The indictment of Edward and Sarah Lawrence for the murder of George and Catharine Andrewes on 8th March, 1677.
On 16th March, 1677, a coroners jury found Edward Lawrence, a labourer living in Nonington, and Sarah Lawrence, his wife, both guilty of assaulting Catharine Andrewes in the yard of her husband’s house in the parish of Nonington and jointly kicking and punching her to death. This deadly assault took place on 8th March, 1677, with Catharine dying the same day.
Edward and Sarah Lawrence were also charged with the murder of George Andrewes, the husband of Catharine. It was alleged that the couple attacked George on the same date and at the same place as their deadly assault on Catharine, but whether the attack on George Andrewes took place at the same time as that on his wife, or whether it was before or after, is not clear. It was said that both of the Lawrences initially attacked George Andrewes, and then Edward Lawrence was alledged to have hit him about the head and body him with a spade causing injuries from which George died on 27th of March, some three weeks after the alleged attack took place. The inquest into his death was held on 30th March, 1677.
The coroner’s inquests into both deaths were almost certainly held in the White Horse , as at this time most inquests were held in alehouses.
The following information regarding the coroner’s inquisition is taken from:- Calendar of Assize Records: Kent Indictments, Charles II, 1676-1688-edited by J. S. Cockburn.
Indictment of Edward Lawrence, labourer, and Sarah Lawrence, his wife, of Nonington, for murder.
By an inquisition held at Nonington, 16th March 1677, before Thomas Turner, esq., coroner, on the body of Catherine (Katharine) Andrewes, wife of George Andrewes of Nonington, a jury-Edward Wayton, William Paine, Thomas Ladd, James Dixon, Lawrence Neame, Simon Tucbe, Richard Fuller [?], John Warryn, Robert Stoavers [?[, James Batherst, Richard Maitam, William Hoyle, John Wilson, Henry Knott [one name lost]-found that on 8th March 1677 Edward and Sarah Lawrence assaulted Catherine Andrews in the yard of her husbands house at Nonington and punched and kicked her to death [damaged].
[indictment endorsed] George Andrewes (ill.) Stephen Hatcher, Ann Baykin, Elizabeth Ollard (?)”.
The jury endorsed the bill as a true bill, whereby they certified it to be supported by sufficient evidence to warrant committing the accused to trial. However, at the resulting trail, date unknown, Edward and Sarah Lawrence were found not guilty of Catharine Andrewes’ murder. Possibly the trial took place prior to George Andrewes’ death from injuries received, hence the need for two trials.
Indictment of Edward Lawrence, labourer, and Sarah Lawrence of Nonington for murder.
By an inquisition held at Nonington, 30th March 1677, before Thomas Turner, esq., coroner, on the body of George Andrewes of Nonington, a jury-Basil Harrison, Thomas Lad, Stephen Beane, George Lad, Thomas Heard, John Austen, Stephen Southee, Thomas Davis, Thomas Tappinden, William Beane, Alexander Smithson, Jeremy Hickes (?), John Emptage, Lawrence Neame, Robert Beane, found that on 8th March 1677 Edward and Sarah Lawrence assaulted George Andrewes in the yard of his house at Nonington and Edward Lawrence struck him on the head and body with a spade (6d) inflicting injuries from which he died on 27th March 1677 (damaged).
(indictment endorsed) Anne Andrewes, Sylvester Neame, Richard Tauten, Elizabeth Fennell.
Again the jury endorsed the bill as a true bill, and again the couple were found not guilty.
The Andrewes’ probate accounts list the expenses of “prosecuting Laurence and his wife who were the death of the deceased”, but the parish register only records the dates of burial and the names of the deceased and offers no other comments regarding the cause of their deaths.
The value of the instrument which caused the death, in this case a spade valued at 6d [2 ½ pence], was included in indictments as a deodand forfeited to the Crown, and the township or parish involved was to be charged with the value if it was given to it. Before 1846 the common law of deodand (sometimes ‘deodant’) stated that if the property, including livestock, of one person caused death or injury to another person then it, or its value, was either forfeit to the Crown or a fine was levied on it. It was then supposed to be donated to some religious or charitable cause, such as alms for the poor.
By the early 19th century the property was rarely confiscated; usually a fine, often just a token sum, was imposed. This was to change with the arrival of the passenger railways which initially caused many deaths for which the railway companies had no legal responsibility and therefore no duty to make any reparation. To remedy this situation coroners’ juries revived the ancient law of deodand and began awarding deodands against rail companies they felt had been negligent. These fines were often large sums of money. The crusading journalist and social reformer Thomas Wakley (1785–1862) also used the law of deodand against negligent factory owners when he was coroner for the West Midlands.
To rectify the failings of the existing law the Fatal Accidents Act was passed in 1846 which allowed for claims for compensation for death and injury to be made. Deodans were abolished by the Deodans Act of the same year.
The Andrewes’ probate accounts list the expenses of “prosecuting Laurence and his wife who were the death of the deceased”, but the parish register only records the dates of burial and the names of the deceased and offers no other comments re: the alleged murders.