Supposed Murder Near Halstead

The Morning Chronicle - Wednesday November 4 1857

Wednesday, November 4, 1857



Much excitement was caused in the neighbourhood of Colne Engaine, on Saturday night by a report of the sudden death of a respectable dealer in that parish, under such suspicious circumstances that little doubt is left on the mind of the public that a foul and cold-blooded murder, accompanied by robbery, has been committed, almost in open daylight.

Mr. Isaac Butcher, the victim, was a respectable inhabitant of Colne Engaine, where he had recently taken a small farm, besides carrying on a somewhat extensive business in farming stock.

The following is an outline of the circumstances elucidated up to the present time, and which if borne out, appear to corroborate the general opinion that the unfortunate deceased met his death by violence.

On the morning of Saturday Mr. Butcher, in his usual course of business, attended Colchester market. After dining he obtained the offer of a ride home with Mr. Johnson, a dealer, at Wakes Colne, who gave him a lift as far as Mr. Skingley's farm, a distance of two or three miles from his residence. Here he got out, and taking two or three packages of tea, groceries, &c., walked on briskly towards home, apparently in his usual health. Deceased, after leaving Mr. Johnson, was met by several persons, who also observed two men following him at a short distance. When about ten rods from the spot where the alleged murder took place, he was met by a person named Hubbard, who bade him, "Good night", to which deceased responded and passed quickly on. A few steps further on the road Hubbard met a stranger, whom he also saluted, but received no audible reply, and closed behind followed a second man also unknown. This was about six o'clock, and was the last occasion on which deceased was seen alive. Two or three minutes after six Thomas Butler, under gardener to Robert Hills, Esq., was crossing the park, and when at a distance of about fifty yards from the road which bounds the park grounds, heard a noise apparently of persons scuffling. Thinning it arose probably from persons intoxicated he walked on quietly to the lodge gate, which closed loudly after him, and probably alarmed the murderers, he walked towards deceased, but stopped when about halfway to listen for a moment, when he distinctly heard the footsteps of more than one person running in a different direction from him. Butler's suspicion being aroused, he then commenced running at the top of his speed, and, to his horror, instantly on turning the corner, discovered the deceased lying on his back by the side of the road, his head which was lying nearest Colne Engaine, his intended destination, smeared with blood. His clothes were in a very disordered state, the waistcoat and under-clothes being open, the shirt being partly up, and the high boots pushed partly down to the middle of the calves. Hastily making these general observations, Butler ran to the next corner when he once more heard footfalls near the plantation, some distance off. Soon after, thinking it dangerous to go further alone in pursuit, he retraced his steps, and endeavoured to obtain assistance. In the meantime, and before he retuned with help, Mr. J. J. Mathew, jun., drove up with the deceased's brother, and, observing the body of a man in the road, Mr. Butcher alighted, and raising it, he recognised (with what feelings may be imagined) the corpse of his own brother. Medical assistance was immediately, but fruitlessly, obtained - deceased was quite dead. On examination, it was discovered that he had received a wound on the forehead, but whether sufficient of itself to cause death must be a point for medical inquiry. It is said that deceased had a quantity of both gold and silver in his possession, but not a coin of any kind was found upon the body. After escaping from the scene of the murder, it is presumed the two men who are supposed to have committed the atrocious act made their way across the country, as footprints of two persons have been found leading from a gate on the roadside, over a field of tares, through a fallow field, and a portion of a field of mangold-wurzel from whence they appear by marks on the sand to have leaped over a hedge to the adjoining meadow; but here, unfortunately, all traces cease.

The alleged murderers are thus vaguely described by the witnesses, so far as they were able to judge in the dusk of the evening. The taller man wore a corduroy jacket and trousers of a light appearance. His companion, on the contrary, was dressed in a black coat, buttoned up to the chin; he wore, moreover, a dark "wide-awake", and it was remarked that he possessed a beard and a moustache.

The police are making active exertions to discover these parties, and we trust that, if guilty, they will be brought to speedy justice.

It is but right to add that deceased suffered from disease of the heart, which has been suggested by some persons as the cause of his death. He had just entered his forty-fifth year, and leaves a widow and six children to lament his untimely end.

Very great excitement prevails in the neighbourhood, and the vicinity of his death has been visited by hundreds of persons anxious to obtain a view of the fatal spot.

Another account states that deceased, before leaving Colchester, purchased some articles at the shop of Mr. Moore, grocer, Head Gate, and was last seen in that town at Mr. Mann's butcher, Crouch Street, where he bought a piece of beef. When he paid for the latter he was observed to have six or seven sovereigns in his hand, and he gave a half-sovereign, receiving the change.

The parcels of beef and articles of grocery, above alluded to, were found lying by the side of the road side, near deceased, untouched. Superintendents Bridges, of Halstead, Daunt, of Colchester, and Whitcomb, of Sudbury, were promptly on the spot, and information as speedily communicated to all the police-stations throughout this and the adjoining counties. From diligent inquiries the officers ascertained that about five o'clock on Saturday evening two men suspected went into Patten's public house at Earls Colne, where they had a pint of porter, and then left. At half-past five o'clock they were both seen following Mr. Butcher in he direction of the spot where his body was found, which is within half a mile of Patten's. One of the men, a tall, powerful, rough-looking fellow, was about 30 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches in height, deeply marked with small pox, short thick sandy whiskers, supposed to be dressed in a fustian short jacket, with trousers of the same material, and black "wide-awake". the other man was about 27 years of age, or a little older, 5 feet 5 inches in height, without whiskers, has a sore on his left cheek as if he had had a recent blow, rings in his ears, and was dressed in a blue Guernsey jacket, cord trousers, and a cap. These men exactly answered the description of the two men who called at Patten's public-house, and were afterwards seen following Mr. Butcher. We understand that the police are in possession of certain facts respecting the suspected parties, but at present it would not be advisable to give publicity to them.

We believe it to be a fact that, before he left Colchester, deceased paid into one of the banks there upwards of £600.