28 March 1752 – Elizabeth Jeffries

Illicit lust plus avarice make for great motives in a murder case.

Elizabeth Jeffries stood accused of masterminding the killing of her uncle, Joseph Jeffries, with the help of her green-fingered lover and another servant.

Her uncle was childless so Jeffries was his only option for keeping his hard-earned fortune in the family. Fine if she was a paragon of virtuousness and of good character. Sadly she was a bit of a goer and her uncle didn’t like the way she was headed, so he threatened to cut her out of his will.

Deflowered

Unrepentant, possibly keen to keep satiating her needs or probably hooked on getting someone else to do her dirty work, the Essex girl is said to have hooked up with the gardener, John Swann, and together they germinated a scheme to bump the uncle off once and for all. But they needed help, in the shape of another servant by the name of Matthews. The latter was tasked with getting his hands on a couple of pistols.

But that’s where his involvement ended as Matthews lost his nerve, despite the fear of incurring the wrath of Jeffries. Out of the blue she suddenly became submerged in an attack of morality when she said ‘You may be damned for a villain, for not performing your promise’. He produced the pistols, before leaving pretty sharpish. Yet apparently he was still in earshot when the deadly trigger was pulled.

To cover their tracks the deadly duo staged a robbery by stashing a few plates and silverware away. But the authorities could see through the scam a mile off, especially as there was no sign of a break-in. Jeffries was hauled into custody, where she immediately ratted on Matthews. The hunt was on to track down the supposed killer, but in the meantime she was released.

True to form, the little minx then seized her assets, well, not her assets, her uncle’s, and together the pair started to enjoy their spoils – dodgy behaviour from two people implicated in a murder. So it’s hardly surprising that, when the law finally caught up with Matthews, the truth would out.

Pay-back

Matthews took no time in shopping the pair and his damning evidence ensured that Jeffries and Swann were slammed in jail with only the death penalty to look forward to.

Kicked the Bucket

As Swann was deemed the main perpetrator, he was dragged to his execution on a sled, while Jeffries got to sit in the cart alongside her coffin-to-be. According to a book compiled roughly a century later by Charles Hindley, from reports, Jeffries fainted when the rope was secured around her neck and again when she was put on a chair as she was so short. After the hangings, she was carted off while Swann was left to rot in chains at Buckets Hill.

Also on this day

28 March 2002 – Napoleon Beazley
28 March 1913 – Floyd Allen

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