The alarm was raised when Constable James Davies, 33, stationed in the Worcestershire village of Beoley, failed to return from his night beat. A search was organised, and his body was found in a field. He had been stabbed more than 40 times. The pool of blood in which the body lay yielded a clear set of footprints.

The search had revealed a number of dead chickens in the area. Only one local poacher was known to steal from farm buildings – Moses Shrimpton. On March 24th, 1885, a week after the murder, detectives tracked him down to a squalid Birmingham back-street lodging-house and after breaking down the door took Shrimpton into custody.

A search of his room revealed bloodstained clothing, a knife that was clearly the murder weapon, the policeman’s watch and chain and a pair of boots with an identical print to those found in blood at the murder scene.

Shrimpton was hanged on Monday, May 25th, 1885 at Worcester Prison. Executioner James Berry correctly calculated a nine-foot drop but failed to make adjustments for Shrimpton’s neck muscles being weakened by age. When the prisoner fell through the hatch the force of the drop ripped his head clean from his body.