The following stories are related to Chapter 37 of the book titled ‘The Undated’ and should be read as an addendum to such…
“Charles Tucker Roach.”
On 12th January 1897 in North Petherton, Somerset, Charles Tucker Roach murdered his wife Elizabeth and ten month old daughter Jessie, by cutting their throats. He then attempted suicide by cutting his own throat. Roach was a striker, working at the Bridgwater carriage works of the Great Western Railway Company. The bodies were found by a dairyman named Jones, who was the first person to enter the house after the murders. Roach was sitting up in bed next to his dead wife and child with a cut to his own throat. His injuries were so severe that he was unable to attend the two initial hearings at court and they had to be adjourned.
When questioned, Roach stated he had killed his pregnant wife first and that she had begged him to spare her life. He afterwards, murdered his child. A blood stained rope suspended from a beam, was also present at the horrific scene.
The murdered woman was a native of South Wales, and aged seventeen, had eloped with Roach when he was employed as a ‘powder monkey’ on the Barry Island works at the new docks. Unmarried, they had lived happily together and Elizabeth gave birth to the little girl who was later murdered.
Although Roach seemed very fond of Elizabeth, it was at the insistence of his mother, that the couple were married just three days before the murders, and Charles drank excessively at St. Thomas’ Registry in Exeter on their wedding day.
Held on remand at Shepton Mallet Gaol, Roach’s trial was took place on 10th June at the Assizes in Wells. Defence claimed he committed the act following an epileptic seizure. Charged with ‘wilful murder’, Roach hung his head in the dock and sighed and moaned throughout proceedings.
Police Constables gave evidence that Roach stated he had, ‘got up in the night to get a pipe of baccy’ and had then returned to bed with a razor where he cut his wife’s throat and then his baby’s as he, ‘could not leave it to be knocked about in this world’.
Roach’s mother told the court he had suffered from convulsions as a child. Dr. Lionel Weatherly a ‘Lunacy Specialist’ was of the opinion that the prisoner was an epileptic and murdered his wife while in a state of absolute or semi unconsciousness, supervening on an attack of petit mal.
When the judge cross examined the doctor relating to evidence that the child had been killed five hours after the wife, the doctor stated he was only referring to the attack on the wife. The judge replied, “But he is charged with murdering the child as well!” Roach was found guilty but insane and sent to Broadmoor.
Twenty three year old Private Henry Spurrier of the Royal Marines Light Infantry, was charged at the Winchester Assizes with the murder of another Marine, Private James Whatmore at Crofton (Browndown Rifle Range Barracks), Fareham, Hampshire, on Christmas Day 1898. Fourteen of the fifteen men on the jury found him guilty of ‘wilful murder’ at the coroner’s court on 6th January 1899.
Henry and James were the best of friends and sat together before the fire at their barracks. Suddenly, Henry stabbed James in the back with a penknife to, as he later explained, ‘buck him up’. There was no motive for the crime and James died within ten minutes of being wounded. Although Henry was found guilty, there was insanity in his family and he was subsequently found to be suffering from an hereditary disease affecting the brain.
Spurrier was cool, calm and collected in the dock, he wore his blue serge patrol jacket and looked smart and intelligent. Witnesses who were quartered in the same hut as Henry and James stated they were woken in the early hours by conversation between the two men. Suddenly Spurrier struck Whatmore, who fell to the floor exclaiming “You have done it”. Spurrier then walked smartly out of the hut without putting his boots on, and his comrades rushed to the aid of Whatmore, who had wounds on his forehead and chest.
Formerly cheerful, high spirited and keen on exercise, Spurrier had recently become morose, depressed and fond of solitude. When questioned by police and his comrades immediately after the crime his answers made no sense. He fell asleep on transportation to the police station and when awoken, had no idea why he was there. Told of the crime he had committed he muttered, “Then I am a murderer”. Spurrier was a good soldier of previously excellent character and was a general favourite with his colleagues and senior officers.
Whatmore’s head wound was caused by his fall from the stool, but he died from the stab wound to his chest, which pierced his heart.
Surgeons felt the crime had probably been committed when Henry was in a dazed state following an epileptic fit. Spurrier’s father had died insane and his sister was confined in a lunatic asylum. His aunt and uncle had also both died of epileptic fits. Upon hearing the evidence the judge stopped the case and made the usual order for the prisoner to be detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
A few days after the Marine’s murder, Peter Hubbard, a twenty eight year old baker, was charged at the Leicester Assizes with the ‘wilful murder’ of his seventy year old uncle Josiah at Bitteswell, near Lutterworth, Leicestershire on Monday 2nd January 1899.
The two men lived and worked together in the uncle’s bakery business but, one morning, the old man was found dead in his bakehouse with a fractured skull and his nephew had bloodstains on his clothing and was behaving in a wild and savage manner. Peter admitted the murder and alleged a quarrel had occurred before he battered Josiah’s head in.
Sent for some brandy by Peter, who told him Josiah was unwell, the victim’s body was found by his journeyman Mr Church on his return from purchasing the requested beverage. It appeared that Peter had killed Josiah in the front room but had, for some reason, carried his uncle’s body into the bakehouse. Marks on Peter’s own throat also indicated he had attempted suicide. Peter’s mother and brother had both died in asylums and he was found to be of unsound or weak mind and detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.