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Colonial Cases


Westminster Journal, 6 July 1765
  We hear from Wisbech, in the Isle of Ely, that a gentleman, who served the office of High Sheriff of a certain county two or three years since, died on Monday, the 20th instant, put a period to his life by an act of suicide; the Coroner's Inquest brought in their verdict, Felo de se.  His remains were conveyed in the dead of the night to a proper place of interment.

The Observer, 1 March 1800

CAMBRIDGE. - Elizabeth Harwood has been committed to our gaol, charged on the Coroner's Inquest with the murder of her new-born female infant, the body of which was found in the river near Bassingbourne, on Saturday.


The Observer, 9 January 1803

   Mr. Russell, of Cambridge, died on Saturday of a mortification, occasioned by a kick he received from a horse while hunting a few days before.


Carmarthen Journal, 14 September 1811

   An inquest was lately held by Mr. Atkinson, Coroner, of Peterborough, on the body of a fine girl, aged 18, of the name of Sarah Smith, grand-daughter of Mr. H. Smith, of Waldron Hall, near Market Deeping, with whom she resided, who, on the day preceding (after an unsuccessful attempt to drown herself), nearly severed her head from her body with a razor.  The Jury brought bin a verdict of Lunacy, notwithstanding which some demur arose on taking her to Peakirk on Sunday to be buried, and it was not until the Clergyman received a note from the Coroner that she was suffered to be interred there. - We understand a love affair was the cause of the melancholy end of this unfortunate girl.


Cambrian, 1 June 1816

   According to accounts received this morning, everything remains in a tranquil state in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.  The Coroner's inquest on the rioters killed at Littleport, brought in a verdict if Justifiable Homicide.


The Observer, 1 January 1821

   A most fatal and melancholy event took place on the 25th inst. at Wimpole, the seat of the Earl of Hardwicke.  Lord Pollington, Mr. Cocks, and Mr. H. Lindsay, with his son, being in the woods shooting, the gun of Mr. Lindsay's son went off accidentally, by which unfortunate circumstance, a young man of the name of Albio, acting as gamekeeper lost his life, the contents if the gun having entered his head, which produced instant death.  The verdict of the Coroner's Inquest was Accidental Death.


Cambrian, 24 August 1822

VORACITY OF RATS. - On the 6th, an inquisition was held at the Horse and Groom public-house, King street, Cambridge, on the body of Mrs. Elizabeth Headley, an infirm old woman, who was found dead in her bed the preceding evening.  One of the witnesses, Mrs. Mary Bennet, said, on the evening of her death, she ate her supper as usual; witness put her to bed about half -past eight o'clock; after putting her to bed, witness went up stairs and put on her bonnet, and went to her mother's to supper; it was then nine; Mr. and Mrs. Bell were then in the house.  Witness returned at ten, obtained a candle, and then went into Mrs. H.'s room; witness, upon going out, had left the door of Mrs. H.'s room open; saw nothing amiss; deceased seemed quite comfortable; she was lying on her side as when she had left her.  Witness then went into Mr. and Mrs. Bell's room; she staid in their room about twenty minutes; she then returned to deceased's room to bid her good night, and found four rats on her face, and saw some blood; witness was much frightened, and ran out of the room instantly, and gave the alarm; it was a dreadful sight, and she could never banish it from her mind.  The rats, on seeing witness, ran away.  Mrs. Bell came directly, and went into the room.  She had not left it above a minute, and the rats were again on her face and forehead, but again made their escape.  Witness thought she saw the eye of the deceased move when she went into the room, and saw the rats, but is not quite certain.  Mr. H. Headley, a surgeon, was sent for about twelve o'clock the preceding night to deceased; found her with five wounds, one of the forehead, one on the left wing of the nose, three on the lower jaw; and she was quite dead.  Although had she been alive, he could not say what would have been the consequence; but the wounds inflicted by the rats were only muscular ones, and could not have inflicted instant death.  Witness had not attended deceased of late years; but when he formerly attended her, she was afflicted with an affection in the head; she had a fit when in Market-street; had always an opinion that she would go off suddenly, from the nature of her complaints.  The Jury here expressed themselves satisfied with the evidence, and immediately returned - Died by the Visitation of God.


North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 20 February 1823

ATROCIOUS MURDER. - The daring and desperate conduct of these nightly marauders fill the pages of our provincial newspapers.  We have to record the particulars of a most cold blooded murder, committed by one of a gang of this description, upon his companion, as detailed in the proceedings of an inquest taken on Saturday last, at Littleport, in the Isle of Ely, before Mr. H. R. Evans, one of the coroners of that franchise, on the body of John Landen, who had been discovered on the morning of that day buried in a plantation on a farm in that parish, belonging to Jonathan Page, Esq. - It appeared in evidence that the deceased, who is a labourer residing near Brandon Creek Bridge, in the parish of Hilgay, about two miles from the farm, had for some time past been the associate of one John Rolfe, a notorious poacher in that neighbourhood; and that on Wednesday the 29th ult. Rolfe was at the house of the deceased, where he staid up until near midnight, when he called the deceased up to go to a plantation on Mr. Page's farm, in search of game.  The wife of the deceased, who was afraid that Rolfe would lead her husband into mischief, endeavoured to dissuade him from going, but he quieted her apprehensions by assuring her he would be back before she was up.  Rolfe took with him a large bludgeon, which he said he must take for if he met any body upon the road to interrupt him, he would knock him down dead on the spot.  The deceased had about him, when he left home, £3 in money, and a silver watch.  The poor woman heard no more of her husband until the morning of the following Friday, on which day the nephew of Mr. page, with a young gentleman his companion, happened to be disporting upon the farm, and two of the servants went into the plantation to beat for game, and one of the latter observing that the ground had been recently turned over, and suspecting that some poachers had been burying game there, they opened the place, when to their astonishment  they discovered the murdered body of the deceased, buried about a for deep, and huddled together.  The money, the shoes, and the watch of the deceased were missing.

   His skull was fractured, and the surgeons who examined it, stated it to be their decided opinion that he had been knocked on the head by a bludgeon, or some weapon of that nature.  The Jury found a verdict of - Wilful Murder against John Rolfe, who has since been committed to Ely gaol, to take his trial for the crime.  Upon the prisoner being apprehended at his brother's house, where he was concealed, the shoes of the deceased were delivered up by the prisoner's brother to the constable, whom he told, he had seen the prisoner pull them off the night before.  Rolfe has since confessed his guilt.  At first he accused two other persons of the names of Pickett and Nicholls, as his accomplices in the murder.  They were in consequence apprehended, and underwent examinations before Sir H. B. Dudley, but after having been confronted with Rolfe, although he for a long time persisted in his story, he at length confessed that the accusation was entirely a fabrication and that he alone committed the murder.  Pickett and Nicholls were of course discharged. - The matter is, however, still further investigating by Sir H. B. Dudsley, and from the well-known spirited and active exertions of that highly respectable magistrate, there is no doubt of the whole transaction being fully brought to light. - Cambridge Paper.


North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 2 September 1824

THREE PERSONS POISONED BY EATING WHAT THEY SUPPOSED TO BE MUSHROOMS. - On Thursday the 18th inst. A man and his wife, named Joseph and Margaretta Wilson, arrived in March in the Isle of Ely, from St. Ives, and applied to the overseer of the poor for money to pay their lodgings, who gave them 6d. for that purpose.  They went to a lodging house, kept by a person name William Ginby, and asked for a saucepan, to stew some mushrooms for their supper.  Whilst in the act of preparing them, the woman of the house observed, "they were not mushrooms, but what she and her neighbours called toad-stools's." The female, who was a French woman, said, "they were champignons, and what were commonly eaten in her country;" and prepared them for super accordingly.  After stewing, they were put into a dish, and Wilson and his wife began to eat of them.  The poor creatures ate near two quarts of the stew and went to bed about nine o'clock.  After being in bed about three hours, they were seized with a violent retching, which continued until seven o'clock the next morning, when they were first seen by Mrs. Ginby, in excruciating agony and dreadfully exhausted.  A surgeon was sent for, who, upon learning what they had eaten the night before, requested to see the remainder, and then had no doubt they were suffering under the effects produced by their eating poisonous fungi.  All necessary means were used for their recovery, but they languished until Saturday afternoon, when both expired within two hours of each other.  The same day inquisitions were taken on view of the bodies, when the Jury returned a verdict that the deceased "died of cholera morbus, occasioned by poisonous fungi, which they mistook for mushrooms."

   Upon the Coroner and Jury, attended by the surgeon, going to view the bodies of the deceased persons, their attention was drawn to Rebecca Ginby, the lodging-house keeper's daughter, who lay upon the bed in an alarming and distressed situation.  She also had partaken of the stew, but did not shew any symptoms of disease until Saturday, and the next morning she expired in great agony. - An inquest was held on the body the same day, and a verdict returned similar to the above.


The Cambrian, 23 October 1824


[Mr. Mansel, Manager of the York, Hull, and Doncaster Theatres, being on his way to London to visit his sister, was suddenly taken ill at Wansford, on Friday night, where he was put to bed, and at five the next morning he died of apoplexy. - The deceased was nearly allied to several respectable individuals in the Principality.]


North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 10 March 1825

MELANCHOLY OCCURRENCE. - Cambridge, Feb 27. - On Friday night, about half-past eight o'clock, Mr. C., of Leicester, arrived at the Sun Hotel, in this town.  When alighting from his gig, he requested his luggage to be carried into the Commercial Room.  The horse being taken into the stable, a boy assisted the Boots to unload.  On giving the cushions out, something fell on the foot-board, which the boy took up, and discovered it to be a pistol; while in the act of carrying it to the Boots it went off, and shocking to relate the bar-maid, Mary Drane, an amiable young woman, in her 21st year, received the contents which entered her right hip and passed through her body.  Mr. Oakes, Mr. Abbott and their assistants, attended within five minutes, but the wound was mortal.  She died about half -past twelve last night.  A Coroner's Inquest was held on the body this morning, when a verdict of Accidental Death was recorded, with a deodand of 20s. on the pistol.  Mr. C. received an admonition from the Foreman of the Jury, who, with his brother Jurors, lamented the carelessness of Mr. C. in leaving a loaded pistol in such a manner.


The Cambrian, 14 July 1827

HORRID MURDER. - A more atrocious instance of human butchery has seldom been recorded in modern times than that which took place in the neighbourhood of Huntingdon, on Tuesday morning.  The unfortunate victim was the Rev. J. Joshua Waterhouse, B.D. residing at the rectory of Little Stokely, about fifty-five years of age.  Being of rather an avaricious disposition and eccentric habits, only one room in his house was furnished - the kitchen, in which he at all times resided.  Although he farmed the land attached to the living, he kept no servants in the house, and a charwoman was in the habit of going every morning to make his bed, and perform other little duties. - On Tuesday morning he arose about five o'clock, and was occupied with his farming and other business until breakfast time, when the charwoman left; and after giving some instructions to several of his labouring men, about ten o'clock, he remained alone in the house.  Every circumstance leads to the probable supposition that the villain rapped at the door, and immediately upon its being opened, attempted to knock him down with the instrument he held in his hand, supposed to have been a hatchet or bill-hook, a severe cut being inflected on the face.  Finding himself thus assailed, he naturally attempted to defend his head and face by holding up his arms, which the inhuman monster literally hacked to pieces; his hands were also dreadfully cut, as though he had vainly attempted in the straggler to wrest the weapon from the grasp of the assailant.  The ruffian completed his desperate purpose by inflicting several wounds on his breast, and cutting his throat nearly from ear to ear.  In this state he threw the murdered corpse into a mash-tub, the head partly hanging over on one side, and the legs on the other.  He was found within twenty minutes after the crime had been done, and almost before life was extinct, by some of his labouring boys, who came in as usual, about eleven o'clock., for their morning's allowance of tea.

   An alarm was immediately given, surgical aid in vain procured, and every exertion set on foot to discover the murderer, unhappily without effect.  In the evening an inquest was held, but no evidence was advanced calculated to fix the crime upon any party, and the inquest was adjourned till Wednesday evening.

   As plunder does not appear to have been the murderer's object, none of the drawers being ransacked, it is supposed revenge for some real or imaginary grievance was the stimulus to the murderous transaction; and the deceased gentleman's unpopular disposition amongst the villagers is not likely to have provoked it.  - Ten o'clock, Wednesday might - a verdict of wilful murder is just returned by the Jury, and one person is already in custody upon suspicion.  [Biography.]


The Cambrian, 4 August 1827

   On Tuesday last, Joshua Slade was tried at Huntingdon, for the murder of Mr. Waterhouse, and a verdict of Guilty found against him by the Jury, in direct opposition to the charge of the presiding Judge.


The Cambrian,  11 August 1827

SLADE, THE MURDERER. - Immediately after sentence of death was passed on Slade, he was conducted back to his cell, where he was attended by the chaplain, and preparations were made for carrying the dreadful sentence of the law into effect.  However, early on Thursday morning, a respite to the 1st Sept. was received at Huntingdon, from the Lord Chief Baron, and the execution of the culprit was accordingly stayed.  In the afternoon -, Joshua Slade expressed a wish to see the Chaplain of Huntingdon gaol, to whom he made a full and voluntary confession to the following effect:

   On the morning of the 3d July, I went direct from the Swan public-house at about a quarter past two, and got over the garden wall.  I saw Peter Sabey at his door.  I went to a straw wall near the Dove-house, and laid there until five o'clock in the morning.  I was rather fresh (tipsy).  I had a sword hid in the straw wall.  I had it hid for about four or five weeks; I stole it from the Horse-and-jockey public-house, Huntingdon.  I drew the sword out and left the scabbard in the wall.  I put the sword down my trowsers, by my thigh.  I went into the garden and saw Mr. Waterhouse in the yard, but he did not see me. The garden  door was not fastened, I opened the door, went up stairs, and hid myself  in the wool-chamber, for the purpose of plundering the house of any thing that I could..  I was asleep from five to ten amongst the wool.  Mr. Waterhouse coming up stairs heard me breathe.  I dare say I was snoring.  Upon this Mr. W. came up to the chamber and called out, "Hilloa, who are you - what do you here?"  I then got up, drew the sword, and laid hold of him.  Waterhouse tried to go in at the chamber door, where his blunderbuss was, but I would not let him.  I led him down stairs, Mr. W. trying all the way to get up stairs.  No conversation  passed in coming down. 

   When we got down stairs, I said, "Now, Mr. Waterhouse, if you'll forgive me, I'll forgive you; and if not, this is your death warrant, " holding up the sword.  He said, "No, I will suffer any thing first." - When I let him go, he went to run by me to the kitchen door to call somebody.  Just as Mr. W. was turning into the kitchen, I struck him a back-handed blow, the great cut across the jaw, and he reeled back, caught himself against the tub, and fell baclwards into it.  He guarded his head with his hands.  He laid hold of the sword twice, upon which I drew it out of his hands, and cut his fingers.  I also stabbed him in the throat, which was the last blow. Mr. Waterhouse then said, "I am done," and died immediately. [Details of conversations and actions with a Heddings, a previous accomplice.]


Carmarthen Journal, 4 April 1828

   On Tuesday morning last between 10 and 11 o'clock, a post-chaise from Chesterford was driven into the yard of the Rutland Arms Inn, Newmarket.  The door was immediately opened, but no one alighting, the waiter looked in, and was horror-struck at seeing the body of a man weltering in blood.  Upon being removed into a room, his throat was found to have been cut in the most shocking manner.  In his left hand was a penknife, with which, no doubt, the fatal wound had been inflicted.  He was an entire stranger, apparently about thirty years of age, of middling stature, and handsome features.  His dress was plain, and he had no luggage, not even a change of linen.  Some booked of accounts and papers were found from which and the clothes upon his person, there is every reason to infer that the name of the unfortunate man is James Barron, that the residence of himself or his friends is at Timperley, in Cheshire, and that he was related to the late Mr. Edward Barron, of Manchester, attorney-at-law.  In his pocket was a purse containing £10 Bank of England note and one shilling.  The pi=postillion who rode, stated that the deceased came alone that morning to the Crown, at Chesterford, in a post-chaise to Newmarket, a distance of sixteen miles.  The postillion did not observe him during the journey, and was therefore unconscious of what had happened.  The deceased was travelling, it is supposed to Bury St. Edmund's.  Nothing further has yet transpired.  An inquest was held on the same evening at the Rutland Arms, before W. Parr Isaacson, coroner for the county of Cambridge, and a most respectable jury, and after viewing the body, which presented a most appalling spectacle, the inquest was adjourned, in order to give time for the attendance of the witnesses from Chesterford, and Bishop Stortford, where the deceased slept on the previous nigh, & the communication with his supposed friends. - Cambridge Chronicle.


Carmarthen Journal, 4 December 1829

   On Wednesday evening lat, a serious accident occurred at the house of Mr. J. Case, in Trinity-street, the porter to Caius College.  A step-daughter of Mr. Case's, aged about five years, was left playing in a lower room, when it is supposed she was playing near the fire, which communicated to her clothes, and she was instantly enveloped in flames.  The cries of the little sufferer immediately brought several persons to her assistance, by whom she was immersed in the snow, and the fire extinguished; she was, however, so severely injured as to occasion her death.  The child had not been left in the room more than three manures. - Cambridge Journal.


Carmarthen Journal, 11 December 1829

   Wm. Fuller, head waiter at the Hoop Inn, Cambridge, met his death on Saturday, in the following extraordinary manner; he was in the act of drawing the cork from a bottle of wine, when the bottle broke, and a fragment of glass entering his left thigh, divided the femoral artery, the immense flow of blood from which caused his death almost instantaneously. [Monmouthshire Merlin, 12 December:   .  .   M. Chevell, the coroner, was sent for to hold an inquest at the Hoop Inn, at Cambridge, on the body of Mr. Wm. Fuller, the head waiter there (and who had filled that situation for a period of about 29 years),  .  .  .   The jury returned their verdict - That he died in consequence of a wound in the thigh from the accidental breaking of the neck of a bottle in drawing a cork. .  .  . 


Monmouthshire Merlin, 13 March 1830


AYLESBURY. - Benjamin Tyler and Solomon Sewell were tried on Friday last for the murder if William Eden, at Haddingham, on the 25th day of October last.  The indictment charged Tyler as the principal, in having struck the deceased on the side with a road hammer, of which wound he died; and the latter, as an accessory to the fact.  The evidence was entirely circumstantial, a great part of it consisting of statements made by the prisoners in conversations between themselves and others, which had been overheard, but altogether forming a chain so complete, that it could not be controverter.

   Shortly before eleven o'clock at night the jury found a verdict of Guilty against both the prisoners, and the judge pronounced the awful sentence of death, ordering them for execution on Monday.

   While the judge was summing up the evidence, Sewell stood in the most insolent manner with his back onwards him, and looking up to an acquaintance in the gallery, pointed to his neck, indicating that he would be hanged.


Cambrian, 18 April 1840

DISTESSING CASE OF DROWNING. - On Saturday last Mr. Temple Freere, who had been keeping his terms at Trinity College, Cambridge, was drowned in the river adjoining the master's garden, under circumstances of a very painful nature.  From the evidence given on the inquest, it appeared, that the deceased with Mr. Henderson, another student, had agreed to leave the College for a stroll into the country about midnight on Saturday; in getting over the wall of the garden Mr. Henderson missed his footing and was precipitated into the river, when Mr. Freere, who had safely landed, threw off his coat and plunged into the water to assist his friend.  Whilst engaged in this humane attempt he was seen suddenly to sink, and before assistance could be procured life was extu8nct.  It is supposed the unfortunate gentleman was seized with cramp, and being entangled amongst the weeds was unable to extricate himself.  Mr. Henderson remained in the water for nearly a quarter of an hour afterwards, when he was with difficulty rescued.  A verdict of "accidentally drowned" was returned by the Jury, after the above facts had been elicited on the holding of the Coroner's inquest. - Mr. Freere was a young man of high promise, greatly respected in the University, and was the son of the Rev. Mr. Freere, of Roydon.

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