Murderer laid to rest after 200 years

By Dave GooderhamTHE grisly tale of infamous murderer William Corder has appalled and fascinated generations for almost 200 years.The 24-year-old was convicted of killing his lover Maria Marten in Polstead, near Sudbury, in 1828 – an infamous crime that became known as the Murder in the Red Barn.

By Dave Gooderham

THE grisly tale of infamous murderer William Corder has appalled and fascinated generations for almost 200 years.

The 24-year-old was convicted of killing his lover Maria Marten in Polstead, near Sudbury, in 1828 - an infamous crime that became known as the Murder in the Red Barn.

But the subsequent treatment of Corder after he was publicly hanged in Bury St Edmunds - witnessed by thousands of eager spectators, who were able afterward to file past his dissected body - propelled one of his descendants into action.


You may also want to watch:


Now one of East Anglia's most gruesome chapters has finally been laid to rest after Corder's remains were cremated in a private ceremony in London.

Linda Nessworthy, whose grandmother was related to the notorious killer, has spent three years trying to get the remains of her distant relative from the Royal College of Surgeons, where his skeleton was stored.

Most Read

She said: "I was doing my family tree when I discovered William Corder was an ancestor.

"Some of my family were quite upset and distressed and it was quite a shock to find out that one of your relatives had been portrayed as a murderer.

"But 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."

Miss Nessworthy added: "Surgeons obviously had to dissect the body to try to understand the anatomy. But to have his body on public display was horrible and very undignified.

"I have been told that the research went so far that people in the market square were asked to taste his skin. It was such a disgrace."

After being given Corder's remains, a cremation service was held in London on Thursday and Miss Nessworthy is now planning a memorial service in Polstead.

"It is almost like closing the final chapter and now we want to spread his ashes in his home village," she said.

"It has certainly given us some closure and helped the family come to terms with what happened."

Maria Marten, 26, was last seen on May 18, 1827, when she left her father's cottage in Polstead to meet her lover, William Corder, in the Red Barn.

Almost a year later, her father searched the barn and discovered a shallow grave, which contained a body, recognisable from the clothing as that of his daughter.

Shortly afterwards, Corder was arrested in London and sent to Bury St Edmunds to stand trial in August 1828.

Throughout the trial he claimed his innocence, but he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to a public death by hanging.

Corder's body was taken down after an hour and removed to the Shire Hall, where it was cut open from throat to abdomen and laid out on show.

Thousands of people filed past to view it before it was removed for dissection at the West Suffolk Hospital.

Corder's skeleton was kept and the scalp and part of the skin were 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.

Research into the murder made interesting reading for Miss Nessworthy, a former forensic nurse from Great Yarmouth, who was left with many unanswered questions about the case.

She said: "I read a few books about the murder and they were not quite accurate with their descriptions. I looked at the notes of the trial and the inquest and there were discrepancies.

"Corder had only confessed to the murder under duress. I don't think he is a murderer, although I do think he contributed to Maria Marten's death."

Instead Miss Nessworthy pointed to evidence suggesting a mysterious third person was in the Red Barn who might have fatally stabbed the victim.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus