Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle


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The witch-finder told Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hobson, Deputy Governor of Newcastle, that he could discover a witch by their looks most 'witches' would have been elderly old crones. One woman must have stood out from the rest because of her appearance. Hobson stated that she could not be guilty but the witch-finder insisted that she should be tried.

The woman was stripped to the waist, her clothes pulled over her head. In her fright and shame, it was recorded, that all her blood contracted into one part of her body. A severe blush or flush would probably have occurred. The witch-finder thrust a pin into her thigh and then let her clothes fall. He then asked why she did not bleed.

Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in & Around Newcastle

The terrified woman did not reply. The witch-finder then pulled up her clothes, pulled out the pin and declared her guilty. Hobson watched the woman and as her blood or flush settled he demanded that she be tried again. The woman's clothes were lifted to her thigh and the pin inserted into the same place, blood gushed out and the woman was declared not to be a child of the devil.

Out of those tried, fourteen were declared witches and one man a wizard. These unfortunates were all hanged on the Town Moor. In the register of St Andrew's parochial chapelry in Newcastle dated 21 August the following extract was recorded:. Also recorded in the register as being executed the same day were: 'Jane Martin the millar's wif of Chattin, for a wich. Ellot,, William Brown,? Johnson, John Armestron, Jo Dronweth,.

The witch-finder had made a small fortune and the magistrates thought that Newcastle was a safer place. His reputation must have gone before him so his fee went up. Some people must have had the sense not to believe in witchcraft and one man, Henry Ogle, a Justice of the Peace, questioned what this so-called witch-finder was doing. The witch-finder managed to escape back to Scotland. He had caused the condemnation of witches in Scotland also.

Great Hoaxers, Artful Fakers and Cheating Charlatans (Foul Deeds and Suspicious

Eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. He was tried for the villainy he had carried out in Scotland and executed. On the gallows the witch-finder confessed to having sent women and men in England and Scotland to their deaths for the sum of at least twenty shillings each. Because of a lack of understanding of even the most basic things, superstition was heavily relied on, not just within the lower classes but throughout all walks of life. Now, if one does not get on with, or has problems with a neighbour either it must be dealt with by the law or put up with.

Up until the early eighteenth century one could denounce that neighbour as a witch and quite probably get rid of them forever. Ignorance seemed to have produced a type of mass hysteria and all over Britain witch hunts took place. The witch-finder who caused the deaths of fifteen people in Newcastle was eventually punished by execution but what about the accusers, the magistrates and others involved in the persecution of the wretched souls that were stripped of any dignity and then hanged on the Town Moor?

Their only punishment would perhaps have been a feeling of guilt. Dr James Oliphant, who was an apothecary and surgeon, and his wife Margaret, lived on the southwest side of the Tyne Bridge. Dr Oliphant had moved from Perth in Scotland to Gateshead in Here he met Margaret Erskine and they were married in They later had two children, William James and Lawrence Thomas. Many houses and shops were built on the old Tyne Bridge, one reason being perhaps that it gave easy access to the river for the collecting and shipping of goods.

Mr and Mrs Oliphant went on a month-long visit to Scotland leaving their two children in the care of a friend, Mrs Milne, and one of their servants, Dinah Armstrong. On the Oliphant's return Mrs Milne told them that she suspected Dinah of pilfering several trifling articles from her house, including some damask napkins. Mrs Milne asked Mrs Oliphant to question the girl.

Accordingly, this was done and Dinah's possessions were searched. Some articles, including a sheet, belonging to Dinah's previous employer were found. Dinah confessed to having stolen from a former employer but she adamantly denied taking anything from Mrs Milne. She was threatened with prosecution by Mrs Milne, but, for the time being Dinah apparently carried on with her duties for the family until the afternoon of Tuesday, 17 July when she disappeared.

Dinah's body was found on Sunday, 22 July two miles or so above the bridge by two keelmen, one of whom was Joseph Barlow.

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The body was taken to Dunston to be examined by a doctor. Tied tightly around Dinah's neck was the string of her bonnet, which made the doctor suspect that she may have been strangled or hanged. At the inquest Mary Shittleton stated that on Tuesday, 17 July, while the family was at lunch, she noticed that the door from the cellar, which was only a few feet from the river, was open.

Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in & Around Newcastle by Maureen Anderson

When she looked out she said she saw Dinah lying on the sand beneath. The family was summoned but when they arrived there was no sign of anyone. Mary said she assumed Dinah had got up and run away.

ustanovka-kondicionera-deshevo.ru/libraries/2020-07-14/2743.php Dr Oliphant was asked to go to Dunston to attend the inquest to justify himself against any part he may have played in the girl's death. On the way to Dunston he was met by an angry mob accusing him of murdering his servant. Dinah's two sisters, Jane and Tamar, had been adding fuel to the rumours and had branded Dr Oliphant as a 'murdering dog'.

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Mr Robson, the coroner for the county of Durham, had the parish constable arrest Mr and Mrs Oliphant and Mary Shittleton for wilful murder. It was said he was influenced by the prejudices of an infatuated rabble. Mr Robson did not hold his suspects in gaol but allowed them to return home in the custody of the local constable.


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  8. The family returned to Durham on 13 August to stand trial before Justice Bathurst for strangling Dinah and throwing her body into the river. Witnesses came forward as to the good character of the family and eventually Justice Bathurst stated they had been arrested without a shred of evidence against them.

    There was no real evidence that Dinah had been strangled. They were a reputable and worthy family of unblemished and respectable character and there had been a violation of the dearest rights of man. They were found not guilty and allowed to leave the court.

    Dr Oliphant would have taken action for libel against the coroner but did not have the funds to do so. In he wrote a book on the events that had taken place in a bid to put his story to the public.

    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle
    Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in and Around Newcastle

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