Date Of Execution: 15 Jul 1902
Crime Location: Foxlydiate, Redditch
Execution Place: Worcester
Executioner: William Billington
Samuel Middleton was convicted of the murder of his wife Hannah Middleton and sentenced to death.
He battered her to death at their home in Foxlydiate, Redditch on Saturday 10 May 1902.
He attacked her with a poker and a machete and then set their house on fire using straw from a nearby pigsty.
The court heard that Samuel Middleton had been of drunken habits and that he and Hannah Middleton frequently quarrelled.
It was heard that they had quarrelled on the evening of 9 May 1902 during which Samuel Middleton had overturned the supper table and Hannah Middleton had handed over her purse to her neighbour and said, 'If anything happens to me give this to my lad'. The neighbour additionally said that Samuel Middleton had then asked her to fetch him some whisky and cider from the Fox and Goose Hotel. She said that at that time Samuel Middleton was quite sober and that when she later left them at about 11.10pm that Samuel Middleton and Hannah Middleton both seemed quite comfortable.
Another neighbour said that she had lived next door to Samuel Middleton and Hannah Middleton for many years ad could easily distinguish their footsteps as they walked about the house. She said, 'I knew them in their courting days'.
She said that on the night of the murder that she had heard them both walking about until about 1am when she said that one of the set of footsteps ceased. She said that she then heard the sound of Samuel Middleton's footsteps going in and out of the house at intervals of about a few minutes which she said was about long enough to get to the bottom of the garden and come back. She said that that continued until a few minutes after 2am when she dozed off to sleep.
She said that she heard no screams and remained asleep until about 3am when she found her room full of smoke.
At the trial it was heard that traces of straw from the pigsty were found along the walk from the pigsty, through their little garden and up to their front door.
The husband of the woman that Hannah Middleton had given her purse to said that earlier on on 9 May 1902, at about 6.45am, that he had seen Samuel Middleton push Hannah Middleton out of the house and shut the door. He said that Hannah Middleton had the key with her and that there were some scratches on her arms and hands ad that she told him that she was going to work all day. He said that the next that he knew was when he was called up early the following morning to find the house on fire. He said that he later saw straw near their door which formed a trail down to the pigsty and said that he also found the suit of clothes that Samuel Middleton had been wearing the previous night, wet at the bottom of the garden. He noted that it was not a wet night and that he could not account for the clothes having been wet.
He noted that Hannah Middleton had often walked the lanes at night through Samuel Middleton's treatment but said that she did not seem afraid of him.
The landlord of the Fox and Goose Inn said that he had been called to the cottage by Hannah Middleton at about 6.30pm on the Friday night, 9 May 1902 but that when he got there Samuel Middleton came to the door and threatened to serve him the same if he went in. He said that the back room was then littered with broken crockery and that he asked Samuel Middleton to govern his temper but said that Samuel Middleton threatened to do for the ---- lot.
It was also heard that Samuel Middleton had called at a gamekeepers house in the early hours of 10 May 1902 and said, 'Tell him his mother is nearly dead', before disappearing off into the darkness. It was said that even when Hannah Middleton's son appeared that Samuel Middleton betrayed no signs of emotion.
After Samuel Middleton had visited the gamekeepers house Hannah Middleton's son went off to their cottage but found that it was enveloped in flames and that Hannah Middleton was nowhere to be seen.
At the trial it was heard that Samuel Middleton had confessed to killing Hannah Middleton to several people.
The first of which was a carpenter that had been working in Trench Lane near Droitwich to who he had said that he had 'killed his missus'. He said that when he saw Samuel Middleton at about 3.30pm on 10 May 1902 that he asked him where he was going and said that Samuel Middleton said, 'I have killed my wife. They will soon catch me'.
He had also confessed to two policemen. To the first of them he had said that when he had tried to get out of the house that Hannah Middleton had clung to him and that he had had to finish her off, whilst to the other he had said that he had hit her on the head with a poker.
In a statement that Samuel Middleton made he said, 'It is very aggravating, but cannot be helped now. I dressed myself and tried to get out of the house, but could not. She clung to me and I had to finish her. I was not going to be put on by a woman. I know how it started and how it finished'.
When he was asked by a policeman about some scratches that he had on his person he said, 'My woman has done this. She would not leave me alone, and followed me downstairs. We had been rowing, and she would have bitten me to pieces, but I hit her on the head with a poker. They say it is all my fault'.
It was also heard that Samuel Middleton had visited his 84-year-old mother sometime after he had visited the gamekeeper, at about 3.30am and had shouted out, 'Good-bye, mother, Annie's dead by this time. Will you go?', after which he was said to have disappeared.
The police said that when they went to the cottage that they found straw littered from the pigsty to the front of the house and that near the front door they found the burnt ends of straw.
They said that at about 7.30am whilst the firemen were searching the remains of the cottage in the back room that they found the charred remains of a corpse lying on the brick floor which still had a piece of clothing adhering to it which was later identified as having been the dress that Hannah Middleton had been wearing when she was last seen. They also found several articles close by including an axe, a bill hook and a poker all of which were shown to have belonged to Samuel Middleton.
After they moved her body they found the key to the house under her body as though it had been in her pocket.
The doctor that examined Hannah Middleton's body said that it was quite impossible to identify any marks of violence on her body as too much of her body had been destroyed by fire.
When Samuel Middleton was charged with Hannah Middleton's murder he said that he had nothing to say.
Samuel Middleton was executed on Tuesday morning, 15 July 1902, at Worcester by William Billington. It was said that he had displayed no emotion whilst on the scaffold.
see National Archives - ASSI 6/37/1
see Worcestershire Chronicle - Saturday 31 May 1902
see Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser - Saturday 24 May 1902
see Wells Journal - Thursday 17 July 1902
see Eastern Evening News - Tuesday 15 July 1902
see Bromsgrove & Droitwich Messenger - Saturday 17 May 1902