DETECTIVE WHICHER & THE ROAD HILL HOUSE MYSTERY

S03EP10

SYNOPSIS

The events that took place in the village of Road during the year 1860 would seem straight out of Victorian detective fiction. The characters played their roles as the family, the live in staff, the day staff and all with their own lives and their own secrets entwined inside the gated middle class household of Road House, one of them guilty of a shocking murder. With all its twists, turns and bombastic, final unravelling, the Murder of Road Hill House is the original whodunnit.

Summerscale, Kate (2008) The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or: The Murder at Road Hill House. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009.

Chambers, Paul (2009) Murder Most Foul: The Road Hill House Mystery of 1860. The History Press, 2009.

Thomas, Hugh (2011) Occasional Papers on Meteorological History No.10, Weather and Phenological Observations At Hurstpierpoint 1859 to 1862. The Royal Meteorological Society, 2011.

Foul and Mysterious Murder (1860, July 3), The Evening Standard, p.6.

Diabolical and Mysterious Murder: Verdict fo Wilful Murder (1860, July 4), The Frome Times, p.4

The Morning Post (1860, July 10), The Morning Post, p.4

Arrest and Examination of Miss Constance Kent (1860, July 21), Bristol Times and Mirror, p.8.

The Late Mysterious Child Murder at Road (1860, July 30), Belfast Mercury, p.4.

Examination of Miss Kent on a Charge of Child Murder (1860, July 29), Reynolds Newspaper, p.9.

The Road Murder (1860, August 2), Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, p.3.

The Road Murder – Constance Kent Sentenced to Death (1865, July 27) Inverness Courier, p.6.

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The Road Hill House

Introduction

The events that took place in the village of Road during the year 1860 would seem straight out of Victorian detective fiction. The characters played their roles as the family, the live in staff, the day staff and all with their own lives and their own secrets entwined inside the gated middle class household of Road House, one of them guilty of a shocking murder. With little headway made by the local police, detectives were called in from the relatively new detective branch of Scotland Yard. Lauded for their almost superhuman abilities of perception and mistrusted for their flirtations with practices that many deemed as criminal as their folly, whilst at the same time laying bear the secrets of their suspects for all to see, eroding the highly valued Victorian notion of privacy. With all it’s twists, turns and bombastic, final unravelling, the Murder of Road Hill House is the original whodunnit. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.

Road Hill House, 1860

Road Hill House was in many respects, a standard Victorian middle class home. It certainly had its quirks, not least in the hodgepodge appearance of the grounds, a  medley of outbuildings, clustered behind limestone walls, gated from the village road that passed in front of the main house. It’s day-to-day runnings, whilst chaotic by todays standards, were dominated by a rhythmical, highly regimented schedule. At the head of the household was Mr Samual Kent, a 59 year old factory inspector, married to Mrs Mary Kent. At 40 years old, she was 19 years his junior and was his second wife, they had married in 1853, after Samuels first marriage had left him a widow. The Kents had 4 children that lived in the house from Samuels first marriage, Mary Ann, aged 29, Elizabeth, aged 28, Constance, aged 16 and William, aged 14. Both William and Constance were in boarding school, living away from home during term time, returning for the holidays. There were also three children from their current marriage, Mary Amelia, aged 5 and Francis Saville, aged 3 and Eveline just 1 year old. On top of the family, the Kents employed three live in servants, 22 year old Elizabeth Gough was the nursemaid who was employed to take care of the children, Sarah Cox, also 22 years old, the Housemaid who attended to general chores around the house and 23 year old Sarah Kerslake, the house cook. From 7am until 7pm, 14 year old Emily Doel came to the house to assist with Nursemaid duties, and a further three members of staff came and went daily to take care fo the grounds of the house. James Holcombe was the senior member of ground staff. He was 49 years old and took care of the garden along with duties of groom and coachman. He had two assistants, Daniel Oliver, also 49 years old and John Alloway, 18 years old who was both assistant and odd job boy. The family and the staff all contributed to the throng of the household, which ebbed and flowed with the daily routines.

June of 1860 had been the coldest and wettest on record, with over 6 inches of rainfall. A severe storm had torn up trees on the south coast on the 2nd and the months previous had seen a prolonged winter stretching well beyond it’s usual boundaries, threatening the years summer. William and Constance were home enjoying their summer holiday, having returned home from their schools two weeks prior. Aside from the weather and this injection of lively youth, the house was in every other respect plodding along through its usual routines. Daily the house staff came in the mornings, worked through the day and retired at night, after locking the high gate that sat into the walls surrounding the main house and grounds. Samuel Kent had built the walls and erected no trespassing signs after numerous issues with the locals, who he felt strayed too close to the house when trying to fish the river and had, at times, taken to scrumping apples from the houses small orchard.  Samuel was not altogether popular in the local area, his job as inspector had seen him enforce the law and remove underage children from the local mills and whilst that might be considered an act of good by those who looked on, for the families that relied on the labour of their children, it meant the loss of a wage in the households income. The signs warning those not to trespass did little to endear himself any further, nor his decision to press charges on those that stole his fruit.

When laid out in such stark terms, Samuel Kent might come across as miserly, but in reality, he had arrived with his family in Road after a difficult period that had seen him hop from several areas, transfer after transfer after the death of his previous wife and the death of 4 of his previously born children had caused him to be on the receiving end of a series of vicious rumours and local bad feeling. Samuels first wife, Mary Ann, had died, officially of “obstruction of the bowel”, though there had been talk of her failing health for a prolonged period before her death after she had been diagnosed with “weakness”, “bewilderment of intellect” and “various, though harmless, delusions”. During this period, Mary Ann gave birth to four children, all of whom died in succession, the eldest making it only to the age of 15 months. Mary Pratt was promptly employed by the Kents as a governess of the household to take care of the children and the day-to-day affairs of the house. Mrs Pratt took care of both Constance and William after their births and one year after the death of Mary Ann Kent in 1852, Mrs Pratt became the new Mrs Kent, leading to many rumours of an illicit affair and dark murmurs concerning the death of Samuels first wife, Mary Ann. There were many who had seen Mrs Pratt centre herself within the household whilst Mary Ann Kent was still alive and slowly extend her duties, to what many perceived to be beyond the duties of simple Governess and more akin to those of the head of the house. When considering the families tumultuous past, one can perhaps sympathise to a degree to the premium which Samuel Kent placed on his families privacy.

Murder

On Friday 29th June, 1860, The Kents ground staff had arrived as usual, along with the Emily Doel, the day assistant nursemaid, unlocking the gate and replacing the families guard dog into it’s kennel in the yard. It was the last day of John Always employ, having handed in his two weeks notice a fortnight before when his application for a pay rise was declined by Samuel. The day passed without special excitement or incident and when nightfall came, at 7pm the day staff filtered out as usual, with James Holcombe, the senior gardener locking the gates behind them as the left. At 8pm, Elizabeth Gough, the nursemaid put Francis Saville to bed in the nursery, whilst Mary Amelia was put to bed across the hall in the master bedroom which she shared with Samuel and Mary Kent. She then ate dinner and after went downstairs to pray with the family. The rest of the household went to bed as the evening drew on. The two eldest daughters, Mary Ann and Elizabeth shared a bedroom on the third floor, along with both William and Constance who had their own rooms, next to the servants room. Samuel and Mary Kent slept in the master bedroom on the second floor, along with Elizabeth Gough who slept in the nursery opposite. By 10pm the house was still, the only resident still awake was Samuel, who pottered about, letting the guard dog out into the yard, fed him and checked that all the houses doors and windows were locked and bolted shut before himself retiring to bed at around 11:30pm.

Around 1am, The guard dog barked outside in the garden, though none payed it any mind. The animal was prone to chasing the wind and a few barks here and there were standard faire. Joe moon, a local Tile maker heard the dog whilst out fishing, along with policeman Alfred Urch, who was making his way home after his late shift had finished. Neither considered it to be anything unusual. The sun rose at 3:50am on Saturday 30th June, the weather, at long last, cast as “proving fine”. Just one an hour later, John Holcombe arrived at the house, unlocked the garden gate that he had locked the previous night, chained the dog up in the kennel and went to work in the stable. At the same time, Elizabeth Gough woke in the nursery and glanced over to the cot in the corner of the room. Francis Saville, known simply as Saville, was not in bed, though his bedclothes had been folded back in place and so she assumed he had already gone to his mothers room across the hall. Recently Mrs Kent had been a light sleeper due to her late state of pregnancy and she had often taken Saville to her room to sleep with her if he had awoke in the night.

At 6am, Sarah Kerslake and Sarah Cox woke and got up to get to work downstairs. Whilst Kerslake went into the Kitchen, Cox set about unlocking and unbolting the windows of the house. When she reached the drawing room on the ground floor however, she noticed that the door had already been unlocked and the middle sash window was opened by around 6 inches. Assuming someone had been airing the room, she closed it up and continued her morning routine.

At 7am, Elizabeth Gough went to knock on the master bedroom door to collect the children. When Mrs Kent opened the door to her, she asked if the children were awake only to be greeted by an inquisitive look. The only child that had slept in the room that night had been Mary Amelia, as was the usual arrangement. It dawned on both the mother and the nursemaid that Saville was neither with one or the other. Elizabeth Gough went upstairs to check with the other Kent children to see if they had been with Saville whilst Mrs Kent told her husband that Saville was missing. After her checks upstairs were ended with none having seen Saville that morning, panic set in with Elizabeth Gough, she paced downstairs to the kitchen to ask the other servants of any of them had seen the little boy, whilst Mr and Mrs Kent scoured the house. By 7:30am, it was clear that Saville was no where to be found inside the house and with none seeing him, the worst was feared. Samuel Kent alerted the groundsman that he was “Lost, stolen and carried away”, and ordered them to search the garden and grounds, whilst he too joined in the search. He sent John Alloway to alert Alfred Urch, the local village policeman and his son William to James Morgan, the local baker and parish constable, an unpaid, democratic position of authority in rural areas where policeman were potentially lacking in number. Samuel then rode the horse and carriage to Trowbridge, a town 5 miles to the North East of Rode, to fetch police Superintendent John Foley.

Alfred Urch and James Morgan arrived in the grounds of Road Hill House at around 8am, whilst Samuel was still out fetching Superintendant Foley. Elizabeth Gough showed them to the nursery and the pair started their search around the grounds of the house. By now, there was a certain element of commotion surrounding the house. Along with the two police already arrived and with Foley on the way, Mrs Kent had sent Constance to fetch Reverend Edward Peacock and he too had joined the search in the grounds. In the small village, noises had started to travel. Several people walked up to the house to see what was going on and two, a shoemaker named William Nutt and a farmer named Thomas Benger, decided to drift into the yard and join in with the search.

The grounds were largely attached to the right hand side of the house and were a mix of outbuildings, yards and gardens. The North-West corner was home to the stables and coach house, whilst opposite in the North-East corner sat the dog kennel and outbuildings. A courtyard divided the two down the centre and joined onto a large yard, in the South East of which housed the entrance to a second smaller yard. Within this yard, an outside toilet stood, surrounded by foliage and bushes. As Nutt and Benger scoured the foliage around the toilet, they found a small pool of congealing blood.

“By steadily looking down, I could see better, and saw something like clothing below; I put my hand down and raised the blanket.”

Benger had found, stuffed into the hole of the outside toilet, the body of four year old Saville Kent. He had had his throat cut and there was a large stab wound to his chest. His mouth was bruised. Had it not been for a recently placed shelf in the hole of the toilet, the body would have fallen straight down into the vault below and been submerged in the waste. Despite the throat being cut, there was a distinct lack of blood, Stephen Millet, a local butcher estimated there to only be around two tablespoons on the floor, though around a pint and a half had potentially soaked into the blanket the body was wrapped in. Millet also produced a small strip of newspaper he had found by the outside toilet, which was covered in blood and was, in his opinion, used to clean a knife. Though no one could identify from which paper it came from, it was dated 9th June. Benger carried the body of Saville back to the house and in a flurry of activity, the staff were ordered to keep the news from Mrs Kent, whilst William was sent to fetch the families physician, Joshua Parsons from the local village of Beckington, two miles south of Rode. Upon his arrival, he inspected the body of Saville and estimated his death to have occurred at least 5 hours prior, around 3am.

“The blanket and the nightdress stained with marks of blood and soil. The throat cut to the bone by some sharp instrument, from left to right.; It completely divided all the membranes, blood vessels, nerve vessels and air tubes.”

“The mouth of the child had a blackened appearance with the tongue protruding through the teeth… My Impression was that the blackened appearance had been produced by forcible pressure on it during life.”

He also concluded that the wounds had been inflicted by “A pointed instrument; It could not have been done by a razor.”

Samuel Kent went upstairs to his wife, who was having her hair attended to by Elizabeth Gough and to tell her the grim news of the discovery. 

At 10am, Superintendant John Foley arrived at Road House, he inspected the entire house and all the clothing of the residents, but found nothing suspicious. He took note of the bedclothes on Savilles cot, which had been very neatly folded in place after the removal of the child, which he concluded must have been done by someone with a practiced hand”. Upon his inspection of the outside toilet, he found a small sheet of material, which when pulled up, turned out to be a ‘breast flannel’, a small square of material with attached ties, worn as an undergarment to keep the breast warm and occasionally to enhance ones cleavage. He then ordered the rest of the vault below the hole in the toilet to be drained and searched, though nothing more was found. The rest of the day was busy with the comings and goings of the officials. Eliza Dallimore arrived at the bequest of Foley to strip search the female residents. She found little of interest, though Mary Anns nightdress threw up some initial excitement when small bloodstains were found, til they were promptly written off as natural stains from her menstrual cycle.

As night fell over the Road Hill House, suspicion quickly followed. All the officials who had attended the ongoing investigations that day had concluded, whether they had made it public or not, that they believed the murderer to be an inhabitant of the household and the villagers too had came to the same ends. When the story hit the papers on the following Monday, they too wasted no time in voicing the suggestion. Though the story was relegated to a small few pieces, the story concluded in the Evening Standard that,

“From the manner in which the child was taken away and murdered, it is the general opinion that the deed was done by some inmate of the house.”

Inquest

The inquest for the murder of Francis Saville Kent was swiftly arranged and carried out on Monday 2nd July, in the Red Lion Inn, a small pub in the village. Before the proceedings could start, it became quickly evident that the premises was far too small a venue for the interest the case had garnered, and so the entire affair was moved further up the road to Temperance Hall, which was just as quickly filled with onlookers, keen to see proceedings. The jury consisted of ten local men, the Landlord of the Red Lion Inn, a butcher, two farmers, a shoemaker, stonemason, millwright and registrar. It was a relatively breezy affair, the jury saw the body and the premises, including the outside toilet and then saw testimony given by Susan Cox who gave evidence of the house being locked up the night before and Elizabeth Gough who spoke of putting Saville to bed as per usual and finding nothing out of the ordinary on the night of his murder and of how he was “then well and in unusually good spirits”.  She explained that the door to the nursery opened “very softly, without noise” and the entire room was carpeted. She mentioned that Savile had not been to bed at all during the day of the murder, and so he slept “all the sounder.”

Nutt, Benger and Millet all gave evidence, with the latter producing the piece fo bloodstained newspaper, followed by the physician Parsons, who gave his medical opinion on the cause of death. When the coroner asked the jury if they required more evidence, they voiced their wishes to speak with the Kent children, William and Constance. The Inquery had initially avoided bringing the direct family into the ordeal, but the coroner allowed the jury to question Constance and William in their house so as “Not to expose them to insult”. The interviews of each child lasted no more than four minutes and both gave statements that they had slept all night, had not known anything about the murder until the morning of the discovery of the body and knew no one that held any ill-will towards the young child. After five hours, the inquiry was wrapped up with the jury returning a verdict of Wilful Murder against some person, or persons unknown.

On the same morning of the inquiry, Mrs Holley, the Kents laundry lady came to the Road House to collect the weeks laundry. It had been arranged into baskets earlier that morning with a corresponding notebook, detailing the items and garments that were to be handed over. When she returned home however, she found that a nightdress belonging to Constance was missing from the baskets, though included in the notebook. On the following day when the police visited her to ask her about the breast flannel, she told them that she had not seen it before, and that nothing was unusual about this weeks laundry from the Kent household. As soon as the police left, she sent her daughter up to the house to tell Samuel Kent that she had found Constances nightdress to be missing, but had concealed it from the police. She later visited the house herself and Samuel Kent told her, in no short terms, that she must find it immediately, or he would elevate matters with the authorities.

On Friday 6th July, Francis Saville Kent was buried in the family vault in East-Coulston, ten miles East of Rode. As the funeral procession passed out of the gates fo Road Hill House, no one was still any the wiser as to who had committed the crime, only a suspicion that it had been someone who lived in the house and still lived there, in all likliehood completely unknown to those around them. The investigation continued, but with the funeral over, there was dying hope that much would be uncovered amongst the locals. Eliza Dallimore returned with the breast flannel that Foley had found in the outside toilet. It was freshly cleaned and her purpose of bringing I to the house was to test fit it on the three staff members of the house, she did not test it on any of the Kent daughters. It was ill fitting on both Sarah Cox and Sarah Kerslake, however, it fit the nursemaid Elizabeth Gough perfectly. Dallimore left the house to report her findings and Elizabeth Gough, already high up on the list of suspects found herself under a new scrutiny.

A week after the initial Inquiry had concluded, the Wiltshire Magistrates opened a new inquiry, this time under a veil of some secrecy, though it was once again held in the public space of Temperance Hall. Several of the Road house inhabitants were called to give testimony, Mrs Kent herself told them that she believed the culprit was someone “who knew the premises” and an inmate of the house, though she was fairly convinced that it was not Miss Gough. The police disagreed, in their minds, they were finding it hard to believe that she could have remained asleep whilst someone had crept into the room and spirited away Saville, right from under her nose. They had, in fact, been busy speculating and drawing up their own theory of events. In short, they suspected that Elizabeth Gough had had a secret lover in her bed that night and Saville had awoken suddenly and witnessed the goings on. In order to keep the child quiet, they believed Elizabeth and the mystery lover had stuffed a blanket into Savilles mouth, suffocating him and then mutilated his body in order to disguise the cause of death. Naturally, they had also speculated on the identity of the lover and the number one spot belonged to Samuel Kent. He had past history of affairs with his staff, he had after all, been rumoured to have had a long affair with the current Mrs Kent whilst his first wifes health slowly deteriorated. Furthermore, he had rode off in a hurry on the morning of the discovery, supposedly to fetch Inspector Foley, but this, they surmised, would have given him ample opportunity to dump any evidence he may have needed to conceal. It was pure speculation with the only evidence being that the breast flannel had roughly fitted Miss Gough, but it wasn’t an uncommon theory. Many people in the village had gossiped as much, including the rumour that the nursemaid had given a confession to the police implicating Samuel as an accessory to the fact. Regardless of the lack of evidence, Elizabeth Gough was apprehended at Road House on Tuesday 10th July and taken to the station. Meanwhile, the local papers were making much of a story involving Constance and William Kent who three years before the murder had attempted to run away from home and sail out to sea. Constance had cut her hair and disguised herself in boys clothing to pass herself off as a boy and the pair had made tracks for Bristol. In the process, Constance had dumped her own clothing and the off cuts from her hair down the hole in the outside toilet, just as the body of Saville had been dumped after his murder. This linking of crimes was tenuous at best and it showed the lack of solid leads the police actually had to work with and how little the papers had to write about. On the same day that Elizabeth Gough was arrested, the Morning Post wrote an editorial akin to a rallying cry for something to be done about the case, that had been such an affront to quiet, middle class life.

“Every Englishman is accustomed to pride himself with more than usual complacency upon what is called the sanctity of an English home… It is with this innate feeling of security that every Englishman feels a strong sense of the inviolability of his own house. It is this that converts the moor side cottage into a castle. The moral sanctions of an English home are, in the nineteenth century, what the moat and the keep and the drawbridge were in the fourteenth. In the strength of these we lie down to sleep at night, and leave our homes in the day, feeling that a whole neighbourhood would be raised, nay, the whole country, were any attempt made to violate what so many traditions, and such long custom, have rendered sacred.”

The piece then goes on to briefly outline the murder of Saville Kent before it’s appeal,

“Without intending any disrespect to the coroner or his jury we take the liberty of saying that the circumstances demand a much more searching investigation than they have received at the hands of these functionaries. The Secretary of State must take it up, and the case must be sifted by a commission under his authority. As far as we can understand the story, it seems that the house was thoroughly closed up on the night preceding the murder. In the morning the house was partly open. But it does not appear to have been opened by violence from without. Therefore the inference is plain that the secret lies with some one who was within.”

Te piece goes on to question and suggest motives for almost all members of the Kent Household as well as the staff, in fact, it quite literally states that “the murderer was either a man, a woman, or one fo the bug children.” The matter, it declared, should never be allowed to rest until “the last shadow of this dark mystery be chased away”, “the security of families and the sacredness of English Households” demanded it! For all it’s flamboyance, the pice got it’s wish, as the local magistrates requested Scotland Yard to send a detective to aid in the cases investigation and it was promptly granted. On the 14th July, Detective Jack Whicher stepped onto the platform in Paddington Station to catch a train to Wiltshire, to take on Road Hill House.

Enter Jonathan Whicher

Johnathon ‘Jack’ Whicher was born in Camberwell, London on 1st October, 1814. His father had worked as a gardener. He lived with both his parents, Richard and Rebecca Whicher along with his older brother and sister, James and Eliza and his younger sister Sarah. The family lived in a terraced house in the somewhat sketchy end of Camberwell. After he left school, he worked as a labourer before joining the London Metropolitan Police in 1837, at 22 years old.  The Metropolitan Police, or the Met, was a mere eight years old at the time of his joining, forming in 1829 with a total of 3,500 officers. All the single officers lived in a station house together, and so too did Whicher, sharing his new home with 16 other officers. He quickly stuck out to his senior officers and was drafted into a small core of plainclothes officers that worked undercover. The group were a prototype of sorts of what was to be established as the detective officer. In 1842, the Home oFfice set up the first Detective Agency consisting of eight officers, including Whicher. They were to work in plain clothes and to stalk through the common people, unsighted and unsuspected to capture their suspects. The public and the press, though initially suspicious of the tactics of espionage which they deemed as somewhat underhand, though the rise of the Victorian detective novel soon changed the low opinion and elevated the detective to a much higher position. In some cases, detectives were described as almost superhuman with their abilities of perception and deduction. Authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens and Thomas de Quincey wrote of detective protagonists with superior traits of rationalism, scientific method, pragmatism and a quiet stroke of mistrust and mystery that turned them into the poster children for the modern police in the Victorian age. Amongst this social shaping of the detective, Whicher arrived in Rode to both acclaim and suspicion and no doubt, not a small touch of jealousy and resentment from the local law enforcement. The local feeling towards the Kent family had equally soured since the murder of Saville and by the time Whicher arrived, it had reached a low point in the case.

“There is a very strong feeling amongst the lower class of inhabitants in the village against Mr Kent’s family, as well as against himself, and none of them can scarcely walk in the village without being insulted.”

As Whicher sat down in Temperance Hall to watch the conclusion of the low key inquiry which saw Elizabeth Gough set free after no evidence could be found to send her to trial for the murder, the atmosphere in the village towards both the Kent family and Whicher himself, was not one of welcoming, friendly warmth. The inquiry was adjourned until the 20th July and a £200 reward was publicly offered for information that would lead to the capture of the killer and any accomplice that would hand in the killer was assured they would be given pardon and protection.

Whicher took a tour of the Road Hill House on the afternoon of his arrival and had the crime scene reconstructed and explained as they were found two weeks prior on the morning of the discovery of Samuels body. He ran experiments attempting to recreate removing the child from its cot  and found quickly that the bloodied scrap of newspaper found by the outside toilet by Millet was in fact, from the Times, a paper that Samuel Kent subscribed to and received daily. He concluded that the drawing room sash window that had been cracked open was insignificant. For him, it made far more sense for the killer to have exited through the back of the house, away from any potential witnesses glancing out through the front windows. He theorised that instead, they had exited through the kitchen door and walked the much shorter distance to the outside toilet than if they had gone out through the drawing room, committed the murder and then returned along the same route, re-locking and bolting the doors as they went. The sash window, he surmised was very possibly a red herring, set up to make it seem as though someone from outside the household had stolen away Saville.

Whicher then questioned all the members of the household, along with the Kent children. In particular he made a point of asking Constance where her missing nightdress was that had been lost in the laundry, along with confiscating her remaining two nightdresses. The failure of the missing night dress to materialise, he decided, was his first lead.

The next day, Whicher made several appointments outside of the village and wider area. He visited Constance school and met with several of her school friends for questioning. The detective had been busy forming his theory and it was radically different to the popular opinion in the village that Mrs Gough had killed the child to conceal an affair. Instead, Whicher believed that someone in the house had taken Saville in the dead of night, carried him through the house and out into the yard through the Kitchen, unlocking the doors as they went. When they reached the toilet, they suffocated the child and dumped him into the cesspit below, however, upon realising that the newly installe dshelf had blocked the Child from disappearing from view and drowning in the foul water below, they had returned to the kitchen, collected a knife from the basket by the back door, killed him outright, cleaned the knife on a strip of newspaper and then backtracked, replacing the knife and locking the doors as they went. On their way, they opened the drawing room window to insinuate a kidnapping and then quietly returned to bed. But which member of the household was it? He put the Breast flannel on display in Temperance Hall and asked villagers to attempt to identify it, though truth be told, he wasn’t convinced tat it was relevant to the murder at all and could use as easily been put there as another red herring or was even just simply unrelated. During his enquiries, he observed the inhabitants of the household closely.

On Wednesday 18th July, 1000 flyers were distributed advertising the £200 reward for information and once again Whicher went further afield, this time to Bristol and Bath to follow sup on the story involving Constance and Williams attempt to run away three years prior. He also spoke to another school friend of Constance, Emma Moody, who told him that Constance had often complained about her home life to her and of how she believed the children of Samuel Kents first marriage were treated unfairly compared to the new children by Mrs Kent. Whicher was developing a motive in his mind for his suspicions of Constance. He was beginning to create a scenario in his mind that saw Constance kill through “Jealousy or spite”, her mind he decided, was “Somewhat affected by madness” as evidenced by her plot to run away, and to the Victorian mindset, her mothers poor mental health meant that she was automatically tarred as being susceptible to madness. He surmised that due to her mothers poor health, she had been brought up by her Mother-in-Law to be, the then maid, Mrs Pratt, but once her father and Mrs Pratt were married, one year after her mothers death and new children were born, she felt replaced, cast aside and treated poorly by the maid that had once treated her as her own. The fact that when Constance and William had run way previously and Constance had dumped her clothing and hair into the outside toilet showed that she had been capable of making complicated plans, was somewhat devious and that the outside toilet was perhaps a repetition of this earlier indiscretion. He also suspected William somewhat, though less so and considered that he either helped Constance with the crime or was in the least a confident to the deed.

Meanwhile, Samuel Kent was adamant that none in the household had committed the crime. The house had been empty for two years prior to his moving in and there were many trespassers and people who sulked about in the empty house. This he told police, meant that the layout of the interior of his house was not quite as private as one might think. He then directed the police to the houses cockloft on the top floor and two small ante-rooms on the ground floor, all of which, he told police, could have acted very well as a hiding place for an outsider to wait until nightfall. Both were shot down by police however, when spiderwebs were noted to have covered the doorway to the cockloft and the ante-rooms held no notion of being unoccupied. These insistences by Samuel may have been his real thoughts, or were possibly just an attempt to draw the fire away from himself and his family from the local villagers. More darkly, they could also have been seen as a way to obfuscate and obstruct the police enquiries. Rumours were growing darker by the day and by now, people were sending whispers through the village that Samuel may possibly have killed this first wife in order to marry his maid, Mrs Pratt. Perhaps his first wife hadn’t been mad at all, what if she’d been poisoned? And what fo the four dead children from the first marriage? The Kent family were by now, seeing their privacy violated from all angles. The myriad rumours were damaging their reputation and ability to carry on as normal in the village and the local papers weer re-opening old wounds with talk of Samuels first marriage. All the while, the papers justified this pointing of fingers and rumour fueling speculation as a service to the “excited locality” who had a right to “The amplest details which the journalist can supply.” This, according to the Bath Chronicle, extended to a journalist passing himself off as a detective in order to gain entry to the house and grounds of Road House in order to make a floor plan that was duly printed in the paper. At this point int he investigation, there were few new details and so speculation made the bulk of the reporting and insertions were made upon who the murderer may have been, with Mrs Gough, Samuel Kent and Constance all standing int he brightest glow of the spotlight.

On Friday 20th July, the inquiry was resumed and Whicher gave the details of his investigation so far to the magistrates, concluding that he thought Constance Kent to be the guilty party. The magistrates went along with Whicher and told him to make his arrest. Whicher himself wasn’t overly keen to make such a bold move just yet, the feeling of the local police was against his own theory and he feared their may be repercussions, but the magistrates reiterated that whilst on the case, he held the ultimate authority and if he felt Constance to be guilty, then the arrest should be carried out. At 3pm, Whicher visited Road Hill House and took Constance into custody.

““I am a police officer and I hold a warrant for your apprehension, charging you with the murder of your brother, Francis Saville Kent, which I will read to you.” I then read the warrant, to her, and she then commenced crying and said “I am innocent.” Which she repeated several times. I then accompanied her to her bedroom, where she ut on her bonnet and mantle, and brought her to this place. She made no further remark to me. I now ask for a remand for a few days, and on the next occasion I shall be able to show the animus existing between prisoner and the deceased and in the meantime to search for the missing bedgown, which, if in existence, may possibly be found. A remand to Wednesday or Thursday next I think will be ample time.”

The magistrate granted remand until the following Friday and ordered Constance to be taken to a cell in a prison in Divizes, 16 miles East of Rode. When asked if she had anything to say to the matter, Constance remained silent.

Inquests again

With only a week for Whicher to build a case against Constance Kent with enough evidence to ensure she be sent to criminal trial, things needed to happen fast for the detective. He was acutely aware that the evidence upon which he had made the arrest was flimsy at best. The missing nightgown was half a clue, but almost all other evidence was purely circumstantial at best, hearsay at worst. The house was once again searched din an effort to find the missing night dress, which once again, turned up no results. He sent a telegram to Scotland Yard, tasing for assistance on the case.

“I have this day apprehended, on a warrant, constance Kent, the third daughter who is remanded for a week. The magistrates have left the case entirely in my hands to get up the evidence. I am awkwardly situated and want assistance. Pray send down sergeant Williamson or Tanner.”

Upon receiving the request, sergeant Frederick Adolphus Williamson was immediately dispatched to assist Whicher, arriving the next afternoon by train from London. In the morning, Whicher once agin travelled outside Rode to meet with more of Constances school friends and in the afternoon briefed the press on his lines of enquiry, which he said was a motive of jealousy and the history of madness that ran in her family. In his report to Scotland Yard, Whicher explained further that his case rested on the missing nightdress and the testimony of Constance school friends. He believed that the attack having taken place so soon after Constances return from school, the fact that Constance and William were The only members of the house to sleep alone, that she had used the outside toilet before as a dumping ground and that she was strong enough to have played out the murder both physically and mentally all pointed to her being the strongest suspect. He also spoke of the trouble he had had with the local police throughout the case, which he attributed to jealousy of his position and that their own theory, that the murderers had been Elizabeth Gough and Samuel Kent, differed from his own. Whicher himself dismissed the local police theory and in almost all cases, said there were innocent explanations for all of Samuels behaviours that the local police had found suspicious, such as his haste to lead so early on the morning of the discovery of Savilles body to fetch Inspector Foley and his insistence that the murderer was from outside the household.

Getting somewhat desperate, Whicher posted a notice on the door of Temperance Hall, offering a £5 reward to anyone who could bring him the missing nightdress, he then served a Subpoena to Emma Moody, Constances school friend, and then returned to Road Hill House to once again search the grounds with Williamson. He also questioned Sarah Cox, the housemaid, concerning the laundry on the morning that Constances nightdress was discovered as missing. She told him that after she had packed the laundry baskets for collection and filled out the laundry book, Constance had entered an asked her to check the pocket of her slip to see if she had left her purse in the pocket. The housemaid turned out the baskets, and checked the slip but found no purse. Afterwards, Constance asked her if she would fetch her a glass of water.

“When I returned with the glass of water I found her where I left her. I don’t think I was gone a minute”

Sarah Cox played down the time that Constance was left alone in the room with the laundry, but to Whicher, this was the information he had been looking for. He now had a theory which fit the missing nightdress, exactly as he had hoped. He believed that Constance, needing to destroy or dump the night dress she had worn on the night of the murder, had sent her two clean night dresses down with the laundry, then after they had been recorded and witnessed by another member of the house, she removed one of the clean night dresses to hold in her own possession. Once the night dress was found missing by the laundry woman, constance would then still have two night dresses in her possession, both however, would be perfectly clean of any excess blood stains, whilst the third, presumably heinously stained night dress, could safely be destroyed without any further suspicion. It was an ingenious slight of hand trick that showed calculation and acute cunning and it was exactly what Whicher needed to flesh out his theory. Though he was yet to hold any real, solid evidence, he still had the hope of a confession from Constance.

At 11am, Friday 27th July the inquiry once again commenced in Temperance Hall. In a last ditch effort to gain solid evidence, Whicher had a gang of workmen dismantle the outside toilet to drain the cesspit, though he still found nothing. The first witness tot he stand was Elizabeth Gough who gave evidence concerning Constance, but stated that,

During the whole of the time that I have been in Mr Kent’s service I have never heard Miss Constance say anything unkind towards the little boy that is dead.”

When Constances school friends were called to the stand, they spoke only of a few instances of immature jealousy, but all stated, along with the servants of the house that Constance never showed any special dislike towards Saville and that on the morning of the bodies discovery, she had shown no signs of anything unusual. Whichers theory concerning the night dress failed to be conveyed to the jury and at the end of the day, Mr Peter Edlin, the barrister employed to represent Constance gave a prolonged speech to the inquiry in which he blasted Whicher for his conduct in arresting Constance,

“There was not a tittle of evidence against her, not one word on which the finger of infamy could be pointed against her. Although a most atrocious murder had been committed, it had been followed by a judicial murder no less atrocious. If the murderer were never discovered, it would never be forgotten that this young lady had been dragged like a common felon to Devizes Gaol. That fact alone was quite sufficient to ensure the sympathy of every man in the county and the kingdom. The steps which had been taken must blast her hopes and prospects for life, and those steps had been taken solely on the suspicion of an inspector of th e pollic, acting under the influence of the reward which had been offered. The fact respecting the missing bedgown had been cleared up to the satisfaction of every one who had heard the evidence that day, and no doubt could remain that this little peg, upon which this fearful charge had been grounded, had fallen to the ground. He asked the magistrates, therefore, to pause and say whether for one moment longer this young lady should be kept in custody. Without reproaching Inspector Whicher for what he had done, he must say that the hunting up the schoolfellows of Miss Constance Kent reflected ineffable disgrace upon those who had been the means of bringing them there. Nothing had been elicited from these young ladies showed anything like animus on the part of the prisoner towards the deceased child, nor had any motive been established which would induce the prisoner to imbrue her hands in the blood of the poor child.”

“A more unjust, a more improper, a more improbable case, having regard to the facts ilicited in evidence, was never brought before any court of justice in any place, as far as I know, upon a charge of this serious nature, and seeking, as it does, to fix that charge upon a young laden the position of life as Miss Constance Kent.”

Following Edlins impassioned speech, which was interspersed with applause from the audience, the jury quickly came to the conclusion that the case against Constance was not enough to see her stand trial and she was immediately liberated and ordered free, on condition that would appear in court again at a later date if required. Whicher wrote a lengthy report, angry at the way his theories concerning the night dress had been represented to the jury and in how the questioning of the school friends had been undertaken. The next day, he and Williamson left Rode to return to London.

Case In(concluded)

After Constance was released, and the detectives returned to London, a void opened up in the case of the Road Hill murder and the press duly filled it with letters from around the country from citizens espousing their various theories as to who the murderer was and how they had committed the act. These communications ranged from the rational to the utterly bizarre, including one person who told of how he had seen everything unfold in a dream and was sure that he could point to the murderer, suggesting the police contact him if they need further assistance. Whicher also received the same mail and it fell within his remit to trawl through them all in case of any solid evidence showing up in any of them. Time and time again, he read the letters, writing them off and filing them away. Suspicion fell largely upon any and all of the inmates of the house and many people outside of it too fell under suspicion at times. Whicher came under harsh criticism for his role in the case so far, an editorial in the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette wrote with an element of fury concerning both Whicher and the role of detectives in general,

“The accuser brought forward his charge under serious responsibility. He was bound, if not to actually prove it, at least to make out so strong a case presumptive guilt as to justify his own proceedings, and to show the necessity of sending the prisoner to be tried by a jury. If he failed to do this, then he made himself liable to censure of the severest kind. Were it otherwise, what would become of that liberty, the enjoyment of which is the pre-eminent boast of every British subject? If officers of the law, prompted by professional emulation, and the desire of distinguishing themselves ; or – what is worse – excited by the scent of “blood money” – are to be allowed with impunity to bring forward baseless and reckless accusations, who among us can call himself safe?”

“We do not believe that there is a single human being besides Mr Whicher who would think it sufficient to detain her in custody for a minute… Whether the conduct of the official – or officious – police officer, Mr Whicher, will draw upon him the merited censure of his superiors we know not. But this is not the only case which has shown that some check ought to be placed on the conduct of what is called the “Detective Police,” who are not infrequently permitted to violate the sanctity of domestic life in a. Manner scarcely consistent with English security and freedom… In the present instance, moreover, there was no occasion whatever for calling in the assistance of a Metropolitan functionary. Our own excellent police have at all times shown themselves entirely competent to their duties; and the event, in this case, has shown, that the ends of justice would have been much better answered if they had not been interfered with.”

Far from superhuman figures, romanticised in fiction, detectives were now finding themselves under heavy scrutiny. Villains and and crooks whose fodder was every innocent citizen of the country. It was quite a turn about face. Meanwhile, back in Road, the police were struggling with where to turn next in the murder case. In early August they ordered for the exhumation of Saville body in the hopes they might find some piece of evidence stashed in the coffin, but nothing was found. The house remained under surveillance and searches of the toilets cesspit were once again conducted to no avail. On the 27th August, Elizabeth Gough, the nursemaid left the employ of the Kent family to return to her own home and work in the families bakery. The magistrates requested for the Home Secretary to conduct further investigations and they employed a solicitor, Mr Slack, to conduct an investigation, to be carried out in secret. He concluded his investigation, declaring Constance to be innocent, however, he suggested Elizabeth Gough to be arrested, which was done, however a magistrate court promptly found no evidence with which she could be sent to trial and was quickly released. A rather peculiar magistrate, Thomas Saunders from Bradford-Upon-Avon took it upon himself to open his own inquiry upon the case, throughout which he dragged up several tired lines of questioning, the whole time drinking brandy from a hip flask. Proceedings appeared to open and close upon his whim and he routinely forgot witness names. The morning Star newspaper called him a “crack-brained boggler”, and a barrister who wrote to him personally called him an “ill conditioned, meddling, vain old idiot.” Saunders inquiry however, wasn’t entirely played out in farce. After hearing testimony from Superintendent Foley, Police constable Alfred Urch and Sergeant James Watts, the court room heard that the police had found what they believed to be a shift, or undershirt, wrapped in newspaper and stuffed into the boiler hole in the kitchen the day after the murder. Alfred Urch told the court,

“It was dry but very dirty… as if it had been worn a long time.. it had some blood about it.”

“It was dry then, but I should not think the stains had been on it a very long time… some of the blood was on the front and some on the back. I wrapped up the shift again and as I was coming out I saw Mr Kent just outside the stable in the yard. He asked what I had found and said he must have it seen, and that Dr Parsons must see it. I did not let Mr Kent see it, but handed it over to Foley.”

Foley said that he believed the blood was menstrual blood and therefore irrelevant to the investigation, he presumed that the shirt had been hidden by some member of the household in shame and did not want to further embarrass them by bringing it to light. This was all new information and of course, would have held great interest to Whicher.

In November, Samuel Kent was given a leave of absence from his workplace. His job had become untenable in the light of the case as he found the abuse he received made his work impossible. During this period, things finally started to quiet down surrounding the Road Hill case. On the 1st December, a further inquiry was held on account of the bloody undershirt, but it amounted to little but quietly slapped wrists on the part of Superintendant Foley. In 1861 a further inquiry was turned down and in April, the family left the village for good. Constance was sent to a finishing school in France and William returned to his boarding school. Samuel was transferred to Wales and so the family moved, with the promise of being able to start a quieter life, away from the heckling and abuse. Constance however, was struggling at school, suffering from bullying and so Samuel removed her and instead sent her to a Convent in the same French town instead. In 1863 she returned to England and became a paying boarder in St Marys home, Brighton, a Church of England Convent, under the name of Emilie Kent. In 1864, Detective Jonathan Whicher retired from the police force, on his papers, his reason for taking early retirement was cited as “Congestion of the Brain”, or what might commonly be called “work based stress” in a more modern lexicon. Here the story of Road Hill House might have ended in mystery, after five years, the story had fallen off the back pages of newspapers and into the hazy recollections of the past for most people, but there was still one final twist to come.

Confession

On Tuesday 25th April 1865, Constance Kent, now 21 years old walked in to Bow Street magistrates court in London flanked by Reverend Wagner and Katharine Gream, the lady superior of her convent. She approached the clerk and told him calmly that she wished to confess to a murder. She handed over a letter, written in her own hand that read,

“I, Constance Emilie Kent, alone and unaided on the night of the 29th of June 1860, murdered at Road Hill House, Wiltshire, one Francis Saville Kent. Before the deed, none knew of my intention, nor after of my guilt, no one assisted me in the crime, nor in my evasion of discovery.”

The Clerk stared down at the paper and then back to Constance. He asked her several times if she was aware of the severity of the crime to which she was confessing and if she truly wished to confess such a thing. After she calmly reassured him, over and over, he finally asked her if she wished to sign the statement, which she then did and was promptly arrested. She had given confession to Reverend Wagner two weeks prior and confused her guilt in the crime and further, she had told him that she had wanted to take it public and confess to the police. Wagner insisted that he never pressed her to confess officially to the police, and indeed, during the trial that soon followed, held fast to his duty as a reverend no two disclose any of the information that she had confessed to him in church. Due to the crime being in Wiltshire, Constance had to attend the courts in that county, so the same evening she was escorted by train by Detective Williamson. Her inquiry was a short affair, the same old witnesses were trotted out to repeat the same testimonies as they had done so many times five years prior, however, due to Constances admission of guilt, it was all somewhat cursory and a matter of ceremony. The trial closed at 6pm, committing Constance to stand trial 3 months later in July.

All the while, the newspapers had trouble believing her confession, many blamed insanity, and some even floated the idea that she was insane, but not pleading insanity to help her brother, who coming from the same family, would have suffered from such a plea. When a doctor visited her in prison however, he promptly diagnosed her sane, “her only peculiarity”, he wrote, “was her extreme calmness – the utter absence of any symptom of emotion.”

Constances trial commenced on the 21st July, 1865, five years after the body of Saville had initially been discovered. Due to he guilty plea, it was a swift affair. Mr Coleridge, her representative gave a speech on her behalf,

“I desire to say two things before your lordship passes sentence. First, solemnly, in the presence of Almighty God, as a person who values her own soul, she desires me to say that the guilt is hers alone ; that her father and others, who have long suffered most unjust and cruel suspicions, are wholly and absolutely innocent. Next, she desires me to say that she was not driven by to the fact, as has been asserted, by any unkind treatment of her mother-in-law ; she met with nothing at home but tender, forbearing love. I hope I may add my lord, not improperly, that it gives me a melancholy pleasure to be made the organ of these statements, because on my honour, I believe them to be true.”

The judge, in black cap, passed his sentence,

“Constance Emilie Kent, you have pleaded guilty to an indictment charging you with the wilful murder of your brother, Francis Saville Kent, on the 30th June 1860. It is my duty to receive that plea which you have deliberately put forward ; and it is a satisfaction to know that it was not pleased until after hearing the advice of counsel, who would have freed you from this dreadful charge if you could have been freed therefrom. I can entertain no doubt, after having read the evidence in the depositions, and considering it is your third confession of the crime, that your plea was the plea of an originally guilty person. The murder was one committed under circumstances of great deliberation and cruelty. You appear to have allowed a feeling of jealousy..”

At this point, Constance blurted out her only clear words throughout the whole trial, when she shouted “Not jealousy!”, the judge continued,

“To work in your breast, until it at last assumed over you the influence of power of the Evil One.”

The judge then began to show his emotion and openly wept as he passed down a death sentence of hanging.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the trial, the newspapers were quick to jump on the peculiarity of the conclusion of the case. Many appeared to sympathise with Constance and the feeling was one of a deep melancholy. Their were enthusiastic calls for her death sentence to be lowered and on the 27th July, Queen Victoria gave her pardon, committing her instead to life in prison, a sentence which typically ran for 20 years. Prior to her confession int he Bow Street magistrates, Constance had written a letter which was eventually forwarded to the Kent family solicitor to help prepare her defence. As no defence was required given that she pleaded guilty however, it was never read in court. The letter detailed Constances motive for the crime.

“The murder I committed to avenge my mother whose place had been usurped by my stepmother. The latter had been living in the family ever since my birth. She treated me with all the kindness and affection of a mother(for my own mother never loved nor cared for me) and I loved her as though she had been. When no more than three years old I began to observe that my mother held quite a secondary place both as a wife and as mistress of the house. She it was who really ruled. Many conversations on the subject, which I was considered too young to understand, I overdo and remembered in after years. At that time I always took part against my mother, whom being spoken of with contempt I too despised. As I grew older and understood that my father loved her and treated mt mother with indifference my opinion began to alter. I felt a secret dislike to her when she spoke scornfully or disparagingly of my mother. Mamma died. From that time my love turned to the most bitter hatred. Even after her death she continued to speak of her with scorn. At such times my hat grew so intense that I could not remain in the room. I vowed a deadly vengeance, renounced all belief in religion and devoted myself body and soul to the Evil Spirit, invoking his aid in my scheme of revenge. At first I thought of murdering her but that seemed to me too short a pang. I would have her feel my revenge. She had robbed my mother of the affection which was her due, so I would rob her of what she most loved. From that time I became a demon, always seeking to do evil and to lead other s into it, ever trying to fin an occasion to accomplish my evil design. I found it. Nearly five years have since passed away during which time I have either been in a wild feverish state of mind only happy in doing evil, or else so very wretched that I often could have put an end to myself had means been near at the moment. I felt hatred towards everyone, Dana. Wish to make them as wretched as myself. At last a change came. My conscience tormented me with remorse. Miserable, wretched, suspicious, I felt as though Hell were in me. Then I resolved to confess. I am now ready to make what recitation is in my power. A life for a life’s all that I can give, as the Evil done can never be repaired. I had no mercy, let none ask it for me, though indeed all must regard me with too much horror. Forgiveness from those I have so deeply injured I dared not ask. I hated, so is their hatred my just retribution.”

The letter was a telling document. And though it never came to light at the time of the trial, a second letter, written by Dr Bucknill who had spent considerable time with Constance whilst she awaited trial was published by the press shortly after her sentence was passed that detailed how the murder was carried out.  A few days before the murder, she had stolen a razor from her fathers wardrobe which she planned to use for the crime, along with a candle and a pack of matches, which she placed in the corner of the outside closet in the garden. On the night of the murder, just after midnight, she got up from bed, went to the drawing room and opened the door and sash window and then returned to the nursery to collect Saville. Once in the drawing room, she put on her galoshes, climbed out the window and took the child to the toilet, lit the candle and whilst Saville was still sleeping, cut his throat with the razor. Unsure if he was dead or not, she inflicted the chest wound with the same razor and then dropped the body into what she thought would be the cesspit below the toilet, though unbeknown to her, was simply a small shelf. She then returned to her room, washed out two small patches of blood from her nightdress and put the discoloured water into a basin by her bed which she used to clean her feet at night. After the dress had dried and still seeing blood stains on it, she burnt the nightdress in her bedroom and put the ashes into the kitchen grate. She cleaned the razor and replaced that in her fathers case, and stole the night dress out of the laundry basket just as Whicher had presumed. As it turned out, the bloody garment found stuffed in the boiler hole of the kitchen had no connection to the case whatsoever. Dr Bucknill concluded the letter, stating that he did not think Constance insane. She simply had a “peculiar disposition” and even as a child , a “ great determination of character,” that suggested that “for good or evil, her future life would be remarkable.”

Even after the letter was made public detailing the cold and violent crime, the press still printed stories doubting the veracity of all of the claims. It seemed to not all add up as neatly as they would have liked. Questions were posed, such as how she had killed the child with a razor, despite the doctor who had undertaken the post mortem saying specifically that the wounds could not have been done with such a tool? Why was there not more blood on her clothing? And how had she folded the bedclothes in Savilles cot whilst holding the four year old in her arms? “We are but little enlightened”, “the crime seems not to diminish in perplexity and strangeness as it is unravelled step-by-step.”

One month after her confession, William Kent turned 21 and received his share of his mothers inheritance. As Constance lived out the next twenty years in prison, William went on to become a Zoologist in the British Museum and eventually a marine biologist in Brighton Aquarium where he published several books on marine life. Whicher died in 1881, aged 66 years old. Despite several appeals for early release, Constance served every last day of her 20 year sentence and was released on 18th July, 1885. Upon her release, she was taken in by the Reverend Wagner in Brighton where she reported monthly to the Brighton Police Station, though one year later, she sailed to Tasmania with her brother William and her half sisters Eveline and Florence under her new name of Emily Kaye. She skipped around in Tasmania and Australia, training as a nurse, working in a leper colony and as a matron in a home for young offenders. In 1911, she opened a nursing home near Sydney which she ran until her retirement in 1935. In 1944, she turned 100 years old and received her congratulatory letter from the King and Queen and was pictured in the local paper. Two months later, she passed away. It was said that she remained active and mentally aware right up to her death.

Conclusion

The case of the Road Hill Murder is at times, utterly bizarre, whilst at others, coldly rational. As the press reported, it truly did become almost more complicated and obscure the more facts were divulged. The questions as to who, how and why still remain largely unanswered in many meaningful ways. Was it really Constance or was her confession a coverup for someone else? If she was the murderer, was she really acting alone as she said and had no other member any knowledge whatsoever? It all seems a little unlikely and whilst many of the dots connect, they end up forming only loose structures of the entire picture. One thing is certain however and that is that with all its winding twists and turns, it is a case where the facts, truly are worse than fiction.

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