A neighbour told police that she heard a cry of “Murder!” one evening in early March 1879, and next day the body of 82-year-old Samuel Churchill was found in his cottage, his head and shoulders burned off.

His wife Catherine, 55, claimed that it must have been a terrible accident, that he suffered fits and must have fallen into the fire. But investigators found a bloodstained billhook in the cottage, and more bloodstains on Catherine Churchill’s clothes. She was arrested and charged.

The motive for the murder was the old man’s will. His wife thought he had left everything to a daughter from a previous marriage. In fact she was wrong – she was to be the beneficiary. She was hanged on Monday, MAY 26th, 1879, in Taunton Prison.