Parr could both read and write. He also possessed an excellent memory and started by explaining how he had been first made aware of the tragedy.
“I was called first by the son of Swinscoe about half past twelve Wednesday ; I was in the orchard at the time”[i]
He explained how the boy had told him about the bodies in the wood and had followed him, how he himself had found the three dead children then discovered the fourth body and a razor in the woman’s hand.
“I saw the throats of all the children were cut, and they were stiff and cold and dead. I saw conjealed blood on the weeds, and that the female had been dragged from where the children lay; the distance she was dragged was about five yards. One of the shoes of the female lay about one yard from the children; it was the shoe of the right foot. When we took up the bodies there were pools of blood just where they lay.
He explained what happened next.
“I and William Parker placed the bodies in the cart, and brought them to my barn at Colwick; they are the same bodies the jury have viewed.”
Parr’s deposition was now passed to the foreman of the jury John Blackner who commenced reading more of the statement
“It appeared to me the the female and the children were all butchered on the spot where the children were found, and then she was dragged to where she was found. The place where they lay is in the parish of Colwick but the plantation has no name.”
The foreman then passed the deposition to the juror seated next to him who continued reading.
“The woman’s dress did not appear to be disarranged”. [ii]
A third juror read out yet more from the deposition.
“I believe there was no blood on the hand in which was the razor.”
The final word of his deposition was the signal for Parr to now produce the first piece of evidence. He now slowly took a handkerchief from his right trouser pocket. From the handkerchief he revealed a razor, opened out the blade and held it high over his head. There were audible gasps all around the room and those at the window suddenly froze in horror . With the exception of Parr and the two Swinscoes, no-one had been allowed the see the murder weapon. The razor was a black hafted one of common description with one side of the haft broken off. The blade was covered in spots of blood. Parr then explained how a man begging in Colwick was taken up and then released.
“He was set at liberty upon learning the suspect was taken into custody. I firmly believe the children were murdered on the spot”
The Coroner now spoke to the prisoner.
“Do you wish to ask the witness any questions?” The prisoner replied “No.”[iii]
Having completed his testimony Parr reverted back to his role of runner and was asked to bring forward the next witness. Having been duly sworn in Matthew Salmon Stanley, a farmer of Colwick began to explain how he had come across a family walking through Colwick on the Tuesday.
“I was coming home with my horses and I met a man, a female and three children; I met them just against a bridle road leading from Colwick to Carlton. The girls wore plaid frocks and straw bonnets; the boy had on a hood. The woman had on a shawl and I think a silk bonnet. The man had on a brown surtout coat and I think his trousers were dark coloured. I heard the child say hobhoys father. I saw the woman gather bloom off the hedge for the girls. They walked on and I saw them no more. I have seen the dead bodies and I am confident they are the bodies of the persons I so met. I think I should know the man again if I was to see him.”
The Coroner then asked the witness to look around the room. He immediately fixed his eyes upon the prisoner and said,
“That’s the man, I am quite certain of it, but has not on the same dress. They walked leisurely along; he looked very dull and down as if he had something on his mind. The woman had two shoes on.”
A juror then took up Stanley’s deposition and began to read from it.
“They were going on the road to Carlton. I occupy the close adjoining the plantation; it is called Sand-Hill Bank. I went to my close about two in the afternoon but did not observe the grass in the plantation disturbed, where the bodies were found, close by which I passed. It is I am told, about 450 yards from the place I met them to where the bodies were found.”
His testimony complete, the Coroner now asked the prisoner if he wanted to put any questions to the witness. The prisoner replied No. Matthew Stanley was now shown back into Parr’s kitchen where the next witness was collected; it was Stanley’s own servant girl Hannah Boot. Having been sworn in Hannah began to explain what she had witnessed.
“Last Tuesday, about half past twelve o’clock, I was going from the close adjoining the plantation, called Butt Field, where I had been hoeing beans, to meet the boy with my dinner. I saw in the plantation, by which I had to pass, two little girls gathering flowers, and the man and the woman and the little boy, sat down on the bank. The girls had green checked frocks on and straw bonnets trimmed with yellow ribbon. The man had on a brown surtout. The man and woman sat both together on the bank and the little boy was running towards them with flowers. I passed through the plantation and was within about ten yards of the man and woman. I walked on to the stile in the bridle road where I waited for about ten minutes until the boy came. I then returned to the field with the boy, and in passing the plantation I saw the same man standing against a wood gate. I saw him almost as soon as I had passed a bend in the road. He opened the gate and came towards me. When I saw him at the gate and when I met him he was alone; the woman and children were not with him. When I met him his right hand was in his trousers’ pocket and his left hung by his side. He looked very white; the man turned his head twice after he passed us. The boy who was with me said look at the old chaise but not I think loud enough for the man to hear him. The man looked very angry at me as we passed; I did not see any blood on him. When I saw the children on the bank they were about twenty yards from where they were found. In going back through the plantation I did not observe that the grass was disturbed; I saw nothing but the flowers, which I suppose the children had left, in the middle of the road. I did not hear any screaming or cries whilst I was standing at the stile. Mrs Bell passed me. I must have heard the cries if there had been any, the country being still.”
The Coroner asked the witness to look around the room and see if you see the man. The witness looked, pointed to the man and said,
“That there’s the man I am confident. I have no doubt about it.”
The deposition was now passed around the jury and some read out some more testimony. Juror Mr Jerram now commenced reading out from the statement
“Mrs Bell went through the plantation within five minutes after I first went through it. She was going from Colwick to Carlton. She must pass through it because I saw her ascend the green hill.”
Another juror took the deposition and read out some more.
“I saw the little girl’s bonnets last night, and they are the same the children wore in the plantation.”
The Coroner turned to the prisoner asking again if he wanted to put any questions to the witness. Again he replied, No.
To be Continued…………………….
Copyright@Michael Sheridan 2013 All rights reserved
[i] Nottingham Journal May 24th 1844
[ii] Derby Mercury Wed 29th May 1844
[iii] Derby Mercury Wed 29th May 1844