Emergency Services => Crime, Punishment & Law Enforcement => Topic started by: HERB COLLECTOR on September 03, 2018, 00:56:36

Title: The Sheppey Murder. 30th July 1862.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on September 03, 2018, 00:56:36

Mysterious Murder at Sheerness.

    Early on the morning of Wednesday the body of a man was found lying in a wheat field a short distance from Sheerness, in a frightfully mutilated state, leaving no doubt that he had been barbarously murdered. The body was soon identified as that of a man named William Elliott, 30 years of age, a single man, who was employed in Sheerness Dockyard. The deceased was last seen alive on the previous evening, but at whose hands he met his death it has been impossible, up to the present time, to ascertain. It would appear that the unfortunate man was shot in the road, after which the body was dragged into the wheat field, where it was discovered.

     On Thursday an inquest was held on the body by Mr. T. Hills, the district coroner, at Sheerness, when the following evidence was adduced :-
John Cheeseman, boot and shoe maker, Sheerness, identified the body of the deceased as that of William Elliott, late of Queenborough. Deceased was a labourer, and about 30 years of age.

     Mr. Edward Stride, surgeon, said he was called to see the body of the deceased a little after one o'clock on the previous morning, and found it had been removed to that house. On making a careful examination of the body he found external marks of gun-shot wounds on the right side of the chest, as well as some on the forehead and the whole of the face. Witness opened the body, and on the right side of the chest he found that, with few exceptions, the shots had entered the lungs. One of the shots had passed through the eye, and those in the face had penetrated it deeply. It was possible for all the wounds to have been caused by one discharge from the gun. Witness had no hesitation in saying that death had been caused by the shots penetrating the lungs, and the shots had proceeded from a gun held on a level with the chest of the deceased. No other marks of violence appeared on the body, nor were there any signs of the deceased having been engaged in a struggle.

     Superintendent T. M. Green, of the Kent county police, deposed from intelligence he received he proceeded to a field called Pheasant's Field, at a few minutes past eight the previous morning. The field was about a mile from the Halfway House public-house. About eight or nine yards from the fence separating the field from the road witness found the body of the deceased lying on its back with the hands by its side. On the road side of the fence he saw blood, and there was also blood on the fence, as if the deceased had been dragged through it. About three yards within the fence there was more blood, as if the body had been left there a short time, and marks were then visible of its having been dragged on the back in a semicircle about five yards farther, where it was found. There was a great deal of blood at that spot.

    The Coroner here informed the jury that as there was no further evidence to offer, which would throw any additional light on the barbarous murder, it would be better to adjourn the inquiry.
            The inquest was then adjourned for a week.

From The Usk Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser, Saturday, August 9, 1862.

The Murder in the Isle of Sheppey.

    On Monday morning the inquest on the body of William Elliott, who was found dead under circumstances which left little douubt that he had been brutally murdered, was resumed before Thomas Hill, Esq. coroner of the county, at Minster.

     (Section repeats part of that posted in the first newspaper article.) At the opening of the inquiry some merely formal evidence was taken, and no clue was at that time found to bring to light the perpetrators of the frightful deed; but the activity of the police resulted in the arrest, on suspicion, on Monday, the 4th inst, of two men, William Johnson, a corn dealer and small farmer, residing at Sheerness, and his son, Edward Johnson, living at the same place with his father.The prisoners were taken before the sitting magistrates at Sittingbourne last Tuesday, and several witnesses were examined, but it was only considered advisable for the furtherance of the ends of justice that the details of the examination should not be made public, and it is therefore now sufficient to say that the evidence was purely circumstantial, but so far conclusive as to warrant the bench of magistrates in remanding the prisoners to St. Augustine Gaol, and to refuse the bail which was offered by Mr. Johnson, the solicitor of Faversham, who attended on behalf of the accused.

     (Section repeats part of that posted in first newspaper article.)

     George Curtis, aged 14, said he lived at Limekiln-cottage, Queenborough-road. On Tuesday morning (Other newspaper reports say evening.) about seven o'clock, he went to Queenborough, and on his way back he saw a man crawling in Mr. Vincent's beans in a field adjoining the road. He was eight or ten yards from the road, and had on a white frock. The man was not the deceased, because when he (witness) got along a little further he saw deceased coming towards him, and he said, "Good night." Witness met him halfway between a haystack that is there, and where the deceased was afterwards found dead. Witness lived in a cottage near the stack, and as he was walking up the meadow he saw a man dressed in dark clothes, walking very fast towards Queenborough, the same road the deceased had previously taken. He (witness) got indoors, and directly he heard gun fire, which appeared to be in the direction of the stack. That was about 20 minutes after nine.

     George Brown deposed that about nine or a little after on Tuesday night, the 29th of July, he saw Mr. William Johnson and his son in their cart coming over Forty-acre Hill. That is the lower road towards Sheerness, and leads past the Queenborough-road, and where the deceased was found; but before they got to him (witness) a hare crossed the road, and Johnson got out of his cart and walked along the hedge side with a double barrelled gun in his hand. He soon was up in the cart and whistled to his fatherthree or four times, who then returned, and jumping up into the cart drove off very quickly.
     James Reynolds confirmed the statement of last witness.

     Thomas Noakes, sergeant of the Kent police, said that he saw Johnson and his son on the evening of Wednesday the 30th at the Halfway House, and asked them if they were in the Queenborough-road the night before. The elder one said to the younger, "I;il answer him," and then he said to witness, "Yes we were." Witness asked if he met any one, and Johnson said he did not remember. He (witness) then asked if he had a gun with him that night, and Johnson said yes; that he took it out to shoot a stoat with it, and that it only had one charge of shot in it. He proposed to go down and see it, and Johnson said it was standing empty in the stables. He proposed to walk down, as it would make such a talk if he was seen with a policeman, and they walked down together. When the son got there he produced the gun, and the left-hand barrel had evidently been recently shot off. Witness remarked it, and Edward said, "That is the barrel we fired at the stoat with the day before." (The witness produced the gun.) He searched the house and found nearly a canister of power but not any shot except a very few in a paper in the kitchen.
     After some further evidence the inquiry was adjourned at a late hour.

     From The Usk Observer and Monmouthshire Central Advertiser. Saturday, August 16, 1862.

The Mysterious Murder in Kent.

     On Saturday William Johnson and Edward Johnson, father and son, carrying on business as coal and corn dealers at Sheerness, were charged with the murder of William Elliott. The only evidence in support of the present charge was that on the night of the murder the younger Johnson was seen in his cart near the place where the deceased's body was found, and afterwards the elder Johnson was seen coming towards the cart with something under his arm, with which he got into the cart, and drove off in the direction of the Half-way House. The magistrates considered that the evidence was not sufficient to justify them in keeping the accused any longer in custody.
     They were according discharged.

     From The North Wales Chronicle, Saturday, August 23, 1862.

Queenborough. The Late Mysterious Murder - Reapprehension of the two Johnstons.

     The Sittingbourne Police Court was crowded on Wednesday, in consequence of the re-apprehension of William and Edward Johnson, charged with the murder of William Elliot, at Sheerness. The two magistrates on the bench were the Rev. G. B. Moore, and E. Twopenny, Esq, Mr. Johnson, of Faversham, defended the prisoners. The additional evidence was somewhat singular in its nature. It was given by Thomas Gurnett, who deposed :- I am a schoolmaster at Queenborough National School. I have known the prisoners fifteen years. On Monday. August 18, I was coming from Minster, and hearing a cart nearby, asked them to give me a ride. One of them said, "No; I cannot," I recognised it to be William Johnson's voice, and said, "Oh, it's Mr. Johnson;" who replied, "Hello, is it you Tom?" I then said, "I do not want to ride" but he said, "Get up, get up." I got up, and soon after said, "I hope and believe you are innocent." He said, "What do people say?" I replied, "Some say guilty, others not." After a little more conversation the elder prisoner said, with much emotion, "The man I shot I never saw!"  I said, "Hold your tongue, hold your tongue." Johnson was about to make another observation, when the younger Johnson said, "For God's sake, father, hold your tongue." Other conversation ensured, but nothing material. When we got to the turning to Sheerness I left them, and went home. I told my wife that my opinion of Johnson was altered, and that I believed him guilty, or words to that effect. I mentioned to a policeman that I knew a little, but declined to tell him till Monday last, when Sergeant Noakes called on me. I then told him what I have now stated. In cross-examination the witness explained the reason of his saying "I do not want to ride, " after asking for one, that to be seen in the company with suspected persons was not pleasant.

     John Mackerell deposed:- On the evening of the 29th July I was going from "Halfway House" to Neat's Court, across Thirteen-acre-field, when about forty yards from the entrace to the field I saw the flash and heard the report of a gun, in the direction of where the body was found; the time I judge to be about ten minutes after nine.
     I knew the time by the Sheerness gun. I heard a cart stop before the gun fired, and it sounded to be at the same place. I could not see the cart, it was too dark. I heard another cart, which I did not see either. After the shot had been fired about five minutes, the cart that seemed to have stopped near the place went on towards "Halfway House." I told the bailiff what I had heard, but no one else till the 6th instant, when I mentioned it at a public house in Queenborough.
     Superintendent Green applied for a remand, and the solicitor for the defence said he should reserve his remarks until the evidence closed. They were then remanded until Wednesday next. It is said that witnesses will be found next Wednesday to prove that Johnson attempted to get them to swear falsely as to his whereabouts on the night of the murder.

     From the Maidstone and Kentish Journal, 2nd September, 1862.

The Queenborough Murder.

     The Grand Jury have ignored the bill against the two prisoners charged with the murder at Queenborough.

     From the Kentish Gazette, Saturday, 21 March, 1863.