Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label murder. Show all posts

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Murder in the Family II

(See original post here.)

Another message from my husband's aunt seems to indicate the belief that Eliza Tharm is the ancestor in question:

"this Eliza Tharm isn't a direct ancestor but down the line from either a brother or sister of one of our direct ancestors."

I had come across Eliza in my initial research as she was famously the maid living at Dr. Palmer's house who became Palmer's mistress after his wife's death. says that Eliza gave birth to an illegitimate son in the Palmer House and this child was sent to be cared for by a 'nurse'. It was claimed that Palmer sent for the young child saying that he wished to see that the child was well.

Sounds very much like the story originally given to me (see here) but that seems far too easy.  If Palmer really was the rogue he was rumoured to be, there was sure to be other mistresses and possibly more illegitimate children.  Google Books have available a copy of Illustrated Life and Career of William Palmer of Rugeley.  I have yet to read it but a skim through revealed this snippet on page 55:

Some time after his marriage, William Palmer had an illegitimate child by a Rugeley woman, of the name of Jane Mumford, and he had, in consequence, to pay for its keep. It is related that this child, a little girl, was brought to him that he might satisfy himself that it was still alive; he saw the child, and sent her home again. Shortly afterwards she died.

Sounds tragically familiar...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Murder in the Family

I've just returned from an impromptu family history journey to the midlands (which I'll post about later) and found a message from my husband's aunt:

I was telling Dad about the mistress of Dr Palmer the poisoner being one of our rellies. The one that had a child by him and sent him to stay with Dr Palmer and the unfortunate child was killed by him. Do you have any information on that?

I certainly do not but I'm keen to know more!

Dr. William Palmer was born in Rugeley, Staffordshire in 1824.  He was hanged for the murder of John Parsons Cook, but is also believed to have poisoned his mother-in-law, wife and four of their five children as well as many others.  He became known as "The Rugeley Poisoner" and "The Prince of Poisoners" but there is still some doubt as to whether he was guilty of any of these crimes.

When I asked my husband if he knew anything about this, he said that his grandfather told him that his grandfather was taken by his father to see the hanging but he wasn't 100% certain.  I did some immediate checking of facts and if that story is true (about seeing the hanging), it would have been his great grandfather, Charles, who was taken by HIS father, Jonathan RICHARDS.  This Charles was born in Rugeley, February 1851 and would have been 5 years old when taken on this grisly day trip -  Dr Palmer was hanged at Stafford on the 14th June 1856.

If the 'mistress story' is true, then she may have been a sister of Jonathan or his wife Ann LEES but I don't have any other information at hand so at this stage it could refer to anybody.  The Staffordshire Past-Track website seems to acknowledge that Dr Palmer was "overly fond of the ladies" so this story has some merit.

I had come across Dr Palmer before - close followers of my blog will recognise my ties to the PALMER surname and I had previously come across 'the good doctor' in my search but found no connection.  It would be very interesting to find a family connection after all - even through the back door (so to speak).

If you would like to know more about Dr Palmer, please visit the Staffordshire Past-Track website (also the source of the above image) and

(image on the right of Dr Palmer's prison cell from the National Library of Medicine site).

Friday, 7 August 2009

Murder Most Foul

While combing New Zealand newspapers for mentions of my ancestors on the magnificent Papers Past site, I came across a terrible tragedy. I can't help but think that this is somebody's family history waiting to be discovered.

In what seems to be the typical journalistic style of its time, the descriptions are quite graphic.

3 December 1896 - Star

[Per Press Association.]
A shocking tragedy happened at Pangatotara, near Motueka, last Saturday night. John Grooby, who, a fortnight ago, was released from the Nelson asylum on probation at the request of his wife and sons, who undertook to take care of him, about halfpast five o'clock on Saturday evening took an axe used for cutting firewood, and attacked his wife.
Mrs Grooby was, at the time, in the act of drawing bread from an oven. She apparently held up the bread tin to ward off the blows, as the tin was found cut right through.
The unfortunate woman was apparently then forced to the ground, and as she lay there helpless the maniac knelt down and with the axe completed his murderous deed. The whole of the front and sides of the head were cut and beaten into a
fearful and unrecognisable mass. After finishing the deed Grooby washed his
hands and face, laid the axe beside the house and walked to and fro beside the
body. He told one of his sons that he committed the act with a tomahawk, and he
subsequently said that the devil did it.
Grooby's sister, who was close by, heard screams and rushing in saw her brother chopping at his wife's head. She spoke to him but he did not reply, and she then sent for help. The murderer was subsequently arrested by the police, and at the inquest a verdict of wilful murder was returned against him. Grooby has since been brought before the Magistrate's Court, and stands remanded. The family is well known in the

The next source mentions how Grooby was remanded so that the family, who were witnesses to the event, could attend the funeral that afternoon.

Apparently, mental health issues ran in the family. John Grooby's sister, who is mentioned only by her husband's name is recorded in the same edition of the Colonist (2 December 1896):

"Mrs Joseph Graves, who was formerly committed to the Lunatic Asylum, but was released some two or three years ago, has again exhibited strong symptoms of insanity. It is rumored that she left her home on Monday night, and was wandering about the whole night".

John Grooby and his sister ended up in the asylum together. The whole affair is indeed "a most sad one".