.”
The rest of this grim tale almost tells itself. George Place, apparently unrepentant throughout, was taken through the usual procedure of Coroner’s inquest, Magistrates’ court, and then sent to the Autumn Assizes at Warwick in December. Presiding over the court was Richard Webster, 1st Viscount Alverstone, and the trial was brief. Despite the obligatory plea from Place’s defence team that he was insane when he pulled the trigger three times in that Baddesely Ensor cottage, the jury were having none of it, and the judge donned the black cap, sentencing George Place to death by hanging. The trial was at the beginning of December, the date fixed for the execution was fixed for 13th December, but George Place did not meet his maker until 30th December. It is idle to speculate about quite what kind of Christmas Place spent in his condemned cell, but for some reason, during his incarceration, he had converted to Roman Catholicism. It seems he left this world with more dignity than he had allowed his three victims. The executioner was Henry Pierrepoint.
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