Thanks for letting me join. I was pointed to this Forum when looking at the 'British Executions' website and reading about a distant relative (apparently) of my late Hubby. Alfred Henry (Harry) Dainton was hanged at Shepton Mallet December 1891 for the murder of his Mrs.
From looking at different websites the story of what was supposed to have happened varies greatly and I would be interested in finding the true background detail to the case. On the website I mentioned above, he states in his defence that "he was innocent and that his wife had frequently told him she intended to drown herself in the river."
Interestingly, although I have no way of knowing if it affected either Harry or his Mrs, hubby died of Huntington's disease (HD) which he inherited from his dad and granddad and it is quite prevalent in the family. Now I'm not saying that all with HD go on to be murderers; or that all want to commit suicide, but it did get me wondering if there could be something to look into as it could explain a few things.
Not sure I could ever go anywhere with it anyway but I'd like to get a bona fide account from sources rather than work on what the newspapers wrote at the time.
You can go and read it. I dont have that, but I have pencilled it on my list for my next visit and will process it them.
Regarding the newspaper accounts. Contrary to what a lot of people say, I have found most newspaper accounts to be pretty reliable regarding the facts. The only examples of less than perfect reporting I have come accross were unsolved cases where newspapers have reported evidence as having been found which in the police reports were noted and described as completly misleading (Louise Maud Steele case I beleive the press reported finding blood stained clothes at a certain location but when the police examined them they found that they were clearly rotten and had been where they were found for months or years). The actually Coroner and trial details are uaually spot on word for word. As such, if you have access to a newspaper archive I would recommend it. However, it might be that they dont say much, often cases were covered in less than a few sentences, in which case you would want the HO file. However, its worth noting that there is a good chance you wont be able to read the HO file. THe writing is often worse than terrible. Further, the file could be all rolled up and in a box with 50 other rolled up files (at most) and difficult to open etc. I'm not trying to put you off, but the files from pre 1900 are usually in a bad state. (although from experience, many of the parchaments are often themselves almost brand new looking in the centre when they have never been looked at for decades).
Also, the newspapers are often useful in interpreting things, providing comments from other people, finding out how they behaved at the hanging thing, what they said before they died, and summing up motives and sentiments that the files dont do. Sos much so that the main substance of many HO records are cut out newspaper reports that are pasted with care into the official reports.
Did I emphasis that newspapers are easier to read than these old documents?
Hope that makes sense. You might be able to find an ASSI file for the case but there is none immediatly apparent.
The files wont contain any mediacal reports on the accused or deceased though (virtually no chance) as they didn't go in for all that until much later. You might do well to have the National Archives photograph it for you and send it to you by email. They charge about £1 a page but if there are only 20 pages it could be less than the journey time.
That information is really useful and I will get a quote for the document to be sent.
I appreciate there would be nothing, as such, to denote a medical cause could be in play. HD would not have really been known about in those days anyway (God knows it's hard enough trying to get it recognised in 2017 lol).
Don't worry. It's quite common in HD Circles for people to be searching for records of relatives being certified etc and yet nothing can be read into it. I'm not expecting to find anything pinpointing a HD status from the records per se.
My search is more to find the truest story of events of the murder as it were. Some sites/articles talk about him finding his wife in bed with another woman; some say she was drunk; others talk about the parties arguing. I think the mention of his giving a reason that he was, effectively, doing what his wife wanted (and that she had been suicidal for a long while) was the first report I could see that indicated another angle on the back story. In essence, it might not have been a simple tale of a troubled marriage/alcohol/woman selling her children for gin as one story apparently said said and all that...
After years of trawling through National Archive records I have come to the conclusion that the reports there are just what PC or Supt or whoever decided to record - or at best their own biased interpretation of it.
Work. I have been in nursing for just about 40 years now and I think Huntingtons is one of the worst - they call it 'the dreaded legacy' because if one of your parents have the gene you have a fifty/fifty chance of getting it. I thought this would mean half the kids of an HD sufferer would get it - but that's not the case. I looked after a lady on the south coast who was one of five kids - FOUR had been diagnosed. There are some interesting shorts on youtube.
The only murder I have come across was in America and strangely it was the mum who killed two of her sons. Her husband was a Vietnam Veteran who went down with the illness in the late seventies. Some years later (at least) two of their sons were diagnosed. When the symptoms had become very severe and they were in a nursing home their mum shot them - it was considered neither a murder of manslaughter, but I forget the sentence. One thing was that she had a life ban for caring for people. Soon after another son was diagnosed. The programme was 'Snapped - Women who kill' and I think her name was Carol Carr.
I dunno if it happens much these days but there were a lot of kids in the fifties 'adopted' - in inverted comms'a as it was all off the record. The problem is the genetic disorders these kids might have had.
As someone who has witnessed HD in people, and been involved with the HD Community hearing of others' stories (both sufferers and carers) it's often hard to balance getting across the true awful nature of the disease. I sometimes feel I may be perceived as being biased and therefore exaggerating its nature etc. Having what I would call independent people describing it to the general public helps.
The 50/50 thing is well known to me. Hub's dad was one of 8 children. Of the 8 there were 6 who inherited HD. In our case it was more 75% than 50%. There are families though where none of the children get it. However, that doesn't mean they have truly escaped it where they will still be witnessing loved ones and possibly being their carers whilst not being able to cope with taking the chance of testing. In essence living under a cloud all their lives.
Me and hubs chose not to have children and, as far as I know, Hubs 2 siblings are also childless by choice so at least there is now a zero % of it going down our particular branch of the tree.
There are quite a few HD murder/mercy killing cases out there. We read most about the ones in the USA and here is another one that was interesting Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde This case covers a man who murdered his father and cut off his father's fingers to frustrate identification. Bit of a longish read/listen but I think the key point is
(It took one doctor only two visits to realize that he had a neurologic illness that many other psychiatrists did not recognize. This gap in observation may be a result of the highly stigmatized nature of Huntington’s disease, particularly in rural regions such as North Carolina where medical establishments may not be as informed on the latest neurological disease research. Huntington’s disease has a long history of misdiagnosis, which is still a major problem today.
While Huntington’s disease did not “create a murderer,” it was likely that Vince Gilmer was suffering from symptoms of the disease during the killing. Huntington’s “can cause erratic, agitated, and sometimes uncontrollable behavior.” Dr. Vince Gilmer did note that he wasn’t feeling like himself at the time of the murder. The criminal justice system failed Dr. Vince Gilmer by allowing him to self-represent and failing to properly diagnose the existence and severity of his disease for so many years.)
I am a bit of a blogger myself and one of the cases I have been trying to get more detail on is whether ABC vs St Georges Healthcare has a trial date yet. Bit of the story is covered HERE (not my personal blog but this one give a flavour of the murder.
In respect of the 'adoptions'... Trust me, there are quite a few people I come across on social media now finding a link to HD where they are doing the family tree stuff, or finding family members via Facebook etc. It's quite a shock as you can imagine to find out that kind of information.
I ordered the file from National Archives a few months back and have since received 52 pages (e-mailed JPEG pictures). They include the Judge'sTrial Notes and several other interesting docs. Currently going through them all and actually typing up word doc versions of the text so as to get more familiar with what was written and the time-line of events. Also looking at press articles.
From what I have read so far, I am of the opinion HD was probably not a factor for either Harry or Hannah (although I could not rule it out). Seems more likely Harry may have lost it one evening. It was clearly a very unhappy and volatile marriage with both being at fault. Still more to look into though. Either way, I have been taken aback at the swift judgements in those days. Crime committed 8/9/1891; went to Assizes 24/11/1891; Jury took 12 minutes (yes twelve minutes) to find Harry Guilty - with a recommendation for Mercy; notes and papers back & forth between Judge/Police/Home Secretary along with a 500 signature petition for commutation which Home Sec rejected. Hung 15/12/1891. Sounds like he died instantly though bless him.
One of the more recent things that my quest for info has brought up is this...
Whilst searching on-line to try getting more info/clarity on some of the names in the story I came across a website talking about the closure of Shepton Mallet. Apologies if it is already flagged up on here but a few years back the Prison was sold to a private developer. They are still sorting out some 'viability issues' but as it stands they can start work with just 4 weeks' notice between now and 2020.
The aim is for a few luxury apartments and a little bit allocated to a Museum. Given that Harry has what I would call permanent tenancy I am currently working with a campaigner in Shepton to try getting a definitive answer of what exactly are the plans for Harry and his fellow mates? I understand when HMP Durham needed to consider those buried there during a modernisation exercise they cremated the bodies. Not sure if any family were traced or Home Office/Ministry of Justice even bothered to treat them with dignity or it was a mass cremation as such.
Last but not least, this Friday (4 May ) on Channel 5 Michael Portillo is covering Shepton in his Hidden History of Britain series. Should be a good one.
FYI I don't know if you are aware of the British Newspaper Archive, and many stories can be looked at there - this case has quite a bit of coverage from various newspapers; it seems there was a history of ill feeling between husband and wife. I find these newspaper accounts a good way of finding out more about cases - it costs about the same as an ancestry site
I haven't gone into British Newspapers Archive yet as it is a bit overwhelming where there are literally hundreds and hundreds of articles on it from the time.
I had quite a few credits to use up on GenesReu so did a search on Dainton and the Case. Ended up narrowing it to search under the Region of Somerset and only for the year 1891 in the end. That brought up around 70 articles for that region alone. Having been the closest area to the murder I reckon the Chinese Whisper effect will be lessened and they provide a more accurate account.
As many are regurgitating the same info, I will just take about 5 cases from before the Court Hearing of 24 November; same for the Court Hearing (The Bristol Mercury Report was included in the National Archive Records) and also 5 or 6 after. Those ones talk of the actual petitioning for mercy; the hanging itself; and the fate of the orphaned children. I'm also noticing the churches and the Temperance Societies jumped on the bandwagon where Harry wrote to his family members from prison begging them to give up the drink.
I have also discovered, so far, an article dated 26/02/1891 which covers Hannah taking on a female neighbour for assault. That was discharged where it was clear both women where as bad as each-other where the copper who broke them up said they where both pulling each-other's hair in a cat-fight as it were.
Thanks for using the sensitive term of 'ill feeling'. Very sweet of you. Harry was effectively a wife beater and Hannah was a drinker obviously unhappily married and probably knew which buttons to push to provoke Harry. On an ancestry website I notice their 1st born (Alfred) was born 7 months after they married. You do the maths as they say...
Still looking more into this fascinating bloodstained glass window. Once I know more about the fate of those buried at Shepton, and am more able to give better information to other parties, I will go back to those on Facebook who, I think, have contact with the direct descendants of Harry. The children were shipped by Barnardos to Canada and it's not like they can do much here in Blighty at this stage so I am not going to worry them unduly. That said... they may not be bothered what happens to Harry but I know I would be gutted if I didn't fight for Harry's and others' dignity in death now that I have become aware of the potential destruction of their resting place! We have come a long way since 1891. I come across many murderers and rapists etc in my line of work (a Clerk in Mental Health Tribunals). Hannah didn't deserve to die, but I don't think Henry deserved to hang either. Manslaughter would probably have been the verdict these days. I personally think he took her down to the water to frighten the beejeezers out of her but he couldn't control himself. Then again (re' being hung so quick), I'm expecting the C5 programme tonight to confirm that maybe Harry was better off dead than the prisoners who spent years in a Victorian prison of the day.
Last Edit: May 4, 2018 9:04:02 GMT by daintytrish: typo effect not affect. My eenglish iz not wot it used to be.