Monday 4 June 2012

Murder On Midsummer Common

It was on the evening of Thursday 24th August 1876 a gross murder took place on Midsummer Common.

Robert Browning, aged 25, lived with his parents and brother and worked as a tailor in Covent Garden, just off Mill Road. Browning was also known in the area as being a heavy drinker and liked the company of women.

Midsummer Common 
On the evening in question it is reported that Browning and his brother finished work on a pair of trousers and received five shillings from a Mr. Ward for a job well done. Both brothers went to spend the money on drink.

It was at half-past eight when Browning left his brother's company and returned home for supper. While at home his mother noticed he was a little on edge and advised him to go to bed, but instead he picked up a cut-throat razor and placed it in his jacket pocket before leaving.

He went to a public house in Fair Street where he drank some more before going on to the Four Lamps at about 9.30pm.

While he was at the Four Lamps he met two girls. One was Emma Rolfe, aged 16. Both Emma and Browning left without the company of the other girl and went to an area of Midsummer Common called Butt's Green.

In the darkness Browning took the razor from his pocket and slashed Emma's throat from ear to ear, nearly severing the head from her shoulders.

Browning left the scene and went to the Garrick Inn. It was reported while he was there that some of the
Emma Rolfe's grave in Mill Road Cemetery 
people came concerned about his unusual behaviour.
After leaving the Inn and walking towards home he came face to face with PC Wheel who was patrolling in the area. The moment Browning saw Wheel he gave himself up saying he had killed a woman.
At first PC Wheel did not believe him so Browning took him to where Emma's body lay and he handed him the blood stained razor.
When he was taken into custody Browning said he had killed her because she had stolen a shilling from him, but no money was found.
Later Browning wrote a statement saying he had gone out intending to kill a girl he had been to Royston with because she had given him a disease.
At his trial on the 29th November 1876 Browning made no effort to defend himself and he was sentenced to death.
Just before 8am on the 15th December 1876 Browning was hanged.

These article may also be of interest: Murder at King's College
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