William Saunders the Quiet Man That Everybody Forgot Even the Police
Saunders was found in a pond, partially submerged. Was it suicide or something more sinister.
On 25th March 1877, two boys took a walk along the stream. They stopped when they saw a partially submerged corpse. With a maturity that exceeded their age, one stayed with the evidence whilst the other went to collect help.
When the body was removed, it was quickly identified as local man William Saunders. Saunders was thirty-four and a labourer at the local gas works. He was described as a quiet, sober man who was easy to get on with.
Two years before his death, he married widow Mrs Sarah Inman. Inman was eleven years his senior and had six children, three girls and three boys.
The couple, six children and lodger James Dempsey lived in the house. Dempsey was due to marry Inman's eldest daughter, who was twenty-three. Saunders's wages had to pay for all of them to live and none of the others worked.
Initially, the police thought that the dead body was suicide, that the man had had enough and drowned himself. However, the post-mortem showed that he had suffered extreme violence before he died. His nose and jaw were broken and so were three ribs, his collarbone and several teeth. The doctor also stated that he had been dead when he entered the water.
A search of the area supported this finding. A patch of grass was trampled down as if something had been dragged through it. The heavy overnight rain had destroyed other evidence.
The police went to inform the widow.
When they entered the house, they asked if they could speak to Mr Saunders; when they were informed he was not home, they told Inman that they had made news, her husband was dead. She commented 'did he drown,' a funny statement seeing as no one had mentioned the water at that point.
She told the police that they had moved house the previous day. Her husband had gone next door for a drink with a friend and then returned with his wages. He presented her with all his money, to which she gave him a shilling back and told him to go and have some fun. She stated that everyone else in the house had stayed in.
The Inmans spoke about the harmonious life the family lived together. However, the friend Saunders had visited on his last night said that his friend was suicidal and had stated that getting married had taken his happiness.
When the police asked whether Dempsey had been out, they were informed not after five o'clock. On their way out, Dempsey ran to speak to them, saying it might have been six when he got home.
The evidence mounts
Ann Winn, a local lady, said that she had seen Saunders talking to a man in a light blue suit; she had heard Saunders say, 'that is a bloody lie.' This was at 2230. Ten minutes later, she saw Dempsey in a light blue suit outside another shop.
The investigation also found that Saunders had been in the Albert pub before his murder. Alfred Inman had also been out at the Dolphin pub until 2300. It appeared that Mrs Inman had not been telling the truth when she gave the whole family an alibi.
The night after the murder, Inman and Dempsey visited Ms Winn. They claimed that they went there to see if Winn could identify Dempsey. However, it is unclear why they visited the next night as well.
During the inquest, Ms Winn could no longer say that Dempsey was the man in the blue suit. Although the witness tampering came to light at the inquest, it was never investigated.
Other mistakes had also been made with the case. For example, at the beginning of the case, police identified Dempsey and Alfred Inman as their prime suspects. Yet they had not searched their house until days later, allowing them enough time to dispose of any clothes that may have had blood on them.
The stories had changed many times when the pair got home. Dempsey finally settled on a version where he got home at eleven and went straight to bed. However, when Albert Inman, who was fourteen, was called to the stand, he stated that Dempsey let him in the house after work at twelve.
As the inquest closed, Saunders' death was ruled 'wilful murder by some person or persons.' The home office offered a reward of £100 for anyone with information that led to an arrest.
The case is closed
Despite the reward, no direct evidence connected Inman and Dempsey to the murder. The police could not find a witness that had seen the pair out together. They also could find no motive for the murder. Fate then played a part in Saunders's murder.
A second murder occurred in the area, which was much higher profile—the murder of Harriet Staunton. Police efforts were concentrated on finding this murderer; Saunders was largely forgotten about. Although Alfred Inman and Dempsey remained suspects for years, the case remains unsolved.