This month’s Crime Chronicle tells of a brutal murder that took place year Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, and who’s perpetrator remains a mystery to this day.
On February 18, 1837, the body of 15-year-old farmhand John Brill was found nestled in the Mad Bess Wood, having been bludgeoned to death. The young lad had been sent out by his employer Charles Churchill on the Thursday to fill in a fence, and a search party had been established once he had not returned home in the evening.
With a £150 reward for information that could lead to a conviction, two poachers were arrested for the crime, Thomas Lavender and James Bray Jr. Two months previously, they’d threatened violence to young Mr Brill after he’d given evidence against them in a poaching charge. Another poacher, Charles Lamb, was also charged.
However, it was believed there was not enough evidence that the two men had killed the boy, and so they were found not guilty on trial. The case remained closed for eight years until 1845, when local man George Sibley, who had been a one-time jail mate of Lamb, claimed the other man had confessed the murder to him.
Lamb was brought to trial once more but was once again acquitted after the defence managed to convince the during that Sibley was merely trying to use the offer of pardon for evidence in Brill’s murder to get out of prison.
Sadly, the mystery of young Mr Brill’s untimely end remains unsolved.
Picture credit David Hawgood