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Colonial Cases


Cambrian, 15 May 1819

   Murder. - Yesterday morning, a man of the name of Wyms, or Wemyss, a miller, was taken up near Puckeridge, in Hertfordshire, on suspicion of murdering his wife, Mary Wyms.  It appears that the accused had quitted London, near where he worked under pretence of bringing his wife to town from Godmanchester, of which place both were natives.  On their return, in Cambridgeshire, they were observed by an old woman, quarrelling in a wheat-field near the road, which induced her to watch them, when, observing the man to quit the field shortly after alone, she repaired to the spot where she had seen them together.  There she saw the feel of a female through the wheat, on removing which, the body, yet warm, lay strangled with a garter.  She gave information to the neighbourhood, and the body was removed for a Coroner's inquest, and several gentlemen set out in pursuit of the murderer, who was remarkable from having a white heat.  He was overtaken near Puckeridge, and admitted the deceased was his wife, but said he knew not how she came by her death, as he had left her behind to come by the coach.  It was ascertained, however, that she had no money about her.


North Wales Gazette (Bangor), 6 November 1823

   A horrid murder has been perpetrated in Hertfordshire, on the body of an unfortunate gentleman names WEARE, of Lyin's Inn, London. - The particulars are far too voluminous for this week's publication. Three dissolute characters have been fully committed, named John Thurtell,  J. Hunt (who once kept the Army and Navy Coffee House)  and ----- Probart.


The Cambrian, 8 November 1823

MOST HORRIBLE MURDER NEAR WATFORD. - On Friday night last, a murder was committed at a place about six miles from the town of Watford, Herts, which, for cold-blooded villainy in the mode of bringing it about, and the diabolical ferocity which accompanied its perpetration, has seldom been equalled.  Half the country of Hertford has been for the last few days in a state of agitation upon the subject, and nothing can exceed the anxiety evinced by all classes for the discovery of the perpetrators.  This, we are happy to say, is now in a fair way to be brought to light, and the circumstances which led to it afford another striking proof that ---

-----------murder, though it hath no tongue,

Doth speak with most miraculous organ.

   It appears that on Friday evening last, a Mr. P. Smith, an inhabitant of Aldenham, was going from the house of a Mr. Nichols, at Batler's Green, to his own residence  in Kemp's row, Aldenham, when he heard the report of a gun or a pistol, he was not certain which.  In a minute or two, he heard great groaning, apparently proceeding from the same spot, which continued for three or four minutes.  He was with his wife at the time.  She was in a donkey chaise, and he was walking behind.  He would have gone to the spot, but that he was afraid to quit his wife, who was dreadfully agitated.  The noises proceeded from a lane leading from Batler's Green to the road running from High-cross to Radlet.  The dame night a man named Freeman, who was on his way to meet his wife, saw a gig, in which were two men, driving towards  the lane, at a very rapid pace; the horse seemingly much out of wind.  He accosted them, observing that they were driving hard, to which one of them made a sleight answer, which Freeman could not distinctly hear.  The gig stopped just as Freemen entered the lane. 

   On the following morning, before it was quite day-light, some labourers went to work in the lane spoken of, called Gill's-hill-lane, and while there, two men came sauntering along, and when they had passed them a short distance, they stepped down, as if scratching for something in the hedge.  The same morning, about eight o'clock, one of the labourers found a pistol and a pen-knife by the side of the bank, the former of which was covered with blood and bits of hair on the outside, and within the barrel were several small particles, which, on being shown to a medical gentleman of the name of Pidcock, at Watford, were declared by him to be a portion of the brains of a human being.

   The whole of the above circumstances being communicated to the Magistrates residing at Watford, Robert Clutterbuck, and John Finch Mason, Esqrs. They immediately commenced an active inquiry; and, in order to have the best assistance, they wrote to Bow-street; and Ruthven, one of the principal officers, with Upton, a very active constable of the establishment, were sent down. .  .  .  . 

   In con sequence of the disclosures made by the prisoner, Hunt, Ruthven and Upton took him to a place which he had described, situate in the parish of Elstree, about seven miles from Watford, and there, a pond which he pointed out, was dragged, and in a few moments the dead body of a man was found.  The legs, which were quite naked, were tied together with some new caviar, and the upper part of the body was concealed in a sack tied on.  Affixed to the sack was a handkerchief containing stones.  The body was conveyed precisely in this state to the Artichoke, a public-house.

   On Friday the Coroner's jury assembled at the Artichoke, at Elstree, and proceeded to view the body in a room up stairs.  It presented a spectacle truly horrible.  There was a wound on the right cheek, evidently occasioned by a pistol-ball, but which had been repelled by the cheek bone.  On the left temple was a wound, or rather a hole, which went nearly through the head.  It appeared to have been caused by some blunt instrument being driven with great force into the head.  The aperture corresponded in size with the barrel of the pistol, in which brains were found.  The instrument penetrated both hemispheres of the brain./  The throat of the unfortunate man was cut, and the left jugular vein was severed. .  .  .  . 

   The Coroner addressed the jury at some length, and they returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against John Thurtell as a principal, and against Hunt and Propert as accessaries before the fact.  The prisoners were conveyed to Hertford gaol. [detailed statements and biographies of the accused follow.]


Carmarthen Journal, 27 June 1828

   On Saturday an inquest was held on the body of Charles Pratt, Esq., a young gentleman who only attained his majority on the 23d of last month, and who then entered into the possession of £200,000 in funded and $400,000 in landed property. The following evidence was adduced: Thomas Cay, Esq. of Barsdale, in Suffolk - On Wednesday May 28, he accompanied the deceased and Mr. Stephenson from the stables to the latter in Edgeware road in a phaeton to St. Alban's, and thence to a place called Noman's Land.  They went to see a fight.  They were there about an hour and a half.  On leaving the ground they returned to St. Alban's and afterwards proceeded to town.  Having a steep hill called Holywell Hill to descend, on the road, orders were given to the postillion to go at a slow pace; he drove forward, notwithstanding, at a very rapid rate.  The deceased called out to him to drive moderately.  He still however continued to drive tremendously, and on coming to the bottom of the hill, and while passing a gate, the phaeton was upset and they were all thrown out.  The deceased fell on his head, and received a dangerous contusion over his left eye.  He got on his legs and almost immediately fell again from weakness.  By this time Mr. Burgess, a medical gentle leman, came to their assistance, and on the deceased being removed to a neighbouring inn, he sponged his head, and expressed a desire to bleed him; but this was objected to, saying that he was most anxious to reach home with as little delay as possible. He was subsequently removed to his own residence. The certificates of Sir A. Cooper and Mr. Holt were then handed in, the purport of which was, that the deceased died in consequence of violent concussion on the head.  The Jury consulted a short time, and returned a verdict of Accidental Death.  The deceased was one of the backers of Baldwin in his recent fight with O'Neill.


The Cambrian, 30 August 1828


Suddenly, Sir Henry Torrens: whilst taking an airing on horseback, on Saturday morning, near Welwyn, Herts., accompanied by Lady Torrens, and her two daughters, and some gentlemen, he was seized with apoplexy, and two hours after the attack, expired.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 6 March 1830

   The bodies of two females, that of Mrs. Mary Worrill, a widow, residing at Hoddesdon, 72 years of age; and that of her daughter, Mrs. Mary Hatton, Kimpton, were on Tuesday last discovered in the New River, the former at Cheshunt, the latter near Broxborne church.  An inquest as held on the bodies on Wednesday, and a verdict of Found Drowned was recorded in both cases.  Nothing was elicited to elucidate the dreadful tragedy, and it was genially supposed that they had both agreed to commit suicide, in consequence of their domestic  troubles, but there were circumstances to induce [he belief] that the daughter had first drowned her mother, and afterwards herself.  Since the inquest was held, two scraps of paper have been found in the house, in the daughter's handwriting, which confirm the dreadful impression that she did drown her mother and herself; and from the position of the amps of the daughter when found, it would seem that she pushed against her mother and went into the water with her.  The body of the mother floated nearly seven miles, and hat of the daughter two.


Carmarthen Journal, 12 March 1830

   James Franklin was tried at Hertford on Saturday, for the murder of his wife, with whom he had lived for twenty years, and by whom he had eight children.  It appeared that Mrs. Franklin had been tipsy, and had quarreled with her husband; she struck him; h returned the blow; she fell, and he trampled on her - by accident as he said, and as the witnesses testified; she died almost immediately afterwards.  The trial excited great interest.  The chief witnesses were two of he prisoner's daughters and his son-in-law.  While the daughters were under examination, Mr. Justice Bayley wept bitterly, and there was scarcely a dry eye in the Court.  The Jury found the prisoner not guilty. [Monmouthshire Merlin, 13 March, for an account of the trial.]


Monmouthshire Merlin, 28 January 1832
  A death, occasioned by a rather curious circumstance, took place on Monday se'nnight, at Hoddenden, Herts.  Mrs. Batty had been for many years hostess of the Black Lion, at that village, which she had rendered famous for its ale, and her own beauty, having been reputed the handsomest landlady on the road.  On the previous Saturday, when in the act of correcting a servant, she overbalanced herself; in the fall, one of her pair of long ear-rings broke, and a fragment cut open the jugular vein, and she died in consequence on the Monday evening.

Monmouthshire Merlin, 28 January 1832
  Mr. William Millar, formerly of the Bell, Braintree, and late of Much Hadham, Herts, put an end to his existence on the night of the 10th instant, by cutting his throat.  The deceased was on one side of the bed and his wife on the other, when the latter hearing a gurgling noise, turned round and saw the cause; she immediately ran for assistance, but it arrived too late; he survived but a short time.

Monmouthshire Merlin, 10 March 1832
MURDER. - On the 21st of Feb., William Wrigh, the son of a labourer, residing at Bayford, four miles from Hertford, went with his master, Mr. Smith, of Brickenden, to truss hay in the King;s Meads, Hertford.  The boy and his master dined together at the Red Cow public-house, at Hertford, and left at about a quarter past six o'clock.  The evening was foggy; they walked together as far as Brickenden.  There the boy parted from his master, and took the pathway across the fields, leading to the house of his father at Bayford, and was never after seen alive again.  On Thursday last, a labourer, named Thomas Seering, and a bird-catcher, named Plumer, both residing at Enfield, were out together.  They drank together at the Goffsd Oak public house, Cheshunt Common.  They left there at half-past eleven o'clock in the morning, and going towards the village of Newgate-street, turned out of the road into a field, across a ploughed ield.  On walking into which, the one said to the other, "There's an old sack; go and see what it is."  They both went towards what they supposed to be a sack, and found that it was not a sack, but the corpse of William Wright, who had so long been missing.  His clothes were wet, and a cap was lying near the body, which was afterwards identified to have been his.  The body was conveyed to the Goff's Oak, and on Friday an inquest was held.  Two medical gentlemen, Mr. Smith and Mr. Saunders, both of Cheshunt, stated, that upon an examination they found several marks under the chin, either occasioned by a cord r the pressure of hands.  There was a fracture on the skull; the skin on the shin bones was broken, and the blood had evidently flowed from the nostrils; there was also a wound on the cheek.  The gentlemen agreed that the body had been immersed in water; and that suffocation, together with the injuries on the body, had caused death.  The two individuals named underwent a severe examination, but nothing was elicited tending to criminate them.  The jury found a verdict of Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown.


Cambrian, 8 June 1833
  On Friday last a prize fight took place, between Simon Byrne, the Champion of Ireland, and Deaf Burke, at No Man's Land, in Hertfordshire, and which was protracted to the extraordinary period of three hours and six minutes, during which 90 rounds were fought.  Burke was the victor, and the unfortunate Simon Byrne was conveyed in a state of complete exhaustion to the Woolpack Inn, St. Alban's, where he received every possible attention.  Medical assistance was immediately called in; but it was all in vain, for at twenty minutes past eight on Sunday evening the unfortunate man breathed his last, a fate, as appears by the evidence before the Coroner, evidently expedited by his wounded feelings, for it was manifest to every body about him that his mental sufferings were greater than those of his body.  The unfortunate man was, we understand, about 32 years of age, and has left a wife and four children, now in Dublin, to deplore his loss.  At half-past ten o'clock on Monday morning a jury of the inhabitants of St. Alban's, was assembled at the Town Hall, by Thomas Ward Blagg, Esq., the Coroner.  After hearing evidence, the jury retired, and after an absence of two hours, at half-past eight o'clock at night, returned a verdict of Manslaughter against Deaf Burke, principal in the first degree, and Thomas Spering, James Ward, Richard Curtis, and Thomas Gaynor, as seconds; also against the umpire or umpires, referee or referees, and the time keeper, all then and there aiding and abetting, whose names are unknown to us, as principals in the second degree,  This finding was accompanied by the following commentary: "In returning this verdict the jury feel themselves called upon to express their deep regret that the neighbouring Magistrates did not interfere to prevent a breach of the peace, so notoriously expected to take place within their jurisdiction."
  We understand that considerable discussion arose among the jury as to whether they should not return a verdict of wilful murder. Noting can exceed the excitement it has produced amongst the Fancy.  The news was brought to town on Monday night by a Noble Lord, by express, and the moment the decision of the jury was known, a number of departures took place, and all the sporting houses were deserted by their frequenters.  One gentleman of high rank, a well-known frequenter of Spring's, left town on Tuesday morning for Dover, accompanied by another character equally notorious.  

Glamorgan Gazette, 23 November 1833
FATAL ACCIDENT. - A shooting party, while out on Wednesday last, near the town of St. Alban's, met with a fatal catastrophe.  Mr. William Brown, a linen-draper of that place, and a Mr. Beaumont, two of the party, were in the act of getting over a gate and when on the top, (both being there at the same instant,) the gate having been taken off the hinges and placed against the post, fell down, and falling with Brown and Beaumont upon it, the trigger of the gun in the hand of Beaumont was forced back, and the contents discharged through the body of Brown, entering just below the heart.  He exclaimed, "I am shot," and expired.


Glamorgan Gazette, 6 June 1840

MURDER AT RICKMANSWORTH. - This hitherto peaceful village, which a short time since was the scene of an attempted murder and suicide, has again been thrown in to the greatest excitement by the following tragically event:- A young girl, aged only seventeen, named Eliza Pope, in the service of Messrs. Johnson and Son, linen drapers, had retired to rest on Sunday evening with her fellow servant.  In the course of the night he companion was alarmed by hearing the cries of an infant, and got up to ascertain the cause.  Finding Pope in much distress and pain, she accused her of delivering herself, which she stoutly denied.  The other servant then alarmed the family, who immediately sent for medical assistance.  On the arrival of the surgeon he questioned the girl, but she still denied having recently given birth to a child.  An examination of the room was then made, when a new born female infant was found between the bed and the mattress, in a dreadful mangled state, having been violently pinched in the throat, and the jaw-bone broken.  Pope, who is going on well, refuses to communicate with any one, and exhibits a very sullen disposition.  Neither her nor her fellow servant had observed that she was enceinte.  Tuesday an inquest was held on the body at the Bell Inn, Rickmansworth, and the foregoing facts having been sworn to, the jury immediately found a verdict of wilful murder against Eliza Pope, and the coroner issued his warrant, committing her to Hertford gaol.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 12 December 1840

A BROKEN HEART. - An inquest was held at the Clarendon Inn, Ware, on the body of Richard Tilbridge Cass, aged 32, who died under very distressing circumstances.  The deceased had for some years carried on the business of a grocer, at Ware, but lately becoming involved, a fiat was issued against him, and he was declared a bankrupt.  He had for some months been in a very ill state of health, but the fiat had such an effect upon his spirits that he took to his room, and gradually getting worse, finally sunk.  His medical attendant, Mr. Reilly, surgeon, of Ware, who had been in attendance upon him several weeks previously to the fiat being issued, found that his nerves had received  such a shock by that proceeding, that he prepared the deceased's friends for the worst; he attempted to rally him, but without effect, and the poor fellow died laterally of a broken heart, leaving a young widow with for small children unprovided for - the eldest not yet seven years old, and the mother near her confinement with the fifth child. - Hertford Reformer.

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