[Reynoldsʼs Newspaper, 14. und 21. März 1869]

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 971, 21. März 1869. S. 8.
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HORRIBLE DISCOVERY OF TWO DEAD BODIES.

On Wednesday, an inquest was held at Sudbury, on the bodies of Mary Ready, aged seventy, and of her daughter, Mary Ann Ready, aged thirty-four. It appears from the report of the Suffolk and Essex Free Press, that the deceased women lived at No. 56, Cross-street, Sudbury, and that they were discovered dead in their residence on Tuesday morning. It seems that a young man named William Stevens, who it was understood was paying his addresses to the younger deceased, was an occasional lodger in the house, but had not been in the town for some time. The mother and daughter were known to be eccentric, and, according to the medical testimony, the younger woman was not of sound mind. Owing to want of work, as staymakers and milliners, they had been in a state of great poverty for a considerable period, but would not apply to the parish for relief. Nothing had been seen of the mother for some three weeks or a month past, and very little of the daughter. They were persons who did not go out very much. The last that is known of the existence of either, and that only as a matter of presumption, is that last Monday evening, the cottage door having been mischievously broken open by one of the many boys who were at play in the street, it was shut by someone inside, who was not seen. Between nine and ten o’clock on Tuesday morning the attention of a policeman was called to the cottage by seeing a crowd of people against it, and he was told that there was a woman lying inside the house naked. He entered the cottage and found the bodies of the two deceased women, one in a lower apartment, the other in an upper room of the cottage. The place was in a wretched and dilapidated condition, destitute of furniture and of all traces of food or fuel. The body of the mother presented the appearance of a skeleton merely covered with skin. It lay naked on the floor of the upper room, with a sort of coverlid thrown over it, and had apparently been “laid out” after death. It seemed that the idle boys of the town were in the habit of annoying the deceased women, and in addition to breaking open the door as described had broken several squares of glass in the cottage. The postman had delivered a letter at the house on Friday morning, and it was taken in by the younger woman, who partly opened the door for the purpose. Mr. Mason, surgeon, deposed that there were no marks of violence on the bodies, that they were very emaciated, that the elder female had probably been dead eight or ten days and the younger one from twenty-four to forty-eight hours, and that death appeared to have resulted from starvation. The inquest was adjourned to enable the post mortem examination of the bodies to be made.

Amongst the letters found in the cottage was the following suggestive one, seeming to show that the mother must have been dead a considerable time longer than the medical man judged:—

“March 2, 1869. 1, Little Coram-street,
Russell-square, London.

My dear,—I write these few lines to you to let you know I arrived safe after my long walk. God was very merciful, for I met with a bit of bread as soon as I got to Halstead, and has continued so until I reached London, but my shoes are off my feet entirely. My cousin complains of the hardness of the times, so that I cannot be here, I am afraid, and where I shall go, and what to do without money God only knows. Unless you send me some assistance in some way I must be in the streets of London. Write by return of post, and let me know how you get on with the funeral of your mother, as I am anxious to know. I sincerely hope you did not get into any trouble through such neglect. I prayed for you all the way on my perilous journey for your escape and welfare. I cannot ascertain any information as to where Bournhenger is, but London is in a dreadful starving state. I hope your aunt assisted you all she could in the sad case, and not offended with you in your sad condition. If you have any money to send for an order make it payable at Grenville-street, near Coram-street, Russell-square, London, W. C. If you send stamps that will do, as I want to try an advertisement in the Country Chronicle immediately, or I do not know what will become of me. I do feel uneasy until I hear from you. Yours affectionate,

WILLIAM STEVENS.”

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Reynoldsʼs Newspaper. Nr. 970, 14. März 1869. S. 4.
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[RESPECTABLE RASCALITY]

The scripture enjoins us to let our light shine before men, that may emulate our good deeds, but we cannot call to mind any passage that sanctions an opposite course as regards evil actions.  Perhaps, however, those highly “respectable” and doubtless pious vestrymen entrusted with the responsibility of preventing the poor being plundered by rascals who purposely and systematically use short measures and light weights during six days of the week, and on the seventh invoke mercy for themselves as miserable sinners—perhaps they have some scripture authority for concealing the misdeeds of such men under a bushel.

In the following passage, extracted from a letter written to a local newspaper by Mr. T. Middleton, foreman of the inspectors of weights and measures for the large parish of St. Pancras, London, will be found a key to the above observations. He says:—

“The inspectors of balances, weights, and measures think the only way of lessening the numerous cases of deficient weights and measures in the parish are by giving publicity to those persons on whom the fines are levied. We think the parish authorities ought to take the matter in hand and be more strict. We sometimes feel sorry that we cannot inflict a heavier fine than we are allowed to do by law, for, in many instances, the fines are thought nothing of, and people go on in a careless manner, sooner paying the fine than paying the scale-makers. A famous tea merchant, on our last round, whom we had occasion to fine (he having a 21b. weight 6oz. deficient, and a 7lb. weight 4oz. deficient), said he would sooner pay any amount than have his name published. The number of persons fined each time varies from ten to sixteen, which, added up at the end of the year, would show how much cheating (for we cannot call it anything else) is going on only in the two wards we visit.”

But, notwithstanding it is well known that publicity is the only sure preventative of roguery behind the counter, the authorities whose duty it is to suppress such pernicious rascality continue to guard with the utmost secrecy the list containing the names of tradesmen fined for using short weights and measures. Rarely, indeed, is it that newspaper reporters can obtain a sight of these black lists, for vestrymen take particular care to keep them to themselves. Petty larceny, such as is mentioned in Mr. Middleton’s report, is perpetrated principally upon the very poorer orders, just the class of persons that feel it most severely. Doubtless many vestrymen—themselves regular church and chapel goers, highly “respectable” individuals in the opinion of their neighbours—place putty under their scales, and use false bottoms to their measures. |27 Hence, perhaps, the distaste they entertain to publishing lists that probably frequently contain their own names. In all likelihood, burglars, coiners, thieves, and pickpockets entertain a strong aversion to having their names and deeds known to the world, but, notwithstanding this natural antipathy to publicity, justice requires that their misdeeds should be as well-known as possible.

The systematic robbery of the poor is one of the heaviest of delinquencies against the law of God, and a serious and mischievous breach of that of man. Yet the poor are plundered with comparative impunity, simply because those who could put a stop to such knavery belong to the same class as the knaves. One of the ugliest blots upon the administration of English justice is that which admits of people sitting, as it were, in judgment on themselves. As we find game preserving squires filling the bench when poaching cases are under adjudication, employers of labour in their magisterial capacity deciding disputes between workmen and masters, so do we have tradesmen vested with the power of screening themselves and their roguish brethren from the publicity that ought to follow every conviction of robbery of the poor.

Inhalt:

  • Social cases. 1869