It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the Leeds barracks of the soldiers of the 57th Regiment of Foot. Some of the wives lived in with their husbands, and groups of men stood around talking to them in the communal living-room. Suddenly one of the men, Private Michael Stokes, 20, raised his musket and fired. As the gun smoke cleared one of the wives, Mary Garrad, 28, lay dead on the floor.
Screaming in anger, her husband, Private William Garrad, threw himself on Stokes, and had to be pulled away by the other soldiers. Stokes said laconically: Im happy Ive killed her, but I wont tell you why. Ill tell that only to a priest.
He was tried at York Assizes in April, 1848, where he pleaded insanity. Throughout the case not a single suggestion was made about his motive, or about the meaning of the reference to a priest. Was he having a secret affair with Mary Garrad? Was he jealous of Garrad? Had he gone completely mad? Whatever it was, he carried his secret to the scaffold on Saturday, May 13th, 1848, when he was hanged outside York Prison.