BORN TO BE HUNG
"His complexion and eyes are very dark; his features taken separately are not bad but in their totality present an expression of reckless defiance and a strong predominance of animal passions'
o, this is not a publicity blurb about an up and coming sexy film or pop idol, but of a man on trial for his life in 1842. Written with all the flowery journalistic prose of the period, long before an image of reckless defiance and animal passions could lead to fame and wealth, this description could have done little to provoke sympathy for the man in the dock defending himself against a charge of Murder.
Not that there was much sympathy to be had in this case. The charge was not simply one relating to the illegal killing of one person by another, but referred to the heinous crime of matricide, the murder of a mother by her son. To carry out such an act was considered to be unnatural by a society which by that time considered the killing of another human being, unless officially condoned, to be an outrage.
This is not a mystery story. It is simply a brief investigation into an 160 year old murder, another episode in the vast annals of British criminal justice and therefore betrays none of the plot to say straight away that the culprit, one Richard Edwards, was found guilty by a jury of his peers and paid the supreme penalty for his vile and inhuman crime.
Although little more than the recounting of an unremarkable and sordid real life drama, its main character, an unsavoury and detestable individual who, in the words of a contemporary writer "Was born to be hung", there are a few aspects of this case that may prove intriguing to the more analytical among crime buffs and the armchair detective.
The young Richard Edwards was raised by his mother, a widow, in one of twelve one roomed terraced cottages that stood beside the old horse drawn tram road that linked Merthyr to Abercynon.
He was born sometime in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fourteen, the year when Napoleon gave up on the idea of world domination and took himself of into exile on <st1:place w:st="on">Elba</st1:place>.
It's believed that, when still a very small child, Richard was brought from <st1:city w:st="on">Cornwall</st1:city> to live in Merthyr Tydfil in the <st1:place w:st="on">South Wales</st1:place> by his mother, for both of them are reported to have spoken Welsh with a Cornish brogue. This Cornish background gave rise to Richard Edwards becoming widely known in the area where he lived by the nickname of "Dick Tamar" (The Tamar river being the boundary between Devon and <st1:city w:st="on">Cornwall</st1:city>, or as is claimed by the Cornish, <st1:country-region w:st="on">England</st1:country-region> and <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cornwall</st1:place></st1:city>). His mother being known by her friends and neighbours as "Tamar Edwards".
Little is known about Tamar Edwards' life other than, as for so many others, it had become hard so at the time of her death in 1842 she was living on relief from the parish of Llanfabon. Her son Dick, it would appear, was of little or no financial help.
A well known figure to the people living in and around Merthyr, Dick Tamar, like many other men in the mining communities, was by occupation a miner. There any further comparison ends.
Paradoxically, Dick had a reputation for working well and conscientiously, on the rare occasions he could be persuaded to work. This said, he was, unlike so many of his fellow miners who worked hard long hours in dangerous circumstances to provide a meagre life for their families, by nature work shy.
Within the local community, he was generally considered to be a violent ne'er-do-well, and had been imprisoned for various acts of violence. Dick, physically, with his dark flashing eyes, was considered to be a handsome man and thus attractive to many of the more adventurous young ladies of Merthyr.
To be the subject of this acknowledged rogue's amorous attentions often brought a much coveted glamorous frisson and a hint of danger to otherwise insular and predictable lives.
This reputation as a ladies man did, however, contain a degree of hazard, and in 1839 Dick Tamar found himself in the dock, in serious danger of losing his life on the scaffold.
On December the 17th 1839, the charred body of Ellen Murphy, a young Irishwoman was discovered in the cinder pits of Cyfarthfa Iron Works, located near <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Merthyr</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">Church</st1:placetype></st1:place>.
Ellen Murphy had been manually strangled to death after being brutally assaulted, her body thrown into the pit in the hope that it would either be totally consumed or charred beyond recognition. It was common knowledge in Merthyr that Dick Tamar and Ellen Murphy had a relationship, and in view of Dick's reputation, it was not totally surprising that following the three day inquest into the woman's death, Dick Tamar found himself indicted for her murder.
Dick stood trial for the murder of Ellen Murphy during the Glamorganshire Spring Assizes held in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Swansea</st1:place></st1:city> on the 10th of March 1840. On this occasion the fates were kind to Dick.
Mr. Justice Maule, the presiding judge, directed the jury to acquit Dick Tamar because no factual evidence pointed to his guilt, and he couldn't be convicted on the grounds of suspicion alone. It is interesting to note that Mr. Justice Maule partly based his decision on the testimony given at the inquest into the death of Ellen Murphy by Dick Tamar's mother.
At the inquest Tamar Edwards swore on oath that on the night Ellen Murphy had been brutally murdered, her son Richard Edwards had spent the entire evening at home with her. Whether guilty or innocent, justice in the eyes of the law had been done and Dick Tamar walked from the court a free man. Having cheated the scaffold, little did Dick know that this freedom was only a reprieve from what would seem to have been his predetermined fate.
Nor, could Tamar Edwards have known that, in providing her son with an alibi, she had sealed her own violent fate.
(Sketch taken from a contemporary drawing)
Here then is Dick Tamar's story, or at least a version of it.
In 1841, one month after the birth of their blind son, Dick, who was then 27, married Margaret (Peggy) Morgan, the daughter of well respected Merthyr miner, William Job Morgan.
On the surface it appears to have been a short lived marriage, because by Thursday the 14th of April 1842, the day when the sequence of events that led to Dick being hung by the neck until dead began, Dick and his wife Margaret were living apart. Three months earlier, after only six months of married life, Margaret Edwards had taken her son and returned to her parents home in Rhydycar.
The full reasons for this separation are not clear, although it known that Dick's mother, Tamar Edwards had, some time earlier, ordered her out of her cottage where all four of them had been living together.
At around 3.00 p.m. on Thursday the 14th of April, one of Tamar Edwards' neighbours, Mary Jenkins, the wife of a collier, saw "the old woman" (Tamar Edwards' age at the time of her death is uncertain. All the accounts refer to her as an old woman although it is possible, considering the tendency towards early marriage and the ageing effect that the harshness of the life had on women, that she could have been little more than 43 or 44 years old), drawing a pitcher of water from the communal pump and returning with it to her cottage. Mary Jenkins later testified that although Tamar Edwards was normally a regular sight, either drawing water or fetching in coal, she never saw her alive again.
Dick claimed that Mary Jenkins wasn't the only person to see his mother alive on that day. According to Dick, a man named William Powell saw his mother when he called at the cottage saying that he had been sent by Dick's father in law, William Morgan, to ask on behalf of his daughter and grandson if Dick had any money to send to them.
Whether or not Powell saw Tamar Edwards is relevant is questionable other than it serves to catch Dick out in a lie. Dick met Powell at the door and told him that his mother had a female visitor and he didn't wish to discuss his personal affairs in front of her.
Accepting this quite reasonable excuse, Powell stayed outside the cottage, and so never saw Tamar Edwards. Powell then left, taking Dick Tamer's message that "he would not give a penny, that they both kept away from me, that I was willing to take them both back" to William Morgan.
The female visitor Dick claimed was inside with his mother at the time of Powell's visit was never identified by Dick, not at the inquest nor at his trial did anyone come forward to confirm Dick's statement.
However, if there was someone, it does add some credence to the confession Dick made a few days prior to his execution.
Dick Tamer it appears was in earnest when he told Powell that he would take his wife back. The following day, Friday the 15th, Dick set out for his father in law's cottage at Ryhdycar. Stopping twice for liquid refreshment, once at the Dynefor Arms and once at the King's Head, he arrived at around 10.00 a.m.
William Morgan, Dick's father in law was by that time at work, however Dick's wife and mother in law were at home. He was asked by his wife 'why had he come?', to which Dick is claimed to have replied, 'for her'.
In the first instance it appears that Margaret Edwards agreed to return home with her husband, then after discussing it with her mother, changed her mind. Thwarted, Dick decided to stay at Ryhdycar and wait until William Morgan returned home from work, probably believing that the whole affair would be better sorted out by the men of the family.
When William Morgan returned home at about 7.30 p.m., Dick told him that 'he had come quietly and like a man to take his wife home with him', adding, that she had at first agreed, then, influenced by her mother, changed her mind.
Whether at that time Morgan's sympathies lay with his daughter or with her husband we can't be sure, what he did do was send for his daughter, who had by that time gone to bed. When Margaret appeared Dick told her to dress and come home with him. Once again she refused and William Morgan told Dick that he believed that his daughter was afraid of him.
Dick argued that this wasn't true and it resulted in both men challenging Margaret Edwards to either confirm or deny this allegation. Her reply isn't on record, so we must draw our own conclusions, because a short time later Dick left Rydycar, alone.
Dick did not however return to his mother's cottage in Merthyr but went instead to The Duke public house, from whence, his sorrows well and truly drowned, he staggered to Casting House No 7 at Dyffryn and slept, in the words of Richard Mantle, a hauler, who saw him there on the Friday and again on the Saturday night "lying in the dust and the dirt".
On Saturday morning the 16th of April, the day following Dick Tamar's abortive attempt to reclaim his wife, William Morgan, for reasons never explained, washed his hands of his daughter and cast both her and his blind grandson out of his house. Dick was presumably still sleeping it off at Dyffryn
Rejected by her father, Margaret Edwards made her way to Merthyr in search of either her husband or her mother in law. Not finding anyone home, Margaret spoke to two of Tamar's neighbours, Mary Trehearne, who lived next door, and Ann Williams. Mary Trehearne told her that she believed Tamar had left on Friday to go and collect her relief money from the Parish at Llanfabon, and that as a rule she usually stayed there for two or three days.
Neither woman had seen Dick Tamar that morning, nor did anyone see him all day Saturday or Sunday.
Still in search of shelter for herself and her son, Margaret Edwards then went to her aunt, Jane Phillips' house in Caedraw. Unable to stay at her aunt's due to inadequate space, both she and her child lodged for the Saturday and Sunday night at the home of Eleanor Phillips, a close neighbour of her aunt.
One Monday the 18th Dick Tamar resurfaced and was seen twice outside his mother's cottage. The first time by Mary Trehearne at about 11 a.m. Mary testified that he asked her "when did you see my mother" and that she told him the same as she had told Margaret on Saturday, to which he replied "Aye, it's down at Llanfabon she is".
Dick had roughly the same conversation with Ann Williams, when at around 5 p.m., she found him outside Tamar's cottage trying to look inside by pulling aside an old cloak that Tamar usually hung at the window when she wasn't there.
Ann Williams, apparently seeing nothing odd in finding her neighbour's son trying to spy into the cottage where he ostensibly lived, she agreed that Tamar would probably return that evening by tram.
Dick then asked Ann Williams if she had seen his wife and learnt that she had gone to her aunt's in Caedraw.
Dick Tamar arrived at Jane Phillips' house in Caedraw a little after 6 p.m. where he found his wife and child. Asked by Dick what she was doing there, Margaret explained that her father had thrown her out Friday night but, because it was night, he had allowed her to stay until Saturday morning before leaving. In reply to Dick's request that she return to Merthyr with him, Margaret is reported to have asked "To what? Dick is supposed to have replied that "she would come before his Mother" adding that in any case "she was away at Llanfabon" (The source of this conversation is Margaret's aunt, Jane Phillips ).
At 7 p.m., Dick left Caedraw with his wife and child to return to Merthyr. Before leaving Dick assured Jane Phillips that there was both food and fuel available at his mother's cottage for them, and asked her to visit them. It would seem that Dick was partly untruthful because on reaching the cottage he had to go out to Evan David's shop to get food whilst his wife lit a fire.
Up to this point, our story is just another not so remarkable family affair. However from the evening of Monday the 18th, until shortly after midday on Saturday the 23rd, the train of events becomes more elusive. Dick told two stories, one to the police, and one to the prison chaplain. Sometimes they corroborate each other, often they don't.
According to Margaret Edwards, nothing untoward occurred during that week other than the non return of her mother in law. Margaret claims that on Saturday morning, when her husband Dick left saying he was going to Dowlais to collect his pay, he told her that under no circumstances must she clean the floor near, or look under, the bed,.
Dick's first story is somewhat different. He claimed that on returning home from Evan David's shop on the Monday evening, he found his wife crouching in the corner of the room. What happened next is probably best retold in the words Dick used at his trial.
"She told me my mother was under the bed, dead. I said, 'What did you say girl?' She said again; 'I went there and looked. I got quite distracted and Peggy (Margaret) laid hold of me and told me to be pacified. I exclaimed 'Good God, who has been here killing my mother?' We pacified ourselves, then settled to say she was away from home."
He also claimed that the next day, Tuesday the 19th, on his wife's instigation, he opened his mother's private box and took out three handkerchiefs. His wife then took them to sell at a shop owned by a Jewish shopkeeper called <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lyons</st1:place></st1:city> but came back saying she had been turned away by the shopkeeper's wife.
Dick further claimed that a little later she told him that she had not gone to <st1:place w:st="on">Lyon</st1:place>'s shop to try and sell the handkerchiefs but to Davies the tailor. He also claimed that from Tuesday onwards his wife had taken to wearing his mother's clothes.
Unfortunately, because it may have helped to decide which of the pair, Dick or Margaret, were lying, neither of these shopkeepers, their wives, or Margaret Edwards' younger sister, who was supposed to have received one of Tamar's handkerchiefs as a present from Margaret, were ever called to give evidence.
At approximately 9 a.m. on Saturday the 23rd a man called David Lloyd visited Tamar Edwards' cottage. During the short time he was there, he estimated no more than 3 minutes or so, he asked after Tamar and was told by Dick (at this point, according to Dick, he knew his mother was dead and still hidden under the bed, so did his wife), that she was still at Llanfabon. He remembered that when he entered to the cottage to light his pipe from the fire, Margaret Edwards was cleaning the floor.
Around midday, when Dick had left for Dowlais and after, if what Margaret claims is true, instructing his wife not to clean near or look under the bed, Margaret Edwards appeared at Mary Trehearn's cottage door.
She told Mary that she was worried that nothing had been heard of her mother in law for over a week and that she believed there was something hidden under the bed, but that her husband had ordered her not to look. Mary Trehearne told Margaret to look anyway, a suggestion which Margaret rejected saying that she was afraid, and asked Mary to look for her. Mary refused, saying she would not do it alone, but would if someone, another neighbour, Martha Waters, was with her.
The two women then went to Martha Waters' home and persuaded her to accompany them back to Tamar's cottage. The first thing Martha and Mary noticed on entering the single room that made up Tamar's dwelling was the terrible smell (David Lloyd made no mention of noticing any smell when 3 hours earlier he had entered to light his pipe). The bed at this time was placed against one wall, the side exposed to view being covered by a blanket that reached to the floor. With great trepidation Mary Trehearne lifted one corner of the blanket and reached underneath the bed, her hand immediately coming into contact with the right elbow of an obviously dead body.
Although in their evidence not one of the three women mentioned screaming, (though I imagine that unless she was made of very stern stuff indeed, Mary Trehearne at least would have indulged herself into some loud exclamation of horror), some commotion attracted the attention of a passing Penderyn miner, Thomas Richards.
Richards immediately entered the cottage, took one look at the corpse, then ushering the women outside, sent first for the police. He then closed the door to the cottage and stood guard over it until the police arrived.
The first policemen on the scene, arriving at 1.35 p.m., were Sergeant James Hume and Constable Rees Williams, followed about twenty minutes later by the Merthyr surgeon Mr Dyke. Hume, examining the body, noted that the dead woman was wearing a black cotton shift and that a dark coloured flannel night-gown had been thrown across her legs. Her head was covered by a handkerchief which had been laid across her shoulders and knotted behind her neck. She was lying on her right side with her right hand raised above her head and her left arm across her chest. He also noted that traces of coagulated blood and other fluids around the right nostril and livid bruising to the throat.
The findings of the subsequent post-mortem carried out by Mr Dyke and another surgeon, Mr. Edward Davies, gave the cause of death as strangulation; the position and type of marks on the throat being such as to indicate that death had been the result of manual strangulation (As in the case of Ellen Murphy). Both men estimated that the dead woman, now formally identified as Tamar Edwards, had been dead for between 5 and 6 days.
Perhaps now, before continuing the story it is time to ask ourselves a few questions. Questions that do not so much concern the innocence or guilt of Dick Tamar, but the depth of involvement of Margaret Edwards, his wife.
If Margaret Edwards had, as Dick claimed, discovered Tamar Edwards' body on Monday night, why did she not immediately raise the alarm? One possible answer to that question is of course, fear. Fear that if her husband was capable of murdering his own mother, he would certainly wreak vengeance on her for betraying him.
However, if Margaret discovered Tamar's body on the night of Monday the 18th, this would mean that he had murdered his mother on the evening of Thursday the 14th or early Friday the 15th.
This would conveniently explain why Dick was loathe to go back to the cottage either Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, and why he avoided entering the cottage, until accompanied by his wife and child on the following Monday.
Of course if, as he wanted, his wife had returned home with him on Friday, that meant that she would have discovered Tamar's body just that much sooner. In addition, the medical opinion placed Tamar's murder as having taken place only five or six days prior to its official discovery. Sunday, Monday or even Tuesday. If the medical estimate was reasonably accurate, I think we can rule out Sunday, as Dick was not seen once in or near his mother's cottage. Monday during the day is also unlikely as we must ask ourselves why did he hang about outside the cottage unless: 1, his mother wasn't there, or 2, he was afraid to go in because he had murdered her the previous Thursday or Friday (9 to 10 days earlier), or sometime Monday.
For a moment let us assume that Tamar Edwards was murdered on Monday evening, 5 days before her body was ‘discovered’. This would mean that she could have returned home during the two hour period Dick was in Caedraw fetching his wife and child. Alternatively she could have returned when Dick and Margaret were together in her cottage or even whilst Dick was out searching for food.
In which case the two women called have fought and Margaret Edwards strangled her mother in law herself.
What does seem odd, though not so abnormal if you consider that at this time the Glamorganshire Constabulary was in its early infancy, was the lack of any thorough investigation. At no point was any attempt made to confirm when, or if at all, Tamar Edwards had gone to Llanfabon, whether she had collected her relief money, and if she had, if anyone had seen her on her return journey to Merthyr.
One thing stands out clearly. Had Tamar Edwards actually gone to Llanfabon, returned unnoticed by her neighbours and was murdered on Monday evening or the following morning, Margaret could not simply have discovered Tamar's body. She had to have been present when she was killed.
If we return to the events of Saturday the 23rd, one person at least, Martha Walters, believed that Margaret, if not necessarily a participant in the murder of her mother in law, had a least full knowledge of the crime and had actively aided in its concealment.
On the discovery of Tamar's body, Martha Walters told Margaret "Your mother in law is dead, and has been for a long time". She added that "Margaret had lain over the body and that she (Margaret) was worse than Dick".
From this statement it's obvious Martha Walters had no doubts in her own mind that Margaret knew full well she was sleeping only a few inches above the dead body of her mother in law. Martha suspected that Margaret was using her husband's absence to raise the alarm, thus hoping to avoid any hint of complicity in the murder.
There were ample grounds for such a suspicion if you remember that the first thing that had struck both Mary Trehearne and Martha Walters when they entered the cottage was the smell. Its hard to believe that Margaret Edwards had in all innocence remained for five days in a one roomed cottage, sleeping above the corrupting body of her mother in law.
It's also well possible that the visit earlier that morning by David Lloyd was a warning to Dick that his mother's disappearance couldn't be concealed for much longer, prompting him to leave in an attempt to escape justice.
By the same token, Lloyd’s visit could have provoked Margaret to instigate the discovery of the body, especially if she suspected her husband had absconded leaving her to face the music.
Although almost immediately on his arrival Sgt. Hume ordered a search to be made of the surrounding area for Dick Tamar, he was nowhere to be found. The suspected murderer, it appeared, had gone to ground. Hume also ordered the arrest of Margaret Edwards and whilst the arresting officer, Constable Rees Williams, was leading her through the rapidly gathering throng of sightseers she cried out in Welsh "Dick has done it at last".
When a woman in the crowd shouted back the question "What was it he had done?" Margaret replied "Murdered his mother and hid her under the bed."
Evidently Margaret's efforts at disassociating herself from her husband had some effect because, later that day, after making a statement to Sgt. Hume's boss, Superintendent Davies, she was released.
Meanwhile the hue and cry for the absconding Dick Tamar was gathering momentum and mounted policemen began galloping the length and breadth of the district to investigate the numerous reported sightings of the fugitive.
From Saturday the 23rd to the following Wednesday the 27th of April Dick remained at large, although reports of the hunted man being sighted at Cwm Bargoed, Torfan, Gelligaer, Pantywain; Penlan, Penrhiwcalch and Aberdare flooded into the police.
The only one of these places its sure that Dick had visited, although it wasn't reported at the time by the person concerned, was Gelligaer.
At about 7 p.m. on the evening of Sunday the 24th, Dick knocked on the door of one William Richards of Gelligaer asking for bread. Asked by Richards why he was begging on the Sabbath, Dick told him that he had been out of work for three months. He gave his name as Richard Jones, a single man from the Parish of Llandovery, but who had been born in Rhymney.
Although William Richards had heard of the murder of Tamar Edwards and the search for her son Dick, he had not been suspicious; it was the time of the Chartists, and all too sadly, out of work men begging for food was far from uncommon in the <st1:place w:st="on">British Isles</st1:place>.
Out of compassion Richards told his wife to give the beggar some bread and bacon, then send him on his way.
When by Wednesday the Police appeared to be no closer to catching the wanted man, a handbill was printed and widely circulated in Merthyr and the surrounding districts. As no known copy of this wanted poster survives, we can only reproduce that part that can be found in a contemporary newspaper account.
Richard Edwards is about 28 years old, 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion and hair, long visage, dark eyes and whiskers, and was dressed in a snuff coloured cloth coat with side pockets, wearing a dirty smock over the same; oil cases capor hat, light blue corduroy trousers, white flannel waistcoat, red worsted cravat, strong working shoes footed white, generally walks with his left hand in his pocket!
Ironically, at the moment that the police began circulating this handbill, the drama surrounding the wanted man was already drawing to a close.
By Tuesday the 26th, Dick's travels had carried him the 30 or so miles from Merthyr to Talybont in Breconshire. In Talybont he heard the news that a £30 reward had been offered for his capture, and, for reasons he never explained, began to retrace his steps back to Merthyr.
It appears that he sheltered on Tuesday night at the Plymouth Iron Works at Dyffryn, and at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday was spotted by Cyfartha miner John Hier in a plantation by Glynderris Pond on the Cwmcanaid to <st1:street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Glynderis Road</st1:address></st1:street>.
John Hier, who knew Dick Tamar personally decided not to inform the police, but send a message to William Morgan, Dick Tamar's father in law. Possibly because he hoped to share the reward money, even a very small share of £30 was a lot back then.
An hour or so later, William Morgan, in the company of his two sons and some unnamed workmen found Dick standing by the edge of the road whittling a stick with his knife.
William Morgan testified at Dick's trial that the following conversation took place.
Morgan said to his son in law, "Dick, is it here thou art, thou must go before me to the village" (Merthyr).
Dick replied, "To what or for what?"
Morgan, "Because they want to see thou there; throw the knife out of thy hand, thou are not fit to carry it, throw it or I will make thee throw it."
Morgan stated that he then seized a billhook saying, "I will strike this into thy guts if thou will not loose it."
When Dick dropped the knife Morgan claims to have said, "Go thou great murderer."
To this accusation Dick is reputed to have answered, "Who did I murder."
Morgan replied, "Thy own Mother, thou great murderer, and put her under the bed and slept on her."
Offering neither agreement or denial Dick was then said to have put out his hand to Morgan saying, "Thou can give me thy hand Will."
Ignoring the outstretched hand Morgan asked, "For what Dick?"
Dick's answer was, "Thou hast two brothers who murdered men, and one of them was hanged publicly before the World and the other is living (William Morgan’s two brothers, one of whom was hanged in Monmouth, were 'Scotch Cattle'. This name was given to the gangs that terrorised men who refused to join the newly formed unions. These attacks were often so violent that the death of the victim was not uncommon), I thought to be with thee tonight and give myself up tomorrow." Dick paused then added, "Thou are proud to catch me tonight because there is money to catch me."
Morgan answered that he was very proud to catch him, but he had heard nothing of the money.
Dick then told his father in law about hearing that there was a reward for his capture and is alleged to have given his reason for returning to Merthyr was because, "He was raving in his skin".
What he actually meant by that is unclear, however it is interesting, especially in view of Dick's later confession that when, at his trial, Dick was offered the opportunity to cross examine William Morgan, he refused stating somewhat cryptically "the witness is too dangerous for me to speak to him; I would shoot him, I am so angry with him".
With Dick disarmed, William Morgan and his escort took Dick to Merthyr and handed him over to the police. When the word spread that Dick Tamar was safe in custody, as one contemporary, perhaps exaggerated if enthusiastic, account put it,
"The huzza's of thousands evinced their joy that the foul murderer of his mother had been taken."
At 10 a.m. the following morning, the 28th of April, Dick was taken to the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Angel</st1:placename> <st1:placename w:st="on">Inn</st1:placename></st1:place> in Merthyr where he came before a magistrate, Mr G.R. Morgan. The court sat hearing evidence until 6 p.m. when Dick Tamar was committed to prison on a charge of murder to await trial at the next Glamorganshire Assizes.
Handcuffed and his legs in irons, escorted by Superintendent Davies and a Police Sergeant also called Davies, Dick Tamar was taken by train from Merthyr to Cardiff Prison. It was reported that every station along the journey was packed with people wanting to hoot and jeer at the accused man.
At one halt, Taff Vale, a young woman is reputed to have shouted at Dick, "I saw Greneacre hanged and I hope I shall see you hang too'. (James Greenacre was a prosperous trader and politician who was hung at Newgate for the murder of Hannah Brown. The only connection between the two men is that they shared the same executioner, Willam Calcraft.)
Dick Tamar, never one to give the best impression of himself is said to have given the woman a look of contempt, before shouting back "Were my hands loose I would settle with you."
Richard Edwards, known as Dick Tamar, came to trial during July 1842 at the Midsummer Assizes held in <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cardiff</st1:place></st1:city>. As he was not legally represented and spoke only Welsh the Court appointed an interpreter for him.
At the close of his trial, Dick made no effort to offer any form of defence. Following the Judge's summing up, it took the jury just twenty minutes to bring in a verdict of' 'Guilty'
Asked through the interpreter if he had anything to say before sentence was passed Dick Tamar replied "If I were guilty of my Mother's murder, neither Judge nor Jury would see me in the Hall (The County Court House) at Cardiff; my heart and my conscience is clear from my Mother's death."
If Dick entertained any hope that this plea of innocence would evoke either pity or clemency from the court it was quickly dashed.
In passing sentence the Judge told Dick, "It is needless for me to say, that that in a case such as yours, it would be idle to look for a remission of sentence; to hope for mitigation of punishment this side of the grave."
At exactly 8 a.m. on Saturday the 23rd of July 1842, two months to the day his mother's body had been discovered, her son, Richard Edwards, was publicly hung outside Cardiff Goal for her murder. As was usual on these occasions, the City was packed with sightseers, street vendors beggars and all the other who enjoyed the show that this act of justice freely provided.
Standing on the scaffold, Dick Tamer protested his innocence one last time by crying out to the crowd, "Hear me. I am guilty of every crime except thieving and murder."
Seconds later, the executioner, William Calcraft placed the noose around his neck and pulled the bolt so ending the life, but not the story of Dick Tamar, murderer.
On July the 18, five days before his execution and in the presence of the Prison Chaplain The Rev. Thomas Stacy, and witnessed by Mr John B. Wood the Prison Governor, Dick Tamar made and signed his confession. It makes interesting reading.
I was not alone when my Mother came by her death, my child, ten months old was in the bedroom. My Mother died on Thursday night. When dead, two women placed my Mother beside my little boy, where the corpse remained until the Monday night following. The two other persons present besides my wife were the nearest relations of Peggy (my wife). Peggy and the other person who had been in the womb of the other. These three persons told my father in law and my mother in laws sister that they had passed the night on Cefn Coed Cymer. I gave my Mother a blow about the jaw because Peggy cried out my mother was beating her. My Mother fell down under my blow. Peggy, her mother and brother then laid hold of my Mother. My Mother did not speak. She groaned for some time. I saw Peggy and the other two squeezing her throat until she stopped groaning. I was in liquor, the other three were not. This happened about Twelve o'clock or One o'clock, I cannot tell exactly because there was no watch or clock there. Now if Peggy had been allowed to be examined by me in the Hall. I should have made all this known there. Peggy asked me to bury her. I said I wouldn't, I would leave her there, for I was afraid of being seen. I told them they had killed my Mother. They begged me to keep everything secret. We all remained in the house till the dawn of the day. I then went up to Dowlais, and the others returned to my father in law as they say and told the story of being all night at Cefn Coed Cymer. I met my wife again about six o'clock in the evening of the following Monday at her Aunt Jane Phillips' house in Cae Draw, and we went together, the child in her arms to my Mother's house. My wife placed the child the opposite side of the bed to where my Mother was lying. We then together dragged the corpse out and placed it under the bed. We continued to live in the house the rest of that week. I was full of anxiety all week and on Saturday, the day my Mother's body was discovered, I started off, leaving my wife in my Mother's house. I was absent from Saturday until the following Wednesday, when I was apprehended in the cart house at Duffryn and wandering about. I tell the best truth - the truth I shall tell in the presence of God where I will be next Saturday - to you now. My blow did not kill my Mother for she groaned afterwards. Her death was caused by their meddling and scuffing with her on the ground. I know not exactly in what manner. I mean Peggy, her mother and her brother were scuffling with her. Neither of these three charged me at the time with killing my Mother. This is all true as I shall answer to God.
Dick's confession, condemned at the time by all who read it as a monstrous and villainous attempt to implicate his wife and her family, especially her mother and brother; does evoke several questions.
Death cell confessions are never considered very credible, especially in later times when they could possibly influence a reprieve. As in Dick's case this was out of the question, and as Dick, by his own admission, had struck his mother whilst drunk, we could ask ourselves, what did he possibly have to gain by lying other than perhaps a belated desire to set the record straight.
Certainly Dick Tamar was a thoroughly violent and disreputable character. He had probably committed murder at least once before and was without doubt involved both in the death of his mother and in the concealment of her body. Was he however her murderer?
The Thursday night Dick is referring to is the 14th of April, the day he now claimed his mother died, and the last day anyone saw her alive. He also quite clearly says that not only was his wife present, but she contributed in her mother in law's death. This is in sharp contradiction to his wife's statement that she had no idea anything untoward had happened until near the end of the following week, when she began to suspect that there was something under the bed.
The truth is therefore linked to the date of Tamar Edwards' death.
During Dick’s trial a woman named Gwenlain Williams gave evidence that Tamar Edwards had visited her house on Saturday 16th, 2 days after Dick claimed she had been killed. In his first statement Dick told the police that he had met Mary Trehearne not once, as she stated, but for a second time on the following Monday after her returned home with his wife and child, and that she had told him she had seen his mother the day before on Sunday 17th. As Mary Trehearne did not confirm this statement and Dick contradicted it in his confession it's reasonable to assume he was lying.
There is of course the evidence of the two surgeons who stated that in their opinion Tamar Edwards had only been dead 5 to 6 days before her body was discovered. If we now assume Dick lied in his first statement, Gwenlain Williams got her dates mixed up, and the surgeons were making an educated guess (in those days, fixing the time of death after several days was an inexact science), we come back once more to the Thursday the 14th as being the date Tamar Edwards died.
Now we have to ask ourselves was it murder or accidental death and in either case was it Dick alone who had performed the deed, Dick and his wife, or Dick's wife, her mother and brother?
There appear to be several possible scenarios:
1. Dick, alone with his mother, hits her in a drunken rage then strangles her. Possible, though he had no apparent motive for such an action and unless he was totally stupid he would hardly go in search of his wife and child to take them home with him whilst his mother is lying dead either, on or under the bed.
2. Dick, alone with his mother, hits her to hard in a drunken rage and she unfortunately dies. Possible, but if true, who strangled her after she was dead?
3. Dick is partly telling the truth. His wife, her mother and her brother are with him, but only innocent bystanders when he hits, then strangles his mother. Again possible, although again there is the lack of an obvious motive, and why would they try and cover up her death, especially if they were innocent. Dick was noted for his violent behaviour so there would be little doubt that their non involvement (as proven when Margaret was quickly released), would have been believed had they informed on him.
There is some evidence towards supporting Dick's claim that they were present in the house. Dick told William Powell that his mother had a female visitor. It's not certain he would have mentioned his wife if she had been at the cottage as well, so this would make two women with his mother. Whether Dick would have mentioned that his brother in law had he been there is uncertain.
4. Dick was telling the total truth in his statement. He hit his mother in the drunken misapprehension that he was protecting his wife. Then, whilst he was too stupefied to understand what was happening, his wife, mother in law and brother in law strangled his mother, which makes them, not Dick, Tamar Edwards' murderers.
It is of course possible that Margaret alone, or helped by her family, incited Dick to strangle his mother on their behalf, which could make all four of the equally guilty.
How likely is this possibility? Unfortunately we know nothing about Tamar Edwards' character, but its well possible, considering the harshness of both the age and the place she lived, and the hard life she must have had, that she was a strong dominant woman.
We know that all was not well between her and her daughter in law. In fact she had thrown her out of her house. In this case, is it not feasible that she and her relatives visited Tamar in the hope of persuading or forcing her to take back her daughter in law?
Perhaps due to Tamar's recalcitrance feelings ran high, the discussion grew more and more heated resulting in a violent brawl during which things got totally out of hand.
If it did happen like this, suddenly there is a motive for Tamar's murder.
It would certainly explain why Dick, not wanting to be left alone with his mother's corpse, tried to get his wife to come home on Friday. It would also explain why she refused and why, if he had found out what had happened, her father told her to leave his house the following morning.
It would also explain why Dick stayed away from home Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and made no attempt to enter the cottage on the Monday until he had got his wife to come back with him.
Of course, all the above is supposition, the full truth will never be known. You may or may not believe in one of the above scenarios or have one of your own. You may also think, quite rightly, what does it matter anyway? Its ancient history.
Dick Tamar was tried and executed for his crime, maybe others escaped, maybe there were no others, perhaps it was a miscarriage of justice and even if it was, Dick probably deserved his fate.
To repeat an earlier question, despite the paucity of real facts and the conflicting evidence as to whether Tamar Edwards was murdered on the Thursday or the following Monday, Martha Walters at least found it hard to believe that in all innocence, Margaret Edwards slept for 5 nights in a tiny one room miners cottage over the decomposing corpse of her mother in law. Do you?
(NOTE: As most of the people whose words have been reported in this story only spoke Welsh, the accuracy of translation depends solely on the skill of the contemporary translators.)
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