Screaming and covered with blood, Maria Barber, 38, dashed from her Elmfield, Ryde, home into the street. A horrified neighbour went into the house to remonstrate with Maria’s boy friend, James Caffyn, a 31-year-old illiterate labourer, and saw him put down an axe. But the neighbour didn’t realise at the time that Maria had been seriously injured. When her body was found later that day, November 26th, 1877, she had been hacked to death.

Caffyn fled to Portsmouth but was arrested next day. At his trial at Winchester he claimed that Maria had threatened to leave him, and therefore it was a case of manslaughter caused by provocation. The jury disagreed, and he was hanged on Monday, February 11th, 1878, at Winchester Prison.