Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Update of the Past NEWS......... 14th April 1883

Catch up on the full story of last weeks NEWS

*William Rutherford Benn and the Reverend  Julius Benn –

The son who murdered his own father at Matlock ............

The Reverend Benn and his son William arrived in Matlock Bath on Tuesday 27th February and booked themselves 2 beds and 1 sitting room at the property of Mr George Marchant and his family in Matlock Bridge.  Mr Marchant hired out a coach and horse and also offered guests a family run place to stay in Matlock.  The house was named The Cottage and was situated on Chesterfield Road, not far from the railway station.

The father and son told how they were visiting the area for the purpose of William’s health, they were very pleasant but unusually they asked Mr Marchant not to include them in the guest book and not to tell any of their visit.  It seems that they did not want any visitor’s and did not want to be disturbed.  Whilst in the area they visited all of the local attractions; Matlock Bath, Riber Castle, Millers Dale, Cromford and the Heights of Abraham. 

On the evening of Saturday 3rd March they took their evening meal and then retired to bed around 6pm.  Super was taken in to the men later that night around 9pm, The next morning on Sunday 4th March the Marchant family were up bright and early and set too preparing the breakfast for their guests.  At one point Mrs Mary Ann Marchant did hear a noise, but thought it was her mother making the clatter.

By 9am the guests had not arisen and the breakfast had gone cold.  This was unusual as the Reverend Benn and his son had been regular early risers during their stay.  The post man came and so Mrs Marchant went to the door of the suite and knocked, to awake the guests.  She thought she heard a murmur and then more snoring.  Mr Marchant went off to Church and left Mrs Marchant and her mother in the home.  He returned around 1pm to find his wife very anxious as she had been unable to wake the guests, despite several attempts and knocks at the door.

At this point Mr Marchant felt that there was something amiss, returned to the suite and again knocked loudly at the door, this time speaking in a loud voice.  This time the door was unbolted and the sight that awaited Mr Marchant was not at all pleasant.  Mr William Benn was stood pointing at the dead body of his father, the Reverend Julius Benn.  William was covered in blood from head to toes.

Mr Marchant feared for the safety of his wife and mother in law and ushered them out of the house, the police were called for.  He need not have worried as William did not cause for further alarm and instead stood motionless in shock.

Dr Moxon and Police Constable Smith arrived and entered the room; Dr Moxon tried to act in a normal way and wished William “good morning”.  William was still, he had cut his own throat.

Mr Hunter who was Dr Moxon’s assistant arrived and stitched up the gash on William’s throat.  Sergeant Gee also arrived at the crime scene and examined the dead body of the Reverend Benn, his head had been beaten and his brain was said to have been protruding from the skull.  Sergeant Else took William in to custody charged with “having wilfully murdered his father”.  William was removed to Derby Infirmary for treatment and observations.

The police were able to glean some information from the letters which had been sent to the Benn party at Matlock Bridge; the names and addresses were recorded.  The Reverend Julius Benn was pastor at the Old Gravel Congregational Church in St Georges in the East in London.  He left a wife and 7 children (including William) and lived at 119 Stepney Green, London.  William had been suffering with depression and had been under medical supervision at the Bethnal House Lunatic Asylum, London East, when the doctors felt that he had recovered enough the Reverend had brought him to Matlock Bridge for rest and relaxation to assist in his sons return to good health. 

The family of the Benn’s were quite assured that William had committed the act of murder due to mental problems.  It was told how he had only married a few months earlier in the December of 1882 and had been over studying in his business which had caused his mental breakdown.

The Inquest –

This was held at the Queens Head Hotel in Matlock Bridge and was headed by the Deputy coroner for the High Peak District Mr A O Brooks Esq.   The panel were told how William had struck the Reverend Benn with a chamber utensil, which caused his death.  The body was witnessed in the bed where it had been found by Mr Marchant the day earlier, it had been washed but was still an unpleasant sight to behold.  Mr Charles Taylor Mycock a draper from Hyde in Cheshire was called to identify the body; he was the nephew of the deceased.  The inquest was then adjourned until the next day, Tuesday –

Today the panel were told how, on the night of the killing William had stated “I did it with a chamber utensil”.  William was found guilty of having “wilfully murdered” his father Julius Benn at The Cottage, Matlock Bridge.

William was the third son of Julius Benn, aged 28 years old at the time.  His family and close friends spoke with great devotion and love for the poor man who would not have inflicted such savage actions to his father had he been in sound mind.  He had been employed by a business in London until a few months earlier, when he had become irritable and had been put in the care of an asylum.  He had only days before been given a clean bill of health from the doctors at the asylum and had been sanctioned fit enough to travel and rest in Matlock Bridge.

Sadly for William his nightmare was not to end their, having tried to cut his own throat at the scene of the murder he later attempted to throw himself from a window at the Derby Infirmary where he was being cared for after the event.  He sprained his ankle and caused injury to his back after he jumped the 21 feet to the ground.  Some said that he was not attempting his own life but trying to escape.  And so William was committed to Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum having been found to not being able to recover his sanity.

The will of Julius Benn was proved on 5th July 1883 and his wife Ann was beneficiary to his estate of £118 7s 6d. 

As for William, he was born in 1855 in Hendon, Middlesex.  On the 1871 census he is 16 years of age and works as a clerk at East India House.  Ten years on and just before this dreadful incident William is still single and working in the same occupation as a merchant’s clerk. 
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