The respectable ladies of the Knitters’ Guild plan a surprise for the cathedral city. The surprise isn’t meant to include murder…
Besides, the last thing Libby Forest needs is another murder inquiry. She’s already struggling with the demands of her cake and chocolate business and trying to understand Mandy the Goth’s strange behaviour. Max urges her to make a difficult decision and Bear, the enormous sheepdog, causes havoc in the gentle surroundings of the beautiful, tiny cathedral city.
Libby vows to resist the temptation to investigate a sudden death in the cathedral, until her friend Angela falls under suspicion…
Love murder mysteries, cosy crime, dogs, crafts and chocolate? You’ll enjoy this instalment in a fun series of mysteries, set in a small English seaside town in Somerset, full of quirky charm and eccentric inhabitants, with a female protagonist torn between her independence and a new, enticing career as a private investigator.
The fourth story in the Exham on Sea series takes Libby to Wells Cathedral, where an unusual chained library protects ancient and valuable books. When a visiting scholar dies Libby plans to leave investigation to the police, but despite her intentions, loyalty to a friend overcomes her resistance, and she’s sets out to find the killer.
With a cast of indefatigable knitters, a lively Exham on Sea grapevine and a missing cat, the green fields, rolling hills, and sandy beaches of the West Country are a perfect setting for crime, intrigue and mystery.
For lovers of Agatha Christie novels, Midsomer Murders, lovable pets and cake, the series offers quick crime stories to read in one sitting, as Libby and her friends solve a mix of intriguing mysteries.
The green fields, rolling hills and sandy beaches of the West Country provide the perfect setting for crime, intrigue and mystery.
For lovers of Agatha Christie novels, Midsomer Murders, lovable pets and cake, the Exham on Sea Mystery series offers a continuing supply of quick crime stories to read in one sitting, as Libby solves a mixture of intriguing mysteries and uncovers the secrets of the small town’s past.
Discover more about the series and my other books on my Author page here.
Mary Emsley, an elderly widow, lived at no 9 Grove Road in London’s Stepney. She owned many properties left to her by her husband and lived comfortably, though frugally, on the rents collected from tenants.
On Thursday, 17 August, 1860, Walter Emm, a shoemaker who often collected rent on her behalf, reported her missing to the police.
The police found her, lying dead in a bedroom in her house, in a pool of blood, her head violently beaten. A large footprint in blood pointed out of the bedroom door. She had been attacked with an instrument that could have been a hammer.
Time of death
The time of her death was suggested by Samuel Gill, a surgeon, to be on or around Monday 13 August. Mrs Emsley was seen alive that evening between 7 and 8pm, but not afterwards.
On Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th, several callers failed to get a response when they came to her house. A neighbour noticed her window had been open, unusually, after 10pm on Monday, and that it remained open.
The time of death was therefore set between 8 and 10 on Monday 13th August.
There were two main suspects in the case. One was James Mullins, a plasterer and ex policeman from Ireland who also worked for Mrs Emsley. The other was Walter Emm.
For two weeks, no arrest was made. Then, Mullins visited a police officer with a tale that appeared to show Emm’s guilt. He said he had seen Emm hide a small parcel in a shed beside his house.
At first, the police failed to find the parcel: then, Mullins showed them where it was, behind a stone.
The parcel contained newspaper, blotting paper, a silver table spoon, 3 silver teaspoons and 2 magnifying lenses, plus a cheque for £10. All the items belonging to Mrs Emsley. The cheque proved to be from a John Carrier in payment of his rent. The parcel was fastened with waxed string and a piece of tape.
Walter Emm soon proved to have an alibi for the evening of Monday 13th. He had been driven to Stratford along with his wife, by a Mr Rumble, who corroborated his story. He produced a dated toll ticket as proof.
Mullins, on the other hand, found it less easy to prove innocence. There were several circumstances that pointed to his guilt.
The police found a plasterer’s hammer on the floor of his rooms. The surgeon believed it could have inflicted the appalling blows to the head that killed the poor old woman: one injury was measured at 1 ½ inches, corresponding to the sharp edge of the hammer.
Emm’s daughter testified she had seen Mullins near the shed where the parcel was found on the Saturday two weeks after the murder.
Two witnesses identified Mullins, one seeing him in Grove Road on the evening of Monday, 13th August, the day of the murder, and another reporting he had not come to work in the Tuesday. Both agreed he wore a wide-awake, or billy-cock hat, although he denied owning one. It later emerged that his son had such a hat.
Mullins’ landlady said she saw a boot thrown from Mullins’ window two weeks after the murder, when he had been interviewed by the police. The boot had a blood spot, although forensic tests were not available then to detect whether the blood was human. The boot also appeared to correspond slightly, although not conclusively, to the bloody footprint.
A neighbour saw someone moving paper-hangings around in Mrs Emsley’s room and saw the window open a little on Tuesday morning. This was twelve hours after the expected time of death.
A builder said he saw a man called Rowland emerge from a house in Grove Street holding wallpaper on Tuesday morning, although it appears Rowland may have been papering the house next door. Rowland’s response, however, was that the witness was unstable.
Verdict These circumstances did not convince the jury, and nor did the garbled and contradictory evidence of Mullin’s adult sons who became confused in the witness box as they struggled to give him an alibi.
Mullins was found guilty and sentenced to death. The judge, though, did not appear as convinced as the jury, suggesting that if Mullins could “make it manifest that you are innocent of the charge … every attention will be paid to any cogent proof.”
Nevertheless, Mullins was hanged on 19 November 1860, leaving a statement still claiming his innocence.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a keen interest in murder cases at the Old Bailey. He believed Mullins may have been mistakenly blamed for the murder of Mrs Emsley, and that his execution was little short of judicial murder. Conan Doyle thought the Scottish verdict of “not proven” which was not, and still is not, available in England, would have been a more appropriate verdict.
A sudden noise above their heads startled Philip and Susannah Beard awake, early in the morning of 31 July 1860.
As Philip hurried upstairs to the third floor of 16 Manor Place, he heard a scream.
At first, he saw only a spot of blood on the stairs, then as he climbed higher, he found the body of an 11-year-old boy lying dead on the landing. His throat had been cut. “Murder!” Philip cried.
There was more horror beyond.
Next to the young boy lay a woman, lying on her face. A second woman lay on her left. In the next room, on a bed, lay another young boy or around 7 years of age.
John Youngman, a tailor, lived in 16 Manor Place, Walworth in 1860 with his wife and two young sons, Thomas and Charles, in the rooms above. An older son, William, had been there for a week, after giving notice to his employer, Dr Duncan. William had worked for Dr Duncan as a footman.
Mary Wells Streeter, William’s sweetheart, came to stay on 30th July 1860. She and William went out for the evening, returning on good terms at 10 pm. That night, William slept in a bed with Thomas, with their father in the same room. Mary and Charles spent the night in the next room, with Mr Youngman’s wife.
at 5 o’clock in the morning of July 31st, Mr Youngman left home to go to work with another son, John, at the tailor’s workshop.
At 6.20 he was called home to the horrific scene.
His wife, his two sons and Mary were all dead. Mary and the two boys had all been stabbed and had their throats cut, while his wife had died just from stab wounds. There were two adult footprints in the copious blood in the room.
William, present at the time, with blood on his hands and feet and a torn nightshirt, told the police, “My mother has done all this, she has murdered my two brothers and my sweetheart and I – in self-defence – I believe I have murdered her.”
William owned the knife used in the attacks, claiming he used it for food. The point was broken off by the violence of the attacks.
Wiiliam’s family had a history of insanity, with his maternal grandmother dying in a lunatic asylum and his father’s father having spent some time in an asylum.
The most damning evidence in the case came in the form of letters.
William had asked Mary Streeter to marry him. The police found a series of letters kept in a box to which William had the key. The letters were long and full of expressions of love and arrangements for the marriage.
July 13th We will be married at St Martin’s Charing Cross on Saturday Aug 11th next….
You need only wear your black clothes, my dear girl, at our wedding….
I have published the banns of our marriage …
After marriage you will have all you wish for: the clothes you have will do for the present …
I want to assure your life when you come up on Monday week …
In this letter, William explains that he has given notice to leave his post in order to get married. He says he will,
Give Mrs Duncan a good talking to …when I hope the doctor will tell me to go at once …
He says this will enable him to leave early, but still have his wages paid until 11th August.
He tells Mary to send him details he needs for the life assurance policy, including her birth certificate and the ages of her parents. He also needs her to state that no one in the family has died of any one of a list of diseases, including consumption. Although her sister had succumbed to this disease less than twelve months earlier, William was at pains to explain that Mary must say all were healthy.
The policy will be for £100.
The next letter William sends to Mary is undated. He writes:
I am very much hurt to find you state in your note that you do not wish to have your life assured…
He refers to her parents. You can do has you like without them preventing …
If Mary continues to refuse to allow him to take out life assurance, William tells her,
I cannot think you would love me …
On 19th July, William wrote again. Mary has clearly agreed to go ahead with the life assurance policy.
Do not say anything to your mother about what you are going to do …
By 21 July, Mary must have changed her mind again, for William writes,
I am very much hurt to find you say you will not have your life assured …
I cannot believe you love me unless you do …
You have promised me, now if you love me do this.
The business clearly settled, William writes to Mary, now calling her My beloved Polly.
He gives instructions for Mary to meet him on Monday 30th July at London Bridge Station. She is to bring or burn all her letters.
Life assurance policy
The policy, for £100, effected by William Godfrey Youngman on the life of Mary Wells Streeter, commencing on 25th July, was produced in court. It contained Mary’s untrue response, No to the question Has any member of your family died of consumption?
Given the chilling evidence of a motive, it is no surprise the jury brought in a verdict of guilty. It took less than half an hour for them to reach their decision.
William Godfrey Youngman was sentenced to death. He was hanged on 4 September 1860 at Horsemonger Lane Gaol, in front of an audience of 30,000. He refused to admit to the offence even at the gallows.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes a highly embellished account of this affair in the strand Magazine of 1901, calling it The Holocaust of Manor Place.
When London grandfather Samuel Nelme sprinkled sugar on his stewed apple one day in 1847, he had no idea he would be dead within five days. Still Life with Apples, a Pear, and a Ceramic Portrait Jug Paul Gaugin 1889 via Wikimedia commons
The bowl contained arsenic mixed with pounded sugar. Samuel, a Londoner of around 73 years of age, kept arsenic at home in Hackney in a locked drawer. He used it for killing rats. This was a common practice in Victorian times.
William Newton Allnutt, Samuel’s twelve-year-old grandson, was accused of the crime.
The doctor then passed some of the sugar to a London Hospital physician who discovered arsenic in the sugar as well as in Samuel’s stomach and liver.
State of mind
William was 12 years old at the time. The court asked many questions about his state of mind: he had fallen on a ploughshare at the age of 18 months, suffered from headaches, talked of voices in his head and walked in his sleep.
Two doctors, one in practice at Clapton and one from a lunatic asylum, agreed he was of unsound mind, although the surgeon at Newgate Prison disagreed.
He had once stolen a watch, claiming that voices told him to do so.
After a session with the Chaplain in Newgate Prison, William wrote a long confession to his mother, saying he was terrified God would not forgive him if he did not confess. He wrote that his grandfather had “knocked me down into a passage” and threatened to kill him.
William was sentenced to death although he was too young to be hanged. Instead, according to the Black Kalendar website his sentence was commuted to transportation. He spend four years at Newgate Prison before leaving from Plymouth in 1851 for Fremantle, Australia. Two years later, he died of tuberculosis while still in Fremantle Prison.
Violence in the home was commonplace in Victorian England, but murder was a crime. I’m interested in how this relates to the treatment of young offenders now. What would have happened to William today?
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