Detective Charles Jackson could have been a role model for Sherlock Holmes. His bosses in the London Constabulary told him: Go down to Bodmin in Cornwall and solve this murder mystery. This was in the winter of 1840, and in those days many Londoners would have thought of Bodmin as the end of the world.
It was a tough case. A businessman, Neville Norway, was riding his horse home to Wadebridge from Bodmin fair on February 8th when he was attacked. His body was found hours later in a stream. His skull was bashed in and his face viciously battered.
Detective Jackson went first to the place where the body was found. He followed a trail of dried blood spots, a track made by the dragging of the body, and footprints which, he deduced, were made by two men. His inquiries led him to a blacksmith, who lived in a cottage next to James Lightfoot, one of two brothers seen together on the night of the murder. Lightfoot, said the blacksmith, came home very late on the night of the murder.
The blacksmith went on: The bedroom wall partitions are very thin and there are holes in them. I heard James Lightfoots wife and child crying. James Lightfoot said, Lie still! The folks will hear thee, damn thee! The wife said, I wont lie still they shall hear me and I dont care if they do!
Next day Detective Jackson searched Lightfoots cottage and found a pistol hidden in a hole in a ceiling beam. He arrested Lightfoot, who immediately made a statement implicating his brother William.
Their original plan was to waylay the Rev. William Molesworth from St. Breock, but when William Lightfoot saw Mr. Norway counting gold and silver coins from his purse to finalise a transaction at Bodmin market they decided to waylay him instead.
Dragging Mr. Norway from his horse, William Lightfoot fired the pistol twice, but it did not go off. The brothers then beat him to death, dragged his body across the road and rolled it down a bank into the stream.
The Lightfoots were tried at Cornwall Assizes, where the jury took only a few minutes to find them guilty. The following month, on Monday, April 13th, 1840, a crowd of 25,000 gathered outside Bodmin Gaol to watch the double hanging.
The local newspaper reported that the prisoners ate their breakfasts with an appetite and relish which surprised even their attendants, whose long association with criminals had never before made them acquainted with two mortals so indifferent to their approaching death.
On the scaffold William Lightfoot told the chaplain: Remember me to my wife and family and request them to shun the path of vice that I have fallen into. James Lightfoot said: Tell my wife and child to go to church regularly.
Detective Jackson wrote in his report that the murder of Neville Norway must have taken place at about 10.30 p.m. on February 8th. At exactly one minute before that time Captain Edmund Norway, master of the merchant ship Orient, seven miles off St. Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean, woke up with a start.
He told the second officer, Mr. Wren: I had a dreadful dream. I dreamt that my brother Neville was murdered by two men on the road from Bodmin to Wadebridge. One fired a pistol twice, but I heard no report. He then knocked my brother from his horse, stuck him several blows about the head, then ran away and left him.
Wren advised him: Dont worry about it. You west country people are too superstitious.
On February 9th, 1840, just a day after the murder, Captain Norway recorded his dream and the conversation with Wren in the ships log.