From the pretty villages, rural byways and bustling market towns of Essex come ten of the most dramatic and tragic murder cases in British history. Brutality, passion, jealousy, greed and moments of inexplicable rage have led to violent and horrifying deaths and, sometimes, the killer’s expiation of the crime on the scaffold. This chilling follow-up to Essex Murders brings together more true cases, dating between 1823 and 1960, that shocked not only the county but also made headline news across the nation.
They include the extraordinary events resulting from the obsession of a young farmer’s daughter with a married man twice her age,
the bloody killing of a police sergeant, a murder carried out in the depths of Epping Forest, the Dutch au pair found dead in a ditch, and a case that made criminal history in which the accused said he had strangled the victim while he was asleep.
Linda Stratmann’s well-illustrated and enthralling text will appeal to everyone interested in true crime and the shadier side of Essex’s past.
A follow-up to my previous book Essex Murders this includes 10 new cases:
In a Dark and Lonely Place
On 8 December 1823 a young man was found brutally murdered on an unlit pathway between Quendon turnpike and Widdington. Labourer John Pallett declaring that the dead man was yeoman farmer’s son 23 year old James Mumford, picked up the body to take it home, but how did he recognise the battered features in the dark? It soon transpired that Pallett knew more than he was saying. It was Mumford’s brother whose careful investigation of footprints near the murder site and identification of the spot from where the fatal bludgeon had been cut, who brought the crime home to the culprit.
The Mildness of Murderers
23 year old Thomas Drory of Doddinghurst was the son of a well-to-do farmer. He was courting a merchant’s daughter but also having an affair with Jael Denny, the daughter of his father’s bailiff. When Jael became pregnant he tried to poison her without success, and made her sign a statement denying that he was the father of her child. On 12 October 1850, Jael, just two weeks from her confinement, was found strangled in a field. Drory was found guilty of her murder and there were many comments in the press about the incongruity of his mild appearance and the cold savagery of his crime.
The Love Match
When labourer’s wife Elizabeth Kittle died in October 1871 the death was not treated as suspicious, but when her 49 year old widower William married his employer’s daughter 21 year old Ellen only two months later, tongues began to wag. Elizabeth’s body was exhumed and it was found that she had been poisoned with arsenic. Both William and Ellen were arrested but it was Ellen who stood trial alone. Ultimately the case against her hinged on whether she could be proven to have had access to arsenic.
On 16 April 1893 the battered body of popular local policeman Adam John Eves was found in a ditch near Purleigh. Scattered wheat nearby showed that he had interrupted a robbery, and a trail led to the houses of brothers John and Richard Davies. They were arrested together with James Ramsey who worked the threshing machines, Ramsey’s son, and two other men thought to be implicated. Ultimately only the Davises and James Ramsey were tried for murder. The brothers were found guilty and Ramsey was acquitted, but evidence later emerged to suggest that it was Ramsey who had murdered Eves, and he could not be tried again for that offence.
James Canham Read was a liar, adulterer, thief and ultimately a murderer. Married with eight children, he also had several mistresses, with whom he communicated by letters and telegrams sent under assumed names to accommodation addresses. 23 year old Florence Dennis was eight months pregnant by Read when she was shot dead in a ditch at Prittlewell near Southend. Before the body was found, Read stole money from his employer and went into hiding but when arrested he denied guilt of the crime and tried to deflect blame onto an ex-mistress.
Murder in Honeypot Lane
In 1906, Honeypot Lane about five miles from Billericay was little more than a rough track, the inhabitants living in bungalows and supporting themselves from smallholdings. Albert and Emma Watson were almost self sufficient, lacking only one thing – a water supply – and this they obtained from a pond dug by a neighbour, Mr Buckham, who had granted them permission. It was a hot summer and the water level was low. Buckham was away working in London on 23 August when his two sons, Richard and Robert aged 20 and 17 reported that the Watsons had drowned. When the bodies were examined however it was found that both had been shot. Robert confessed that his brother had committed the murder. Richard was hanged, but there was no satisfactory explanation of his actions.
My Darling Girl
On 17 May 1922 54 year old George Stanley Grimshaw of Walthamstow was found badly beaten in Higham’s Park near the River Ching. He died in hospital without regaining consciousness. A young couple had been seen running away from the scene and it was at first supposed that he had been killed by strangers who had robbed him. Then evidence came to light that Grimshaw had been having a dalliance with 22 year old Elsie Mackenzie. She and her new husband William Yeldham were eventually found living rough in a barn in Bocking. But was Yeldham’s killing of Grimshaw an unpredictable fit of jealousy or was it a conspiracy between the couple to rob a dupe?
Two Were Hanged
On Tuesday 7 September 1927 the body of Police Constable George Gutteridge was found in a narrow lane near Stapleford Abbots. He had been shot in the head four times. Enquiries led to the arrest of two men, car thieves Frederick Guy Browne and William Henry Kennedy. Kennedy told the police that he and Browne had stolen a car and when accosted by Gutteridge, Browne had shot him. Browne denied having been the other man in the car. Both were hanged, but later evidence has suggested that the case against Browne was less conclusive than it appeared at the time.
The Dutch Girl
Mary Kriek arrived in Britain in December 1957 to work as a mother’s helper at a farm in Eight Ash Green, and study English. Less than a month later her battered body was found in a ditch near Boxstead. A massive investigation commenced, in which the police took thousands of statements and followed every possible lead. Complaints about the activities of the Press led to a furore and an enquiry. The case remains unsolved to this day.
On the morning of Tuesday 3 January 1961 the body of 21 year old Jean Constable was found in a layby near the village of Ridgewell. She had been strangled. US airman Willis Eugene Boshears admitted that he had been alone with Jean at his Great Dunmow flat on New Year’s Eve, and had gone to sleep, awaking to find her dead. He thought he must have strangled her in his sleep, but had no recollection of doing so. Medical tests showed that he was not suffering from any disorder. At his trial on 15 February the jury acquitted him of murder.
Published 1st June 2011 by The History Press Ltd.