On the morning of 30 June 1860, a servant discovered the body of a little boy in the outside privy at Road Hill House in Wiltshire (now in Somerset), his throat cut.
Francis Savill Kent was 3 years old. He was the son of Samuel Savill Kent, a factory inspector, and his second wife, Mary Drewe Pratt. Mary had been governess to Samuel’s older children, and the couple had begun an adulterous relationship during the first Mrs Kent’s lifetime. When she died, they married, and Francis was their second child.
The mysterious murder set Victorian society aflutter. Some murders attract more attention than others, and the murder of little Francis hit all the right buttons: the death of an innocent child; a deeply dysfunctional middle class family; an increasingly literate general public with a thirst for gossipy scandal; and a new detective unit at Scotland Yard, that was called in by the local magistrates after the Wiltshire police got nowhere with the investigation.
The detective sent from London, Jonathan Whicher, had his suspicions, as did the magistrates, but they were unable to crack the wall of silence within Road Hill House, apparently instigated by Samuel Savill Kent.
Then, 5 years later, Francis’s half-sister Constance confessed, claiming that at the age of 16, she and she alone had killed her little brother. Continue reading