The following is a transcript of a newspaper article.


FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 1875.

Early on Saturday morning a terrible crime was committed at Fordham, near Colchester. The details of the sad affair will be gathered from the evidence taken at the inquest, and which is reported fully below, but we may briefly state the facts, as follows:- The victims are Solomon Johnson, labourer, aged 81, and Susannah Johnson, his wife, aged 79, and the murderer, Thomas Johnson, aged 38, is their own son. The scene of the tragedy is a treble-tenement cottage, on an off-farm held by Mr. R. Knight, and situated in a lonely spot, some four hundred yards from the high road, and a considerable distance from any other habitation. The centre tenement was occupied by the Johnsons, the other portions by a woman named Mills and by four orphan children, whose mother lay dead in the house. Some time ago, the parricide exhibited symptoms of mental derangement and became in consequence, an inmate of the Lexden and Winstree Union, but he so far recovered as to be allowed to go to the house of his parents, which he again left, only a few days before the tragedy, to pay a visit to some friends at Colchester. On Friday night last, however, he returned to the cottage, but nothing occurred to excite attention till about seven o'clock next morning, when Mr. Mills heard him threatening to kill his parents. Immediately afterwards the mother rushed in, and, from what she said, Mrs. Mills sent one of the children for help. The mother then returned to the house, but very shortly afterwards the two deceased were driven out of their house by Johnson, who struck them about the head with a poker and shovel. The poor old man was killed on the spot, and his wife received such injuries that she died very shortly afterwards. Johnson then proceeded to threaten Mrs. Mills and the children in the adjoining house, going so far as to break the window; but, finding the doors locked against him, he was proceeding towards the village when he was pursued and overpowered, and ultimately given into custody.

Examination of the Prisoner before the Magistrates.

At twelve o'clock on Saturday morning the unfortunate man Thomas Johnson, who had been brought into Colchester from Stanway Union, by Police constable Richardson, was taken before the County Magistrates sitting in Petty Session, the following being upon the Bench : - P. O. Papillon, Esq., Chairman; Capt. Brett; H. R. Edwards; C. H. Hawkins, and E. Roberts, Esqrs. Johnson, whose age was stated to be 38 years, is a man of very dark complexion and bushy black whiskers and beard, and his hands and face, which were still besmeared with blood, bore traces of the fearful deed he had committed, and of his struggle with the men who apprehended him. Altogether he presented a somewhat wild appearance, but nevertheless he maintained perfect composure during the brief examination, and answered all the questions that were put to him very readily and quietly.

On being placed in the dock he informed the Clerk (Mr. Jones) his name, and in reply to an enquiry as to what business he followed, he said "I am no business at all - I am a horseman, that is my occupation when I am at work." He also stated that his father's name was Solomon, and his mother's Susannah.

The CLERK then told him that he was charged with feloniously, and of his malice aforethought wilfully killing both of them at Fordham.

Prisoner (composedly). Yes, sir.

The CLERK. That is the charge against you. You need not say anything now.

Prisoner. No, sir.

Police-constable Charles Richardson, stationed at Stanway, deposed - From information received, I this morning, about twenty minutes past 11 o'clock, took the prisoner into custody at Stanway Union House.

Witness: Yes, sir, the porter. The prisoner replied, "Yes. I have killed two; my father and my mother." I said, "What did you do it with?"

The CHAIRMAN. "Where you dressed in uniform as you are now?"

Witness: Yes, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. "Did you know him?"

Witness: No, sir. In reply to my questions he said "with the poker, about seven o'clock this morning". I then took him into custody, and brought him to the Court at Colchester.

The CHAIRMAN. "Did anything pass between you on your way to the Court?"

Witness. No, sir. I asked a gentleman for a ride and we were driven to Colchester, and nothing passed on the road beyond the prisoner remarking that it was cold - nothing in reference to this case. The CHAIRMAN. Prisoner, would you like to ask Police Constable Richardson any questions?

Prisoner. No, sir; I don't wish to ask him any. I am fully decided about it, sir.

Superintendent Daunt then applied that the prisoner might be remanded until Wednesday next, in order that he might be able to properly investigate the case; and this was agreed to.

The CLERK. Will you give Mr. Daunt any instructions how to act in the event of the Coroner requiring the prisoner's attendance before him? I should advise you that he might produce him, but not part with him.

The CHAIRMAN. He may produce him anywhere, but he must not part with him.

Superintendent Daunt. The two jurisdictions sometimes clash, although I don't think they will in this case. I don't know which is the supreme power, but I shall be guided by instructions from the headquarters.

The CHAIRMAN. There is no doubt that at the present time the prisoner is in our custody, and you will retain charge of him for us; but so far as we are concerned, we have no objection to your producing him before the Coroner or any properly qualified Court, so long as you consider him in custody as your prisoner for us.

The CHAIRMAN asked Richardson whether at the time he was apprehended the prisoner was as calm and composed as he was in the dock.

Richard replied that he was.

The prisoner was then remanded till Wednesday next, the CHAIRMAN telling him that if he wished to retain the services of a professional gentleman to watch the case on his behalf, he could do so by communicating with Mr. Daunt.

Superintendent Daunt said that he thought the present a good opportunity to ask the Bench to allow him legal assistance to conduct the case for the prosecution, which they had the power of granting.

The CHAIRMAN said they had no hesitation in granting the assistance asked for, and thought Mr. Daunt was quite right in asking for it.

Superintendent Daunt said if the magistrates did not do it, the Clerk of the Peace, under an order of the Court of Quarter Session, would have done it.

The prisoner was then removed from the Court, and was at once conveyed in a cab to the County Police Station on the Ipswich Road.

The Coroner's Enquiry

On Monday morning, Mr. WILLIAM CODD, Coroner for North Essex, held an inquest at The Horseshoe Inn, Fordham, opon the bodies of the two murdered people. The Rev. T. L. LINGHAM, The Rector of the parish, was foreman of the jury, and Admiral McHardy, Chief Constable of the County; and Supt. Daunt were present during the enquiry. Mr. H. Jones Clerk to the Magistrates of the Lexden and Winstree division also attended the inquest, by direction of the Magistrates, to render any assistance he could to the Coroner.

The usual formalities having been gone through, the Coroner briefly stated the nature of the case, and in the course of his remarks, he read the following letter which he had received from Supt. Daunt:-

Constabulary Office Colchester, 21st March, 1875.

Sir, - The Chief Constable wishes me to ascertain whether you would like the prisoner, Thomas Johnson, charged with murdering his father and mother, produced at your enquiry at Fordham to-morrow.

The magistrates have no objection, but since the prisoner has been here, he has become very violent, and outrageously mad, and I think it would be unwise and dangerous to remove him to Fordham to-morrow. I will however, do as you direct, and will thank you to send me a telegram as early as possible after receiving this letter.

I may add that the Magistrates have remanded him to this station, to be brought before them on Wednesday.

I remain, etc

W. Codd, Esq. Thos. DAUNT.

The Coroner said he was much obliged to the Chief Constable and the Magistrates for their courtesy, because their attendance of the man might have been a matter of some little importance, but inasmuch as there was direct evidence of his having done the deed, and he was well known to the witnesses, there was no necessity for his being brought there for identification. Under these circumstances he had advised Supt. Daunt that it was not necessary to produce the prisoner there, and accordingly he was not in attendance.

The Jury then proceeded to view the bodies and the scene of the fatal occurrence, which is in an out-of-the-way place, about a mile from the Horseshoes. On their return to the inquest room, the following evidence was taken:-

Mrs. Eliza Mills, wife of a labourer, was the first witness called - I lived next door to the deceased Solomon and Susannah Johnson. The former was 80 years of age - 81 next April, and the latter was about 79 years, according to what she has told me.

The CORONER. Did they live alone? - A. Yes, with the exception of the son who did this deed.

Q. And you live under the same roof? - A. Yes.

Q. Now we come to the facts? Did you see the son on Friday night? - A. Yes, between seven and eight o'clock on Friday night, he came to his father's house; I saw him in the garden, and he said "Good night" to me; I only caught a glimpse of him.

Now as to next morning? - A. Well, I went to bed at night and never heard anything until seven o'clock in the morning.

Q. Well what happened then? - A. I was standing in my room with my little boy, when we heard Thomas Johnson call out to his mother, "Go down you wi ---------, what are you "looking at me for, I'll kill you". Almost immediately after, Mrs. Johnson came into my house and said to me, "Oh I say "dear neighbour what shall I do; he, (meaning her son) says "he'll kill me." I told he to "Give him into charge."

Q. She said; "Who can I send?" A. I said, "My little boy "is here, and I will send him for assistance," I did not know where to send, but I sent him up to the public house. She went back into her house and finished dressing; but before my child could get far up the road, Thomas Johnson drove the two deceased out of the house into the garden. He followed them out into the garden.

Q. Had he anything in his hand then? - A. No, not then but he returned immediately, and came out again with the poker. Then he struck the poor old man several times.

Q. Were they running away in the garden? - A. No; the poor old man followed him, and his son then struck him several times across his shoulder, until he fell into an ash-pit in the garden.

Mr. JONES. Did you hear anything? - A. Yes; the poor old gentleman called to me.

The CORONER. Well, what next? - A. After the poor old gentleman fell into the ash-pit, he struck him on the head with the poker.

Q. Where were you at this time? - A. At my door, where I could see all that was going on. I said to him, "Tommy you will kill your father and mother" and he said, "Yes, I will kill them, the old ------". He then ran to his mother.

Q. Did he not strike his father more than once in the ash-pit? - A. Not then. I will tell you presently. He then ran to his mother and struck her with the poker across the shoulder several times.

Q. Did it knock her down? - A. Yes, she was down when I saw her.

Q. Did he strike her again afterwards? - A. Yes, several times. She was sitting down, and put her hands up and said, "Oh Tommy, you'll kill me."

Q. Where did he strike her? - A. On the arms and head. I then ran for assistance to the nearest cottage that I could come to. I felt as if I could not run any further, and the woman came on for assistance.

Mr. JONES. And then you went back? - A. Yes, and I went back across Mr. Green's field to my cottage - I was out of my path, but I knew Mr. Green would not mind that, when he heard Thomas Johnson say "You may run; I'll kill you you old -----. You may run; I'll kill you." I did not see him for I was so frightened that I could not look at him, but I heard him.

Q. Did he follow you? - A. No, for I suppose the men happened

Q. Was she sensible? - A. Yes, very.

Q. What did she say? - A. She said to me, "My dear neighbour, come to me."

Q. What did you say? - A. I said. "I will in a minute, dear, but I am afraid he is after me." I then went in and locked my door for a few minutes, for I was afraid he was after me. Finding he did not come, I went and led her into my house. She sat a few minutes and then said "Lead me into my house, dear, for I shall die." She also said, "Oh I my poor back and head, what shall I do, dear?" I then led her into her house, and sat her in the chair, after which she walked across the other side of the room. Shortly afterwards I was taking her husband's cushion away, and she said, "Don't, perhaps he'll come in in a minute; she also said, "Where's my dear old man?" I did not like to tell her he was dead, although I knew he was, for I had been and looked.

Q. When did you go and look at him? - A. Directly I had led his wife into her house. She asked me several times where he was and asked me if he was dead. I did not like to tell her and merely said, "He is outside."

Q. When did she die? - A. In about two hours - at nine by their clock, but that might be a little too fast.

Q. Did she say anything about Tommy? - A. No, she asked me "Who has done this to me?" and I said, "Tommy;" upon which she said, "Well, I don't think he knew it, then."

The CORONER. I don't suppose the woman knew what she was saying, for she had previously said, "You'll kill me Tommy."

Supt. Daunt suggested that witness should be asked whether any one else was seen about the premises that morning.

The CORONER did not think it was important at present.

Mr. JONES concurred, remarking that witness actually saw the injuries inflicted.

Witness was proceeding to state that she afterwards heard children in her house, but the Coroner said he could not take it from her as she did not see it herself.

Mr. JONES said there was a witness present who saw that, and who also saw the man knock deceased about with the spade.

Supt. Daunt. Yes, a very intelligent little girl.

Emma Campin aged 11 years, and grand-daughter of the last witness, with whom she lives, deposed - I was in my grandmother's house on Saturday morning about seven o'clock and was looking out of the window while my grandmother was away. I saw Thomas Johnson knock his father and mother about with a shovel on the head and shoulders, he kept going backwards and forwards to them. I saw him go from one to the other six times. The old gentleman was in the ashpit at that time. He kept going backwards and forwards, striking them each time with the shovel.

The CORONER. A wonderful thing that after this, the woman should have lived so long.

Mr. JONES. Yes, it is most astonishing.

Witness (continuing). He then went and got the poker, and came and broke the grandmother's windows, and said he would kill us. We all ran upstairs.

Q. What did he say? - A. He said he would kill all of us in the house. (There were two other children in the house).

Q. Did you see what became of him at last? - A. He then left the premises with the poker on his shoulders and walked up the road. I saw no more of him.

(Witness identified the shovel, which was produced. There were some blood stains on it, and a hair, which Sergt. Raven said was from the female deceased's head).

Jubal Partridge, blacksmith, Fordham, said - On the morning of Saturday last I was sent for to go to the deceased's cottage, and as I was going down from the road about 7 o'clock, I met Thomas Johnson whom I knew. He had a poker across his shoulder.

Mr. JONES. The witness had another man with him.

The CORONER. Who was that?

Witness. Jonathan Sparkes.

Q. Well, what happened? - A. I stopped him.

Q. What for? Did you know what he had been doing? A. Yes, I knew he had killed his father, and pretty nearly his mother. When I stopped him he asked me if I knew who he was. I said I did. He told me then that he was God Almighty, and said "Do you let me come past." I let him go past; and he told me to follow him, which I did. We had proceeded about 200 or 300 yards when he turned round and attacked me, saying "I'll kill you." We had a good tight tussle then to see which was master.

Q. Did he strike at you? A. Yes, several times with the poker, and hit me twice on the arm. I have the marks now. Sparkes, I believe, was the first to close with him. We eventually got him down, and strapped him up, and brought him to this house.

The FOREMAN. Was the poker broken in the struggle?

Witness. Yes; it was straight when I first saw it, and I think it was broken when he struck me on my stick. During the struggle he said he had the power of the Almighty, and was to kill all he met with. After we got him down he prayed to us not to kill him. He was afterwards conveyed to the Lexden and Winstree Union at Stanway.

Police-constable Chas. Richardson, stationed at Stanway, reported the evidence given by him before the Magistrates on Saturday, as to receiving the murderer into his custody about half-past 11 o'clock in the morning, at Stanway, and to the prisoner admitting that he had killed his father and mother. Witness added that he was with the prisoner all day yesterday (Sunday), and the poor fellow was quite mad. He attacked witness during the day, and caused a bruise on the cheek bone. His cry all day was that he was God Almighty.

Mr. JONES said the question as to the man's mind was one with which this Jury had nothing to do.

The FOREMAN thought nevertheless it would be well it should go forth to the public.

Mr. JONES said what the man said as to claiming to be the Almighty would show the state of his mind.

Mr. Chas. Jack Worts, surgeon, Fordham, said - I was called to see the deceased on Saturday morning, about 8 o’clock. I arrived there about half-past 8 o’clock. I first saw the man, who was lying in the dust bin on his right side with his head bent forward. I examined the wounds, and found the occipital and parietal bones were both smashed. It appeared to have been done with the edge of a shovel. There was also a gash on the forehead. The brain was protruding from the wound. There were other wounds, but they were matted with blood and hair; and I did not examine for fractures, as it would have been impossible to tell the extent of the fractures without a post-mortem examination. The injuries to the occipital and parietal bones were sufficient to account for death. On examining the body of the woman, who, I was told, had only died a very few minutes, I found a large gash across the top part of the head, and the posterior part was battered in. There were other severe wounds about the head, but I did not examine for fractures. The wounds were covered with blood.

The CORONER remarked that they might have been washed.

Mr. Worts said he knew the woman was dead, and supposing the murderer to be still at large, and fearing least he might do further mischief, he went in search of him, and found that he had been captured.

In reply to further questions, witness said there were other wounds on the head of a severe character, and he attributed death to compression of the brain, the result of the fracture.

The CORONER. Don’t you think it marvellous the poor woman lived so long?

Mr. Worts said it was marvellous, but he explained, medically, how it might happen that she lived so long.

It was not considered necessary to call any further evidence.

The CORONER briefly summed up. He said he thought there could be little or no doubt that the unfortunate victims died from injuries inflicted by their son, the prisoner Thomas Johnson, and not only was there direct and positive evidence to point to that conclusion, but there was the man’s own confession, and under those circumstances he apprehended they could only come to one conclusion, that the man was guilty of wilful murder. There was every reason to believe that the murderer was in a state of mental aberration, but the state of his mind was not for them to inquire into, that being a matter which would be sifted and decided upon at another place. He thought no further observations were required from him, and if the Jury were satisfied with the evidence, it would be their duty to return a verdict of wilful murder against Thomas Johnson.

After a very brief consultation, the Foreman said the Jury had not the slightest hesitation in bringing in that verdict.

The CORONER. You could not return any other.

The inquisition was then formally made set by the Coroner, and the witnesses were bound over to appear against the prisoner at the Assize.

At the conclusion of the inquiry the Rev. T. L. Lingham, Foreman of the Jury, said it had been suggested to him by one of the Reporters, and he thought the suggestion was one which would meet with general approbation, that considering the circumstances in which the witness Mrs. Mills was placed, the Jury might show their practical sympathy with her, in her great domestic affliction, by making a subscription on her behalf. She had recently lost two daughters by death, and one of them had left four orphan children, all of whom were dependent upon her for support. He should be happy to head the list with a sovereign, and also to receive subscriptions from any gentleman who might feel disposed to assist her.

This suggestion was warmly taken up by the Jury and others in the room, and in the result about £3 was collected for the poor woman, which we have no doubt will be still further increased by the contributions of many who were not present.

The Adjourned Examination before the Magistrates.

On Wednesday, at noon, the prisoner Thomas Johnson, was again brought before the County Magistrates at the Town Hall, Colchester, for further examination. There were upon the Bench, P. O. Papillon, Esq., Chairman, C. R. Bree, M. D., H. R. Edwards, E. Roberts, and C. H. Hawkins, Esqrs. Admiral McHardy, Chief-Constable of the County, and Superintendent Daunt, were present during the inquiry and considerable interest was manifested in the proceedings, although, from the excellent arrangements of the police the Court was not at any time crowded.

The prisoner was brought to the Court in a cab shortly after half-past eleven, and a large crowd had collected outside to witness his arrival. The poor fellow, who was seated during the examination, presented a much more wild appearance, than when brought before the Magistrates on Saturday, shortly after committing the deed, and he was carefully guarded by two constables.

Mrs. Mills, the neighbour of the deceased people, repeated the evidence given by her before the Coroner, as to witnessing the prisoner killing his parents. During her examination, and also that of the other witnesses, he manifested unmistakable signs of religious mania and madness. Upon Mrs. Mills saying that the last she heard of prisoner before the dreadful occurrence was on Friday evening, he remarked “That was when God first called “that has been playing the harp; her mother is risen “from the dead;” and subsequently he stated that he had told his parents years ago that he should kill them, and accused Mrs. Mills of having taken his inside out; and he also made other wild statements.

In reply to the CHAIRMAN, witness said that before the prisoner was sent to the Union, in January, she several times heard him threaten to kill his parents, but she did not hear him threaten them after he came out in February - he had been very good and quiet since then; he was at his parents’ house for about five weeks, but was away last Wednesday and Thursday; he seemed very quiet and comfortable after he came from the Workhouse.

Dr. BREE asked witness if prisoner was given to drinking habits?

Witness said he was not. A steadier or kinder man never existed.

To the CHAIRMAN. He had not done any work since he came out of the Union. He appeared to be quite comfortable after he came from the Union until the Saturday morning.

The CHAIRMAN told prisoner he could now ask Mrs. Mills any questions he liked upon her evidence.

Prisoner. Have you anything to say about me, Mrs. Mills.

Witness. No, Tommy, nothing more than I have already said; you have always been a good child to your poor old people, and they have been good parents to you.

Prisoner. Not so very kind the latter part of the time. What did they bewitch me for?

Witness. I don’t know about that.

The CHAIRMAN. Any more questions, Johnson?

Prisoner. I have not much to say. I believe what she says is very right and very true.

Emma Campin, aged 11, granddaughter of the last witness, who saw the deed committed, also repeated the evidence given by her before the Coroner in corroboration; and added that previously to his being sent to the Stanway Union in January, she heard him threaten to set fire to his father’s house.

Prisoner, on being asked the question, said he had no mind to ask this witness any questions; and almost immediately afterwards he looked up to the gallery above him and shouted out several times “Praise Him ye noble army of martyrs; praise Him; praise Him.”

Jubal Partridge, blacksmith, Fordham, who, with another man named Jonathan Sparkes, apprehended the prisoner immediately after the murder, was the next witness, his evidence being the same as he gave on Monday. In the course of his evidence, prisoner said to him, with reference to his having told him he was Almighty God. “You did not know that, did you?” He also made several ejaculations, such as “It shall be done!” “Now is the time to serve the Lord!”. &c.

In answer to the CHAIRMAN, witness said he knew the prisoner, but had never heard him threaten his parents.

The CHAIRMAN. Have they lived comfortably?

Witness. Yes, as far as I know. I never knew anything otherwise.

The CHAIRMAN. Would you like to ask this witness any questions, Johnson?

Prisoner. No; I have nothing to say. All I confess is Guilty-Guilty, my Lord. Nothing else to say.

In reply to a question, Partridge stated that the poker which he took from prisoner was broken in the scuffle with him.

Prisoner. That’s a lie. What do you tell that lie for? I will bind you hand and foot, and cut your head off. The poker was not broken in the struggle-it was broken at home.

The evidence of Police-constable Richardson (who received prisoner into custody at Stanway Union), taken last Saturday, was read over; and prisoner said he had nothing to ask him.

Mr. C. J. Worts, surgeon, who was called to the deceased, again described the nature of the injuries, which he said were evidently inflicted by such weapons as a poker and a spade, and were more than sufficient to account for death in both cases. Witness was speaking of the time when he arrived at the scene (about nine o’clock), when prisoner interrupted him, and said it was seven o’clock.

The CHAIRMAN explained that the witness was not speaking of the time when, as he (prisoner) said, he did the deed.

Prisoner. Yes, he is. Don’t tell a lie; hold your tongue; I am not going to have my father’s name blasphemed, but will fight up to my knees in blood for him; I will slay them one at a time, and spear them; I’ll put a ring through your nose, and you shall have a six and fifty on you; I’ll bore it myself.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you wish to ask Mr. Worts any question?

Prisoner. No, I have no mind to ask him anything. (To Mr. Worts). You old scamp; get down; what did you do to my head? You withered it didn’t you; get down.

The CHAIRMAN asked prisoner to keep himself quiet for a few minutes.

Prisoner. Who are you. It’s old Papillon from from Lexden; I don't fear you; I shall do God's justice.

 The CHAIRMAN. That is quite right; then you will keep quiet; that will be one way of doing justice.

Prisoner. I shall when I like; I shall not be ruled by you; I shall talk as long as I like, and you can help yourself. We’ll see if my power is not the strongest.

Police-constable Raven produced the spade and poker with which the blows were inflicted, and which had been identified by the previous witnesses.

Mr. Worts, re-called stated, in reply to the Bench, that he had known prisoner for two years, and had attended him professionally. His physical health had been good, and his mental condition also, so far as he knew, up to about the 13th January last. He always, however, appeared a little strange.

The CHAIRMAN. You have known him for two years, and he always appeared a little strange, but you never noticed anything particular until the 13th January.

Witness. I never noticed anything particular until that time.

The CHAIRMAN. And what did you observe then?

Witness. I was sent for about him as he had gone away.

The CHAIRMAN. You say there was a slight strangeness about him, do you mean always?

Witness. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean strangeness of look or expression?

Witness. Strangeness of look and manner; a restlessness of the eyes. I account for this by the fact of his having had a sun stroke.

Dr. BREE. When?

Witness. About four years ago I think. I heard this from his mother or father, and he also told me so himself. On the 13th January I was sent for about prisoner because he had torn up his mother’s petticoat and threatened her, and he had also gone away and was missing. I told Mr. Oliver Bull, the Overseer, to find him up and he was found the same day, having, I believe, come from London. I saw him at the Horse Shoes Inn, Mr. Bull’s house. He was then in a wild and insane state, and I ordered him to be kept under supervision that night and to be removed to a place of safety next morning.

The CHAIRMAN. Did you see him next morning?

Witness. No, on my going to Mr. Bull’s I found he had been taken to Stanway Union.

The CHAIRMAN. When you saw him the previous night, was he in a state that you could talk to him?

Witness. He was very much in the same state as he is now. Not quite so raving, perhaps.

Prisoner. My health has not been good. I was right enough in my mind. They took and forced me into the Union, and after they got me there they took out my inside.

Mr. JONES. You don’t wish to ask Mr. Worts any question?

Prisoner. No, that’s quite right so far. So far so good.

Mr. Alfred Gosling, Deputy-Master at the Lexden and Winstree Union Workhouse at Stanway, said - On the 14th January last prisoner was brought into the House by Mr. Bull. He was then in a great state of excitement, but nothing like what he is now. He was placed in one of the sick wards with three or four other sick persons, and he remained there till the 2nd February.

The CHAIRMAN. Was he discharged?

Witness. Yes, by the orders and wishes of Mr. Laver, the House Surgeon, and by the wishes of his mother and other relatives.

Mr. HAWKINS. You say by direction of Mr. Laver?

Witness. Yes he got quite convalescent.

The CHAIRMAN. Did he leave with his father or mother?

Witness. No; he started out with a man who was going on an errand to Colchester.

The CHAIRMAN. When he left was he quite convalescent?

Witness. Yes, quite capable of taking care of himself, and he could converse on any subject.

The CLERK (Mr. Jones). Was he discharged or did he go out on leave?

Witness. He was discharged; having recovered from his excited state. His conduct and demeanour was then quite proper and rational, and had been for quite a fortnight.

The CHAIRMAN. During the time he was an inmate of the Union, did you over hear him make use of any expression as to his father or mother?

Witness. None at all, only in the kindest of terms.

The CLERK. Where you there when he was brought to the Union on Saturday last?

Witness. Yes.

The CLERK. Did he say anything about the old people then?

Witness. No, not at first; but after I had heard from Mr. Bull what he had done, I asked him if it was true that he had killed his father and mother, and he said "Yes, it is quite true, and it is a bad job."

The CHAIRMAN. Even at that time you did not hear him say anything against them?

Witness. No not at all.

The CHAIRMAN. Did he seem quiet and calm when he came in?

Witness. Yes, quite quiet. I asked him how he felt the previous night, and how he could account for it? And he said, "I went to bed and had a fair night's rest; I got up this morning, and wanted to go up the road to see Esther Bull. I think my parents did not like me to go - I believe they tried to stop me. Then a sudden feeling came over me, and I thought I was the Almighty." Hav- said this, he rose from his seat in a state of great excitement, and said, "And I fancy you are the Almighty." That was the only excitement I noticed in him on Saturday. He did not say anything further then, and I made a prisoner of him. I afterwards asked him which he attacked first, and he said that he killed his father first. I sent for Police-constable Richardson, and handed prisoner over to him.

Prisoner, in reply to the usual questions, said he had no mind to ask the witness any questions. He added, "He seems to be the one, he is crying so, and I like a crying child best."

No further evidence was called, and the prisoner was then formally charged with the murder, and asked if he wished to make any statement.

Prisoner. It is quite true. I want to destroy the Devil's kingdom and to build up God Almighty's. Do you wish me to say any ore? I am He, and here is my father (nodding to Inspector Lennon) who is witness to it.

While the Clerk was taking down this statement, which be afterwards signed, prisoner continued making some strange and incoherent remarks.

The CHAIRMAN then informed him that he would be sent to Springfield Goal to await his trial for the murder at the next Assize.

Prisoner. Oh, the Assizes. When do they commence? In March, I think.

The CHAIRMAN. No, in July.

Prisoner. Oh, I thought it was in March. Don't tell me any lies. You are a liar.

He was continuing in this strain, when the Constables spoke to and quieted him.

The witnesses were then bound over to appear at the assize, and prisoner was at pace conveyed in a cab to the Railway Station, and thence to Chelmsford by the 2.14 p.m. train.

We offer our thanks to David Lamb (related to Jubal Partridge, who is mentioned in the article) who kindly forwarded a message sent to him by Fred Feather, chairman of the Essex Society for Family History, back in August 2001 as follows:

Dear David,

This is the report in the Essex Standard for the 16th July 1875.

Essex Summer Assize - The Fordham Double Murder.

In this case Thomas Johnson of Fordham near Colchester, Essex, was charged with the wilful murder of his father and mother in that parish on 20th March last. Mr C.E. Jones (who prosecuted) applied that the recognisances of the witness should be respited Sine Die, the person being confined under Her Majesty's warrant at the Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Broadmoor. His Lordship said that intelligence of these facts had reached the court and the application of the Learned Counsel would be granted. The case was accordingly postponed Sine Die.

[sine die - indefinitely]

Thanks to one of our members for finding it, here follows an extract from the 1881 Census, where Thomas Johnson was found - along with some interesting characters. We have included a selection from the hundreds of inmates that we found, to show the rich, the famous, the clergy, the strange and a couple of 'locals'.

Note John Happy who was probably named such for want of other information. Note also the famous artist Richard Dadd.


"Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum"

Census Place

Sandhurst, Berkshire, England

Family History Library Film


Public Records Office Reference


Piece / Folio

1320 / 98

Page Number


William GREENAWAY, Inmate, Wdr, Male, 68, Petworth, Sussex, England, Castrator

William Ross TUCHET, Inmate, Unm, Male, 59, None (Gentleman)

John HAPPY, Inmate, Wdr, Male, Not Known

Lazurus HEMPSTEAD, Inmate, Wdr, Male, 75, Balmer, Essex, England, Silkweaver

Richard DADD, Inmate, Unm, Male, 63, Chatham, Kent, England, Artist

Thomas JOHNSON, Inmate, Unm, Male, 34, Fordham, Essex, England, Agricultural Labourer

Richard WHEELER, Inmate, Mar, Male, 46, London, London, Middlesex, England, Sculptor

Henry John (MA) DODWELL, Inmate, Mar, Male, 55, Halliford & (Shep...), Middlesex, England, Clerk In Holy Orders

Henry SMITH, Inmate, Unm, Male, 30, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, Tramp

Joseph LARAJA, Inmate, Mar, Male, 41, Italy, Artist

Hannah L. FISK, Inmate, Mar, Female, 31, Colchester, Essex, England, Servant And Wife Of A Seaman

Thanks to local historian Patrick Denney (who contacted us in August 2004) we know that Thomas Johnson remained in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum until his death on 29 October 1911. At an inquest held on 31 October 1911 the cause of his death was recorded as "inflammation of the brain". Full details of his time spent in Broadmoor became available 100 years after his death (his clinical records etc). The nature of his mental disorder, from which he failed to recover, was listed as "chronic delusional insanity".

Where exactly, was the murder committed? Local opinion is that the Johnson house was at the foot of Fossetts Lane and presumably pulled down as a result of this gruesome tale. We do not know for sure. It would be helpful if we could pinpoint it on a map through land records, rents paid, tithe maps. A job for the local history society!


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