The screams coming from Sarah Pratts home in the early hours of October 16th, 1932, were enough to make anyone think somebody was being murdered. But it was only Sarah dreaming…of a murder that would happen the next day.
Awaking and describing the nightmare to her husband, she said she had seen her uncle Jeremiah Hanbury with his hands covered with blood and his throat gaping open. A policeman was with him, and he was taken away in an ambulance.
Forty-nine-year-old Jeremiah Hanbury had long been a worry to his niece. He suffered from depression, and had plenty to be depressed about. Invalided out of the army, he had found employment at his local ironworks in Brockmoor, Staffordshire. Then his wife died in 1928, and the following year he was made redundant the ironworks closed down, and was replaced by a housing estate.
As his depression deepened he became increasingly withdrawn. Apart from his niece Sarah, the only person he seemed to speak to was his lifelong friend James Payne, who lived with his 39-year-old wife Jessie on the estate that had supplanted the ironworks.
On the afternoon of OCTOBER 17th, the day after Sarahs dream, James Paynes neighbour Mrs. Elizabeth Harris was in her garden when she saw Hanbury leave the Paynes house. That wasnt unusual as he was a frequent visitor, often when James Payne was not at home.
What made Mrs. Harris scream was the blood dripping from Hanburys hands and the gaping wound in his throat. Hearing the scream, another neighbour came to see what was wrong. Told what Mrs. Harris had seen, he followed the trail of blood to the Paynes back door, stepped into the kitchen, and saw Jessie Payne lying on the floor in a pool of gore.
Police were called, and when an officer turned Mrs. Paynes corpse over, her head became detached from her body. The whole of the right side of her face and forehead had been caved in, and a bloodstained hammer and razor lay beside her.
A search was launched for Hanbury, who was found staggering along a road half a mile away. He was arrested and taken to hospital.
It transpired that he had been having an affair with Jessie Payne, whose husband had told him it had to stop. When she too told him not to call again, Hanbury had decided he no longer wished to live.
I dont remember any of it, he said when he was charged with Jessies murder, and that was his story at his trial. The jury rejected the defence claim that he was insane, the judge saying that an uncontrollable impulse did not in law amount to insanity. If Hanbury knew what he was doing, he was guilty of murder.
Duly convicted, Hanbury was hanged at Birminghams Winson Green Prison on February 2nd, 1933. He wanted no blinds-down mourning, he had told his sister when she visited him. I want you to get hold of the blind and draw it down, but not let it stay down. Just let the blind flick back up and say, Poor old Jerry. Hes gone.