A pair of soldiers boots, worn in the recently concluded Crimean War, was at the centre of a murder at Western Heights Barracks, Dover, on August 27th, 1856.
In front of a group of other soldiers the owner of the boots, Private Thomas Mansell, 29, of the 49th Regiment, accused Lance Corporal Alexander McBurney, an Ulsterman, of stealing them. I know what youre up to, he stormed. You were going to put your own boots in my kitbag and then accuse me of theft!
Whether or not this was McBurneys intention will never be known, because Mansell followed up his accusation by shooting the lance corporal dead.
He was described at his trial at Maidstone Assizes as reserved and bad-tempered, and as a man who bore grudges. Despite that, he had been awarded a good conduct medal from the Crimean War, in which 17,500 British soldiers died.
Mansell was convicted of murder, and bears the dubious distinction of having had to wait longer than any other convicted murderer before 1880 for the hangman a period of more than six months. This was because his defence set up a series of legal arguments challenging the jurors, arguments that were finally over-ruled. He was hanged on Monday, July 6th, 1857, outside Maidstone Prison.
He remained icily cool throughout the process. When the prison clock stuck 12 as he was being pinioned, he turned to the governor and said politely, Are you not a little behind time?