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Killer's remains will stay in museum

PUBLISHED: 08:21 23 March 2007 | UPDATED: 16:53 26 February 2010

The William
Corder display in
Moyse's Hall
Museum in Bury
St Edmunds

The William Corder display in Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds

THE remains of one of Suffolk's most famous murderers will remain in a museum after a relative's request for their return was turned down.

William Corder, of Polstead, near Sudbury, was hanged in Bury St Edmunds in 1828 after being found guilty of murdering his lover Maria Martin in what became known as the Murder in the Red Barn.

THE remains of one of Suffolk's most famous murderers will remain in a museum after a relative's request for their return was turned down.

William Corder, of Polstead, near Sudbury, was hanged in Bury St Edmunds in 1828 after being found guilty of murdering his lover Maria Martin in what became known as the Murder in the Red Barn.

She was shot and repeatedly stabbed before being buried in a shallow grave in a barn.

Following his execution, a death mask of Corder was made and his skin was tanned and used to bind an account of the murder, which passed into Suffolk folklore.

The remains are currently housed in Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury but Linda Turner, an ancestor of Corder, hoped to persuade a special committee set up by St Edmundsbury Borough Council to release them.

She withdrew her request for the return of the skin-bound book when the specially-convened committee sat last night, though maintained her request for the return of his scalp and ear. But the committee voted unanimously to deny her request.

Rory Corder, the nearest known surviving male descendant from the second marriage of William Corder's grandfather's eldest son from his second marriage, had called on the committee to keep the remains in situ at the museum.

He said Mrs Turner was not a blood relative of Corder and should therefore “have no claim”.

But Mrs Turner, whose step-grandmother was a descendant of William Corder's grandfather, insisted she and the closest known descendant of Corder, Alison Johnston in New Zealand, who is the great-great-great granddaughter of Corder's sister Mary Borham, did have a right to have him peacefully buried in Polstead. She added these were also the wishes of the people of Polstead.

In a dramatic twist, Mrs Turner withdrew her request for the skin from the book bound in his remains at the last minute because, she said, she feared it would be irreparably damaged if removed from the tome.

Speaking after the meeting, Paul Farmer, committee chairman and the council's portfolio holder for arts and culture, said: “We took it extremely seriously. We had a week to consider all the papers. I am confident the decision we made was made on the basis of all the evidence that was available.”

He said the key reasons for turning down Mrs Turner's request was she was not a direct descendant of Corder, that closer relatives whose wishes were currently unknown may one day come forward and that the council had a presumption against getting rid of public assets.

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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