“You’re on a charge, lad!” Sergeant James Robinson, 36, East Surrey Regiment stationed at Fort Widley, near Portsmouth, snapped at Private George Mason, 19. “Report to the company office at 0800 hours.”

Next day Mason was sentenced to seven days’ confinement to barracks. After a session on the drill square he went with his company to rifle practice. Instead of aiming at the target, however, he swivelled his rifle, pointed it at Sergeant Robinson, and shouted, “Now I am even with you!”

He squeezed the trigger and the bullet struck the sergeant in the chest, killing him instantly.

The teenaged soldier seemed surprisingly indifferent about his fate. He told an officer: “I shall either be dancing a hornpipe in the air or I’ll get 20 years on account of my youth.”

The first option was the correct one. After his defence of insanity had failed at Winchester Assizes he was hanged on Wednesday, December 6th, 1893, at Winchester Prison. Victorian murder stories from True Crime Library.

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