Who was Stumpy Brown, the mass murderer of Woodbridge
- Credit: Archant
Historical accounts link a Woodbridge man to the death of four people in the town in the 19th century, but who was Stumpy Brown?
Few accounts of Mr Brown remain but most come from Edwin Lankester, a well known surgeon with an interest in cholera.
Mr Lankester who was born in Melton in 1814 and knew Mr Brown from his younger year in the area.
Later in his life, he wrote about Mr Brown in his Once A Week article series, which was published in London.
According to accounts Richard “Stumpy” Brown lived in Woodbridge at the start of the 19th century.
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Mr Brown is said to have lived on Martlesham Road, on the outskirts of the town, with his wife.
Sources describe Mr Brown as “ill-considered” and “sour mouthed”, a man who spent little time speaking to his neighbours and who was generally shunned by the local populous.
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It’s said that people living in the town were very afraid of Stumpy Brown.
Between 1800 and 1810 three murders took place in Woodbridge,
An officer of a regiment stationed close to Woodbridge was seen drinking in the Red Lion in Martlesham Road one night and was found dead with his throat cut the next morning in a nearby ditch.
A second man, this time the captain of a Norwegian trading vessel which was in port nearby, was found dead in a bag at the bottom of the river, having been missing for 10 days.
A third man, a local farmer named Aighton was found dead in a barn, having last been seen heading into Woodbridge for market day.
In each case it was unclear who had killed the men and for a long time the cases remained unsolved.
Local people suspected that Mr Brown had some involvement in the death of the farmer, on whose land Mr Brown had already been caught poaching.
However, Mr Brown was not convicted, time passed and smallpox hit the region, Mr and Mrs Brown were assigned to look after the local pest house where those with the disease were quarantined.
Rumours remained in the town as to the true nature of Mr Brown and his wife, with many describing her as a witch.
It wasn’t until 1838 that Mr Brown was implicated in the murder of the farmer by an old friend named Green who had given evidence against him after being convicted himself.
Mr Brown was not found guilty of murder but rather aggravated manslaughter and was sentenced to be transported to Botany Bay, Australia to live out the rest of his days.
It’s said that Mr Brown’s ship was one of the last to be bound for the penal colonies.
The ship never made it to Botany Bay, and was wrecked off the French coast killing all aboard.
Some time later Mrs Brown made deathbed confessions confirming that she and her husband had killed the other men.
She also admitted that the pair had killed another man named Fitch who had been staying in the pest house and had allegedly wanted to tell authorities of Mr Brown’s past.