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Forum Home > Murder Case Reviews > William Howe. Kinver, 1812.

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This Murder, although the victim, Benjamin Robins was a farmer from Dunsley, Kinver, was committed in the Parish of Oldswinford. Today more well known as Stourbridge. A short time after 5.00pm, on December 18th, 1812, and it would have been already quite dark, farmer Robins was making his way home from Stourbridge Market, when he was assaulted, and violently robbed. He had been approached by the man a short while before, and, suspecting nothing amiss, they walked together towards Dunsley Hill. At this point the man stepped back, drew a pistol, and without warning, shot Benjamin Robins in the back. The farmer could do nothing to prevent being robbed of all his possesions, and the man then hurried off, back along the road, heading for Stourbridge. Mr Robins later died, and a discription of the man had been obtained from several persons who had seen this character hanging around. For the time, Benjamin Robins was carrying a great deal of money. Two ten pound notes from the Stourbridge Old Bank, one pound note of a Dudley Bank, eight Silver shillings, and a Silver Watch with chain. It didn't take the authorities long to get a good name for this reprobate, William Howe, alias, John Wood, and the chase to track him down began. The Bow Street runners were called in, and a pursuit across Herefordshire, Wales, back into the midlands, finally ended in London, with Howe apprehended, and sent to await trial at Stafford Assizies. He was hanged in March,1813.

There is maybe, a bit more to this tale, and if so, it begins near the pleasant little riverside Town of Bridgenorth. Edward Wiggan, had been a successful Miller in the village of Eardington for many years, and, like Benjamin Robins some three weeks later, was on the way back from a Market. This one being Wolverhampton. Shortly after going through the Turnpike gate, he encountered a man standing beneath a tree, and once again, it would have been fairly dark around 7.00pm. Without saying a word, the man drew, and fired a pistol at Edward Wiggan, who fell, mortally wounded. It maybe that the assailant had mis-calculated the distance from the Toll Booth, for shouts were quickly raised, and the man escaped without having had time to rob the unfortunate man. As soon as William Howe had been arrested in London, the Bridgenorth Constable asked if he could be questioned about this very similar Murder, he duly was, but Howe denied any involvement. 16 days after the shooting and robbery of Benjamin Robins, another, similar robbery was carried out on the turnpike road from Stourbridge to Kidderminster at Iverly, although one of the two men was armed, this time no shots were fired. The victim, Doctor Bradley from the village of Churchill, was blindfolded, bound, robbed of over Thirty Pounds and his Watch, and then flung, like a sack of rubbish into the thick Gorse. Again, a substancial sum of money had gone missing. Did William Howe, at this time, already a wanted fugitive, do this one for the cash to effect his escape. Then again, after the highly profitable second robbery, ( Robins ) why would he need to find extra money, he must have had plenty left for a decent Coach fare and Hotel accomodation. In any case, when this robbery was put to him, he again denied any knowledge. It should be remembered as well, that someone as persistant  a robber as William Howe  was, he also stood the chance of having his body being dissected, and atomised. A fate, according to many who were hanged, as worse than the hanging itself.

Now although William Howe escaped the dreaded dissection and being atomised, his remains suffered a further indignity. In the darkness of the night, on 3rd September, 1814, his by now weathered bones, were stolen from the lonely spot in Gibbet Lane. It had been 18 months since his hanging, and rumour abounded that a family member had taken them. No one however was apprehended for the theft, indeed, it's hard to see what they could be charged with anyway. No trace was ever found, and there appears to be no burial record or local monument bearing his name. His Ghost, it is said, continues to haunt the spot.


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

September 5, 2013 at 3:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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