AS part of our weekly Crime Files series, we are taking a look back at the archives to bring you stories from Herefordshire's history.

The following story dates from 1834.

A HEREFORDSHIRE labourer was found floating in the river Wye after disappearing during a visit to Hereford's 'red light district' in 1834.

The body of William Dee was found floating under one of the arches of the old Wye Bridge in Hereford at 6am one Sunday in April 1834.

Police were immediately called, and Dee, a labourer from Sutton St Nicholas, who had been missing for about three weeks, was removed from the water.

The corpse was placed in the stable of the Saracen's Head Inn, near to where it had been dragged from the river, and an inquest was held.

Magistrates Samuel Hughes and John Gwillym, in the absence of coroner Mr Cleave, heard Dee was about 50-years-old and had visited Hereford some three weeks prior to make certain purchases.


Dee, who was said to have been in a cheerful mood and "rather in liquor", had expressed his intention to return home at around 6pm that evening, but had never arrived.

His body was said to have been found in the opposite direction to his route home, and was so decomposed that surgeon Mr Jones told the inquest it was impossible to determine whether he had drowned or died by other causes.

The corpse showed no signs of violence, while a silver watch, coins, tobacco, and a quantity of various seeds were found in his pockets.

The watch had stopped at eight minutes to ten.

Mr Dee's hat had been found the Monday after he was reported missing, and the police later dragged the river for any further traces, but none were found.

The inquest heard a man answering Dee's description had been seen in with another man and two girls in what was then a Hereford red-light district, Bowsey Lane (now Wall Street) on the Saturday of his disappearance, and that one of the girls had also since disappeared.

Several witnesses living in and around the Bowsey Lane area told the inquest that they had heard noises from men and women fighting in the lane at around 11pm on March 3, with several hard blows struck, while one man was heard to say "eyes I have done him!"

One witness said they had looked out of their window to see a man wearing a smock frock like the one Dee was reported to have been wearing when last seen lying face down on the ground, with two girls standing over him, before others arrived and he was dragged to a house.

"The noises and disturbance of fighting are so common in the lane, and the supposition the deceased was in a state of intoxication doubtless induced the witnesses not to interfere at the time," the Hereford Journal reported.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of wilful murder by persons unknown.

A notice was later published, offering a £20 reward to anyone who could give information that would see a person convicted for the murder.