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Alaska.
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You may think that some types of crimes are fairly modern, and of course, you would be wrong. Were there's a will, so the saying goes, there is always a way. When it comes to money and financial matters, it's surprising just how much trust we place in others. What shouldn't be a surprise, is just how quickly they learn to take advantage.


The name James Russell, whose firm were very well known in Wednesbury, mainly for their excellent and reliable products. His Tube Works was highly successful, and on the face of it, he was an honest and upright man. He did however have a few faults. On a visit to London, around 1860, he agreed to use someone as his sole agent. All went well until 1866, when, after employing a new accountant, certain discrepancies began to appear in the books. Needless to say, they were all shortages, not of Tubes, but money. Invoices, a great many of them, had been paid short, and the word " Embezzlement " began to be used. In total, over £3,000 appeared to be missing, and getting no satisfactory answer, Mr Russell called in the Law. I did say he had a few faults, and one of them was speculating on the share markets. In order that his family and business partner would not find out, he set up, with his London agent, a seperate company. He failed to make clear to the agent, just which account to use, and so when the shares made a loss, the agent, so he claimed, deducted the amount from the money paid for the companies Tubes, and took out his commision. It was a complcated affair, made worse by Russells admission, that he was at the same time speculating with yet another company, this time in the new product called Petroleum. The agent was found not guilty, which was not a surprise, leaving James Russell to make up the loss from his own pocket. He was either a fool in business, or in the event, no match for the wiles of a canny cockney.


There were of course, many ficticious companies operating during old Queen Vic's time, some would say, a great many more than today. That just may be wishful thinking, for today they have many more laws and regulations to hide behind. It doesn't have to be a great amount that goes missing either, take the next case. Alfred Bytheway, Leather worker and Purse maker from Walsall, Staffordshire. He received an order, from what he believed to be a reputable company, ( they had their own headed notepaper no less ) Cavender and Sons, in London. Being a trusting soul, he duly sent off the Leather goods, value £19.4s.6d, to the London Ironmongers in early 1870. Just like a fellow supplier in Birmingham, James Cooper, makers of Iron Bedsteads, he did not receive any payment for the goods. ( In Coopers case, £25.00 ) They were not alone, there were a couple of hundred others who didn't get paid either. Still, they had the satisfaction, after giving evidence at a trial, of seeing the two main instigators, John Francis, ( 7 years Penal Servitude ) and Charles Aaron, ( 12 months hard labour ) get their just desserts. They didn't get their money or goods back though. David Hayward, a Brush Manufacturer of High Street, Bloxwich, could concider himself lucky in 1883, when he was the victim of a similar scam. He only lost £3.14s.0d, there were many others who lost more, reflected in the sentence of the two men responsible. John Dickson, who got 7 years, and Charles Hubbard, who received 5 years. James Baker, a Tinplate and Jappaner from  Bilston, could only wring his hands in horror, as another " canny cockney " was found not guilty on a technicality, and then kissed goodbye to the £35.15s.6d he was owed in 1886. He did however, get to meet a character who would have his named splashed all over the papers in 1888. Police Inspector Frederick Abberline, the Officer in charge of the Jack the Ripper case.


Here is one of the meanest thefts of the age in 1882. William Cooksey, who lived at number 7, Eagle Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, was always looking to better himself. When he saw advertised, a Book that promised a better life, he put all his pennies together, and sent off Stamps to the value of 2s.2d. The Book did not arrive, so William wrote again, then again, and finally his letter was returned, from the dead letter Post Box of the Post Office. The book of course did not exist. William wasn't the only one, and the perpetraters of this large scam, who also had previous form, were given 5 years Penal Servitude each. Lets hope William recovered from his loss of two bob. There's no doubt though about the recovery of the next one. Alfred Marsh, Pork Butcher of High Street, Brierley Hill, ( Yes, the other half of that famous firm ) received an order for 20 prime Hams. Once again, the company that put in the order had some fancy headed paper, and Alfred despatched the order without delay. Payment, as promised arrived bang on time. The next week he got another order, praising his high quality and ordering a further 200 Hams. This is what is known as a classic " Long Firm fraud ", and Alfred took the bait, despatching the second order without a thought. The culprits were caught, and were sentenced to just 20 months imprisonment, while Alfred was left pondering on the £90 business loss. I just worked that out, it was 9s.0d, ( old money ) per cured Ham, mind you it was 1886.  If only he were around today.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 13, 2012 at 3:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Spare a thought though, for poor Susannah Jones, a young and not very worldly wise Milliner, from Wood Street, Wednesbury. She had the misfortune to meet one William Fryer, an Ironworker from Ocker Hill, Tipton. On the surface, he seemed a nice companion, but little did she know, for he was actually stark raving mad. Its believed that in February 1882, while out walking with her, he suddenly grabbed her around the waist, and flung her over a bridge parapet and into the Canal. He then calmly went home and had his tea. Poor Susannah went hungry, for the shock of the cold water rendered her unable to escape the dirty canal, and she drowned. His madness was evident at his trial and he was aquitted of her murder, but then sentenced to be detained while the pleasure of her Majesty was awaited. It turned to be strict custody, and confinement for life. Miss Jones parents would have prefered a hanging instead, but such are the vagaries of the law, we don't always get what we wish.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 23, 2012 at 3:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The mean streets of West Bromwich have seen a few happenings over the years, but the whole town was agog back in the 1860s. A local miner named Corbett, possibly Henry Corbett, who lived in Walsall Street, the old name for this area being Cronehill, came home from work one day, after learning that his wife was probably " playing away ". He may have suspected it for some time, but as they had a large family, and the money she earned from Nailmaking came in handy, he said nothing. What set him off on this perticular day is anyones guess, but annoyed he certainly was. Sending one of his children to the place where she worked, behind the Hen and Chickens public house, he then set off to meet her. A short distance down Reform Street, and with plenty of witnesses, he withdrew his Cut Throat Razor from his pocket, and slit her throat from ear to ear. She was dead almost as soon as she hit the pavement. He then took off, did our Mr Corbett, running as fast as legs would go, supposedly he later said, to give himself up at the towns Police Station. Another old name crops up now, Doer End, ( no, I havn't a clue ) which was maybe appropriate, for it was here that he cut his own throat. Not as well, I have to say, as he cut his wife's. Taken back to his home, for there was not yet a Hospital nearby, he was soon stitched up by Doctor Kite. Although he had failed to top himself, he was still in a bad way, and it proved impossible to get him up in front of the Magistrates, so a Police guard was set over him. Just as he was getting in the mood to recover, he asked the Policeman about his chances of a full recovery. The Officer was most obliging on the matter, for he said to Corbett, " Whats the use. If you recover, they are only going to hang you anyway." Which of course was the truth, the whole truth, for the Officer was most deligent in his conduct. Later that night, Corbett took a turn for the worst, and promptly pegged out. There is some reason to suppose that he may have assisted himself in the matter, for on his Death Certifcate, is the very old fashioned legal term, " Felo de se ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 4, 2013 at 11:15 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

When is a Murder not a Murder,? as is sometimes asked in Court. The answer of course is when such a crime was never intended, even though someone died. The Court of public opinion however, holds different views, and demands the punishment of the offender. Such was the view in Wolverhampton, in1888, when Alfred Bateman, a 19 year old rivet maker, died from wounds sustained in a fight. The locals crowded into the hearing, presumably baying for blood when it came to light that the " murderer ", was a foriegner. Bateman had left his home in Eagle Street, accompanied by several of his friends, including the brothers John and Charles Pickford, John Dunn, and Thomas Tranter, some from the same street, others from nearby. They set of into Town it's believed, and, in the time honoured tradition, they all ended up in a Public House. Well several really, and everything was fine until they all left the " Invincible Inn ", Duke Street. Somewhere around Horseley Fields, they encountered anothr group of young men, intent on doing the exact same thing, have a good time. The scene will be very familiar to folks today, a few shouted words, an insult, and then the fighting broke out. Not everyone in both groups was involved in the fracas that followed, and it was impossible to see who, had attacked who, with a knife. Almost everyone, in 1888, carried a knife of some sorts. Alfred Bateman died on the cobbles, his life seeping away, as many in the two groups scattered for home, and safety. It took the Police sometime to sort it all out, and much to the locals anger, no one was charged with Murder as they had expected. Four men, James Birch, ( alias Coppie ) Joseph Adams, Francis Saxton, and Phillippo Forlucci, were all charged with either Maliciously wounding and inflicting grevious bodily harm, or Actual bodily harm. The reason for this, was because Bateman wasn't the only one injured in the fight. Adams and Birch, from Wolverhampton were given 8 months and 5 months respectively, with hard labour, Forlucci and Saxton, who were from Walsall,  the former being an Ice Cream seller,  and who got 6 months hard labour, and the latter, just the 2 months. No doubt of course, that if Bateman had survived, he would have faced the same punishment, as I said, it's all a matter of intent, and Alfred Bateman was just unlucky.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Two deaths that shouldn't have happened now, one in Brockmoor, Brierley Hill, and the other in Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. Both involve Guns, and of course a great deal of stupidity.


Samuel Tonks, aged just 12, was charged with murder after the death of his cousin, Louisa Heath, on New Years day, 1870. For reasons that don't appear in the article, his Uncle, believed to be Charles Heath, had left in the house, a fully loaded and primed gun. What Charles intended to do with the weapoh is unclear, as there isn't much use for such a weapon down a mine, or in a brickyard. Samuel, playing with the 6 year old Louisa, pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. The resulting shot blew away most of the childs head. She died within minutes, and I presume, from the damage, that it must have been a shotgun with a heavy load. classing it as an accident, and discharging the young lad with a warning to take more care in future, the Magistrate seemingly failed to give the same advice to the owner of the weapon, Charles Heath. I may have mentioned this elsewhere, but life certainly seemed to be pretty cheap during this period. Meanwhile, and 49 years later, at the fancy home of the Robinson Family, Fallings Park Hall, the young daughter of the owner, Muriel Robinson, decided to have a walk around the grounds and murder a few Birds for a bit of pleasure. The 16 year old had her own firearm it seems, although how good a shot she was, well as far as the birds were concerned, is debatable. Spotting a Blackbird, in a hedge, singing it's little heart out, she let go a shot from about 10 yards away, and missed. She continued on her way, apparently letting fly at a few more before she became bored and went indoors. When the 60 year old gardener, James Hodson, failed to turn up for his lunch time cup of tea in the kitchen, a member of staff went off to find him, for he seldom carried a watch. He was still breathing when the Doctor who had hurriedly been called arrived, but not many survive being shot through the head. And he didn't. You might have thought that the law would take a serious view of failing to make sure the area was clear before letting fly with a lethal weapon, but no, just another accidental death, and this time, perhaps because it a prominant local family, no warning to the young lady to be careful in future. Mind you it was 1919, and there were plenty out of work, so no problem filling the (sudden) vacant post of a Gardener.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There have been many instances in the past, where the Newspapers have almost got an innocent man Hanged. There have also been a few cases, where the poor innocent victim has been totally ignored, and this post is about one such poor soul. The year is 1889, and the place was just north of Evesham, on the Country estate of the Duc d'Amales, in the parish of Lenchwick, Worcestershire.


Frederick Stephens was 25 years old, not long married, and with a young child of just 8 months. He was an Under Gamekeeper, part of a team of three who looked after the estate. Poaching was rife in the district, indeed it had been for many years, and the main culprits were well known to all the gamekeepers, and of course, the Police. On Saturday the 9th November, 1889, all three had spent the day patroling in various places, listening for the sound of Dogs, and sightings of any suspicious characters. There was a thickly wooded Coppice on the estate, and when Stephens bid his fellow workers goodnight at about 2.0am on Sunday morning, it was in this direction he set off home. About 3.30am, the head gamekeeper was aroused by Stephens who, he was horrified to note, was covered in blood, and very badly injured. When asked who had attacked him, he replied " The Boswells ", although he could not be sure of their actually names. He was rushed off to Evesham Hospital, while the head keeper and the Police, searched the Coppice. They found nets, pegs to hold them down, the bloodstained area of a struggle, evidence of dogs, and a neckerchief. This did not belong to Frederick Stephens. They raced into Evesham, but for the moment, the Boswells were nowhere to be found. They couldn't hide forever though, and although when found they denied any involvement, a family member, afraid her innocent husband would be implicated, grassed them up. It turned out to not two, but three men who had been at the scene of the assault, and the third, also an Evesham man, had legged it. 13 days later, Frederick Stephens died from his horrific head injuries. He had, it appeared, been either kicked or bludgeoned and his skull had been fractured in many places. It was now a case of Murder, and the hunt for evidence, and the third man was on.Two men were already in custody, Samuel Boswell, aged 39, a married man with 5 children, aged between 8 months and 9 years old. The second man was Joseph Boswell, his brother, aged 29, married, and with 4 children, all girls, again, aged between 8 months and 9 years old. The third man turned to be one Alfred Hill, aged 23, also married, and with 1 child about 7 months old. They all lived very close to each other, and they were all now, after the Magistrates had heard the Police evidence, banged up in Worcester, awaiting trial at the next Assizes.


It was no surprise to the locals in Evesham, when all three were found guilty of Wilful Murder. There were though, those who thought the sentence a bit harsh, and a campaign began to have the sentence of death reprieved and commuted to a term of imprisonment. The main reason behind this, seems to have been the amount of children who would be fatherless, when the sentence was carried out. The figure of course would be ten, and to this effect, a great many newspapers gave a great deal of space to the campaign. At no stage in any reports over the period, is ant sympathy shown for poor Frederick Stephens, his now Widowed wife, and his fatherless child. Indeed, one of the Boswells relatives, went so far as to say, that if Stephens hadn't interfered with their poaching, it would never have happened. The blame game had also begun. The two brothers also now tried to shift the guilt onto Hill, who, the Boswell's claimed, had struck the fatal blow. Neither of them mentioned, that Samuel had kicked poor Stephens in the head several times, not that he had been violently hit with a " Cosh ", nor that it had been Joseph who had encouraged the other two to  " get the gamekeeper ".  In letters from prison, and in family interviews, the papers reported only the distress in the family's, that the hanging would produce. There is great play made of the childrens impending poverty stricken future, but again, nothing at all about the victims family. Then there were the complaints regarding the past criminal records of all three men being made public after the trial. Samuel Boswell's criminal record began in 1868, and listed 7 court appearence's, and in addition, 4 seperate Courts Marshall from his days in the army. Some were for orther assaults that because of the families reputation, he had walked away scot free from. He was not so lucky with the Army though, being finally discharged for a violent shop robbery, and jailed. Joseph Boswell, since 1874, had made 14 Court appearences, many of them earning him a spell in prison for assault. Alferd Hill is has to be said, had already been in Court at least 6 times, having been a thorn in the side of the law since he was 12 years old. The two brothers thought this would somehow prejudice the claim for clemancy and mercy, the later of which they hadn't shown to Frederick Stephens, having battered him so badly they had left him for dead in the Coppice.


One of the local Clergy delivered the petition directly to the Home Secretary, and it did produce a result, although not the one the family were expecting. Having cosulted the Judge who had directed the case with a great deal of common sense and fairness, the Home Secretary reprieved Alfred Hill, and commuted his sentence to Penal Servitude for Life. Hill had, through his co-operation, and admitting his actually part in the attack, helped to sort out the role played in the matter by the two brothers. So after saying their final farewells, and shed a great many tears, possibly at being found out, the two were led from the condemned cell at Worcester Gaol, and placed on the Chalked names on the fatal trap. First Samuel, who weighed 150 pounds, and then Joseph, who weighed 145 pounds, were placed in position and after Joseph final words, " I hope everybody will do well ", sent on a final little trip, down into the 10 foot hole beneath the scaffold. It's exactly what they deserved, for all my sympathies are with Frederick Stephens and his distraught family.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 7, 2013 at 4:29 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now here are two tales from the same year, not that unusual you may think. Both though, were commited in the same manner, Stabbing, both men came from the same place, Oldbury,  both had the same surname, Slimm, and both crimes were commited in a Public house.


William Slimm, was born in Langley, about 1828, and came from a large family. He was at times, a Nailer, an Engine Worker, and an Iron Dealer, but above all else, he was a violent bully with an explosive temper. On the evening of 5th July, 1860, together with a Lady friend, he entered a Public house, The Swan, in Oldbury. They both intended to have a drink, but there was a problem, they hadn't got a farthing between them, and the Landlord, well used to this behaviour, refused them credit. Sitting quietly in the Bar, was Enoch Cooper, who knew James Slimm, and in a generous gesture, paid for two glasses of ale for the pair. For Enoch Cooper, the rest of the night became a blank in his memory, as he was viciously assualted by Slimm. Knocked to the floor, he was kicked, punched, slammed against the walls several times, and stabbed in the head three times. It's no wonder he couldn't remember what had occurred. What set off William Slimm was never discovered, although at his trial, on 10th December 1860, he claimed that Cooper had insulted his " Lady friend ". After the Jury had found him guilty of attempted Murder, the Judge, Mr Justice Wilde, voiced his feelings at the dispicable actions of the convicted man. Realising that the sentence he gave would never be carried out, he nevertheless, condemned William Slimm to Death, as the Law at the time allowed. He knew full well, that it would be commuted to either life imprisonment, or 20 years of penal servitude. That at least took off the streets of the district, a very violent man, and gave the citizens of Oldbury, especially Enoch Cooper, a bit of peace. ( William Slimm died in Dudley in 1901 )


William Laister, a well respected Maltster and Pub keeper in the Parish of Rowley Regis, having refused more drink to one James Slimm, on the 16th September,1860, was viciously assaulted and stabbed several times. By some miracle he survived the attack, but his assailant fled into the night and escaped. I have said before, that despite any of the modern methods of today, the Police of the period were quite good at catching criminals. Some weeks later, an observant policeman, Sergeant Simmonds, of the Birmingham City Police Force, spotted James Slimm in Saltley in Birmingham, and took him into custody. Slimm, who was born in 1817, and came from Langley Green, near Oldbury, was described in Court on the 14th Dember, 1860, as a notorious, and thoughly bad character. Found guilty of Attempted Murder, the Judge, appalled at the level of violence, once again passed a sentence of death, and again, knew it would never be carried out, but commuted to Life, or 20 years penal servitude. They were both lucky men, for years earlier, they would have indeed been hanged, and would have rightly deserved such an end. I suspect, that there is yet another coincidence in these two cases, and that is that they were related in some way. If you know the answer to that question, do let me know.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 8, 2014 at 3:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

West Bromwich Scandel.


This next story, although over 121 years old, has something of a modern, and topical feel about it. The poor victim certainly deserved better treatment, from the Police for a start, but more importantly, from his own flesh and blood.


John Baggott, born in 1813, had struggled all his life, as did others, taking a variety of labouring jobs to keep food on the table for his family. There was no Pension in 1893, and at the age of eighty, having recently been forced to give up his job as a Brickmaker, was now finding it hard to manage on his own. He had already moved from his daughter Rebecca's house, at 42, Oldbury Road, West Bromwich, as her husband concidered him a strain on the families finances. He had been widowed some 15 years before, and was now a frail old man. Another daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, coal boatloader Thomas Wood, had refused to take him in although did offer him some help, to manage in the little house he managed to rent. This help was in the form of their daughter, Sarah Ann Wood, aged 14, who was sent to her Grandfathers several times a week. She found his weak condition and poor state of mental health, a bit of a bind. At the begining of December, 1893, she had what would today be discribed as a hissy fit, and refused to go. Citing the reason that the old man had " interfered " with her, she insisted she wouldn't stay there. Her mother did not tell her husband, but went round from their house at 14, Colley Street, West Bromwich, to have words with  her father. It's highly likely, that the old man, his mind confused with old age, failed to appreciate just what he was being accused of, for he gave his daughter £10, and she sent the child back to look after him. Just three days later, and Thomas Wood, knowing his wife had somehow aquired money he hadn't given her, found out where it had come from. Instead of being apalled at what she had done, he sensed a chance to make a bit of extra cash, and so went to see the old man, and demanded even more money to keep quiet. In one of his lucid moments, John Baggott realised he was being blackmailed and point-blank refused to pay. The canal boatloader, not being blessed with the brain power to work out how to extract any money, hot footed it to the Police Station, and poor Mr Baggott was arrested. The old man now proved that he wasn't entirely dolally, and denied any wrong doing, which, with the lack of any evidence whatsoever, the Police had to let him go. They waited a few days, and when they felt the old man was again in a confused state, arrested and charged him a second time, hoping no doubt he would incriminate himself. He didn't, and the case went to the Assizes at Stafford.


If the Police were expecting a favourable result from the trial, they were to be sadly disappointed, for the Judge had other ideas. The dirty and underhand tactics of the West Bromwich Police Force, resulted in them getting right royal roasting from the Judge, not to mention the lack of any evidence, and the lying of John Baggotts famliy. And it was for the family, that he saved his most telling comments. He called them both an absolute disgrace and a stain on the value's of family life. To try and extort money from her own father, who was discribed in court by his Lawyer, as a ghost of a man, with one foot in the grave, was, as the Judge said, the lowest and meanest crime he had heard in many a year. Not Guilty, Discharged.  As I have said many times before, there's not much new under the Sun, well at least as far as crime goes, and modern times have not bought any changes, have they.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 29, 2014 at 3:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For such a small place, Langley, Worcestershire, part of what is now The Borough of Sandwell, has a surprising number of tragic event. This one is a bit more modern, for it happened just after the end of the last War in 1946.


Rose May Harley, 43, was not a happy woman. Her mother had committed suicide in 1938, and she had never recovered from the shock. To cap it all, she had contacted a severe bout of flu in 1941, which left her a depressed, emotional, and a nervous wreck. In March,1946, she was living with her husband and 5 year old son, John David Harley, in a small cottage in Langley Green Road, Oldbury. On Friday the 2nd March, her husband went off to work as usual, noting that she seemed a bit depressed, but no more than was her normal state. Unlike today, there was very little help availiable for people like Rose, and she had to cope with her condition as best she could. Later that day, when her husband returned, he noticed immediately that she was very aggitated and upset. The reason soon became clear. lying on the floor, in the tiny parlour, was the cold and still body of John David Harley. There was a cushion covering his face, and around his neck was a tightly knotted scarf. She did not try and excuse what she had done, readily admitting she was responsible. Upset as he was, her husband called the Police. In a statement that was read out in the Magistrates Court, she said, " It ismy fault, I did not think the kid was having a chance. I didn't mean to do what I did this afternoon ". You can almost read her hopeless thoughts in those words, and there were a few tears in the Court as she was committed to Worcester Assizes, on a charge of Murder. Opinion was divided in the area, mainly due to the victim being so young, but it was clearly a case of a woman in deep mental anguish. I can't find at the moment, a report on the case, or indeed, the outcome. Perhaps, because it is well within living memory, someone from the area could enlighten me as to what happened to the unfortunate woman, other than that she died in West Bromwich, in 1962.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 10, 2015 at 10:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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