Commercial traveller Charles Cox got the shock of his life when, riding through Pitpool in Gloucestershire, on April 12th, 1879, he saw Edward Smart, 35, standing in the road with the body of a woman lying at his feet.

“I’ve just killed her,” Smart explained. Without further ado Mr. Cox spurred his horse and rode on to nearby Thornbury, where he raised the alarm. Two police officers who arrived on the scene identified the victim as Lucy Derrick, a local woman described in a report as “one of the lower classes,” and took her killer into custody.

“She was a total stranger to me,” Smart told the officers. “I did it out of devilment really.” He had cut the luckless Lucy’s throat with a razor and smashed her face in with a hammer. The bloodstained murder weapons were still in his pocket.

Described in court as “a habitual criminal,” he was sentenced to death at the end of April at Worcester Assizes by Mr. Justice Hawkins, who ignored the jury’s recommendation for mercy on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was hanged on Monday, May 12th, 1879, in Gloucester Prison and died “hard” – he was seen to breathe for several minutes at the end of the rope and his body jerked horribly in convulsions.