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Researched and Compiled by John & Jan Meads, Dec 2005

The Murder of
Louisa Sophia Johnson

Richard Sabey The Johnson murder in the Illustrated London News
A sketch, purporting to be of Richard Sabey, published in
Lloyd's Weekley News
Louisa Johnson's murder pictured on the front of
the Illustrated Police News
Sketch of murder from Illustrated London News
More sketches of the participants taken from the Illustrated Police News

One of the memorials in the small cemetery in Church Lane is a reminder of Burton Latimer’s most notorious murder, that of 26 year-old Louisa Sophia Johnson, on Wednesday 8th February 1893 .

Louisa Sophia Johnson's family originated from Cranfield in Bedfordshire. Her sister Mary married Thomas Frederick Wright and eventually the family moved to Ise Brook Cottage which stands near the junction at the end of Finedon Road . In those days the cottage was considerably smaller than it is today.

The Site of the Murder
The Site of the Murder
Louisa had been living in Liverpool with a married man, with whom she had a baby, but she left him when his wife and children re-appeared on the scene. On Monday the 6th of February Louisa and her baby came to stay with her sister at Ise Brook Cottage. Two days later her lover, Richard Sabey, followed her from Liverpool with the sole intention killing her.

Having got off the train at Finedon Station he made some enquiries as to where the Wright family lived. He loitered around in the road close to the cottage until about 5.30 pm when Louisa came out of the house to get some water from the well which was close to the road. Sabey managed to persuade Louisa to walk with him along the road towards Burton Latimer. They had gone about 150 yards from the cottage when, in the deep twilight of the winter evening, they were seen struggling by some men who had just left work at Barlow’s ironstone pits and were on their way home to Burton Latimer. A passing young lady, Abigail Panter, heard Louisa cry out but ran away frightened, back towards her home in Burton .

The pair had just passed the mill when Sabey was seen to run off through the fields towards Finedon and Louisa turned and began to run back to the cottage. As she reached the men, James Burley and Willie and John Evans, she fell and they saw that she was bleeding profusely from a large gaping wound in her throat. Covered in blood, she died as they tried to help her and as they raised her they realised that “her head was half severed from her body.”

Louisa's brother-in-law, who had been warned by his daughter that she had gone off with a man, then arrived at the scene and asked that her body should not be taken back to the cottage as his wife was very ill and the sight of Louisa would be the death of her. A cart was brought from the mill and Louisa's body was taken to The Red Cow Inn where the inquest took place on two days later. Sabey had made his way to Finedon, followed by Willie Evans and several other men, where he later gave himself up to a policeman at the ‘Gate Inn’.

John Evans
Left - John Evans

Right - Willie Evans

Willie Evans

Louisa was buried at 4.00 pm on Saturday 11th February 1893 when the streets from the Red Cow to the Church were lined with people as the glass sided shillibeer and the mourners made their way to the Church. Louisa's sister Mary was still too ill to attend the funeral.

On the day after the funeral, both Burton Latimer and Finedon railway stations were extremely busy as people from the villages and towns around flocked to see the spot where the murder had taken place and some of the bloodstained stones were removed as souvenirs by the visitors.

Richard Sabey, who never denied the murder, was tried and found guilty of murder at Northampton Assizes on 29th June and hanged on 18th July 1893 at Northampton Gaol.

Pall Mall Gazette report on Sabey's execution
Sabey's execution as reported in the Pall Mall Gazette

There is a legend, which is perpetuated by many, that says Louisa ran back to Ise Brook Cottage and died in a bedroom there and that her ghost still haunts the place. It makes a good story but the fact remains that she never returned, alive or dead, to Isebrook Cottage.

Brian Mutlow with Louisa Johnson's grave marker

Chairman of the Parochial Council Brian Mutlow
holds Lousia Johnson's grave marker, which had
been tampered with in a spate of vandalism
which took place that year.

The marker was purchased as a result of
generous public donations

The Inquest into the Death of Louisa Johnson
Held at the Red Cow Inn Friday 10th February 1893

The Coroner

Mr. J.T. Parker ( Kettering )

The Jury

Mr. W.J. Gross, Foreman [Farmer]

Mr. Charles Barlow [Quarry owner, Grocer, Farmer]

Mr. Ernest E. James [Draper & Grocer]

Mr. James E. Nutt [Clerk to Parish Council]

Mr. Samuel Maycock [Farmer]

Mr. Frederick Downing [Shoe maker]

Mr. John Cooper [Baker]

Mr. John Ball [Builder]

Mr. Henry Ayres [Butcher, Grocer, Beer seller]

Mr. Thomas Ambler [Coal Merchant]

Mr. Stephen Blake [Blacksmith]

Mr. James Talbott [Baker]

Mr. Frederick Miller [Landlord, Thatcher’s Arms]

Mr. Philip Andrew Shrive [Shoe rivetter]

Mr. William Hobbs [Tailor]

Mr. Frederick W. Dicks [Tailor]

Mr. Charles Loveday [Saddler]

Mr. Frederick Norton [Baker]


(In order of appearance)

Thomas Frederick Wright, brother-in-law

Edward William Partridge, baker, Finedon

Joseph Robinson, manager at J.L Wright’s Flour Mill

Mrs. Burr, driver of trap

P.C. William Judge, Finedon

Kate Wright, 11 yrs, daughter of Thomas F Wright

Miss Abigail Panter, Burton Latimer

Will Evans, Ironstone labourer, Brickyard Row, B.L.

John Evans, Ironstone labourer, Burton Latimer

James Burley, Ironstone labourer, Burton Latimer

Owen Watts, Ironstone labourer, Burton Latimer

Dr. Herbert Burland, Surgeon, Finedon

William Laycock, Manager of Liverpool cutlery shop

P.C. George W. Currin, Burton Latimer

Sgt. George Grant, Liverpool Police

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