The Unsolved Murder of Richard Green
8 December 2023
The murder of Richard Green in 1869 is famous, both for being unsolved and for the pathos with which his murdered body was carried home by his loyal four-legged companion.
On the morning of 12 December 1869, the body of Richard Green was discovered in the back of his cart outside the Crooked Billet pub at Stoke Row. His head was covered with blood and a later coroners' report confirmed that he had been the victim of a violent murder.
He had been struck about the head by a blunt instrument at least seven times. His jaw was also broken, as were a number of his fingers, indicating that Green fought back against his attacker.
'Midnight Green' and his well-trained horse
Green was a travelling firewood salesman by trade, and had been last seen alive at the Old Bell pub at Shillingford at 8pm the previous evening. From here, Green had set off in his cart towards his home at Stoke Row.
The prospect of travelling nearly 10 miles home in the dark in mid-December cannot have been a pleasant one, but Green was apparently accustomed to travelled at night, so much so that he had acquired the nickname 'Midnight Green'!
Green was accustomed to sleep at the bottom of his cart, leaving his horse to take its chance.
Oxford Times, Saturday 18 December 1869
He was aided in this by his horse, who Green had apparently trained to find its own way home while he dozed in the back of the cart! This seems to have been the case on the night of his murder, as witnesses reported seeing his cart travelling along Benson Street (presumably the A4074) at around 10pm without anyone at the reins. As this was not an uncommon sight, the witnesses assume that Green was sleeping in the back of his cart as usual.
However, on this particular night, this may not have been the case.
The murder location is uncovered
The exact location of the crime is somewhat mysterious. The Oxford Times initially described the location of Green's murder as 'a lone spot between Shillingford and Benson', due to a quantity of blood found on the road here. Green's stick was also discovered, broken into a number of pieces. However, it was later discovered that the blood on the road had come from a knacker's cart, and that the more likely location of the crime was Gansdown Hill near Nuffield, where Green's hat had been found.
Whichever location is the correct one, it is clear that after Green's death, his obedient horse had transported his master at least 4 miles home. The horse was found still attached to the cart, its head leaning over the fence into the field at Stoke Row where he usually grazed!
The crime is investigated
The inquest into Richard Green's murder also took place at the Crooked Billet pub, and a verdict was given of 'murder by person or persons unknown'. The Oxford Times mentions that both Green's son and nephew had been taken into custody for removing title deeds and money from Green's house, but it doesn't seem to have been suggested that they could have been involved in his murder.
The motive for the murder does not appear to have been robbery, as both Green's wallet and watch were found on his body.
While the Oxford Times of 18 December 1869 mentions that the police had been 'vigilantly inquiring into the matter' and believed they had obtained some clues, I haven't been able to find any further mentions of the crime in the press. I can only assume that Richard Green's murderer went unpunished.
- Oxford Times, Saturday 18 December 1869
- Oxford Journal, Saturday 18 December 1869