Skip to Content

Colonial Cases


The Observer, 29 December 1793


On Monday Ann Gosling, wife of William Gosling, of Stoke by Nayland, was committed to our gaol, charged on the inquest of James Ward, gent. Coroner for that liberty, with the wilful murder of John Sage, an infant two years old (her grandson) on Friday last, the 20th inst. by cutting his throat with a razor, which she effected whilst the child laid on the bed, and continued therewith till it expired; after which she laid it forth, and made no attempt to conceal what she had done, but on the contrary, immediately on her husband's return home, acquainted him with the horrid fact.


The Observer, 18 March 1798

   Mary Lanceter, of Earl Soham, in Suffolk, was on Thursday committed to Ipswich gaol, charged, on the verdict of a Coroner's Inquest, with the murder of her husband.


The Observer, 1 March 1800

IPSWICH. - Some days since a poor woman at Ardleigh, named Davis, went to a neighbouring shop to make a purchase, imprudently leaving her two children in a room in which there was a fire; on her return she found the youngest, a little girl about 3 years old, so dreadfully burnt, that she survived but a few hours after.

   About the same time a similar circumstances occasioned the death of a child at Bradfield.


The Observer, 1 August 1802

   The servant of Col. Shute some days since fell from the roof of the Bury coach in Sudbury, and was killed.

   Wm. Cooper, of Alderton in Suffolk, was some days since committed to Ipswich Gaol charged with the murder of Jemima his wife.


The Observer, 15 May 1803

   Monday a daughter of Mr. Garwood, coachmaker, at Bury, Suffolk, 14 years if age, was killed by a part of the Abbey wall falling upon her.


Carmarthen Journal, 23 November 1811

An Awful Visitation. - On Thursday se'nnight a poor man, named Moody, who conveys turf from the fens to Milden-hall, in Suffolk, fell from his boat into the river, and was downed before any assistance would reach him.  On the body being conveyed to a public-house hear the water-side, in Mildenhall, the landlord of which was standing at the door, he peremptorily refused, with many horrid oaths, to receive the body into the house; but scarcely had he uttered them, when he was seized with a paralytic stroke, that deprived him of speech and the use of one side, and in that state he still continues.


Cambrian, 1 December 1821

   Suicide. - A melancholy circumstance took place at the Greyhound inn, Newmarket, last week.  Two young gentlemen, E. M. Esq. and his brother, arrived at the above house, from Cambridge, and spent the day there.  Between seven and eight o'clock in the evening they prepared to return; the waiter brought in their box-coats, when the younger gentlemen desired him to be careful how he handled them, as they contained loaded pistols.  The man put the coats down, and retired, when the gentleman who had given the caution took the pistols from the pockets of the coats and laid them on the table.  Mr. M. then requested his brother to see if the gig was ready; he had scarcely retired for the purpose, when he was alarmed by the report of fire arms.  He instantly ran back, and on entering the room found his unfortunate brother stretched on the floor, a corpse.  On examining the body it was found that the ball had entered the cheek, and passed into the head.  Both candles were extinguished.  An Inquest was held on the body, and Verdict of "Insanity" was returned.  The unfortunate gentleman appeared about twenty years of age, was highly respected, and allied to a family of the first respectability and property.  The cause of the melancholy catastrophe is said to have been a love affair.


Carmarthen Journal, 2 May 1828

DREADFUL MURDER. - On Monday evening,  constable from Ayres, made an application at Lambeth-street police office, stating that q strong suspicion was entertained that a most diabolical murder had been committed in Suffolk, by a person's son named W. Corder.  An inquest had been held that day on the body of the unfortunate victim which stands adjourned till Friday.  In consequence of this communication, James Lee, an officer of this establishment, in company with Ayres, apprehended Corder; and a few minutes before the office closed this veering (Tuesday), he was brought before Matthew Wyatt, Esq. the sitting magistrate.  From the statement on oath of the constable Ayres, it appeared that the murdered woman, whose name was Maria Martin, aged 26, was decoyed in male attire, on the 18th of May last, from the house of her parents at Polstead in Suffolk, by the prisoner, who desired her to meet him at his Red barn, when he promised her that they should go to Ipswich, and be married by license. - The unsuspecting girl accordingly attended at the appointed place. From that day to this the girl has not been heard of.

   Since that time, however, many letters have been receiver by the parents of the unhappy girl from the prisoner, in which he uniformly stated that he and their child were living most happy in the married stat; and in the last letter he write, he stated, that he would soon return, and resume the occupation of his farm.  He feigned many excuse for the silence of the deceased from time to time.  The mother of the deceased became alarmed; and the subject preyed so much on her mind, that she dreamed that her daughter was murdered and buried under the floor, in the barn of the prisoner, where he had appointed to meet her on the 18th or May.  The corn that was in the barn having recently been thrashed, the mother requested that the floor might be taken up, which was accordingly done, when, to her horror, she discovered the remains of a sack, in which was the mangled body of Maria Martin .

   The body was, of course, in a state of decomposition, but it was identified by one of the teeth in the jaw being out, which was her case.  She was also dressed in the same male attire she wore on the fatal night.  The prisoner was apprehended at Ealing, and is reported to be married.  At his house were found a passport for France, dated the 14th day of December last, and a brace of pistols, which were bought at Ipswich.  He said nothing, and was sent  in the custody of the constable to Suffolk. - Times.

Further particulars. .  .  .  .  His age he stated to be 24. .  .  .  . 

   For some years past the prison, who is a person of respectability, and at the time of the offence with which he is now charged was resident at Polstead, kept company with the deceased, the daughter of a small farmer in the vicinity of that village.  An illicit intercourse was the consequence of their acquaintance; and a child, the fruit of their commerce.  This, it is rumoured, was murdered by the prisoner; and the mother being aware of the revolting event, made use of it by a threat of discovery, to extort from her paramour a promise of marriage. .  .  .  .


The Cambrian, 3 May 1828

   More on the Maria Martin murder.   J. Wayman, Esq. the Coroner, resumed the inquest about half-past ten in the morning. .  .  .  .  It was also proved that the prisoner had taken a peculiar-fashioned dirk to a cutler's, and had it sharpened a few days before the murder.  Mr. Haddon, a surgeon, who had examiner the body, gave it as his opinion that death had been produced by an incised wound in the neck, and another in the orbit of the right eye, by an instrument of this kind. .  .  .  .  Other corroborative facts were adduced, and the Jury, at six o'clock on Friday night, returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against Wm. Corder.


Carmarthen Journal, 9 May 1828

The Polstead Murder. [Maria Marin and Wm. Corder.]


The Cambrian, 10 May 1828

The Polstead Murder.


Carmarthen Journal, 23 May 1828              [1823??]

   A murder, [perpetrated about five years since], has been brought to light by the stings of conscience.  On Monday week, a private in the Royal African Corps was landed at Portsmouth, in confinement, on his own confession of having murdered a man at or near Haverhill, in this county, by way-laying him.   He suddenly knocked him down, and then threw his body into the ditch, where it was found, and an inquest held by J. Wayman, Esq. when a verdict of found drowned was recorded, but hastened, as it was supposed, by the ill-conduct of hi wife and daughter, who were very severely admonished by the coroner.

   It appears, as far as we can learn, that the culprit had been liberated from Norwich Castle a short time previous to his arrival at Haverhill, where he obtained work as a tailor, at Mr. Sparhall's of that place; that he was drinking at a public-house, and saw the deceased in possession of some money; that he way-laid him, and after he had knocked him down and rifled his pockets, he was alarmed at some noise, and threw the body into the ditch to avoid discovery; that he thence made his way to Long Stratton, in Norfolk, where he married; he then, not being enabled to rest, enlisted, and subsequently committed some offence, to avoid the punishment for which he volunteered to the above regiment; and whilst in Sierra  Leone, he made the above confession, and was in consequence send home by the authorities of that Colony. - Ipswich Chronicle.


Carmarthen Journal, 6 June 1828

THE MURDER AT POLSTEAD. - It will be recollected that the body of the murdered female was re-interred on the Sunday evening at Polstead, on which day the examination and inquest took place.  It has been regretted that for the end of justice, more time was not given for the inspection of the body, or that the inspection had not been minutely made.  By medical men it has been said that the evidence of the surgeon was not considered altogether satisfactory; the chief cause of death which he spoke to decidedly was that of a wound in the orbit, a situation likely to be chosen for the perpetration of a murder of this deliberate character.  Besides, it is not clear that death would be immediately caused by penetrating the brain in this position and manner.  In consequence of these doubts, the body was again disinterred last week; and after a minute examination, there were detected upon it wounds which threw a stronger light upon the manner of the murder, & lend a strong corroboration to a part of the evidence which has transpired.

   On the left side of the chemise, which still enveloped the corpse, a cut about an inch and a half in length was discovered, and corresponding with the size and position of such cut was traced a wound between the faith and sixth ribs.  Near the apex or lower part of the heart a wound was likewise detected, piercing the left side obliquely, and entering into the ventricle or cavity.  This last wound could only be mad by a weapon obliquely thrust in the position of the external opening. 

   The heart was dissected from the body, and, together with the ribs, have been preserved.  Medical gentlemen who have examined both, declare that the wounds are exactly of that description the most likely to be inflicted by such a weapon as was described upon the inquest.  The wound in the heart would of course cause instant death. The parts are not in that state of decomposition which might be expected; the muscles between the ribs very  firm and tenacious.  This additional evidence has been imparted to the Coroner, and will no doubt meet with proper attention. [Further background details follow.]


The Cambrian, 14 June 1828

THE MURDER AT POLSTEAD. - Sermon of Rector of the parish.


Carmarthen Journal, 15 July 1828

THE POLSTEAD MURDER. - The trial of Corder has been on all day. .  .  .  . 

   John Lawson, the surgeon who examined the body of the deceased when found, described the situation in which it was discovered, and proved that her death was caused by a pistol ball passing through her head, and by a stab in the breast with a sharp instrument; he also produced the jaw, and shewed where the ball had dislodged two teeth. .  .  .  . 

   John Charles Nairn examined. - I am a surgeon.  The body which I examined was taken up by Baulham; the chest was in the highest state of preservation; so much so that the slightest penetration or injury could be perceived.  I examined the heart; it was covered with an envelope membrane; there was a large wounded in the right ventricle, and that wound corresponded with the one between the ribs; the wound appeared to have been inflected with a sharp instrument - if such a wound had been inflicted on a live body, it would produce death.  I applied the sword now produced to the wound between the ribs, and it corresponds to a certain extent; there are some marks of blood on it to the extent of the wound; I also examined the wound in the heart, and compared it with the sword, and I certainly think it might be inflicted with the sword. - (On this reply being given, Corder leaned backwards against an upright which was placed behind him, and in an apparent significant manner shook his head as if doubting the justness of the witness' answer.) -

   On examination of the head, I found the track of a ball in the upper jaw on the left side, and proceeding to the internal angle of the right eye, from the size of the opening I should judge it told from a pistol ball, and it might have caused death.  On further examination of the head, I found a fissure opening into the spherioidal sinus, or the base of the skull, corresponding with the vertebrae; any sharp-pointed instrument would have made the fissure; it extended about q quarter of an  inch into the spheroidal sinus.  Such a wound would be likely to produce death. .  .  .  . 

   Baron Alexander then summed up the evidence, when the Jury retired, and after an absence of 35 minutes, returned a verdict of GUILTY         .  The Learned Judge then passed sentence of death on the prisoner, and ordered him for execution on Monday.


The Cambrian, 16 August 1828     

THE POLSTEAD MURDER. - TRIAL OF CORDER. - More detailed account.


The Cambrian, 6 September 1828

THE POLSTEAD MURDER. - The Rev. G. Hughes, Curate of Horningsheath, preached a sermon on the 10th of August on the Power of Conscience, with an application to the recent trial and condemnation of Corder, which, at the request of his parishioners, he has consented to make public. .  .  .  . 


Carmarthen Journal, 19 September 1828

MARIA MARTEN. [THE POLSTEAD MURDER]. - It was contemplated by the inhabitants of Polstead and its vicinity to erect a monument to the memory of Maria Marten, who fell by the hands of Corder, over her grave in the church-yard, .  .  .  . 


Carmarthen Journal, 24 October 1828

DEATH BY STABBING. - The following fatal case of stabbing took place on Sunday the 12th instant. - Elizabeth Squirrell lived as housekeeper in the family of W. Rodwell, Esq., at Ipswich, in which T. Churchyard lived as footman, and a long intimacy subsisted between them,   he being much esteemed by the family.  While preparing for supper on Sunday night, the deceased said that (Churchyard) had taken a wrong tray.  He said it was not her affair, and high words passed between them.  In a few minutes the deceased went to the kitchen, holding her hand to her side, and complained to the housemaid that she was very ill, but without describing the cause of her illness or even hinting at what had occurred.  The housemaid, Mary Bishop, assisted her to her apartment, on the way to which she exclaimed, "I am in great pain - for God's sake don't touch my side - it has surely burst. "   Astonished at this, Mary Bishop looked at the clothes of the deceased, and found them saturated with blood, as were the bed clothes on which she had been reclining. She then said, "Oh, I am dying."

   To Mr. and Mrs. Rodwell she afterwards stated that she and Churchyard had quarrelled, and that he had thrown a knife at her but she had provoked him.  She also said that the knife had pierced her side; but she hoped that no harm would come to him, let what would happen to her.  By this time Mr. Bartlett, a surgeon, found a transverse wound, of about an inch in length in the left side, betwixt the hip bone and the lower rib, which had perforated the coats of the stomach.  An ineffectual search was then made for the instrument with which the wound was inflicted.  In the presence of the surgeon, Churchyard was questioned by Mr. Rodwell, and did not deny throwing the knife, but said that he was provoked by her taking up a knife to strike him first.  He solemnly declared that he did not intend to injure her, nor did he know what had become of the knife.  The wound of the poor woman had been dressed, but her pain increased, and she died the next morning, having previously subscribed to the following declaration:-

In the event of my death, from injury I have received last evening, I hereby solemnly declare that the wound was inflicted by a knife thrown at me by Thomas Churchyard, and I did not believe that he was actuated by any feeling of malice towards me.  I freely forgive him, and I hope in Almighty God to be saved through Jesus Christ.


Witnesses, A. H. Bartlett, Alex. Bartlett.

   When the body was examined, the Surgeon, Mr. Bartlett, said he found the knife in the lower cavity of the stomach imbedded in blood, which had collected around it !! The orifice of the wound had closed up.  On Tuesday a Jury assembled at the Bear and Crown, when the above evidence was detailed, and after a long consultation the Jury returned a verdict of Manslaughter against Churchyard, who was committed to the Borough Gaol. The deceased was 33 years of age, and the prisoner 29.  He is a married man with a wife and family.


The Cambrian, 15 November 1828

SHOCKING MURDER. - On Tuesday morning, about six o'clock, a little boy, about nine years of age, of the name of George Ansell, son of a labouring man at Milden, Suffolk, was sent by his master to drive the cows to his yard, but not returning so soon as expected, his master went in search of him: upon entering the field, he saw the bay's hat, and upon proceeding further ho observed the poor boy weltering in his blood, and quite dead, his throat having been cut from ear to ear.  The place where the body was found and where the horrid deed was perpetrated, are distant about 70 yards.  At the adjourned inquest, held at Milden, on Thursday last, before John Wayman, Gent., Coroner, a verdict was returned of Wilful Murder against George Partridge, of Monk's Leigh, labourer, who has confessed the crime.  In this confession the prisoner stated that he worked under the same master with the unfortunate boy, in an adjoining field to the pasture where the boy went for cows, as usual, last Tuesday morning; the child addressed him in a very pert manner, and had, it appears, on a former occasion, charged him with stealing a sheep in the neighbourhood; a further provocation arose from the boy's telling him "that he had no business in the field where he was;" to which the prisoner replied, "if he repeated those words he would give him a knock on the head;" they, however, separated each to his own work.

   Shortly after the boy passed through the same field again, into which the prisoner had got to cut a  swingel out of the hedge; the boy passed him, and the prisoner, under the impulse of passion, and also weak in intellect, followed and seized him, and cut his throat directly through the windpipe; the child fell; but instantly rose from the ground and walked several yards from the spot where he was murdered before he died, as appeared from the marks of blood in various parts of the field.

   The wretched culprit fled in horror, and never looked back to assist the victim of his passion, but took refuge in a lone cottage some miles distant, where the terrified female inhabitant was so struck with his appearance and behaviour, that she at last prevailed on him, about dusk, to leave her; he, reckless of what might happen, was returning home and apprehended by his pursuers, a countable and parish officers, to whom he surrendered himself without making any resistance, and was by then conveyed before a Magistrate, who ordered him to be detained in custody until the inquest was held.  The front part of his slop has stains of blood upon it, and in his pocket was found a bloody knife, with which he committed that act.  What is most extraordinary, a younger brother of Ansell's was found murdered in the parish of Monk's Leigh last August; the prisoner has solemnly disclaimed all knowledge of that transaction, and therefore it still remains enveloped in mystery.  The prisoner is committed to Bury Gaol.   1827??????


Carmarthen Journal, 5 December 1828

CORDER'S WIFE. - Mrs. Corder, the wife of the murderer of Maria Martin, now resides with her mother-in-law at Polstead, where she was safely delivered of a child on Sunday se'nnight.


Carmarthen Journal, 17 July 1829

   The father of Maria Marten last week visited Bury Hospital, for the purpose of indulging his curiosity with the sight of Corder's skeleton, and deposited a shilling in the box.  .  .  .   Cambridge Chronicle.  [The Polstead  Nurder, 1828.]


The Cambrian, 25 July 1829

HORRIBLE ASSASSINATION. - A discovery was recently made by Mr. Bridges, draper, &c., at Clare, Suffolk, that he had been defrauded by a journeyman, with whom one of his two apprentices, if not both, have been inplicated.  The journeyman had absconded.  Early on Wednesday morning last the apprentices being in bed together, one of them named Viall, cut the throat of his fellow apprentice, named Green, who was asleep at the time, and although he was alive the same evening, but little hopes are entertained of his long surviving the wound inflicted by the murderous assassin, who was been committed to Bury gaol.


Monmouthshire Merlin,

   An interesting trial for murder took place on Monday at Bury St. Edmund's, and it is one of the most affecting and extraordinary of any that ever took place in a Court of Justice (for a report of which see on last page).  Its effect upon all who witnessed it seems to have been proportionately great.  The Counsel on either side were moral, pathetic, and supplicating; the Judge (Barron Garrow) was all but in tears, the Jury were overwhelmed with grief; those inside the Court were weeping, and those outside were cheering.  Altogether it was a scene more like what one reads in the last volume of a sentimental love-tale than any thing that transpires in real life.  The denouement of the catastrophe is still more extraordinary, for whatever may be the strange expedients to which love - ever fertile in invention - occasionally compels his victims to have recourse, this is really the first time we ever found out that the way to win a wife is to cut her throat. [page  4]

NORFOLK CIRCUIT. - BURY ST. EDMUND'S, Aug 8. - the following trial caused great interest in this county, and the Court, at an early hour, was thronged with persons anxious to hear the details, which had already in some degree appeared in the public journals.  The prisoner is a mild but rather sullen-looking young man, and conducted himself with great decorum during the solemn investigation.

   William Vialls, aged 16, was indicted for having, on the 14th day of July last, feloniously cut and stabbed one George Green with a razor, with intent to murder him. .  .  .   [Guilty; sentence of death.]

Monday, Aug 10. - William Buckle, aged 19, was indicted for that he, on the 9th of June last, at the parish of Ashfrield Magna, in this county, feloniously assaulted one Leah Warren, and cut her throat with a knife, with an intent to kill and murder her. .  .  .   The prisoner was then acquitted; and the young woman, clasping her hands, and smiling pleasure and gratitude through her tears, fell into the arms of a person near her in a swoon. .  .  . 


Carmarthen Journal, 23 October 1829

  Letitia Mills, of Charlton, sister to Mr. Mills, of Aldborough, on Sunday last made some dumplings, and seeing a cup with flour in it, on the back-house shelf, out bin its contents.  The flour in the cup was mixed with arsenic for the purpose of poisoning mice.  The consequences are painful to relate; in spite of all medical aid she died the same night in the most excruciating agony, and Mr. Hearn, with whom she lived, partook of the deadly food, and expired on Monday last.  We hope this fatal occurrence will operate as a warning to all to keep poison in safe places. - Suffolk Chronicle.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 10 April 1830

   It is with the greatest regret we have to announce the death of Jon Wilson Sheppard, Esq. High Sheriff for Suffolk.  Yesterday morning, as this highly respected gentleman, after having discharged his important duties at the assizes, was preparing to return to his residence at Campsey Ash, he retired to the water-closet at the Angel hotel, at Bury, and remaining for an unusual length of time, his attendants became alarmed.  His valet went to the door, which was  fastened, and having broken it open, discovered his master lying insensible.  Every exertion was used to restore animation, but he expired in a few minutes.  It is supposed the rupture of a blood vessel near the heart was the immediate cause of  his death.  A coroner's inquest was held on the body, and a verdict returned, that the de cased died by the Visitation of God. Mr. Sheppard was in the 33d year of his age, and considered in the enjoyment of excellent health. .  .  .   He has left a widow and four young children. - London paper.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 16 July 1831

   A great sensation was last week produced in the town of Bury St. Edmund's, in consequence of he death of a young girl supposed to have died from the cholera morbus.  An inquest was held on the body on the following day, when it was satisfactorily proved that such was not the fact  The stomach of the deceased had been examined, and appeared in an inflamed state as if from poison.  In the course of the evidence something was said about orison which had been placed for mice and the girl being previously in a very dejected state, but as nothing decisive could be elicited the jury returned a verdict of Natural death.

   So great is the influence of the absurd apprehension now prevalent, that every sickness is supposed to be the cholera, and every death the result of the same malady.


Monmouthshire Merlin, 9 May 1840

LOVE AND SUICIDE. - An inquest was held on Friday se'nnight at the Hare Inn, Melford, before Harry Wayman, gentleman, coroner, on the body of Sophia Ambrose, who was that morning discovered by her mother, suspended from a linen post in the yard, quite dead.  It appears that a young man of the name of Mills, a carpenter, residing at Lavenham, had for some time been paying his addresses to the girl, and that he was with her till past nine o'clock on the preceding evening.  In his examination before the jury, he stated that nothing of an unpleasant nature had passed between them, and that he left her in a perfectly tranquil and quiet state of mind; but he evinced no remorse or compunction at the melancholy event. - The Jury after a few minutes' deliberation, returned a verdict of Temporary Insanity.  But circumstances of a very suspicious character have since some to light, which will probably render it necessary to hold another inquest.  A clasp knife was  found stuck in the ground near the post on which the girl was found hanging, which belongs to Mills, and it is thought that this  knife had been used to cut one end of the line  from another post to which it was tied. - Morning Chronicle.

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