Monday, November 23, 2009

A Radnorshire Ripper

Thomas Edwards' confession was plain enough, he wanted to kill prostitutes "I intended going to Newport and killing one or two there, I should have gone, only I had no money." As it was he managed to pick up a local girl, Mary Connolly, who took him into a garden off Abergavenny's Hatherleigh Road where he cut her throat with a razor. When her body was found she was still clutching Edwards' shilling in her hand.

Edwards, the press reports said he was 30, although the census returns suggest he was nearer 40, calmly walked into the police station a couple of days after the murder to confess. Both newspapers and census returns agreed that the killer was a Radnorian, he came originally from Llanbister said the Western Mail. Edwards was a former soldier in the Shropshire Regiment who had not taken to civilian life; he had been sent away from the Blaenavon works, a workmate claimed, because of his peculiarities and occasionally found himself in the local spike. Edwards was quick to point out that his Bleddfa born mother had spent many years in the Abergavenny asylum, clearly his defence would be based on insanity.

Mary Connolly was a 23 year old daughter of the Irish Diaspora, living with her Cork born father in Pant Street, "a little disreputable lane." Mary had herself only been released from prison on the morning of the killing. The census lists her as a charwoman, although this was clearly not her sole source of income. Indeed Edwards claimed that she had stolen £2 from his person some months before.

Justice was dealt out quickly in Victorian Wales. Three medical experts declared him sane and there being no doubt about his guilt Edwards was sentenced to death. On December 22nd 1892, just three months after the slaying, the hangman Billington carried out the court's sentence in Usk jail.

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