Alleged Murder at Baschurch – 1887

A farmer from Shrewsbury found his wife dead in bed after hearing a gunshot.  The relationship between the wife, Betsy Kynaston, and the husband, Charles Kynaston, had not been good for sometime.  It was alleged that Mr. Kynaston had fathered a child following a brief relationship with one of his servants.  Apparently his wife, who was addicted to alcohol, knew of this. Charles Kynaston was accused of the murder despite the extremely flimsy evidence.  His fate relied not only on the inconsistent statements given by his servants by particularly by that given by his son.

Cheshire Observer - Saturday 20 August 1887

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 20 August 1887

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 20 August 1887:

The Alleged Wife Murder At Shrewsbury.

At Baschurch, near Shrewsbury, on Monday, Charles Kynaston, Farmer, holding a respectable position near Shrewsbury was charged with the murder of his wife on Sunday, July 31.  The evidence given by the prisoner and deceased had lived on bad terms, and had separate bedrooms for the last five years.  Deceased was stated to have been addicted to drinking, and it was asserted the prisoner had repeatedly ill-used her.  She was stated to have been much upset of late as report the prisoner was the father of the child named Brayne, who lived with him as a domestic servant.  She told the mother of the girl that she had caught prisoner and the girl together several times, and also said that, if rumour was true, she would kill herself.

Prisoner had been known to thrash his wife, and on one occasion, it was alleged, he pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot her.  On the night of July 31 the report of a gun was heard in the direction of the deceased’s bedroom, and immediately afterwards she was found lying dead in bed with the gun had some distance off, and at this time prisoner was in the house.  The Bench dismissed the case, the defence being that the woman either committed suicide or that the gun was discharged by accident.  The prisoner is still stands charged with wilful murder on the coroner’s warrant.

Birmingham Daily Post - Saturday 19 November 1887

Birmingham Daily Post – Saturday 19 November 1887

Birmingham Daily Post – Saturday 19 November 1887:

Staffordshire Assizes.
Yesterday.  Before Mr. Justice Hawkins.
The Alleged Murder At Baschurch.
Prisoner Acquitted.

The Court resumed the trial of Charles Kynaston (31), Farmer, of Baschurch, on the charge of the wilful murder of his wife Betsy Kynaston, on August 1, Mr. Plowden appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Spearman defended the prisoner.  Dr. Cork was recalled, and questioned by his lordship as to the possibility of the deceased wound having been self inflicted.  He said he could not speak as an expert on that point, but in his opinion the gun might have been discharged by the deceased.  In reply to the jury, witness said he found no reason to doubt the statement of the prisoner as to the time when the occurrence took place.  When he examined the body it was warm, but the arms were cold.  He did not notice any blood on the ramrod or on the arms or hands of the deceased.

Mr. Plowden, in replying on behalf of the prosecution, said the whatever might be the result of the trial, he thought there was ample justification for the investigation.  The jury must either find the prisoner guilty of murder or, by implication, the deceased guilty of suicide.  Is the probabilities for suicide increased or decreased so the probabilities for murder diminished or became stronger.  The question naturally arising in everyone’s mind was what reason was there for the woman to take her own life.  The cause of her old jealousy had long been removed, and although the husband and wife would not on the best of terms, there was nothing to show that she was tired of her life.  The defending counsel might argue that perhaps the woman was suffering from the first stage of delirium tremors, but there was no proof that her excessive drinking was the character to bring about that result.  Then how came in at that to the gun was removed from the kitchen to her bedroom, supposing the theory of suicide correct?  Either she took it with her at 10 oclock at night on retiring to rest, and then waited for hours before carrying out the deed; or she went downstairs and fetched it in the middle of the night.  Had the latter been the case, it was probable that she would have deliberately got back into bed and fired the gun under conditions that could not have been more difficult?  On the other hand, if the prisoner committed murder, it would be to his interest to place the gun as to give the impression that the woman committed suicide.

Mr. Spearman, in addressing the jury for the prisoner, said it was not for him to prove that the deceased took her own life; it was for the prosecution to prove the prisoner murdered her, or the prisoner was entitled to discharge.  Stress had been laid upon the fact that the prisoner was pale and trembling when he called up his servants.  Assured he was not a wonderful, seeing the terrible character of the tragedy in the dead of night.  At least it clearly proved that he had not murdered the woman before going to bed, as was suggested by the prosecution.  Then he was calling collected, and his servants for no difference in him.  If at that time he had committed a murder, was it likely that his fear would remain hidden for four or five hours, and how was it that when the doctor came the body of the deceased was warm?  Everything therefore pointed to the fact that the gun was fired about 2.00 in the morning.  Then have the jury had to consider whether the inference was inevitably in support of the theory of murder.  The evidence rested entirely upon the position of the body, the gun, and the ramrod, so that the man’s life the absolutely depended upon the memory of witnesses as to what existed at a moment of the greatest excitement.

One witness said the eyes of the deceased were open; another said they were shut.  Once said the arms were folded; and others said they were open.  In face of these discrepancies – however small they might be – could the evidence of the witnesses be absolutely relied upon?  Before the jury could convict they must be satisfied that it was impossible for the deceased to have committed suicide; and the chief evidence upon which the prosecution relied –that of Dr. Cork –show that it was not an impossibility.  Be on that, her was the evidence of the boy to be explained away?  And, as the prosecution admitted, if his evidence was correct the prisoner could not be guilty of the crime laid at his doors.

His Lordship, in summing up the case, reviewed at greater length of the evidence given during the proceedings, and, in conclusion, pointed out that if the jury believed the evidence of the son of the prisoner they had no alternative than to find him not guilty.  The jury, after about an hour’s deliberation, returned a verdict of “Not Guilty,” and his Lordship discharge to the prisoner.