The two farm workers could not have been more astonished. Their neighbour James Nicholls had arrived at their farm near Feltwell, Norfolk, at about 4 p.m. on OCTOBER 11th, 1908, telling them that old Charlie Wilson had just murdered his wife at the couple’s cottage down the road.
It was hard to imagine a less likely killer. Charles Wilson made his living selling umbrellas, and was happily married to his 70-year-old wife Susan.
Unknown to Nicholls, his own movements had been observed that afternoon by a 14-year-old boy playing in a nearby field. From a distance, the boy had seen him enter the Wilsons’ cottage. A few minutes later he saw Nicholls come out, dragging a woman behind him. The woman screamed, and she was then hauled back into the cottage. Shortly afterwards the boy saw Nicholls come out again and walk off down the road.
Then Charles Wilson approached from the opposite direction with his pony and trap. He had been away for two days selling his umbrellas, and on reaching his home he was surprised to find the door locked. Forcing an entry, he found his wife lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood. She had been battered with an axe.
The boy’s story was supported by another witness who had seen Nicholls walking towards the Wilsons’ cottage at about 2.20 p.m. So Nicholls, 37, had some explaining to do. How did he know before anyone else that Susan Wilson had been murdered? He claimed he had heard voices raised in anger as he passed the Wilsons’ home, and he had assumed that Charlie was killing his wife.
It was an unlikely story and nobody believed it, least of all the jury at his trial for Susan Wilson’s murder. They retired for only 15 minutes, returning to find Nicholls guilty, and he was hanged at Norwich Prison on December 2nd, 1908.