Criminally insane or cold-blooded murderer? | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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Criminally insane or cold-blooded murderer?

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on March 13th, 2016


Discover Your AncestorsI had a really interesting time researching my article about a 19th century cause célèbre, which has been published in this month’s Discover Your Ancestors online periodical.

The story is about a jilted lover who murders his ex-fiancée, in a sleepy Derbyshire village, and then helps a good Samaritan carry her home!

My background research found that it caused a good bit of indignation amongst the newspapers of the time; their view was that the reason preventing him keeping a date, with the official hangman, was that his family had money and claimed that he was insane.

Convicted by a jury, the judge passed the sentence of death on the prisoner – but then wrote to the Home Secretary to plea for a stay of execution!

The Home Secretary was forced to set up not one, but two enquires into the sanity of the man, while the unfortunate victim’s family mobilised their own powerful connections to have the sentence carried out.

Was the man insane, or was he just a cold-blooded murderer?

The incensed newspaper reports, urging that the murderer be hanged, were strangely reminiscent of the way the press today will take a stance that they think to be popular with their target readers.

To delve into this fascinating story I was able to access a plethora of records on TheGenealogist website including: The Illustrated London News, Census records, Tithe Records for Derbyshire and various Trade Directories.


Read my article in this month’s Discover Your Ancestors periodical.

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