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Murder of Quadring Schoolmistress

Miss Mary Spencer, a village schoolmistress in Quadring, was murdered brutally in 1842, aged 40.

She lived in a cottage off the turnpike road, and pupils would visit her there for lessons. One Friday morning, the students arrived to find all the blinds still drawn and the door unlocked. One or two went inside and discovered the floors, wall, and furniture spattered with blood and Miss Spencer’s body lying there with its head half-severed.

News of the murder travelled fast. Mr Loughland, a land surveyor, discussed it with a friend and was overheard by Mr Hewitt, a labourer, who said “I wonder what Bill’s been up to. He was out all night and came home covered in blood.”

Bill, Hewitt’s son, was soon arrested. He was 22, good-looking, and powerful, and he was deaf and dumb. The inquest was held at the Brown Cow Inn. His family said he came home late on the night of the murder and behaved in a disturbed or frightened way, changing his clothes, throwing away a blue smock, and attempting to wash a white shirt by himself rather than let his mother do it. A policeman found the shirt between Bill’s mattress and the bed with bloodstains on it.

Using an interpreter, Bill said he had got drunk and suffered a nosebleed, and he also gave this explanation for the blood marks on his knife. He claimed to have seen a “man with a bundle” passing Miss Spencer’s home on the Thursday night, and that he was frightened by a stranger outside his own house. The Coroner’s Court decided that Miss Spencer had been murdered and Bill Hewitt was sent to Lincoln gaol.

The reason for Miss Spencer’s death was and still is unclear. It was reported that Bill Hewitt had had dinner at Miss Spencer’s house during the week of the murder, but the whole story is a mystery. Hewitt died of TB in prison.

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