Fresh claim on Red Barn murder

By Dave GooderhamA BARRISTER has claimed the cremation of one of East Anglia's most notorious murderers might have included the skull of a different man.

By Dave Gooderham

A BARRISTER has claimed the cremation of one of East Anglia's most notorious murderers might have included the skull of a different man.

Alan Murdy has cast doubt over the cremation of William Corder - infamously dubbed the Red Barn murderer - claiming his skull might have been buried 50 years after his public execution in 1828 to warn off evil spirits.

But Corder's distant relative, Linda Nessworthy, who campaigned for three years to get the killer's remains, dismissed Mr Murdy's claims.


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She vowed to continue her battle to hold a memorial service in his home village of Polstead.

Mr Murdy said a book written in the 1940s by R Thurston Hopkins, the son of a former Bury St Edmunds prison governor, claimed Corder's skull had been buried in Sicklesmere.

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“There is a question as to whether the skull was genuinely William Corder's. Records indicate the skull was removed from the skeleton in about 1876,” said Mr Murdy.

“The skull was considered to be either supernatural or unlucky and it was buried in Sicklesmere. It would have been relatively easy to obtain another skull and replace it and no-one would have been any the wiser.

“There is enough anecdotal detail to raise at least a reasonable doubt. The cremation might well have been of two different people, which raises questions of the whole legitimacy of Miss Nessworthy's actions.”

Miss Nessworthy said Mr Murdy's claims would not make any difference to her plans to hold a memorial service for Corder in Polstead, where he killed his lover, Maria Marten, in the Red Barn, about a mile from the village.

“Anatomical measurements have been carried out of the skull against the skeleton and proven the skull belonged to William Corder,” she added.

“I was aware of the book and the claims, so I asked the Royal College of Surgeons to carry out tests before the cremation.”

The Murder in the Red Barn has gripped generations for almost 200 years. The body of Maria Marten was found in a shallow grave in Polstead almost a year after she first went missing.

Although her lover protested his innocence, Corder was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a public death by hanging in Bury St Edmunds.

He was cremated last month in a private ceremony in London and Miss Nessworthy said she would also continue campaigning for the murderer's scalp and an account of the trial bound in Corder's skin, currently held in Moyse's Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, to be given back to the family.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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