Memorial service to infamous killer?

By Dave GooderhamTHE family of one of East Anglia's most infamous murderers may soon be given the opportunity to hold a memorial service in his name - almost 200 years after the notorious Red Barn killer was hanged.

By Dave Gooderham

THE family of one of East Anglia's most infamous murderers may soon be given the opportunity to hold a memorial service in his name - almost 200 years after the notorious Red Barn killer was hanged.

Linda Nessworthy, whose grandmother was related to Red Barn murderer William Corder, hopes to organise the ceremony and scatter the 24-year-old killer's ashes in Polstead.

Corder was hanged in public in Bury St Edmunds after he was convicted of killing his lover Maria Marten in 1828 - a crime notoriously dubbed the Murder in the Red Barn.

Following a three year-campaign by Miss Nessworthy, his remains were finally cremated in a private ceremony in London last month.

Now she is keen to organise a service in the village where the murder took place and scatter Corder's ashes there.

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Having met with village rector, the Rev Michael Tillett, Miss Nessworthy said she was confident she had the backing of residents.

“Reverend Tillett was very sympathetic and he said villagers have been very supportive to the idea. They said it was time William came back into the village, which is fantastic,” she added.

“The rector said he could think of no reason why we couldn't have a proper internment of ashes in the family plot and a traditional memorial service.

“It is like the church have accepted William back into the fold and the family are overjoyed.”

Miss Nessworthy added: “It is very important for us to have the service - it is like the prodigal son returning after being away from home after all these years.

“No matter what he did, William has served his sentence and we will now want to bring him home and have him accepted by the whole village.”

Though sympathising with her situation, Mr Tillett said the church had to balance Miss Nessworthy's request with the opinions of the community.

“The matter is unique and delicate and we want to do all we can to respond and be responsive to the family,” said Mr Tillett, who is waiting for an official request from Miss Nessworthy before making a final decision about the service with the parochial church council.

“This story has gone on for Linda for the last few years and I know it has been quite difficult for her.

“We are very sympathetic about what she is asking for, but we also have to be very sensitive to local opinion - although local people are sensitive to her position.

“Our only concern is whatever is done should be dealt with properly and with appropriate decorum and to bring this whole very difficult story to a suitable and satisfactory conclusion.”

Miss Nessworthy said she was compelled into action after learning about the treatment of Corder following his public hanging in Bury St Edmunds.

She campaigned for three years to get the killer's remains released from the Royal College of Surgeons, where his skeleton was stored.

She said: “I became very indignant and angry about the way his death was handled and he was treated. It took three years to finally get the remains, but I was driven on by the injustice of it all.”

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.

His skeleton was kept while the scalp and part of his skin was preserved. The surgeon, George Creed, later had an account of the trial bound in leather made from the murderer's skin - now on show in Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds.

But in her effort to reclaim the book and Corder's scalp, Miss Nessworthy is facing a fresh fight against museum operators, St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

“This will be another way of closing the chapter - it is abhorrent that William's body parts should be on display,” she said.

“When you go into the museum and see a scalp that belonged to a member of my family, it is horrific. I will continue to fight and I am determined to get them back.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We are investigating Miss Nessworthy's claims with a view to reporting to councillors, but no date has yet been set.

“The council will look at issues such as ownership of the items and whether any other representatives from the family need to be involved.”

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