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Wood-engraving by Orlando Jewitt of St Andrew's parish church, Headington, Oxfordshire. 1842

Wood-engraving by Orlando Jewitt of St Andrew's parish church, Headington, Oxfordshire. 1842

Cabbage Theft Ends in Tragedy at Headingon Church

On 23 June 1872 an inquest was held at the White Hart Inn, Headington, into the death of seventy-five-year-old Richard Cooper.

Cooper was the village Parish Clark and his body had been found hanging by the neck in the bell tower of St. Andrew's Church. The previous day Cooper had received a summons to appear before the local magistrate for the crime of stealing cabbages from the garden of Samuel Clark, also of Headington.

There could be no mistake that Cooper had taken the cabbages. Clark had noticed cabbages were going missing for days and finally caught Cooper red-handed, in the act of cutting a cabbage.

A terrible misunderstanding

At the inquest, it was revealed that Cooper's crime had been the result of a simple misunderstanding. One of Clark's neighbours had told Cooper that he could take as many cabbages as he wanted from his own garden, and Cooper had simply got the garden wrong.

It seems that Cooper, an extremely honest and law-abiding man, had been so overwhelmed with guilt and the shame of being considered a thief that he had taken his own life.

Find out more

  1. 'A Grim Almanac of Oxfordshire' by Nicola Sly (2013, The History Press, ISBN: 9780752465814)

St. Andrew's Church, St, Headington

Region: Oxford City

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