“No, I will not go there. It’s no use,” 19-year-old Maud Luen was heard telling the soldier escorting her home. Moments later they parted, 30-year-old Charles Howell returning to the Colchester barracks where he was stationed with the Suffolk Regiment.
It was 9 p.m. on JUNE 1st, 1903. Howell had been seeing Maud for some time, but he hadn’t a good word to say for her that evening when he got back to the barracks. She would not be alive in the morning, he told another soldier.
Forty minutes later Maud was in a road near the barracks, chatting to her friend Mrs. Tredger, when Howell approached and asked to be forgiven. Maud told him she would forgive him – provided he cleared off and left her alone.
Putting an arm round her shoulders, he asked her for a kiss. Then, without waiting for her reply, he raised his right hand and cut her throat with a razor while Mrs. Tredger looked on in horror.
At that moment an army sergeant appeared, cycling to the barracks. Told what had happened, he arrested Howell and took him to the guardroom where Howell admitted the attack, saying that if Maud wasn’t dead she ought to be. She had, in fact, died almost instantly.
Handed over to the civil police and charged with murder, Howell appeared at Essex Assizes on June 19th, pleading insanity. His mother told the court that he had not been his former self since his return from service in South Africa. She said he often cried like a child for no apparent reason, and several relatives had been committed to asylums.
In his summing-up, however, Mr. Justice Wright said there was no evidence that Howell was insane. The jury returned a verdict of “Guilty,” adding a recommendation that Howell’s mental condition should be examined.
He was then sentenced to death. There was no reprieve, and he was hanged at Chelmsford Prison on July 7th, 1903.