Inspector Hopkinson’s Discovery — Ian Morgan — 12th June 2017

Ian, a renowned local his­tor­ian, who has appeared on TV & radio, told us the story of a mul­tiple murder, in Mansfield, that occurred in the early hours of 11th August 1895.
Henry Wright (H.W.) the lodger, had, allegedly, murdered his land­lady, Mary Reynolds aged 48, her 2 chil­dren, Big William & Charles, aged 15 & 17, & her grand­son, Little William aged 2.
Mary was wid­owed but had been mar­ried twice. Her last hus­band had died in 1890.
Also in the house on that night, but who sur­vived, were George (Marys elder stepson) & her grand­son Little Robert, who was only there for the one night.
At 1.50am Inspector Hopkinson, living over the police sta­tion, was awakened by H. W. ham­mer­ing on the door of the police sta­tion, with his throat cut as far as his wind­pipe, stark naked, covered in blood, hold­ing Little Robert in his arms, who was on fire.
Hopkinson doused the burn­ing clothes, phoned for the doctor, & band­aged Wrights throat. Wright not able to speak, poin­ted down the road. Hopkinson recog­nised that Wright lived 50 yards down the road, blew his whistle for back-up, & ran down the road to where the house was on fire.
A police Officer Steadman came to the sta­tion & recog­nised Wright as someone he had spoken to 2 hours earlier. He pro­ceeded to the burn­ing house. The doctor came to Wright & stitched up his wind­pipe, whereupon Wright con­fessed that he had killed them all & set the house on fire. The doctor took Little Robert to Mrs. Hopkinson & Wright con­fessed to her as well, that he had killed them all.
At the scene of the fire, even­tu­ally, the fire bri­gade arrived. The front door was found to be locked, & the back door jammed partly open. Neighbours kicked in the front door. The first floor front room was locked, & in the first floor back room Marys 2 chil­dren were found dead with their throats cut. The 2 rooms on the top floor had their doors roped together closed, so no-one could get out. The front room was sub­sequently found to be empty, once the rope had been cut, & George was in the back room, & had escaped through the window, by ladder, with the help of Steadman.
Mary Reynolds was found dead in the kit­chen, dis­em­bowelled, block­ing the door.
The murder weapon & the razor which H.W. tried to commit sui­cide with, by cut­ting his throat, were found in the house.
The fire was put out after 7 hours & Little Williams charred body was then found.
Wright was taken to the Infirmary under guard, assessed but not passed fit for trial for 10 weeks as he some­times went into a trance, seemed ter­ri­fied, in des­pair & had fits which were ques­tioned as being fake.
At the Inquest, the day after the crime, there was con­flict­ing evid­ence as some said there was no alco­hol on his breath, but others repor­ted that they had been drink­ing with him, & it tran­spired that he had a his­tory of fits which some deemed to be fake.
The jury vis­ited the scene, took photos, & noted there had been a fight in the kit­chen.

After this the 4 funer­als took place, with emo­tions run­ning high & at one funeral George fein­ted & the crowd turned against Wright.

At the first com­mit­tal hear­ing Wright was dishevelled, dirty, hold­ing his head between his legs & he made no plea or com­ment when deman­ded to respond to whether guilty or not. He rushed out part way through the pro­ceed­ings & was there­fore charged as guilty & sent to jail, to await trial. Mansfield could now get back to ‘normal’.

At the trial, Wrights father, who had a fruit & veg. shop, which was about to be demol­ished, said his son had been stu­di­ous, but after an acci­dent which had occurred in the past & dam­aged his head, he was never the same again. He ended up work­ing as a labourer in an iron foundry, wasn’t very bright & was the butt of jokes from his fellow work­ers. He joined a mil­it­ary estab­lish­ment, went to camps, but was dis­missed after he had fits on a few occa­sions. After his mother died his atti­tude changed, he did noth­ing at home, so was told to leave & he ended up as a lodger with Mary Reynolds in 1890.
In 1893, George the stepson came to live with his step­mother & had to share a bed­room with H. W.. George had had a 12 year career in the army in India, had got a medal for the battles he had fought, had suffered from gonor­rhoea, syph­ilis, chol­era etc & had been treated with injec­tions of mer­cury.
On the night of 10/8/1895, H.W. & Mary Reynolds met, & George joined them later, but, in the even­ing, Henry Wright went for a drink with a mate & met police officer Steadman on the way home. He seemed to be no worse for drink.

The gov­ernor of the prison where H.W. was being held, had writ­ten that there was some­thing not right with H.W.
A spe­cial­ist was called who declared that H.W. was insane at the time of the crime, pos­sibly due to the effect of alco­hol.
The chief of Broadmoor also classed H.W. as insane brought on pos­sibly by alco­hol.
H.W. made no plea of guilty, or not guilty or even that he was a hom­icidal maniac. He never defen­ded him­self, except when Mary Reynolds step­daugh­ter gave evid­ence that he was a viol­ent man, at which point H.W. shouted that she was a liar & was afraid to go home because she was afraid of her hus­band. This was the only time he said any­thing.
The judge had a repu­ta­tion of being tough & the jury took 18 minutes to find H.W. guilty.
H.W. was a beaten man & only once asked to see the father of the young­est victim, but he went to the gal­lows on 24/12/1895.

After this tragic epis­ode we were told that all those involved, includ­ing Inspector Hopkinson, came to a wretched & untimely death. Little Robert died of scar­let fever after 3 months. George became an alco­holic & thief & ended up in jail & the work­house & the same infirm­ary as H.W. & died aged 35 in 1897 of ema­ci­ation.
In 1900 the neigh­bour who helped, died at 48, & Doctor Godfrey died at 39 years of age. The fire chief died in 1903 & Insp. Hopkinson died after a crash on his pony & trap, from shock at 48 years of age.
The police officers involved & the exe­cu­tion­ers & assist­ants, also all came to a sticky pre­ma­ture end.
11/8/1895 was a trau­matic night for all con­cerned, with far reach­ing con­sequences.

Ian kept us all con­cen­trat­ing on this very inter­est­ing, well researched & delivered talk.