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 1924.

A FARMER'S wife was found dead with a shawl stuffed in her mouth in a Herefordshire village in 1924.

Mary Stevenson, of Croome Hall, Pontshill, had been found dead at her home, an inquest was told in March of that year.

She had a wound to her left temple and a shawl was stuffed in her mouth, while her body had been hidden beneath a mattress.

Her husband, Thomas Blackesley Stevenson, a retired farmer, had been arrested and was in custody on the capital charge, but was present for the inquest at Weston-under-Penyard, near Ross-on-Wye.

The inquest heard from the couple's son, Thomas Ronald Stevenson, that he had last seen his mother alive at about 11am on the day of her death.

Later that day, his father told him he had killed his mother, the inquest was told, and the son snatched a knife from his father, who had been putting it to his own throat, and went to the police.

Stevenson told police when they arrived that he had killed his wife with a hatchet, leaving her body upstairs.

The inquest heard that Stevenson had believed that his food was being doped, and for that reason it was his custom to prepare his own food.

There had also been some discussion between the son and his mother over putting Stevenson into a nursing home or private asylum due to his behaviour.


A doctor in attendance at the inquest, Doctor Green, of Ross, told the coroner that this was a well-known delusion among insane people.

Stevenson's own doctor, Doctor Dunlop, also of Ross, said Stevenson had been suffering from delusions that he was being slowly poisoned and that there was a conspiracy to take his life and get hold of his money.

He had seemed to imply that his wife was behind this, the doctor told the inquest, stating that he had filled out the necessary certificates to have Stevenson admitted to a private asylum.

Stevenson had also written letters to police while in custody stating his claim that he had been poisoned and that his relatives had employed "medical men" to ruin his health.

At trial in June that year, Stevenson was found guilty but insane, and was ordered to be detained at His Majesty's pleasure.