Criminal records: Herefordshire teenager brutally murdered on his way home from the village shop

As part of our weekly Crime Files series, we take a look at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire’s history.

The following story is from 1862.

THOUSANDS gathered in Hereford to watch a murderer hang after a teenage girl was found brutally murdered in a Herefordshire village.

Mary Corbett was found murdered at Ullingswick in November 1862 by thatcher William Weaver, who was staying with the accused’s brother.

The young servant, who worked for widow Eliza Skerrett, had been sent to the local store for candles by her mistress the day before she was found, but had not returned home.

Mrs. Skerrett went looking for her and waited until 4 a.m. for her to return, but she never saw her alive again.


It had rained heavily that night, Weaver said, and when he went out to wash at 7 a.m. he saw a shawl-covered body leaning against a tree in a field behind the house.

Investigating, they discovered it was 16-year-old Mary Corbett, her hair and face soaked in mud and blood.

Constable was called and evidence of a fight was found on the ground, while Hope’s jacket and a basket thought to belong to him were found on the ground.

Hope, who had previously been convicted of breaking and entering and stealing seven chickens and sentenced to seven years’ transportation in 1850, of which he served three years, was apprehended by the constable and admitted the basket belonged to him, but did not say more.

The material of his pants, which had muddy knees, would have matched fingerprints found on the ground near the body, while dirt was also found on his shirt.

The body was examined by a surgeon, who discovered that Miss Corbett had died of asphyxiation caused by compression of the mouth, nose and throat.

“Finally, the breach had been perpetrated with very great violence,” said surgeon Henry Graves Bull.

Shopkeeper Mary Bevan said she served Miss Corbett the day before she was found and Hope, who was in the Halfway House store that evening, offered the girl a beer, which she declined.

He had then left the store shortly after Miss Corbett, said Ms Bevan, who also positively identified the jacket found as the one Hope was wearing that evening.

Hope, who had also previously been jailed for threatening to kill a woman and for willful damage, was found guilty of willful murder and sentenced to death.

He was taken to Hereford Gaol to await his appointment with the executioner.

Commercial Road was reportedly packed with people on the day of his hanging, with people gathering from midnight to ensure they could find a good place from which to watch the hanging, a report claiming he could not be less than 15,000 people on the street at 7am.

He was hanged at 8 a.m. on April 15, 1863, with an examination confirming that he had died of suffocation after being dropped from the scaffold.