In 1906 Tudor Cottage, School End was the scene of two gruesome and violent deaths. Good Friday, 13th April, saw the murder of Eliza Jane King and the suicide of her brother-in-law, Albert King. Newspapers around the country reported the story and local papers carried full accounts of the inquest into the deaths.
Eliza and Amos King and their adopted son, Freddy, lived in the south half of Tudor Cottage and Thomas Hurst, a friend of Amos’s brother, Albert, lived in the other half. Albert King lived in Singleborough but frequently spent the night at Hurst’s home when the two had been drinking heavily together. Shortly before 7 o’clock on Good Friday morning Amos King was milking cows at Edwin Sear’s farm opposite his home, when a gunshot was heard. Everyone assumed someone was scaring birds until Amos returned home for breakfast at 7.15 and found his wife dead.
At the inquest, Dr Moberly of Winslow described how he found Eliza King lying dead and cold on the threshold of Thomas Hurst’s cottage with her feet just inside the door and a pool of blood inside and outside the cottage. ‘On lifting her up he saw a gaping wound in the left breast, evidently penetrating the heart, and which must have caused almost instantaneous death’. He felt that she had been just entering the cottage ‘when she was shot full in the breast and the blood spurted from her heart on to the door’. Inside the cottage, Dr Moberly saw Albert King lying flat on his face in another pool of blood ‘his throat was cut…He was cold. A razor was clasped in his right hand then. There was a gun behind the door’.
The rear of Tudor Cottage where the tragedy took place.
The inquest heard that Albert King had bought the converted rifle three days earlier. He had spent the day before the tragedy drinking heavily at The Crown, The Six Lords and The Swan before taking a couple of bottles of beer back to Hurst’s cottage. Amos King thought he had heard him talking with Hurst at about three in the morning. Amos explained that Albert had once attempted suicide but said that he had been all right apart from when he drank. He and Eliza had frequently asked Albert to stop his drinking and Eliza had fetched him out of The Six Lords a day or two earlier. The Coroner made it clear that he believed Eliza had gone to chide Albert about his drinking again and so he had deliberately shot her and then taken his own life. The jury returned the verdict that ‘Eliza Jane King was shot by Albert King, and that Albert King afterwards committed suicide.’
The inquest into the deaths of Eliza King and Albert King, The Buckingham Advertiser, 21st April, 1906
However, Dr Moberly’s statement and newspaper reports of Albert King’s earlier suicide attempt suggest that King had never intended to shoot his sister-in-law. Eliza had only ‘got one foot over the threshold when she was shot’. She did not have time to start rebuking Albert and Albert did not have time to grab the gun. He must have been holding it already and must have hardly glimpsed who was entering before he shot her.
In February 1901 King had tried to kill himself in his coach house. He rigged up a shotgun with a string to the trigger but when the gun discharged it missed him and blew a hole through the flooring of the loft above. He then went up to his bedroom and cut his throat with a razor. Now, five years later, King had bought another gun to kill himself. When Eliza came to the door, King was probably in a state of emotional turmoil, preparing to take his life. Indeed, Eliza might have gone next door because she had heard him in a distressed state. King had the gun in his hands, probably panicked when the door opened and fired. Now there was no time to rig up the rifle to shoot himself, so he cut his throat.
At the inquest, nobody mentioned that a gun and razor were the same weapons Albert King had used in his previous suicide attempt or suggested that he had planned suicide, not murder, that morning. However, the Coroner, Thomas F Vaisey, knew this well because he was the doctor who had attended Albert King when he had attempted suicide previously. Vaisey had found King unconscious and barely alive with his windpipe severed and blood running into his lungs. He had not expected King to live. Yet, at King’s trial for attempted suicide, Vaisey spoke in his defence, saying that King had expressed contrition and describing him as ‘practically rational all the time and a sane person’. King had been released on his own recognisance. If Vaisey felt any responsibility for the subsequent tragedy, he did not mention it. Instead, he blamed Thomas Hurst.
Hurst had convictions for being drunk and disorderly and had been bound over to keep the peace after threatening to shoot his wife, Frances, who had later left him, taking their two young daughters with her. That Good Friday morning Hurst was drinking at the Lone Tree Inn at Thornborough where, on hearing the tragic news, he decided to have another pint. He also lied at the inquest, denying that Albert King had been at his home the night before the deaths. He was a bad influence but he was not responsible for Albert King’s actions. King had been depressed for years. Sadly, in the early 1900s, there was no effective medical treatment for depression and alcoholism but, if Vaisey had not declared him sane five years earlier, perhaps he might have been confined and Eliza King would not have lost her life so violently. Amos King remarried in 1908 and in 1911 was living in Tattenhoe with his new wife, Caroline, and their two-year-old son, George.
Buckingham Advertiser, Buckinghamshire Advertiser and Aylesbury News, Bucks Herald, Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, Derby Mercury, Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Norfolk Chronicle, Northampton Mercury, Morning Post, Oxford Journal, various issues.