AS part of our 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 1848.

A WOMAN was beaten to death in a brutal murder in a Herefordshire village in 1848.

Victim Elizabeth Whitford had been a "stout, healthy woman" living with her husband Thomas, an "occasional" drover at the time of her death, an inquest at the New Inn in Brilley heard in November that year.

The couple had appeared to live together happily, although Thomas Whitford was "queer in his manner", according to Mary Price, a cousin of the deceased.


But when she had gone to visit her cousin one morning in late October, she was greeted by the husband who told her that "Betty is dead on the bed" and that he could not find the key to open the front door.

Mrs Price fetched two men to help break down the door, but when they returned, Whitford had managed to open it.

Inside, they found Elizabeth Whitford dead on the kitchen floor wearing nothing but a piece of chemise around her middle and a handkerchief around her head.

Blood was spattered on the floor, while a broken ladder covered with blood lay nearby.

Whitmore was reported to have told one of the men, labourer Richard Clarke, that he thought he had been "fighting with the Great Goddess Diana" and was taken away by the local constable.

Clarke said Mrs Whitford had recently told him that her husband, who he had known for 13 years, was "out of his mind" and that she was in danger.

A post-mortem revealed that Mrs Whitford had suffered injuries including lacerations, broken bones, and bruising, while her skull had been fractured "in the most appalling manner".

The inquest jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Thomas Whitford, but expressed their opinion that he was not in his right mind at the time, and he was sent for trial.

Whitford appeared before the Hereford Assizes in March 1849, where the court heard his wife had received 30 or 40 blows, some after her death.

He was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and ordered to be detained during her Majesty's pleasure.

Whitford was later removed to be detained at the lunatic asylum in St George's Fields, Surrey, by order of the Secretary of State.