Mrs. Martha Ward was beside herself with anger when her son John, 26, told her he wanted to marry Susan Baggs, one of the family servants. “Marry a servant wench?” she exploded. “Never! Have some thought for the family’s reputation!”

John argued in vain and, unable to get her to change her decision, he stormed out of the house, at Thorpe in Lincolnshire. He came back several hours later and, seeing his mother asleep in a chair, fetched his shotgun and shot her dead.

He then tried and failed to kidnap Susan Baggs, and when police came to arrest him he tried and failed to cut his own throat. He was hanged on Friday, July 27th, 1849, outside Lincoln Prison, where, according to the priest who attended him, he was “truly penitent.”