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THE MURDER OF LUCY LINGARD . . . A Grimsby tragedy (part two)

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SO FAR: Grimsby, 18th November 1902. Lucy Lingard is separated from her husband John. She and her children live in Hope Street, and she has been in a relationship with Samuel Harold Smith (Harry), a trawlerman. He has returned from sea, and the couple have spent the afternoon and evening drinking and arguing. Smith has hit Lucy several times, but they return to their house, both drunk. A newspaper reported what happened next.

Cutting 1

InquestThe report was overly optimistic. Lucy Lingard hovered between life and death for a while, but on the Sunday, four days after the attack, she died of her injuries, described below at the subsequent inquest.

Dr Harold Freeth, house surgeon at the Hospital, gave evidence to the effect that the deceased died in the Hospital from exhaustion, following on from injuries, which he described. There were eleven incised wounds in all, chiefly on the chest and the left arm. One of the most serious wounds was that on the upper side of the left breast, and penetrated through the first rib into the chest cavity. The deceased had lost a great deal of blood. Witness had made a post-mortem examination. The wound which penetrated the chest had set up acute inflammation, and there was also inflammation of the pericardium. In reply to a juryman, the witness said the deceased’s organs were quite healthy before the injuries were inflicted.”

Bizarrely, despite the eye-witness testimony of Lucy Lingard’s daughter, who had witnessed the attack, and the fact that he had admitted his guilt when arrested, Smith pleaded not guilty. Another newspaper reported on young Rose’s demeanour.

Rose

Sir_William_Rann_Kennedy_1915Inevitably, the Coroner’s court, convened at the beginning of December, declared Smith to be guilty of murder, and now it would be up to the Lincoln Assizes court, Judge and Jury, to determine his fate. Smith spent the rest of December – including Christmas – and the greater part of February in Lincoln gaol. On Wednesday 25th February 1903, before Mr Justice Kennedy (right), Samuel Henry Smith  ‘had his hour in court’. Despite the suggestion to the jury that the charge should be reduced to one of manslaughter, it all went badly for Smith.

“The Lincolnshire Assizes were resumed yesterday before Justice Kennedy. Samuel Henry Smith, aged 45, fisherman, was indicted for the wilful murder of Lucy Margaret Lingard. at Grimsby, on the 18th November last. Mr Etherington Smith and Mr Lawrence appeared for the prosecution, and at the request of the Judge Mr Bonner undertook the defence. The case was sordid one. The deceased woman lived apart from her husband at 3, Taylor’s Terrace, Hope Street, Grimsby, and the accused had been in the habit of staying with her. On November 18th last the couple were out together during the afternoon, and on their return had some words, and the prisoner struck the woman. Afterwards they again went out, and when they returned late at night with a lodger and another woman, they were the worse for drink. The quarrel was resumed after a time, and, according to the evidence of the woman’s thirteen-year-old daughter, the accused took out a knife, and, rushing at the deceased, stabbed her several times. She died in the hospital on the following Sunday. On the prisoner’s behalf, Mr Bonner suggested that the jury would be justified in finding him guilty of manslaughter. The crime was undoubtedly due to drink, and he submitted that at the time of its commission the prisoner was not in condition to exercise any discretion as to the result of what he was doing. The jury found the prisoner guilty of Wilful Murder,” and he was sentenced to death.”

William-Billington copy

Smith’s legal team had applied to the Home Secretary, Viscount Chilston, for a reprieve, but he was not minded to be merciful. Likewise a petition set up by residents of Smith’s home town, Brixham, was ignored. On Tuesday 10th March, Samuel Henry Smith was marched to the scaffold by the executioner, William Billington (left). The role of state executioners was often kept within families. Just as the Pierrepoint family had several hangmen – Henry, Thomas and Albert, William Billington took over the job – along with brothers John and Thomas – when their father, James, died in 1901. Newspaper reporters, at this time, were still officially allowed to witness executions first hand, but in practice, most prison governors (and the hangmen) preferred if they didn’t, due to sensationalised and lurid accounts of the prisoners’ last moments. Whether the reporter from the LIncolnshire Chronicle saw the end of Samuel Henry Smith with his own eyes, or simply used his imagination, we do not know:

“According to recent Home Office regulations the black flag is not now displayed and all that told of the end was the tolling of the prison bell just after hour had struck. Inside the Prison, where there were only officials, the scene was impressively quiet. Wm. Billington the executioner, and his brother John, had arrived on the previous night. Early on the fateful morn the Rev. C.H. Scott visited the condemned man, who listened to his ministrations with attention and apparent gratitude. At ten minutes to eight o’clock County Under-Sheriff (Mr. Chas. Scorer) entered the cell, and approaching Smith requested him to prepare for execution. To all appearance he remained quite calm, and with a steady voice intimated that he was prepared to meet his death. Quietly he submitted himself to the executioner for the necessary pinioning process, and walked unfalteringly to the scaffold, and within two minutes all was over. Billington allowed a drop of 7ft. 3in. To the witnesses death appeared to be absolutely instantaneous and there was scarce a motion of the rope after the body disappeared from sight in the space below the drop.”

All that remained was for Samuel Henry Smith’s body to be buried in the gaol cemetery, along with dozens of other executed killers, and his name to be entered in the official record book.

Prison record

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THE MURDER OF LUCY LINGARD . . . A Grimsby tragedy (part one)

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Lucy Margaret Mullins was born in the village of Worlaby in 1869. Her father James was Irish, and worked as a groom. Her mother Jane was from the Lincolnshire village of Great Limber. In the 1881 census the family had moved to Little Limber Grange, near Brocklesby. In April 1889, Lucy married John Lingard in St James Church, Grimsby, and the census two years later shows that they were living at 6 Vesey’s Buildings in Grimsby, and they already had two children, Rose (2) and William (10 months). By 1901 they had moved to Sixth Terrace, Hope Street, and had two more children, Nellie (8) and Arthur (4). Also living in the house were two of Lucy’s adult relatives.

The 1901 census was taken on 1st April, and by the autumn of the next year John and Lucy Lingard had separated, Lucy remaining in Hope Street with the children. By the autumn of 1902 she had given birth to another child, born earlier in the year. The census also tells us that a fisherman named Samuel Henry Smith was also living in Hope Street, apparently on his own. His background has been difficult to track. The census records that he was born in Norfolk, but later newspaper reports suggest that his home town was Brixham in Devon.

It is not clear if Harry Smith was in any way responsible for the break up of the Lingards’ marriage, but by November 1902 it was clear that Lucy Lingard and Harry Smith (also separated from his spouse) were in a relationship, when he was not out on the North Sea on a trawler.

At this point, it is worth pausing the story to compare how people lived – in terms of house occupancy – back in the day. It was very common for ordinary working people to share houses with others. I was born in 1947, and my parents rented a room in a Victorian terraced house, which was shared with another couple and the owner, a single man. Each had a bedroom to themselves, and the kitchen and scullery were shared. There was no bathroom. There was running water, but also a pump in the scullery which drew water from a well. There was no electricity until, I think, 1951 and lighting was from gas lamps which were lit by pulling a little chain, which struck a flint, rather like the mechanics of a cigarette lighter.

Before demolition

Screen Shot 2022-09-10 at 18.37.47Hope Street in Grimsby was cleared of its terraces in the late 1960s (pictured above, thanks to Hope Street History), but a late 19th century map shows back-to-back houses opening directly onto the street, and every so often there would courtyards, each open area being surrounded on three sides by further dwellings. For those interested in the history of Hope Street, there is a Facebook page that gives access to an excellent pdf document describing the history of the street. That link is here. It is also worth pointing out that house ownership, certainly in 1902, would have been in the hands of landlords. The great majority of people in streets like Hope Street would be tenants.

We must now move on to the events of 18th November 1902. Harry Smith’s trawler docked that morning, and he had spent the best part of the afternoon and early evening in the company of Lucy Lingard. Smith at one point went down to the docks to collect his wages from his latest voyage. He and Lucy Lingard were at each other’s throats, perhaps because she had refused him ‘conjugal rights’, and he had struck her several times, giving her two black eyes. In spite of this, they went out drinking again, but what happened when they returned to Hope Street later that evening was to send a shiver of revulsion through the whole area.

IN PART TWO
A daughter’s testimony
Denial, trial – and the black cap

“ENOUGH TO KILL FIFTY PEOPLE” . . . The Wrangle Poisoner, 1884 (2)

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SO FAR: Wrangle Tofts, Lincolnshire, February 1884. 60 year-old Willam Lefley has died in agony, after eating what he claimed was poisoned rice pudding. Forensic investigations have discovered that there was a huge amount of arsenic in the pudding. Lefley’s wife Mary has been arrested on suspicion of causing his death.

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It came to light that Lefley was not in the best of health mentally. There were reports that he had contemplated suicide. Why? We do not know. He was not in any great debt. His marriage was relatively loveless, but many people muddle through that particular situation without seeking to kill themselves. A family member called William Lister later gave evidence under oath:

Suicide

Sir_Ford_North_Vanity_Fair_29_October_1887Based mainly on the question, “Who else could have done it?” Mary Lefley was sent for trial at the Lincoln Assizes. She was to appear before Mr Justice North. Mary’s defence barrister made the point:

“Unfortunately you must know in this county of Lincoln, the possession of arsenic in the country districts is not unusual. Arsenic is used for a of purposes of harmless character; and it Is for that very reason it may get into the possession of persons without exciting suspicions that may render very difficult to trace the particular occasion when arsenic came Into the possession of any individual or any house.”

The main spine of Mary Lefley’s defence had two strands:
(1) Absence of motive. Despite the lack of love between the pair, there was neither a huge sum of money nor commercial prospects coming to Mary Lefley on her husband’s death. There was never any suggestion that there was another man with whom she planned to make a new life after William’s death.
(2) No forensic connection between Mary Lefley and the arsenic overload in the fatal rice pudding.

The Lincoln Assizes jury found Mary Lefley guilty of murder, and Mr Justice North (above right) duly donned his black cap and sentenced her to death. She was sent back to Lincoln gaol to await her fate.

Awaiting death

Newspapers at the time loved a good hanging. It gave them the opportunity to sympathise with the condemned prisoner while, at the same time, signaling their virtue (a condition which is still alive and well in 2022) Despite the fact that no reporters were present at the fateful event, one newspaper was able to report:

“A WOMAN HANGED AT LINCOLN. SCENE ON THE SCAFFOLD. Mary Lefley was executed in Lincoln on Monday morning, for having murdered her husband at Wrangle, near Boston, last February, by mixing arsenic with a rice pudding. A small crowd gathered outside the prison to await the hoisting of the black flag. The execution was entirely private, representatives of the press being excluded. Berry, of Bradford, was the executioner. Berry, it appears, carried out all the arrangements in a satisfactory manner, giving the culprit a drop of 9ft. A Wesleyan minister attended her up to the time of execution, when the chaplain of the prison continued his ministrations to the end. The prisoner was in a very despondent condition. She screamed with terror whilst being pinioned, and her lamentations are described as having been heartrending as she was being led to her doom. She had to be assisted on to the scaffold, and on the white cap being placed over her face, and just the bolt was withdrawn, she gave long despairing cry. She asserted her innocence the Wesleyan minister shortly before he left her, and to the last hoped a reprieve would be forthcoming.”

Mary Lefley was presumably interred along with previously executed men and women in the little burial ground which had been established in the Lucy Tower of Lincoln Castle. Was she the victim of a huge injustice? The only other alternatives to her being guilty are (1) That William Lefley committed suicide in a most elaborate and unlikely fashion, presumably to spite his wife and bring about her downfall. (2) That a third party, un-named and with no apparent motive, had put the poison in the rice pudding.

If Mary Lefley was innocent, she would not have been the first woman from the area to be wrongly convicted. In 1868, Stickney woman Priscilla Biggadyke was hanged for poisoning her husband. Her lodger, Thomas Proctor, was also initially charged with murder, but the charge was dropped. Years later, on his deathbed, Proctor confessed that he had administered the fatal dose.

In part one of this story I wrote that Lefley’s marriage was childless. Mick Lake contacted me and kindly gave me the information that there had been four children, James, Sarah, George and John. Sadly, Sarah died in childhood, but the three boys survived and had left home by 1881. There is no mention of them visiting their mother in prison.

This sad case, if nothing else, makes a departure from the mainstream litany of historical Lincolnshire murders, where men killed women. For other murder cases from Lincolnshire, click the image below.


Wolds

“ENOUGH TO KILL FIFTY PEOPLE” . . . The Wrangle Poisoner, 1884 (1)

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Wiki tells us that Wrangle Tofts “is a 0.8–1 km-wide band of raised ground along part of the Lincolnshire coast, running between Wainfleet All Saints and Wrangle parallel to the Wash.” Toft is an old English word for homestead, derived from the Norse topf. The 1881 census tells us that one of the cottages on Wrangle Tofts was occupied by William Lefley and his wife Mary.

1881 census

Mary was from the nearby village of Stickney, but William was born in in East Harling, Norfolk. Not that far away in these days, but far enough in 1884. William was described as a cottager, a person – usually a man – who leased a small plot of land with a cottage on it. The land was usually worked like a family vegetable plot and may have had a pen for a pig or a couple of sheep.

Contemporary accounts suggest that William and Mary shared a rather loveless marriage. There were no children. A modern family history researcher has suggested that Mary, the younger of the two, had another suitor, but there is no evidence for this, and it is pure speculation.

On the afternoon of 6th February 1884, William Lefley went home for lunch. He ate beef and potatoes, and then had some rice pudding. He  became violently ill with sickness and stomach pains. He managed to get himself to the doctor’s surgery in Wrangle, and  Doctor Bubb’s housemaid (Elizabeth Hill) later told the court:
” I remember the deceased coming to my master’s house on the 6th February. He asked for the doctor, and said he wanted him at once, as he had been poisoned by eating rice pudding. He was ill, and went to lay in an outhouse. He fell in the yard, was sick and very cold. After being seen by the Doctor’s assistant, he was taken home by a man named Chapman”.

Doctor Bubb’s sister also testified:

“I saw Lefley at my brother’s surgery. He said he had been poisoned, and was going to die. He vomited, complained of being cold, appeared be in pain, and groaned. He said he had had some pudding at dinner, and was quite well before he ate it, adding, “My wife has done it.” He said he should like to alter his will before he died. He had left everything to his wife, and his anxiety for the doctor was very great. He brought a portion of the pudding with him in the tin.”

Mary Lefley had prepared the rice pudding and left it for her husband to cook through, while she took the carrier’s cart in to Boston. By the time she returned, William Lefley was close to death. The court heard the sequence of events:

“About 6.30 pm. Mrs. Lefley came upstairs, having returned home from Boston market. Mrs. Lefley said, “Now then, what’s the matter?” William Lefley said, “You know what’s the matter; go away from me, I don’t want to see you any more.” Mrs. Lefley made no answer, and went downstairs. Another doctor was called, and he was at Lefley’s bedside when he died, just after 9.00pm”

Forensic science has come a long way since the death of William Lefley, but the work of the pathologist, exploring the remains of the human body, searching for answers, was well established in 1884, but not, perhaps in Boston. A macabre parcel was sent south, by rail, to Guys Hospital in London. In the shipment was a large stoneware jar containing the stomach, bowel, spleen, kidneys and liver of the dead man. Dr Thomas Stevenson testified:

“The stomach itself was red and highly inflamed, as if from the administration of irritant poison. The  large mass of the small and large bowel, intensely inflamed so far regards the small bowel, had the appearance commonly observed after the administration of irritant poison. The jar also contained nine fluid ounces of bloody fluid. I found arsenic, which is an irritant poison. There was arsenic in the fluid in the stomach, the stomach itself, in the fluid the bowels, and the liver. These results, to me, say that arsenic had been administered during life, and had been absorbed into the system.”

Despite there being no trace of arsenic in the house, the police drew the inevitable conclusion, and acted accordingly.

Arrest

IN PART TWO

Trial and retribution
A mystery

THE MURDER OF JANICE ANN HOLMES . . . Lincolnshire, April 1959 (part two)

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SO FAR: Binbrook, Lincolnshire, April 1959. On the night of 12th April, 12 year-old Janice Holmes has gone missing from her home near Hall Farm, an isolated group of buildings two miles east of the village. The police are now involved, and Janice’s hat has been found, but a more terrible discovery is imminent.

At around 2.00am on the morning of 13th April, the searchers discover Janice’s body in a spinney just off Lambscroft Lane. The grim facts were reported to the subsequent Coroner’s inquest:

“A hundred yards away from the hat.” said Mr. Hutchison. “they found the body of the dead child. It was just inside the wood. The right arm was above the head. A shoe was missing and she was lying in undergrowth.”  Janice’s clothing was disarranged. Death was due to asphyxia. caused by strangulation with some thin ligature and there had been some violation of her sexual parts. There were numerous bruises on the child.”

Enter, stage left –  as they say – William Thomas Francis Jenkin. He was born in Cornwall in 1934, had married Hilda M Louis in Basford, Notts, in 1955. At the time of this story, they had two children, and a third was on the way, due in October. A later newspaper report suggested that he had served with British Forces in Cyprus.§

§The Greek Cypriot War of Independence  was a conflict fought in British Cyprus between November 1955 and March 1959.

Tom Jenkin and his family had only arrived at Hall Farm relatively recently, in March of that year, but it seems he had already struck up a friendship with Janice Holmes. Janice, when not at school, often went to help her mother in the fields, and met Jenkin on several occasions. He had (not a euphemism) shown her his stamp albums, and had also promised to collect some frogspawn for her from a nearby pond so that she could watch the tadpoles develop.

It appeared that Jenkin had been out and about on his bike at the time Janice disappeared. There was to be a hint that Ada, Janice’s mother, had a feeling that something was not quite right about Jenkin, as it was later reported in court that during the search, she said to Jenkin, “What have you done with Janice ? ” He replied : “There’s other folks in the place besides me.”

Fiend

By mid morning on 13th April, police had begun to issue requests to all cafés and public places in the area to be on the look-out for bloodstained clothing, and officers were at the Louth RDC refuse depot checking the contents of vehicles as they were unloaded. Meanwhile, the national press had taken up the story of Janice’s murder.

The only suspect the  police had was Jenkin, and the evidence against him was circumstantial. Yes he had been out and about on his bike, but no-one had seen him. But then, a key piece of evidence broke the case wide open, at least as far as the police were concerned. A tobacco tin belonging to Jenkin was found near the murder site. He admitted that it was his, but had no explanation as to why it was found where it was.

At 3.30pm on Thursday 16th April, Supt. Anthony Tew, head of Cleethorpes police, formally charged Jenkin with the murder of Janice Holmes. He was arrested and taken into custody.

Daily Mirror

Janice was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Binbrook, on the afternoon of Friday 17th April. A little later, William Thomas Francis Jenkin appeared in front of the magistrates at Market Rasen, just seven miles or so down the road from Binbrook. What followed makes it clear that the police were struggling to find any forensic connection between Jenkin and Janice. Yes, they had discovered tiny spots of blood on the man’s clothing, but the forensic technology at the time was nothing as precise as it is today, and no definite link could be proved. Jenkin was remanded  several times at market Rasen, with no new evidence appearing. On Jenkin’s final appearance at Market Rasen on Thursday 14th May, his solicitor, Mr Skinner said:

“The bicycle ride suggested opportunity, but the mere fact that Jenkin was out alone is not evidence against him. There were probably ten other people about at the time. End this now. This man’s anxiety should be ended now rather than later.”

Unfortunately for Jenkin, the magistrates did not agree, and he was further remanded to appear at Nottingham Assizes in June. I can find no explanation as to why the trial was sent to Nottingham, other than that the final magistrate hearing was too close to the opening date of the Lincoln Assizes, which seems to have been at the very beginning of June.

Jenkin appeared before Mr Justice Havers on 23rd June, but the next day, the police attempts to find justice for Janice were dealt a further blow.

Jury disagree

The ‘show’ moved on to Birmingham, and on 14th July the same evidence was presented, with the same witnesses, but in front of a different judge and jury. The case for the defence was much the same, and it rested on the tobacco tin which, they said, could have been picked up by a third party and placed near the murder site. Neither judge nor jury were having any of this, and Jenkin was found guilty. I am certain that he avoided the death penalty because the case against him was anything but cast iron. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Hilda Jenkin (25) who gave evidence for her husband, collapsed when he was found guilty. She said afterwards: “I will wait for him. I know he could not have done it”

It has to be said that there were two other theories about Janice’s death in circulation at the time. One involved a mysterious stranger in a large car who had been seen around the village, and the other – possibly connected – was that the intended victim was Janice’s friend, Susan.

Mistake

We next hear of William Thomas Francis Jenkin in 1998. He was released from prison in 1975 having served just sixteen years, but In April 1998, aged 64, he was living back in Cornwall, and while the police were investigating him for another offence, they found an air rifle in his wardrobe. This was in breach of his parole conditions imposed for another offence, apparently, in 1980. Unable to pay the fine, he was remanded in custody and brought up before the judge at Truro Crown Court in October of that year. The judge ordered the weapon to be destroyed and gave Jenkin a conditional discharge for eighteen months.

Did Jenkin kill Janice Holmes? 63 years later, the only thing that is certain is that we will never know. All we can hope, if we believe in such things, is that Janice sleeps with the angels.

FOR MORE LINCOLNSHIRE TRUE CRIMES FROM THE PAST, CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW

Binbrook

THE MURDER OF JANICE ANN HOLMES . . . Lincolnshire, April 1959 (part one)

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The Lincolnshire village of Binbrook was once the size of a small market town. It encompassed the lost medieval village of Orford and, more recently, RAF Binbrook which opened in 1940 as a Bomber Command base, and continued as an active airfield until it finally closed in the 1980s, although the runways were maintained as a relief landing strip for RAF Scampton until the 1990s. The buildings that remain are now used commercially, but the former housing stock now makes up the village of Brookenby.

Binbrook School

In April 1959, Janice Ann Holmes was twelve years-old, and lived with her mother Ada in one of a number of farm cottages at Hall Farm, about two miles east of the village. Mrs Holmes acted as housekeeper to one of the workers, a Mr Barley. Her husband James was separated from the family and lived in Leicester. Janice Holmes was a bright girl, and had taken her Eleven Plus exam the previous year at Binbrook Primary School (above). She won a scholarship to Cleethorpes Grammar School. Each school day, she cycled into Binbrook to catch the school bus, and did the journey in reverse in the afternoon. Although just two miles from the village, the area around Hall Farm is lonely and, at the wrong time of day or in the wrong weather, desolate.

On the evening of Monday 13th April, Janice had come home from school as usual, helped her mother for a while, and then gone home to make the tea. Close by the cottage where Janice and her mother lived was another house where Susan Baker lived. Susan was fifteen, had already left school, and was working as a domestic servant for Mr Allbones, the tenant of Home Farm. She came round to Janice’s house at 6.15pm, and the two girls watched television for a while, before going out for a walk. They returned at about 7.15pm, and watched some more TV. Susan decided to go home, and Janice said she would go part of the way with her. When they reached Susan’s gate, they said goodbye, and Susan later testified that she heard the sound of Janice’s footsteps as she ran back to her own house. She never arrived. Bear in mind the Hall Farm area was not a well-lit modern housing estate. The cottages were scattered over a significant area, and deep into an April evening it would have been dark.

Initially, Ada Holmes was not too concerned about Janice’s absence, but when 9.00pm became 9.30pm, she had a sense that something was not right. She went to the nearby cottages, but no-one had seen her daughter. Mr Allbones, the farmer, organised a search party with torches, but at 11.00pm, still with no sign of Janice, he informed the police. Eventually, at 2.00am on the Tuesday morning, just off the narrow road known as Lambcroft Lane, the searchers found Janice’s hat. Much worse was to follow.

IN PART TWO
A grim discovery
A suspect|
A trial

‘I WILL HAVE HER BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OUT” . . . A brutal murder in 1903 Lincoln (2)

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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:

medical report new

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.

Then and now

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)

Dear Leonard

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 ?

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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:

Execution

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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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lincolns

‘I WILL HAVE HER BEFORE THE NIGHT IS OUT” . . . A brutal murder in 1903 Lincoln (1)

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I have been researching and retelling the stories of historic murders for  a long time now, and the overwhelming majority of these cases involve a man murdering a woman. There is rarely what one might call a motive, in the sense that the killer planned his act with the intent to gain an advantage. Occasionally, as with the Spalding Poisoner, the man plans the killing because he has another lover, but all too often, as is the case here, the murder is an act of rage, jealousy, with the sub-text of “If I can’t have you, then no-one will.”

The life of Sarah Ann Smith seems to be punctuated with misfortunes. Thomas Hardy, in Tess of the D’Urbervilles memorably imagined that our lives were manipulated by some unseen hand, moving us around like chess pieces for their own amusement.

“.. and the President of the Immortals (in Aeschylean phrase) had ended his sport with Tess.

The 1881 census has 9 year-old Sarah Ann Smith living in Greetwell Gate, Lincoln, with her parents John and Ann, and her two brothers. In 1891 she was working as a domestic servant in  a house on what was then called Asylum Road. The census that year was taken on 5th April, and in the summer of that year Sarah married Henry Healey Fletcher. Seven years later, on 17th February 1898 their son, Harold Fletcher was born. Sarah’s joy was to be short lived, because with twelve months both baby Harold and husband Henry would be dead. Henry Fletcher, an ironstone miner, hanged himself when rumours began to circulate that Sarah was having an affair with their lodger.

As in the case of Tess, the President of the Immortals had one last cruel joke to play on Sarah. She met and was wooed by a young bricklayer called Leonard Patchett, and in January 1900 they married in St Andrew’s church in Lincoln (picture below). Demolished in 1968, it was one of many Gothic revival churches designed by the celebrated Louth architect James Fowler.

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Leonard Pratchett was what used to be called ‘a wrong ‘un’. He was handy with his fists, especially with women, as his criminal record shows.

Criminal record

It wasn’t long before Sarah became fed up with Leonard’s casual brutality, and left him. There followed a sequence of uneasy reconciliations – and the birth of a daughter – Rachel Cecilia. The early summer of 1903 saw Sarah working as a housekeeper for a man named John King, a former military man who now worked as an insurance agent. He lived at 36 Spencer Street, Lincoln. Leonard, meanwhile was working in Gainsborough.

Towards the end of May, Leonard Pratchett took a train to Lincoln, with the intention of patching up his troubled marriage to Sarah. He sought her out at John King’s house, and on the evening of Tuesday 26th May, he asked her to walk with him to the station, from where he was going to catch the train back to Gainsborough. Earlier that evening, Sarah had been out when Patchett came looking for her, and he got into a conversation with a Mrs Emma Iremonger, next door neighbour to John King. It seems that Mrs Iremonger was looking after Rachel, who was a couple of months short of her second birthday. The exchange was reported in the press sometime later:

Emma Iremonger

John King later testified that he was uneasy about Sarah going off with her husband that evening, and asked her not to go, but she declined to take his advice. He waited up until 11.00pm that night, and when she still hadn’t returned by morning he contacted the police. Wednesday and Thursday passed without any sighting of Sarah Patchett.

The next events in this tale unfold in a part of Lincoln that is completely unrecognisable today, and it is only by looking at maps side by side that we can get some sense of the landscape in 1903. What is now Boultham Park Road was, in 1903, a private carriage road leading to Boultham Hall, and on either side there were open fields. North of the drain in 1903 was the Wellington Iron Foundry, where some of the first WW1 tanks were built. One of the employees at the foundry was a young man called Arthur Froggatt. They worked long shifts in those days, starting early and finishing late. The men were allowed a break for breakfast around 8.00 am, and on the morning of Friday 29th May, Arthur had walked across the footbridge over the drain to breath some fresh air after the intense heat and fumes of the foundry. He had only walked a little way down the carriage drive, when he saw something untoward. Again this is from a newspaper report taken down verbatim at a court hearing:

Discovery

IN PART TWO
Arrest
A revealing letter
Trial and execution

THE WHITE HORSE MURDER . . . A brutal killing in a Lincolnshire market town (2)

WHITE HORSE HEADER

SO FAR – Market Deeping, Lincolnshire. September 1922. On Wednesday 20th, 18 year-old Ivy Dora D’Arcy had married her sweetheart, George Prentice. On the following Monday, her widowed mother Edith – landlady of The White Horse – was to remarry. At around 9.00pm on Saturday 23rd, Edith, Ivy, her sister Gertrude, and Edith’s soon-to-be daughter in law Eva are examining wedding presents in a back parlour, lit only by a candle. As ever, what happened next is vividly described by a local newspaper:

Blurb 1

At the coroner’s inquest on Monday 25th September, Edith D’Arcy explained that she was now Mrs Kitchener. Her new husband’s rather hard-hearted employers The Great Northern Railway Company, had refused to extend his leave of absence despite the tragedy, and so they had been married just an hour or so before arriving at the inquest. They are pictured below.

Mum arrives

Barely managing to keep her composure, she told the court that in the darkness, no-one realised what had actually happened. She said:

“Gertrude cried, “Bring a light, Ivy has been shot. I got some matches and lit the gas, and I saw them lifting Ivy onto a chair. She was smothered in blood, and a big clot of blood as big as my hand lay on her lap.”

What she saw was described in more chillingly anatomical terms by the doctor who was called to the scene:

“Dr. Benson stated that he was called to The White Horse Hotel soon after 9.20, on Saturday evening. Deceased was dead on his arrival. Her clothing was saturated with blood, and there was a 2½ inches by 3 inches wound on the left breast, whilst several ribs were smashed. A large cavity was formed In the thorax. The full charge from the gun had entered her chest at close range, from close range. Death was instantaneous, and due to haemorrage and shock. The wound was consistent with having been caused by the charge of a sporting gun such as that produced.”

It is almost impossible to imagine the devastating effect this murder would have had on George Prentice. For three days he had a lovely young wife with the promise of children and years of happiness. Because of an instant of jealous rage, those dreams lay in tatters. He is pictured below, the man on the right, supported by a friend, arriving at the inquest.

George arrives cropped

Worse was to come for George Prentice. He had to watch as his young wife was lowered into the ground on Wednesday 27th September while the solemn words of the burial sentences were intoned.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet Shall He live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shalt stand at the latter day upon the earth.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.

It is hardly surprising that the occasion was too much for George Prentice to bear.

Husbands Collapse

Ivy’s grave is very weathered, but can still be found in Market Deeping cemetery.

Ivy Dora Prentice smaller

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As for Fowler, (pictured left, leaving the inquest) he was clearly as guilty as sin. In his mind he had painted a picture in which he and Ivy D’Arcy were destined to be man and wife, despite the lack of any encouragement on her part. He was sent for trial at the autumn assizes in Lincoln, and it wasn’t until the jury found him guilty of murder, and the death sentence had been imposed by Mr Justice Lush  that his defence team  decided to ask for a  a repeal on the grounds of insanity. This was rejected, and Fowler was booked in for an appointment with the formidable Thomas Pierrepoint, (right). 13th December 1922 was a bad day for Lincolnshire, as the double execution despatched two men of the county, Fowler and a man called George Robinson who had murdered another 18 year-old girl in Dorrington.

Double Execution

As for Fowler’s motivation, one has to accept Edith Kitchener’s statement that there was never anything between Fowler and her late daughter. Whatever relationship there was must have existed purely in his own head. At the time of the shooting he was heard to say, “Now I’ve had my revenge.” He had determined that if he couldn’t have Ivy Dora D’Arcy, then no-one would.

These stories would wander interminably if we followed the future lives of the surviving participants, but thanks to Chris Berry, whose family tree Ivy D’Arcy is part of, I can add that George Prentice married again in 1927, to a woman called Florence Taylor. He died in October 1960, leaving the tidy sum of £20315 which is close on £330000 in today’s money. Edith and William Kitchener were recorded as living in Tallington in the 1939 register. She died in the spring of 1945, aged 75, while William died in the spring of 1951.

FOR MORE TALES OF MURDER AND TRAGEDY IN LINCOLNSHIRE
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