Intrigued by the sudden disappearance of his stepmother, young Tom Carter asked his father: “Where’s Rhoda gone?”

“She’s staying with relatives,” replied John Carter, 45, an agricultural labourer.

Tom was suspicious. Rhoda was his father’s third wife, and matrimony still didn’t seem to agree with him. His father was always arguing and fighting with Rhoda. And he had recently heard some strange sounds coming from his parents’ bedroom at Bronledge Farm, Watchfield.

When the boy asked another question, Carter told him: “Just keep away from our bedroom.”

But some of the neighbours were beginning to wonder where Rhoda was, as well. One of them mentioned it to the local police, who decided to pay a visit to John Carter’s cottage. They found Rhoda’s body beneath the washroom floor in an old outhouse. Before he buried her, her husband had beaten her to death and tried to burn the body.

John Carter was hanged in Reading Prison on Tuesday, December 5th, 1893. He left a note confessing to the murder of his second wife, and giving details of where she could be found buried in his cottage garden. He asked that her remains be given “a decent burial.”

Police made another search, and uncovered a female skeleton, which was duly interred in the local churchyard. Victorian murder stories from True Crime Library.

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