A Cut Throat at Chipping Norton
10 April 2021 (Updated 8 September 2021)
Joseph and Henrietta Walker of Chipping Norton had a troubled marriage. They quarrelled constantly and their arguments often turned violent, particularly when they had both been drinking.
Their disputes were often so loud and violent that the police were called to separate them, and Joseph Walker had twice been bound over to keep the peace.
"I will put an end to her"
On Friday 16 September 1887 Joseph Walker had complained to a friend that his wife had been treating him very unfairly. He said she had accused him of being 'boozy' and consorting with prostitutes when in fact he had been hard at work all day. He told the friend that he was looking for his wife, and if he found her he would 'put an end to her'.
The friend later encountered Henrietta in the street and warned her not to return home as her husband was in a dark mood. Henrietta did not take his advice and returned home where the pair were heard later drunkenly arguing.
The couple lived with their son, also called Joseph and daughter Julia. Julia opted to leave and spend the evening at the house where she was 'in service' rather than stay and witness the row.
Their son was upstairs putting to bed two young cousins who were staying with them when he heard a terrible scream from downstairs. Rushing downstairs the boy witnessed his father kneeling on his mother's chest, pulling a knife across her throat. Walker then leaped up with a triumphant cry of 'I've done it!'
The police are summoned
Young Joseph ran out and found a policeman walking his beat, who summoned two additional constables and the four returned to the Walker household.
If they expected Joseph Walker to deny the crime or put up a fight they were mistaken. When they asked him if his wife was dead he replied 'I think I've made a good job of it. I hope I've made a good job of it!'
Joseph Walker is put on trial
At his trial, Walker claimed that he had been provoked into the attack by his wife's own violent actions. However, the witness who spoke to Walker earlier in the day was able to testify that Walker had stated his intention to 'put an end to' his wife, clear premeditation.
Joseph Walker was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed that September.
Coincidentally, the policeman who the younger Joseph Walker found walking his beat and summoned to the scene of the crime must have experienced flashbacks. Superintendent Cope had been walking his beat in Witney in 1871 when was summoned to the murder scene of Ann Merrick!
- 'Oxfordshire Murders' by Len Woodley (The Wychwood Press, 2005, ISBN: 9781902279213)