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Book looks back at gruesome goings-on

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: September 08, 2004

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THE 21st Century may well be the most violent period for murders and suspicious deaths, given that a day seldom goes by without newspaper and television reports of such cases.

Yet 100 years ago, murder would seem to have been just as prevalent though possibly not so widely known prior to the advent of the mass media.

It is though, the editorials of several north Derbyshire newspapers along with inquest and other reports, which have been the source of much valuable information for author Geoffrey Sadler in researching and compiling the latest in his series 'Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths', which explores in detail crimes of passion, brutal murders, grisly deeds and foul misdemeanours.

This one is entitled: 'More Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and around Chesterfield', and continues his first volume about this part of north Derbyshire which traced the early history of violent crime in and around Chesterfield from 1434 to 1882.

The new book looks at what has happened since, including the horrific Pottery Cottage massacre of 1977.

For those who have a fascination with the criminal mind, what pushes men and women into acts of violence, the subsequent police investigations, court cases and penalties, this book chronicles and puts into easy reading their stories. A number of murders and untimely deaths are examined — some of which remain unsolved today.

There is the case of Nancy Price who was married with two lovers. She paid the ultimate price for her affairs when one of her lovers, mad with jealousy, beat her to death with a poker and left her body for her husband to find.

Joseph Bowman, a proud and honourable man fell into debt. Unable to admit it and with the tax-man due to call he took drastic action. Before slitting his own throat he beat his children with a poker and sliced their throats as well as beating his wife, who after months of hospital treatment, survived.

Then there’s the sad case of the London clergyman the Rev Julius Benn who in 1883 came to stay in Matlock only to be battered to death with a chamber pot by his mentally ill son William, who had accompanied him.

In due course William Benn was to appear before the Assize court in Derby, but because of his mental condition was judged unfit to plead.

The author believes influential relatives may have intervened and accepted responsibility for William who with his wife later had a childÊ.Ê.Ê.Êwho went on to become a great character actress, the late Margaret Rutherford.

She was also to have another famous relative — Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn, former MP for Chesterfield — grandson of John Benn, brother of William.

For its final offering the book looks at the infamous Pottery Cottage murders of January 1977. En route to Chesterfield Court from Leicester prison Billy Hughes hi-jacked the taxi in which he was travelling, injuring the driver and the two prison officers accompanying him. They were dumped out in the countryside on the snowy morning while he eventually sought refuge at Pottery Cottage holding hostage the elderly couple living there along with their daughter Mrs Gill Moran, her husband Richard and their 10 year old daughter Sarah.

Each was bound and gagged in a separate room and he quickly killed the young girl and her grandfather, hiding the fact by taking meals into their rooms. He forced Mrs Moran to drive him various places and eventually she was able to alert the police through a neighbour, but as Hughes made his get-away with her his prisoner, he made a final visit inside the cottage where he brutally killed Mr Moran and his wife’s mother.

After a high-speed police chase, Hughes was ambushed, shot and eventually killed by a police marksman. It was only after it was all over that Mrs Moran was told that she was the only survivor.

The author has worked as a librarian in Chesterfield Local Studies Library for the past eighteen years and his books are published by Wharncliffe Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books Ltd, of South Yorkshire.

The paperback is available from September 16, priced £9.99.

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