A Question of Death - The real Camberwell Wonder

In the Camberwell wonder Mr Slade convinces a simple boy working for him to confess to his murder which he has faked so he can elope with his mistress. This story is based on the Campden Wonder (which Phryne incorrectly calls the Camden wonder in the book)

On 16 August 1660 a 70-year-old man named William Harrison left his home in Chipping Campden, intending to walk two miles to the village of Charingworth. When he did not return home at the expected time his wife sent his manservant John Perry to look for him. Neither Harrison nor Perry had returned by the next morning.

Edward Harrison, William Harrison's son, was then sent out to look for the pair and on his way to Charingworth he met John Perry. The servant said that he had not been able to find his master, and he and Edward continued to Ebrington, where they questioned one of the tenants whom Harrison had been going to see. The tenant said that Harrison had been there the previous night. Edward Harrison and John Perry then went to the village of Paxford, but their search proved fruitless.

Edward and John then headed back to Chipping Campden. During the journey they heard that some items belonging to William Harrison had been discovered on the main road between Chipping Campden and Ebrington. These included a hat, a shirt and a neckband. Although the hat had been slashed by a sharp implement, and the shirt and the neckband were covered in blood, there was no sign of the body of William Harrison.

Under questioning John Perry said that he knew Harrison had been murdered, but claimed to be innocent of the crime. He then said that his mother, Joan, and his brother, Richard, had killed Harrison for his money and hidden the body. Joan and Richard denied that they had had anything to do with Harrison's disappearance, but John kept up his assertion that they were guilty.

The first court hearings dealt with charges linked to a plot to steal money from William Harrison. Despite his mother and brother pleading "not guilty", John Perry's testimony convinced the jury based on the following:

John seemed to have no apparent reason to be lying about the matter.
John claimed that he was the one who suggested the robbery to Richard.
John told the court that Joan and Richard had already stolen 140 pounds from William Harrison's house the previous year.
John had lied about being attacked by robbers a few weeks before Harrison's disappearance.
In order to speed the trial along the presiding judge decided to grant pardons to all three defendants for the theft of money in 1659.

In Spring 1661 the court reconvened to hear the charge of murder. This time John Perry joined his mother and brother in pleading not guilty in the killing William Harrison. The servant claimed that his original testimony had been false by reason of insanity. Nevertheless the jury found all three of the Perrys guilty and they were sentenced to death.

The three Perrys were hanged together in Gloucestershire. On the scaffold Richard and John reiterated that they were entirely innocent of killing William Harrison. As their mother was also suspected of being a witch, she was executed first.

In 1662 Harrison returned to England aboard a ship from Lisbon. He claimed that he had been abducted from England by pirates, transferred to a Turkish ship and sold into slavery near Smyrna in Anatolia (Turkey). Harrison said that after about a year and three quarters his master had died and that he then went to a port and stowed away on a Portuguese ship, finally returning to Dover by way of Lisbon

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