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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Think I Will Get Hung, but I Don’t Care As Long As I Get Breakfast

On July 17th, 1895 the body of a 37-year-old woman was found in a small terraced house in East London. Her eldest son immediately confessed to the killing. “I got out of bed and I stabbed her,” said the 13-year-old Robert Coombes. “I did it with a knife, which I left on the bed. I covered her up and left her.” He said that he and his 12-year-old brother, Nattie, had planned the murder of Emily Coombes together, and that the younger boy had given him the signal to strike. “Nattie was in the back room, and coughed twice,” said Robert, “and that was when I done it, when Nattie coughed.” The boys were charged with murder and detained in Holloway gaol, north London.

On Tuesday, September 10th, Robert was told that he would shortly be tried for matricide at the Old Bailey, and that he would face the murder charge alone. Nattie was to be discharged so that he could appear as a witness against his older brother.

Dr. Walker, the medical officer of Holloway gaol, talked to Robert that day about the forthcoming trial. The boy at first seemed gleeful at the prospect of going to the Old Bailey, telling the doctor that it would be a “splendid sight” and he was looking forward to it. He would wear his best clothes, he said, and have his boots well polished. He started to talk about his cats, and then suddenly fell silent. A moment later he burst into tears. Dr. Walker asked him why he was crying. “Because I want my cats,” said Robert, “and my mandolin.”

An excerpt from The Wicked  Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.
More: Literary Hub

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