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Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > Eliza Bowen. Darlaston.1869.

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It has been claimed, ( only locally I should add ) that Eliza Bowen, ( see Foul Murders ) was the third victim of an attacker who stalked the area around the old " Mud Lane " area of the district. Two previous ' victims ' were alleged to have been assaulted, and had the name  ' Jezabel ' , or ' J ' , carved into their foreheads. Such sensational happenings, would undoubtedly have raised concerns, and not a small amount of gory national newspaper headlines. Not so, it appears, and there are no local mentions of any such attacks either. What is clear though, is that her sadistic killer possibly walked free. From the time she was found, the main, and only suspect, was the man proven to have been the last one seen with her, William Hall. Eliza Bowen did not have a good reputation in Darlaston Green, where she lived, the 50 year old being a noted drunkerd. Her husband was in prison for stealing fowl, a son was at a reformatory school, another had left home, leaving only the youngest, who had the unenviable task of identifying his mothers abused body. Many witnesses had seen the pair together on the Saturday evening, 27th February,1869, the last one being at the Horse and Jockey, Wednesbury, at 11.30pm. They were seen again about 12.30am in Mud Lane, when it was reported when they appeared to be both drunk. The discription of a man with the woman, at the entrance to Mud Lane, around midnight, tallied with the clothes Hall was wearing earlier on that evening. There was a significant clue left at the scene, where there had been a violent struggle, a piece of cloth torn from a muffler or scarf. A piece which matched exactly, with the damage to Halls muffler, found hanging the next day, on his washing line. He of course denied any knowledge of the crime, and at the inquest, the next day, at the Blue Ball, his wife claimed that they would call witnesses to attest to his innocence, so the coronor adjourned the hearing. At the Magistrates Court, Mrs Hall gave the same assurences regarding other witnesses, and the Magistrates also adjourned untill the witnesses could be heard. So Hall was committed to the next Assizes at Stafford, in July, this proving to be a very costly mistake. There then followed a bit of a farce, typical of the understanding of the law at the time by some who didn't quite grasp the implications. Mrs Hall failed to arrange for the witnesses to appear, claiming she did not know it was her responsibilty. The Coroner, with a verdict of Wilful Murder in the offing, found out that because the accused was in prison, he did not have the power to summon him back to the Inquest. Dispite calling in the Home Secrectary, and consulting a Judge in Chambers, because Hall had been committed to Prison, he could not be called to the Coroners Courts. There was no alternative but to bring in an 'open ' verdict. Worse was to follow, as the Grand Jury at Stafford, unable to hear any evidence, struck out the charge against William Hall, and he left the Assize's a free man. Not withstanding the anger felt back in Darlaston, anyone who had weak evidence of a charge laid before the Grand Jury. could expect the same result. It was designed as a safeguard against false prosecution, which in other forms, still exists today.

In the records, are several other confessions to this terrible crime, just like today, mainly from cranks and publicity seekers. James Owen, notable among the many, over in Sutton Coldfield, confessed to the murder then withdrew it. In 1888, ( The year of Jack the Ripper ) one William Clifford, up in front of the Magistrates at Stratford Petty Sessions, Essex, shocked the Court by confessing to a murder he had committed on a cinder bank near Wolverhampton, almost 18 years before. ( He would have been 17 at the time )

I, William Clifford, murdered a woman between the hours of four and six in the morning, on a cinder bank near Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, about eighteen years ago. My sister,Sarah Knight, who resided in Burslem, in the Potteries, North Staffordshire, knows all about it. Though it will break my mother's heart, I want to have it cleared up so I can have a clear mind.

This ' statement ' was later withdrawn, after he admitted he was drunk and un-employed at the time. Refuted by an Inspector Walsh, who said that he was perfectly sober when he dictated the statement, which got Clifford sent to a house of detention. Once there, they found he was as mad as a bunch of march hares, had him declared insane, and locked him up. An nice example of what to do to someone who wastes Police and Court time. They should have done something similar to the Magistrates who inadventently let William Hall get away with Murder.


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

November 2, 2012 at 12:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 46

I wonder wether the police tried to find out if anyone had been murdered where William Clifford said he had done it .

November 2, 2012 at 2:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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