For years the brothers John and William Berryman ran their farm together at Tirkeeran, near Garvagh, County Derry. They were the joint owners, but in 1906 John Berryman sold his share to William, two years his junior, and things were never quite the same again. John continued to live at the farm with William and his wife Jean, but the brothers began to fall out, and matters came to a head in 1908 when William proposed to sell some timber.

Dismissing John’s objections to the price he was accepting, William told him he no longer had any say in the farm’s running, and this enraged him.

On MARCH 18th, 1908, John burst into a neighbour’s home crying, “Willie and Jean are lying dead in the kitchen!” He said he had been working in a field, and he had found the bodies on returning to the house. Questioned by the police, he added that he had seen a stranger, probably a tramp, in the vicinity earlier that morning.

Searching the farm, the police found John’s bloodstained hammer concealed in a pile of manure. It was usually kept in the kitchen, and he was arrested after a neighbour described how he had seen him behaving suspiciously.

At John Berryman’s trial the court was told that William and his wife were having a meal when William was attacked by his brother. A woman neighbour testified that she had heard Jean shout after a man leaving the house, “Come back, John, you have killed him!”

That man, said the prosecution, was John Berryman, who had then returned to murder his sister-in-law.

Convicted and sentenced to death, the 55-year-old farmer was visited in prison by a friend to whom he admitted the murders, saying they were the result of three years of provocation. He was hanged at Londonderry on August 20th by Henry Pierrepoint.