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 1903.

A CIRCUS elephant handler died after he was stabbed in an argument with a man who was teasing his performing sheep in Hereford in 1903.

William Watson was charged with the murder of Joseph Williams, an employee of Lord George Sanger's Circus in Hereford.


The court heard 19-year-old organ grinder Watson had been teasing a sheep when Mr Williams asked him to stop.

Words were exchanged between the pair before Watson stabbed Mr Williams in the chest, just below the heart.

Williams was taken to hospital, where he died some weeks later.

His inquest, held before city coroner Mr J Lambe, heard 20-year-old Barbadian Williams had been a permanent member of circus staff, employed to look after the elephants and camels.

Police sergeant Woodhouse told the inquest that he had been in Blackfriars Street at around 5pm on May 31 when he had stopped a cab carrying Williams, two circus employees, and a doctor.

Williams, who was covered in blood, was taken to Hereford hospital and underwent surgery to stem the bleeding.

But despite initially appearing to rally, he died some weeks later on July 6 from exhaustion and heart failure, with his post-mortem finding an abscess had formed near his heart.


His coffin, accompanied by four Hereford police officers, was taken from the hospital to the cemetery, where he was given a 'respectable burial' at the insistence of employer Mr Sanger.

Watson, meanwhile, had been accompanied to the police station by another circus employee, who told officers that he had stabbed a man and handed them the bloodstained knife.

A hearing at Hereford City Police Court in July 1903 heard Williams, who also looked after the performing sheep at the circus, had struck Watson after becoming angry at his continued teasing of the sheep.

Watson, on realising his nose was bleeding, took out his pocket knife, stabbing Williams, the court heard.

The matter was sent to the Hereford Assizes, where Watson was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years penal servitude.