The three early-morning visitors at Marshall’s Wick Farm, Sandridge, just outside St. Albans, struck terror into the owners. As the farmer, Edward Anstee, 58, opened an upstairs window to see who was calling, he recognised the trio – all members of the notorious Wheeler family.

Mr. Anstee didn’t have long to reflect on what to do. One of the men, Thomas Wheeler, 46, raised his shotgun and blasted the farmer to death. The terrified housekeeper locked herself in her bedroom as the three marauders ransacked the farm for anything of value they could find.

When they had gone and the police investigated, the Wheeler family were obvious suspects. But only Thomas Wheeler stood trial at Chelmsford Assizes in November, 1880, and he was hanged on Monday, November 29th, 1880, at St. Albans Prison. Curiously, 10 years later his daughter Mary Eleanor was executed for another murder.