Friday, 12 August 2016

Murder and Suicide in Cheapside


A man who killed his wife then committed suicide himself was not given a proper burial due to the traditions of the time and he was instead interred underneath a crossroads.

On 15th February 1815 around 6pm a passer by in Cheapside came across another man named Thomas Cosgrove, who was wearing nothing but a nightcap.  Cosgrove begged to be taken in, saying that he had strangled his wife and cut his own throat. Two other men were brought to the scene and they found Cosgrove's wife lying on a bed covered in blood and quite dead. A constable was sent for and Cosgrove showed no resistance as he was taken into custody. 

Cosgrove's throat was sewn up and he was kept in the Bridewell. An inquest into his wife's death returned a verdict of wilful murder, having heard they lived on bad terms and she had 'frequently expressed her fear of being beaten'.

On 28th February Cosgrove died and an inquest into his death returned a verdict of Felo De Se, literally 'felon of himself'. In those days those who committed suicide were given a shameful burial and Cosgrove was buried at the crossroads of Vauxhall Road, Great Crosshall Street, Hatton Garden and Tithebarn Street. The idea of this was that by being buried in the centre of a cross, he would never rise again to commit such deeds. It was not until the Burial of Suicide Act of 1823 that this practice was outlawed.

Nearly forty years later, in 1854, workmen were excavating trenches for sewer pipes here when a rotting corpse was discovered. Older locals recalled what had happened between Cosgrove and his wife but rather than re-inter his remains in the Necropolis, they were simply covered over, where they continue to lie under the tarmac to this day.

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