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 1864.

A MARINE was hanged for murdering his wife after deserting and returning to his Herefordshire home in 1864.

Thomas Watkins, it was reported, had always been an idle fellow, refusing to work regularly to support his wife and family.

The couple, who lived in Hennor, near Leominster, often had words, and he had been heard to threaten her, neighbours said.

In around 1861, Watkins had abandoned his wide, enlisting in the Marines and leaving her to rely on parish relief, and to take in washing to support herself and her children

Two years later, Watkins deserted and returned home, sometimes staying at the family home, and sometimes sleeping rough.

But tragedy struck when his return was noticed by the board of guardians, who moved to compel him to support his wife.


Watkins' wife was due to appear before the board on January 19 1863, but never made her appointment, after she was waylaid and brutally murdered on her way home from work.

Suspicion immediately fell on Watkins, who had disappeared, when the body was discovered, and search parties tracked him for three days before he was captured.

Watkins pleaded not guilty at his trial at Hereford Assizes, but later confessed to murdering his wife with a billhook on the eve of his execution.

He was hanged before a crowd of spectators at Hereford gaol on April 6, 1864.