Northampton Mercury, 1 Dec 1849
Shocking Murder & Suicide
The Town of
The Household furniture & effects of the late Mr William Dowsell,
Shocking Murder & Suicide - Inquest
Fanny Powell had lived at the Talbot for 8 - 9 years, as servant to Mrs Heady.
William Dowsell was in receipt of a comfortable salary. He was about 33 years old, and had been married about 18 months. He had resigned from his job about 1 month before on the grounds of health. He had been employed by John Vernon for about 10 years.
Fanny had a child, which she maintained was Dowsell's. While she was still lying-in, Dowsell went to see her, and was found standing over her with a poker, while twisting her hair with his other hand, trying to force her to deny the child was his. The child was later legally affiliated to him. The pair married after some months had elapsed.
On the day of the murder, Mrs Heady's little
girl, who called on Mrs Dowsell before attending her
school, which was opposite the Dowsell's house in
Park Street, came home crying, saying the house was shut up. Mrs Heady went
The Inquest, held on 1 Dec, had as jury:
John Webb (Foreman), William Miles, Josiah Simco, Thomas White Gurney, Samuel Sims, John Wilcox, James Linnett, John Brown, Thomas Kirby, Frederick Baylys, Thomas Vernon, John Wright, and Francis Henry Hill.
The enquiry started at 11 am, and finished at 6 pm. The jury viewed the bodies, which were still in the room they had been found in, and then returned to the Talbot.
William Dowsell was subject to fits of jealousy, and was a man of violent temper. He had frequent doubts concerning the paternity of Fanny's child, and she had often been seen bruised or in tears. Mrs Elizabeth Heady gave evidence that Fanny had almost made up her mind to leave her husband, having shown her many bruises only a short time before. She had at one point been hit with a poker, and on another occasion had a candlestick thrown at her. In early November, William Dowsell had been seen loading two pistols at his place of work, and staff had warned Mrs Dowsell of this.
Miss Catherine Fletcher, a resident of
Robert Webb Watkins, who was superintending repairs to the house, which belonged to a maiden aunt of his, climbed a ladder to get in at an upstairs window. He found the child in its night clothes, and, descending the stairs, found the bodies of Mr & Mrs Dowsell. It looked as if Mrs Dowsell had been shot while stooping to unlace her boots, at close range. He proceeded to give the jury a graphic description, fully reported in the newspaper.
William Sheppard took the child to Mrs Heady. It has since gone to live with a married sister of Mr Dowsell's in Buckingham.
James Pinnock and others were called to give evidence of Mr Dowsell's recent changed demeanour, very moody and difficult.
The jury verdict was that Fanny Dowsell was wilfully murdered by William Dowsell, and that William Dowsell committed suicide, but that there was insufficient evidence to judge his state of mind.