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Colonial Cases


The Times, 27 January 1803
  On Thursday the 13th instant, an inquisition was taken at the Hamlet of East Hide, in the parish of Luton, in the county of Bedford, before WM. WHITWORTH, Gen. Coroner of the said County, on view of the body of George Sibley, a gardner, who had lived many years in the service of a Mrs, Betesworth, and who was accustomed to sleep in a room over the stable.  He had taken leave of the family as usual to go to bed, and, as it is supposed, in going through the stable, he went up to one of the horses, which began kicking, and having got him down in the standing, trampled on him, and mangled his head and face in a most shocking manner; another of the domestics going into the stable a short time after, found him quite dead under the horse. - Verdict - Accidental Death.


Cambrian, 17 October 1818

   The following horrid story is copied from the daily papers, and our belief would have been staggered, but for the evidences it bears of being too true: - Murder of a new-born bastard child by its mother, at Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on Friday, Oct. 2.

   A woman at Dunstable observing a great smoke proceeding from her neighbour's chimney sent her daughter to enquire the cause; a person said she was locked in the room, (where the smoke proceeded from) and could not get out, as she could not find the key of the door; the girl almost immediately informed her mother, and upon procuring assistance broke the door open, and found a female, about 22 years of age, in the act of burning the pieces of flesh of her new born illegitimate child; the entrails were consumed, previous to their breaking the door open.  The skull was lying by the side of the barbarous mother, divided in four parts; the body, arms, and legs were cut in pieces of about three inches, for the purpose of consuming in the flames.  It appeared that the mother beat the infant's brains out against the post of the bedstead, and then proceeded to dissect the body! - A coroner's inquest sat on the 3d inst. and returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against the mother, Hannah Saphel, a native of Dunstable, and who was fully committed to take her trial at the ensuing Bedford Assizes.


The Cambrian, 7 January 1826

   The Manchester mail was overturned at Woburn, on Monday night, owing to the horses becoming restive, and a Mr. Ablett, of London, jumping off, the coach fell upon him, by which he was so much injured, that he died in three hours afterwards.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 22 May 1830

  A great sensation was excited in this town on Saturday and Sunday last by about 40 persons, out of 45, who had eaten pigs' entrails, being taken very ill, and on Sunday last a lad, named Conington, died from the effects produced. - A coroner's inquest was held on the body on Monday, which, after five hours' investigation, adjourned till Thursday, to allow time for the doctors to produce their evidence.  Mr. Bower then gave a scientific account of how the deceased had been affected, and that his death was occasioned by a depression of the brain, caused by an inflammation of the stomach and bowels; that some parts were wrinkled as if arsenic had been taken; bit, on examining the stomach and bowels after death, none had been detected.  It was proved in evidence that the pigs were in a healthful state when killed, and that the parts were fit for food.  Reports are various, and some suspicions are entertained of a lodger, who had let drop some unguarded expressions.  At four o'clock the jury adjourned to Monday next. - Diseased meat has been sold in our markets, which has caused serious indisposition to several families; the jury recommended a meat inspector, and Sir Wm. Long engaged to forward their recommendation to the Common Council. - Bedford Gazette.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 20 April 1833
MURDER. - A murder was committed on Sunday morning last., about half-past nine o'clock, on the body of an aged and decrepid man, named John Adams, who was walking from the Harrow, Kinsbourne-green, to Luton, Bedfordshire, a distance of four miles.  He had proceeded as far as the hill leading into the town, when he was stopped by Thomas Crawley, a laboring man of ruffianly character, who struck him on the head with a bludgeon, which fractured his cheek-bone, and dislodged the right eye from its socket.  He then robbed him of his watch and crossed the field.  The unfortunate sufferer was quickly discovered by some persons who were on the road; they humanely procured a cart, and four men removed him carefully into the town to his brother's house.  J. Crawley, Esq., of Stockmead, s magistrate of the county, was sent for from church, and took his deposition.  Many of the respectable inhabitants were horror-struck at the circumstance; a numerous party instantly mounted, and an active pursuit was commenced, when the inhuman culprit was discovered, and taken at a house in Blackwater-lane, having made a circuit through the roads to that part of the town, to which place he had been traced by as large pair of singular iron tips he wore on his shoes.  After an investigation, which lasted some hours, he was committed to take his trial.  A strong chain of circumstantial facts was elicited from the examination of several witnesses.  It appeared that the prisoner, a native of Luton, was a parishioner of Abbotts Langley, Herts; had been working at Bedmonds, in that parish, but was living at Watford, from which place he was proceeding with his son, a boy about 13 years of age, to attend the Easter Monday fair at Luton.  They followed their prey for some distance, and after cutting one bludgeon from the hedge, they afterwards procured another, which was better suited from its size fort the atrocious purpose.  They were met by a woman, at a short distance from the old man, who, with others, recognised the prisoner.  The deed was perpetrated about 300 yards from within sight of the first houses entering the town. The instrument of this cruelty, a short heavy bludgeon, was discovered, (having been thrown over the hedge) with the knob soaked in blood.  The watch, an old one, scarcely worth 10s., was also found, from the information of the boy, wrapped in a piece of an old handkerchief, and hid under a tree that had been felled in a lane nearly a mile from the spot.  The poor man, by the attention of Mr. Maller, a surgeon, who employed every device that skill and humanity could suggest, rallied sufficiently to identify the murderer; but he gradually sunk under his sufferings, and expired on Tuesday morning.  It seems the deceased was receiving an annuity of 20 Pounds a year, and was in the habit every Sunday morning of going to his brother at Luton, to receive his weekly stipend.  He had been employed the greater part of his days as a labourer in the fields, and had been residing for the last six years with the landlord of the Harrow,  to whose family he was much attached, and was well known in the neighbourhood by those who were in the habit of frequenting the house.  The prisoner has been a person of notoriously bad character and is about 38 years of age.  A coroner's inquest was held on the body, at the Red Lion Inn, Luton, when, after the examination of 30 witnesses, amongst whom, was the prisoner's son, a boy about 12 years of age, and an investigation of seven hours, the jury returned a verdict against Thomas Crawley, who was committed to Bedford gaol, to take his trial for the offence.

Monmouthshire Merlin, 28 September 1833
  FATAL COACH ACCIDENT. - On the 14th inst., the Liverpool Express, on its journey to London, was upset at two o'clock in the afternoon, near Dewstable, Bedfordshire, by which a Mr. Steorn, as corpulent man, list his life; another was dangerously hurt.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 3 October 1840


On Wednesday se'nnight the town of Bedford was thrown into a state of excitement, by a report that a little boy, about eleven years of age, named William Brain, had been poisoned by his own father, who is a gentleman's servant put of place.  Unhappily the rumour was too well founded, the man had been taken into custody, and the body of his child discovered in a barn, situated on the London road.  The circumstance was immediately made known to E. Eagles, Esq., the coroner for the county, who ordered a post mortem examination of the body of the child to be made, and on Thursday morning an inquest was held.  Several witnesses were examined, from whose evidence it appeared that Brain had administered arsenic to the child.  Brain said to one of the witnesses, "I have taken some poison myself, and I gave my child some; I thought of dying together."  He added, that the child had lost his money.  The coroner called upon the prisoner, who was present and heard the evidence, to say anything he might please, and cautioned him that what he said would be taken down in writing and used as evidence, if the verdict of the jury should send him for trial.  The prisoner had no statement to make, and the coroner having briefly recapitulated the evidence, the jury returned a verdict of Wilful murder against the prisoner, James Brain.  He was then committed on the coroner's warrant, to take his trial at the next assizes.  We understand that his wife is living, bur she has been an inmate of the lunatic asylum for some time. - Bedford Mercury.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School