HANGMAN’S END . . . Between the covers

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Where would crime-writers be without dog-walkers? Michelle Kidd’s latest novel begins with this most reliable of tropes when a dog sniffs out a suitcase in the low tide mud beneath a bridge over the River Thames. The contents are not for the squeamish. Inside is the torso, arms and legs of a little girl. The head is elsewhere. DI Jack MacIntosh and his team are soon on the case, but there investigations of the crime scene are hindered by the rising tide of Old Father Thames.

Screen Shot 2022-01-06 at 18.37.43We have the advantage over the police in that we are introduced early on to the man who dropped the suitcase from the bridge into the mud. We are not sure if he is the actual slaughterman, or merely the butcher, but we do learn the whereabouts of the child’s head. The victim is soon identified as Maisie Lancaster, but a visit to her parents’ house brings MacIntosh into a collision with the metaphorical runaway car of one of his previous cases.

“Previous” is the key word here, as Michelle Kidd delicately negotiates the problems of having a main character with a troubled past, with the  events having occurred earlier in the series. This is the fifth in the Jack MacIntosh series, and so Kidd has to strike a balance between boring the readers who are well aware of the back-story, and not baffling those new to the books. She carries out this piece of legerdemain very cleverly. Looking at the title, readers will think, “Hang on, we haven’t had capital punishment in the UK since the mid 1960s, so why the reference?” Again , Michelle Kidd has the answers, and they lie in a macabre piece of London history While dodging the tides and trying to investigate the gruesome suitcase, the investigators find more human remains, but this time they are much older. The bleached skull and assorted remnants of its skeleton pose just another headache for MacIntosh and his team.

At one point, I was beginning to feel that there were too many loose ends and plot threads going off at a tangent, and I wondered if Michelle Kidd could – or would – resolve them, but my lack of faith was knocked firmly on the head as the different directions merged, and even the back-story behind the back-story became transparent and lucid. In a startling conclusion, Jack MacIntosh comes face to face with the demons – both human and metaphorical – who plague both his dreams and his waking hours

This is a tense and brutal journey through the dark waters of life that Jack MacIntosh and his colleagues have to wade through. Past and present collide in unpredictable ways. Hangman’s End is published by Question Mark Press and is out now.

I reviewed an earlier book, Guilt, from a different series by Michelle Kidd, and you can read what I thought by clicking the link.

Michelle Kidd is a self-published author best known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels set in London. She has also recently begun a new series which is set in her home town of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk – starring Detective Inspector Nicki Hardcastle.

She qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently five DI Jack MacIntosh novels, and the first DI Nicki Hardcastle story was released in August 2021. Follow her at:




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THE SWAFFHAM HORROR . . . Tragedy at Town Farm (3)


SO FAR: 1925, and Swaffham farm labourer Herbert George Whiteman (now calling himself Bloye) has been sent for trial at Norwich Assizes for the murder of his mother-in-law Clara Squires. In the same attack, he badly wounded his wife Alice, and she has subsequently died of her injuries.

The Assizes opened on Monday 19th October and, as was customary, the dignitaries – in particular the Lord Chief Justice himself, Lord Hewart went to the cathedral, no doubt to pray for wisdom.


There is very little on record about the trial of Herbert George Whiteman, probably because it took up little of the court’s time. Whiteman’s barristers on Tuesday 20th October went down the only route available to them, which was to plead that when he struck the fatal blows back in June, he was temporarily insane. Neither the jury, nor Lord Hewart, were having any of this. Whiteman, under his adopted surname Bloye, was found guilty and sent back to Norwich Gaol in Mousehold Heath to await the ministrations of the hangman. Photographs rarely appeared in local newspapers in those days, but the Daily Mirror provided the only surviving image of Herbert George Whiteman, (even if they didn’t get his name quite right) and I post it alongside the image of the man who sentenced him to death.


What does deem unsatisfactory, at least in my eyes, is that Whiteman’s murder of his wife was not proceeded with. Perhaps this was so as not to ‘waste the court’s time’. The outcome of the case – as well as the sentence – was never in doubt, but it had the effect of reducing Alice Whiteman to a mere footnote, as shown on this document recording details of criminals.

Calendar of Prisoners

On Thursday 12th November, Herbert George Whiteman paid the ultimate penalty for his crimes.This is a detailed report from The Lynn News the following day.

“George Bloye, who was recently sentenced to death by the Lord Chief Justice at the Norfolk Assizese, for the murder of his mother-in-law, Clara Squires, was executed at Norwich prison yesterday (Thursday) morning. It will be remembered that the man was charged also with the murder of his wife, who died as the result of injuries inflicted by him on the same day – June 15th – but this indictment was not proceeded with in the Assizes Court. Punctually at o’clock yesterday morning Bloye walked from a cell near the coach-house with the support a warder on either hand, at the bead of the procession being the Rev. T. E. Hoyden, chaplain of the prison, who recited the usual sentences from the Burial Office. The Sheriff for the County (Mr. Walter K Hansen) was present, and there were also present a prison doctor, the prison governor, and two representatives of the Press. Baxter was the executioner and Taylor his assistant.

Bloye, who at the time of his conviction was stated to be 27 years of age, and was described as a labourer. was a sturdily built man of middle height. He walked firmly and with no sign of acute feeling to the chalk mark on the flap-doors of the scaffold. His death was instantaneous. Less than thirty seconds must have elapsed between the time when he first saw the instrument of death and the time of his decease. There was no tremor or other sign of life after the drop had fallen.”

There were more than two victims of Whiteman’s murderous acts on 15th June 1925. His own blood family would be shamed by his infamy for the rest of their lives, while the Squires would have their own grief to deal with. What became of the two youngest players in this grim drama, Herbert RW Whiteman and his sister Evelyn? They were, of course, orphans. It is always easier to trace males in genealogy research, and the 1939 wartime register has Herbert working at Moat Farm, Tutbury, Staffordshire. He died at Haverford West in September 1992. Evelyn is more tricky. We have two Evelyn E Whiteman possibilities; one marrying a Mr Tingley in Eastbourne in 1954, and another marrying a Mr Jeffrey at Tonbridge in 1947. Either is feasible, but let us end with hoping that Evelyn had no memory of that tragic day in a field just outside Swaffham as she lay in her pram.

THE SWAFFHAM HORROR . . . Tragedy at Town Farm (2)


SO FAR: Swaffham, in the summer of 1925. Herbert George Whiteman and Alice Squires had married in 1921, and after the premature deaths of two babies, they now have a healthy son and daughter, Herbert and Evelyn. The marriage is on the rocks, however, and Alice has been granted a separation order, taken the children and gone to live with her parents.

On the morning of Monday 15th June, William Squires was working in a field known as Heathlands  near Town Farm. His wife Clara was similarly busy in an adjacent field. Just before mid-day, Alice Squires, with her two children brought her father his lunch, and walked off in the direction of her mother. Shortly afterwards, Squires heard a terrible scream. He threw down his tools and ran in the direction Alice had taken. He found her lying on the ground, blood pooling around her head. Baby Evelyn was still asleep in her pram, but two year-old Herbert looked on, uncomprehending. Alice was unable to speak, but Squires looked across to where his wife had been working, and saw her tussling with a man. Before he could reach her, she fell to the ground. Running away from the scene was a man, later identified as Herbert George Whiteman.

Others, working nearby, ran to the scene. The police were summoned, as was Dr William Thorpe, and an ambulance was called to take the stricken women to Swaffham Cottage Hospital. Clara Squires died two days later without ever recovering consciousness.

Screen Shot 2022-01-22 at 18.30.45Meanwhile, what of George Whiteman? After the attack on the two women he had headed north across the railway line in the direction of his mother’s cottage near what was known as Great Friars Thornes. Mrs Whiteman was standing in the yard of the farm with another woman, Frances Turner, who later testified:

‘Whiteman came round the corner of the yard. He had blood on his coat and hands, and said to his mother, “Don’t grieve for me, they can’t make you suffer for my sins. I’ve done the two in. I could not kill my two dear children. I want to say goodbye to my father, as the police will be after me in a few minutes.”‘

Whiteman was carrying a large agricultural spanner, and when he went with his mother to her house, he asked to hide it. She put it under a pile of firewood, but it was later discovered there by Police Constable Walmsley. Whiteman was arrested and taken to the cells at Swaffham Police Station. He was brought before the magistrates at the Shire Hall, Swaffham (below) on Tuesday 30th June.

Shire hall

Bizarrely, Whiteman insisted that he now be known as Bloye – his mother’s maiden name. The Yarmouth Independent reported the hearing thus:

Remarkable confessions wore made Herbert George Bloye (Whiteman) – labourer, when charged Swallham Tuesday with the murder of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Squire, and the attempted murder of his wife. He declared that after kissing his wife he hit her on the head with piece of iron, and later attacked his mother-in-law in a similar fashion. The older woman died two days later, and the wife is not yet out of danger. The prisoner sat with folded arms and impassive demeanour, head held high, while the evidence was given, even the distress of his white-haired mother apparently leaving him unmoved. When asked if he had any questions to ask of the witnesses, he stood smartly to attention and replied, “None at all. sir.”

Only once did he interrupt the evidence, and that was when the police read his statement that he said to the dead woman, when she began to cry before striking her, “Guilty conscience needs no accusing.” He then exclaimed. ” right!”

On the way from the police-station to the court-room, faced with several photographers, he smiled and tried to pose, but was hurried on by the police in charge of him.

It appeared that  in May the prisoner’s wife obtained separation order against him, and the prisoner was apparently under the impression that she was influenced in this by her mother. He seemed have made up his mind to murder his wife’s mother. The attack which formed the subject of the charge occurred on June 15th, and Mrs. Squires died two days later.

Dr. Kenneth Thorpe, Swaffham, said about 1.40 p.m. on the 15th June he was called to the Town Farm, about two miles out of the town, and saw Mrs. Whiteman lying on the side of Green Lane. She was unconscious and bleeding from wounds on the head, which he attended to temporarily. There were 24 wounds in all, and one had fractured the skull. They were not severe in themselves, but the number made them severe. Mr. Squires showed him where his wife was lying in the field. She was unconscious and bleeding from a large ragged wound on the left temple, about five inches long, from which the brain was protruding.

This particular newspaper report also expressed optimism about the condition of Alice Whiteman, even going as far as to say that she was expected to make a full recovery. They were wrong. Alice Whiteman hovered between life and death in the hospital for almost a month, but since her mental state had deteriorated owing to the terrible head wound she had sustained, she was transferred to Norwich Mental Hospital on 23rd July, but she was beyond medical help and died there on Monday 3rd August. A separate inquest on her death was held in Norwich, and was not without incident. By this time, the magistrates had found Whiteman guilty of the murder of Clara Squires, and he was sent to stand trial at the Autumn Assizes in Norwich.


Trial and justice – of a kind

THE SWAFFHAM HORROR . . . Tragedy at Town Farm (1)


I have been researching and writing about these tragedies for many years, and one thought never fails to cross my mind when I look into the backgrounds of the people involved. What if their paths had never crossed? What was the fateful moment when the die was cast, and it was almost inevitable that there would be a tragic outcome? The three principle characters in this drama are Herbert George Whiteman, Alice Squires – who would go on to become Alice Whiteman – and her mother, Clara Squires. The two families had much in common. Both lived in Swaffham, or nearby, Both relied upon the hard grind of agricultural labour to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

The 1911 census has Whiteman, simply listed as George (aged 12) living in Newton by Castle Acre with his father Walter (49) his mother Hannah (neé Bloye) and two younger siblings Thomas and Julia. The same census gives us, at Tower Court in Lynn Street, Swaffham, Alice Squires (9), along with parents William and Clara, and siblings.

We know little about what happened to George and Alice until the years after The Great War. George Whiteman served as a Private in The Norfolk Regiment, but not for the duration of the war. He was still at home in November 1916, as we know from a bizarre brush with the criminal justice system,mas reported in The Lynn News.


At some point, either through volunteering or by conscription he went ‘to do his bit’, and thanks to pension records, we know he was discharged in the spring of 1919, with a disability pension. What this disability was remains unclear. There were reports later that something he had seen or experienced while on service had caused him to have fits. The pension system was complex, but put simply, a man with a severe disability such as loss of limbs or severe mental damage was entitled to a maximum of forty shillings (£2) a week. The army had a scale of payments for lesser injuries, and Whiteman’s pension card reveals he was to receive five shillings and sixpence each week –  a pension of around 13% of the maximum.

We do not know if George and Alice ‘courted’ during the war years, but we do know that they married in January 1921, in Swaffham. It is almost certain that Alice was ‘in the family way’, because in March 1921 she was delivered of a daughter, Dorothy Mary, but the child was not long for the world. Parish records show she died on 14th May.

Dorothy May death

Interestingly, this is the first time the name of Town Farm crops up in the narrative. The Whitemans were to fare no better with their second child, Kathleen Violet, who survived only a matter of hours.

Kathleen V death

The Whitemans persisted, and with better luck. Herbert RW Whiteman was born on 16th February 1923, and then came Evelyn E Whiteman in October 1924. It seems that by the time of Evelyn’s birth the marriage was in trouble, mainly due to George Whiteman’s violence towards his wife, and by the early summer of 1925, Alice had left him, and moved back in with her parents, taking the two youngsters with her.

Station Street

Screen Shot 2022-01-21 at 20.29.21There is more than one Town Farm near Swaffham, but I am certain that the one central to this story is the farm that sits on Shoemakers Lane. My reasons for this are that immediately after the terrible events of Monday 15th June, George Whiteman is described as making his escape across the railway line in the direction of his mother’s house at Great Thorne. Nothing else makes sense, so I am convinced that this is the correct location. In part two, I will describe the tragic events of that June day, and how justice was done in the case of George Whiteman’s mother in law, if not with regards to his young wife.

IN PART TWO – A county in deep shock, an arrest, a confession, and an appointment with both The Lord Chief Justice of the land and the hangman.

CITY OF THE DEAD . . . Between the covers

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This is another case for psychologist  Professor Alex Delware and his buddy, LAPD cop Lieutenant Milo Sturgis. As ever, the book is brimming with all the joys of Californication – fake lifestyle gurus, washed-up former pop stars, bent lawyers, damaged families and dead bodies – always plenty of dead bodies. The first of these is of a young man, stark naked, who – in an apparent psychotic episode – runs out from a house in a smart district in the LA suburbs, at 4.00am – and straight into the side of a moving truck. Instant fatality.

cotd013When the cops investigate the house from which the young man ran, they find the second corpse of the morning, with her throat slit. She is – or rather was – Cordi Gannet. She made a decent living producing lifestyle videos for YouTube, full of cod psychology and trite advice about life improvement strategies. Her psychology degree was apparently bought mail-order from an on-line university, and when Alex Delaware gets to the scene with Milo, he remembers that he was once involved in a child custody case where Cordi Gannet was introduced as an expert witness – with disastrous consequences.

They soon find that Cordi Gannet’s family background was suitably California Chaotic – no known father, a mother who scraped by waiting tables until she got lucky and married an affluent surgeon. As for the young man, after much tail-chasing they learn that he was a harmless and affable young hairdresser who had something of a ‘gay-crush’ on Ms Gannet with all her pan flutes and whale songs, but had no obvious enemies.

The investigation meanders, slows – and then grinds to a halt. Delaware and Sturgis are sidetracked by another murder – the killing of a violent testosterone-fueled bodybuilder whose onetime business partner was a former adversary of Delaware’s in the family courts. This one they manage to crack, but it is not until Delaware goes back to the day job and begins consultation sessions with another pair of warring parents – one of whom was a  near neighbour of Cordi Gannet, that the breakthrough comes.

Screen Shot 2022-01-19 at 19.13.17Watching the Delaware-Sturgis partnership work on a case is fascinating. Yes, by my reckoning this is the 37th in the series. No, that’s not a typo. Thirty seven since their debut in When The Bough Breaks (1985). 1985. Blimey. Amongst other ground-breaking events in that year, I read that Playboy stopped stapling its centrefolds, the first episode of Eastenders was broadcast, and Freddie Mercury stole the show at Live Aid. But I digress.

There are no surprises in City of The Dead, at least in terms of the personal dynamics between the investigators. Delaware is super-cool, Sturgis has zero dress sense and is inveterate fridge raider, and the pair never really get ‘down and dirty’ with the criminals they hunt. In spite of the familiar formula, this is still a cracking read and cleverly plotted, with Kellerman (right)  setting several snares for the unwary reader. City of The Dead is published by Century, and will be available from 17th February.

FOUR MORE ANGELS IN HEAVEN TONIGHT . . . The Wimblington Tragedy (2)


SO FAR – It is February 1896, and Mary Jane Farnham has moved back to Wimblington following the death of her husband, Henry, a former Stationmaster in Essex. She has five children, but is  comfortably provided for, thanks to savings, insurance and a pension from the Railway Benevolent Fund. She and the children have rented a roomy cottage, not far from Wimblington railway station. The children are universally liked, and she is regarded as a quiet and respectable woman. She and the four younger children – Lucilla, aged 12, is in service with a family in nearby March – are regular church-goers. But something is very wrong. She has mentioned to her parents that the strain of being alone troubles her. Her words were later quoted in the press:


It can have been no comfort to Mary Jane Farnham to be living within sight and sound of Wimblington railway station, and it must have been a daily reminder of better days, when she and her husband lived in a similar building, were pillars of the community, and with their whole lives ahead of them.

I have been researching and writing these true crime stories for many years, and I can truthfully say that none of the human tragedies I have investigated comes close to this one in terms of loss and despair. The Farnhams were last seen alive at some time on Saturday 15th February. It needs to be remembered that communities were much smaller and ‘in-each-other’s-pockets’ in those days, and the comings and goings of villagers in a place like Wimblington were very public. Bit by bit, villagers suspected that something was wrong.


What the Peacock brothers and the village policeman found in the upstairs bedrooms would probably haunt them for the rest of their lives. Marjorie May, 11, Sidney Harold, 8, Henrietta Mary, 6, and Dorothy Esther, 4, were dead in their beds, killed while they slept, and their throats cut so deeply that their heads were nearly severed. Beside them was the body of their mother, a white handled knife, savagely sharp, in her dead hand. The bedsheets around the bodies were saturated with blood. It was.literally, a bloodbath.

This was no spur of the moment act of desperation by Mary Jane Farnham. On a table in the house was an envelope containing the outstanding rent on the cottage. Even more chilling, It was later revealed that she had sent a letter to the Railway Benevolent Fund requesting that her widow’s pension be terminated. This mixture of propriety and savagery is hard to comprehend, even though a century and more has passed.

The inquest verdict on the five dead was a formality – murder and suicide while temporarily insane. To the eternal credit of the community, Mary Jane Farnham was not separated from her children even in death, and their joint funeral, just seven days after their deaths, attracted widespread attention. 


This remarkable photograph of the funeral is used with permission of its owners, the Fisher Parkinson Trust, a local heritage archive.


These accounts of man’s inhumanity to man are not intended as judgments, or condemnations, but it is difficult to balance out sympathy for Mary Jane Farnham’s grief and the sheer inhumanity she showed when she cut the throats of her four younger children. They all had lives to lead, as we can see by following the progress of Lucilla, the daughter who was lucky enough to be elsewhere on that fateful Saturday night in February 1896. By 1901, she was living in Leeds with her aunt, working as a draper’s assistant, by 1911 she had moved to Bournemouth, and  in 1917 the records tell us that she married Daniel Meaney in Exeter. She died in 1968 at the age 0f 86.

Judgement is for God alone, so I conclude this sad tale with a picture taken in the churchyard at Wimblington. (NB – the ages of the two younger children are incorrectly inscribed)


FOUR MORE ANGELS IN HEAVEN TONIGHT . . . The Wimblington Tragedy (1)


Mary Jane Peacock was born, some registers say, in Upwell in 1855, but the 1861 census says that she was born in Wimblington, and shows her living there with her parents.

The Cock

Screen Shot 2022-01-04 at 20.28.32Her father was John Peacock, who kept The Cock Inn on Eastwood End. In the autumn of 1877, she married Henry Farnham, who worked for The Great Eastern Railway. He became the Stationmaster at Takeley, (left) a station on the Bishops Stortford – Braintree line. The Stationmaster’s house was substantial, and survives to this day, (although the line it once served has long since disappeared. The 1891 census seems to show the Farnhams – still living at Takeley – as a happy and prosperous family which included Lucella (8), Marjorie (6), Sidney (3) and Henrietta (3 months).


Then, in 1893, the family welcomed another child – Dorothy – but within months tragedy struck. Henry Farnham died of “congestion of the lungs’ which sounds like pneumonia. The family were immensely well thought-of in the area. A newspaper reported:

“The family, were always held the very highest respect, and had the sympathy of all classes in the neighbourhood ou the death of the father, which led to their removal from the village. The late Mr. Farnham came to Takeley station-master from his native fen country about years ago, bringing with him his newly wedded bride. He had formerly held similar position on the G.E.R. at Wilburton. Mr. and Mrs. Farnham made many friends and were regarded as exemplary couple. He was a man that nobody could help liking— the most amiable and obliging man ever met with the railway service. He was held much esteem the Earl and Countess Warwick, who used the station frequently while residing at Easton, and H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, when making visits to Easton Lodge, always had cheery word to say to Farnham, and when, after the station master’s death, subscription was set on foot for the widow and family, his Royal Highness gave handsomely towards it, as also did the Earl and Countess of Warwick, Sir Walter Gilbey, and other residents of the neighbourhood.

Mr. and Mrs. Farnham were thrifty people, and despite the expense of bringing up young family they had put away for future use a nice little sum, which with £100 that the widow received from an insurance company upon the death of her husband, and about £80 which was subscribed for them locally, and various benefit club payments, amounted something like £400. The Great Eastern Railway Company allowed her £10 a year for life.”

No-one who attended Henry Farnham’s funeral could have possibly predicted an even greater tragedy which was to follow

In the autumn of 1895, Mary Jane Farnham moved back to Wimblington with her children, and settled in what was described as a comfortable four roomed cottage situated near the station, rented from a Mr Fisher. February 1896 was to witness an event which sent shockwaves, not just across Fenland, but throughout Britain


THE OXFORD STREET ATROCITY . . . Murder most foul in Leamington, 1907 (part two)


SO FAR: On the night of Saturday 3rd March 1907, In a drink-fueled fit of rage, 33 year-old Edwin James Moore has set his mother on fire at their home, 13 Oxford Street. She is pronounced dead at the scene.

While the doctor, police, neighbours and the other members of the Moore family crowded into 13 Oxford Street, what had become of the central character in this drama, Edwin James Moore? With skin hanging from his hands and arms after trying – and failing – to extinguish the flames that killed his mother, he was taken by one of the neighbours to a nearby chemist to have his burns dressed, but it was clear the damage was severe, and he was taken to the Warneford Hospital, was treated further treated for his wounds and kept in overnight.

In the drama of the moment, the cries of young Bertie Moore (“Help! Murder!”) had been temporarily disregarded, and it was assumed that there had been a terrible accident, but when the proverbial dust settled and Police Sergeant Rainbow spoke to the distressed child, it was clear that Fanny Moore’s death was something other than a misfortune. On the Sunday morning, Rainbow visited Edwin Moore in hospital, and put it to him that he had killed his mother. Moore replied, indignantly:

“No, never. I tried to put out the fire and burnt my coat in doing it.”

Despite his denial, Moore was arrested and appeared before Leamington magistrates, where he continued to deny that he had caused his mother’s death. The magistrates were unconvinced, and sent him to be tried at the next Warwick Assizes on a charge of wilful murder. Meanwhile, the Moore family had a final melancholy duty to perform.


The County Assizes were a major civic event. The Great and the Good put on their best finery to celebrate this most emphatic and visible reminder to the common folk that British justice was a solemn affair, and those who fell foul of it were in a very dark place indeed. The local paper reported:

WARWICKSHIRE WINTER ASSIZES. The Warwickshire Winter Assizes were opened at the Shire Hall, Warwick, Friday morning, before Mr. Justice Phillimore. His Lordship arrived in the town on Thursday afternoon, and was met by the High Sheriff (Sir William Jaffray) and the Sheriff’s Chaplain (the Rev. J. Thompson;. GRAND JURY: the following were sworn upon the Grand Jury : Lord Algernon Percy foreman), Mr. H. Lakin, Mr F. E. Muntz, Major F. Hood Gregory, Capt. F. Gerard, Mr. D. S. Greig, Mr. F. Stanger Leathes, Major H. Chesshyre Molyneus, Major Gibsone, Major Armstrong, Mr A. Kay,   Mr R. W. Lindsay, .Mr A. Sabin Smith, Mr. J. Booth, Mr. W. E. Everitt,  G Anson-Yeld, Mr. E. C. Gray-Hatherell, Mr. A. Batchelor, Mr. Savory, Mr. P. S. Danby, Mr. S. Flavel and Captain K. Oliver-Bellasis.” 


Percy, Lakin, Flavel – just three names that still resonate locally today, and several others who, if you Google them, remain clearly at the heart of the British establishment more than a century after they convened to decide the fate of Edwin James Moore. It is pointless to speculate whether a rough former soldier was ever going to get the benefit of the doubt after being accused of murdering the woman who brought him into the world and watched over him during his childhood. The jury system in 1907 was what it was. The trial was very brief, and on Monday 11th March Mr Justice Phillimore had little hesitation when he instructed the jury, who found Moore guilty of murder. Phillimore (left) donned the symbolic black cap, and sent Edwin James Moore back to his gloomy cell in Warwick Prison on Cape Road (below) to await the visit of the hangman.
Screen Shot 2021-12-30 at 19.46.14

In an age when the wheels of justice turned extremely slowly, the downfall of Edwin James Moore was extremely swift. By my reckoning, the interval between that fateful Saturday night and his death  on the morning of 6th April, at the hands of (below, with newspaper report) John Ellis – whose day job was a newsagent and hairdresser in Rochdale – was just thirty-three days. To borrow the obligatory final words of the sentencing judge, “May God have mercy on his soul.”

The End

THE OXFORD STREET ATROCITY . . . Murder most foul in Leamington, 1907 (part one)


13 Oxford StreetNumber 13 Oxford Street is a narrow three-story terraced house used these days, I believe, for student accommodation. It was advertised recently as a six bedroom let, a snip (!) at £3,360 pcm. The Bank of England inflation calculator tells me that in 1891, Edward Moore and his family would have been paying just under £26 a month. He had a large family comprising his wife Fanny Adelaide (36) and children Edwin James Moore (16), Fanny A Moore (14), William A Moore (13), Joseph C Moore (11), Rose Hannah Moore (10), Percy E Moore (8), Leonard J Moore (7) and Ernest F Moore (4).

Edward Moore was a cab-driver – horse drawn in those days, of course – and what became of seven of his eight children is a fascinating investigation for another day, but our story focuses on Edwin James Moore and, to a lesser extent, his youngest brother Ernest Moore, known as Bertie. Born in 1875, Edwin Moore appears to have become the black sheep of the family. Court records tell us that he had served time in prison for stealing potatoes, and between 1903 and 1906 had been convicted of minor offences such as drunkenness, using foul language and assault.


It also seems he had found time to join the army, and had served in India, but in the spring of 1907, this prodigal son was back in Leamington. On the evening of Saturday 3nd March, at about 8.00p, Moore returned to the family home, the worse for drink. The only people in the house were his mother and brother Bertie, by then aged eleven. Mrs Moore has been cooking Edwin’s supper – herrings – in the oven, and she put the plate in front of him on the table. He was far from impressed. Complaining that the fish was “stinking the place out”, he first pushed the plate aside and then flung it to the floor, where it shattered. He kicked the broken pieces of pottery and the remains of his dinner across the kitchen, and in his rage, picked up a nearby oil lamp and hurled it at his mother. She fended off the lamp, and it broke against the wall, bursting into flames. Mrs Moore made to escape, but her son snatched a piece of newspaper from the table, twisted it into a spill, lit it from the burning oil lamp and having seized his mother by the arm thrust it like a sword at her body. Her flanelette blouse immediately caught fire, and she rushed into the scullery to try to put out the flames with tap water.

Young Bertie, understandably terrified by what he had seen, ran to the door and screamed “Help! Murder! He’s setting my mother on fire!” Neighbours Henry Beeby and a Mr Phillips rushed into the house, and saw Edwin Moore flapping at the flames that were devouring his mother’s upper body with his bare hands. Beeby managed to put out the flames and, having been cursed at and struck by Edwin Moore, later testified that the younger man ran from the house. Fanny Adelaide Moore was beyond help, however, and was pronounced dead when medical help arrived in the person of Dr Bernard Rice, who later carried out a post-mortem on the poor woman. His findings were reported in The Leamington Spa Courier.



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