“Some horses came along and frightened us. We panicked, and my little Louisa fell into the river and drowned.” So claimed Mrs. Frances Kidder, 25, explaining the death of her stepdaughter Louisa Kidder-Staple, 12, at Cobb’s Bridge, New Romney, in August 1867.

She and Louisa, together with one of her own children, were on their way to visit her parents when the tragedy supposedly happened. But a jury at Maidstone Assizes in Kent took a different view of it.

They heard evidence that Mrs. Kidder, who lived with Louisa’s father at Hythe, constantly abused her stepdaughter and the likelihood was that she deliberately drowned Louisa in a ditch. They convicted her of murdering the little girl.

Mrs. Kidder became hysterical in the death cell and had to be helped to the gallows outside Maidstone Prison on Thursday, April 2nd, 1868, where she became the last woman to be publicly executed in England. She had earlier blamed her husband for many of her troubles, accusing him of sleeping with her sister. She evidently had some public support, for on the day of the execution a crowd threw stones at her husband’s bedroom window and burnt an effigy of him before being dispersed by police.