Neighbours heard a terrible story when an agitated Mrs. Elizabeth Brown confronted them at 5 a.m. on the morning of July 6th, 1856. Elizabeth’s husband John lay dead in the living-room, his head beaten in, brain matter everywhere, and a clump of his long hair in his wife’s handkerchief.

“I heard footsteps at two o’clock in the middle of the night,” the weeping Elizabeth recounted. “I got up, and John was on his hands and knees at the front door. His head was a horrible bloody mess and he was in terrible agony. He gripped hold of me with such strength that I couldn’t release myself for three hours. He kept muttering, ‘Horse! Horse!’ as if our horse had kicked him.”

The local doctor was summoned and listened to the story with some scepticism. The horse, he reasoned, hadn’t kicked John Brown. He had been beaten on the head with a blunt instrument.

An examination of the horse proved him right. There was no blood on its hooves, it was still in its field, and the gate was shut.

At Elizabeth Brown’s trial for murder it was said that she was jealous of her youthful husband –- she was 45 and he was 20 years younger – and the age gap, already a strain, was becoming complicated by John’s interest in a young woman living nearby. Mrs. Brown vehemently denied the charge, but she was found guilty and hanged outside Dorchester Prison on Saturday, August 9th, 1856, just one month and three days after the murder.

She confessed her guilt on the eve of the execution. She and her husband had had a drunken row about the young girl. During the dispute he punched her three times on the head, ripped off her dress, and whipped her across the shoulders with a riding crop. She retaliated with an axe, and when he was dead she invented the story about the horse, completely forgetting that it would have to have blood on its hooves.