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 1862.

THOUSANDS gathered in Hereford to watch a murderer hang after a teenage girl was found brutally murdered in a Herefordshire village.

Mary Corbett was found murdered in Ullingswick in November 1862 by thatcher William Weaver, who was staying with the brother of the accused.

The young servant girl, who had been working for widow Eliza Skerrett had been sent out to the local shop for candles by her mistress the evening before she was found, but failed to return home.

Mrs Skerrett went out to search for her and waited up until 4am for her to return, but she never saw her alive again.


It had rained heavily that night, Weaver said, and when he had gone out to wash at 7am, he had seen a shawl-covered body leaning against a tree in a field behind the house.

On investigating, they found it was 16-year-old Mary Corbett, her hair and face drenched in mud and blood.

The constable was called, and evidence of a scuffle was found in the field, while Hope's jacket and a basket believed to belong to him were found in the field.

Hope, who had previously been convicted of housebreaking and stealing seven chickens and sentenced to seven years transportation in 1850, of which he served three, was apprehended by the constable, and admitted the basket belonged to him, but said no more.

The material of his trousers, which had muddy knees, was reported to have matched imprints found on the ground near the body, while dirt was also found on his shirt.

The body was examined by a surgeon, who found Miss Corbett had died from asphyxiation caused by compression of the mouth, nose, and throat.

"Lastly, violation had been perpetrated with very great violence," surgeon Henry Graves Bull said.

Shopkeeper Mary Bevan said she had served Miss Corbett the evening before she was found, and that Hope, who had been in the Halfway House shop that evening, had offered the girl a beer, which she refused.

He had then left the shop shortly after Miss Corbett, said Mrs Bevan, who also positively identified the jacket found as the one Hope had been wearing that evening.

Hope, who had also previously been jailed for threatening to kill a woman and for wilful damage, was found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death.

He was taken to Hereford Gaol to await his appointment with the executioner.

Commercial Road was reported to be crowded with people on the day of his hanging, with people gathering from midnight to ensure they could find a good spot from which to witness the hanging, with one report claiming there could not have been less than 15,000 people present in the street by 7am.

He was hanged at 8am on April 15, 1863, with an examination confirming he had died from suffocation after being dropped from the scaffold.