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Dreadful murder
Heath and Reach, Bedfordshire
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From The Times, 28 November 1853
The inhabitants of this town are greatly agitated by two crimes of unusual magnitude which have happened in close succession - the first the brutal murder of an old woman and the second the plunder of property from a jeweller’s shop to the extent of about 1,000/. The murder was perpetrated yesterday morning, in the adjoining village of Heath and Reach, and the robbery was effected early this morning from the shop of Mr Alfred Matthews, one of the most respectable tradesmen of the he town; but these crimes, though occurring so near each other, and at almost the same time, have no necessary connection and must be described separately.

Heath and Reach is a long and lonely village; a good proportion of its inhabitants may fairly be described as unusually ignorant, and wild and fanatical religious opinions distinguish many of them. This requires to be mentioned in the present narrative, because it may in some measure account for the extraordinary disposition of a man named Abel Burrows, who has just been conveyed to Bedford Gaol on a charge of having murdered Charity Glenister, a woman of 76 years of age. Burrows is a labouring man, whose temperament inclined him to Primitive Methodism; but it is right to say, that for the last few years he seems to have forsaken practical religion for the most dissipated kind of life, mixing up, however, his religions predilections with his numerous dissipations.

On Friday morning he rose from breakfast, threatening vengeance against some person, and arming himself with a road-man’s stone hammer, sought the unfortunate "Old Charity", as he called her, evidently with the intention of putting her to death. The old woman, who is in no way related to him, seems to have been protected for a little by a man named Adams, whom Burrows met at the top of the stairs, but Adams, having received a blow, ran off, when Burrows in the most ferocious manner, hurled the hammer on the woman’s head, repeating his blows, and of course striking her to the floor and depriving her of all consciousness.

A police constable named Fowler lived in the next house, and, alerted by the occurrence, rushed to the scene of the action and secured the murderer, but too late to prevent the fatal consequences of his conduct, for though the poor victim breathed for an hour or two, she never recovered her consciousness or rallied for a single moment. Fowler put handcuffs upon Burrows and a messenger was despatched to Leighton for surgical aid. Doctor Bodger was the first medical gentleman who received intimation of the occurrence, and he deemed it necessary to ask the assistance of Doctor Wagstaff, another physician of the town. These gentlemen found the skull in several places completely shattered and proceeded to extract fragments of the bone, but without the least hope that any treatment would save the woman’s life.

While this process was going on, Borrows, handcuffed, and in the anxiety of the inevitable continued to stamp his feet upon the ground, and to make use of such words as "Hallelujah!" "Praise the Lord!" and similar utterances to which he was accustomed in what may be termed his religious experiences.

Superintendent Young of the Bedfordshire Constabulary, soon arrived, and conveyed him before him a magistrate, that he might be safely lodged in Bedford goal to await his examination. We need not say that an occurrence so horrible has rendered the villagers almost unfit for any other occupation than that of gazing upon the spot where the murder was committed, and speculating upon the motives or the madness which may have led to it.

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