This is another piece from Old Oak, showing how justice worked, or failed to, before the police forces were established.
Sam Spicer lived on the site of the house where I was born…. He specialised in the art of ridding rich people, who could pay him an adequate fee, of troublesome encumbrances. His first victim was an injured girl who lived some 4 or 5 miles away. The next was a Silson lass who had been out at service. There she had been betrayed by her master, a “gentleman” who swore – and with truth – that he had made arrangement s whereby her shame should never be known. He pretended he had found a good situation for her in a distant part of the country, and suggested she should to home and say goodbye to her family before starting out for it. On her return journey an old uncle walked with her through the Forest till they came to lonely spot known as the Clap Stile. There they parted, and he returned homewards.l He had not gone many yards when he caught sight of Spicer lurking a ing the trees. a dreadful fear seized him for what was going to happen, but he was too old an feeble and knew not what to do. A little later he heard the screams of a woman coming from the direction of the stile. The poor girl was never seen again.
After that there were other strange disappearances of which he was suspected of being the author, but there was no police force then, and the parish constable, worthy man as he was, could find no sufficient evidence to warrant his arrest. Time rolled on. It was a bitter winter evening, and a thick fog hung low over the ground. Spicer was on his way home from Buckingham and crossing Stowe Park. He must have used the path 100 times before, but tonight he strayed from it and was lost. Round and round he wandered, baffled and bewildered, but certain in his own mind that he should find some landmark ere long. Then he became panic-stricken – suppose he didn’t – what then? At last, his courage gone completely, he sank exhausted at the foot of a tree. There they found him next morning half frozen. The took him straight up to the `House and its noble mistress did everything she knew to revive him; hot wine was poured down his throat, and a sheep was killed and the warm skin wrapped around him. It was all in vain. As he felt death’s cold hand clutching at his heart, he was overwhelmed with terror and expressed a wish to unburden his mind. It was thus and then his evil deeds were known. Small comfort did he get from his lady confessor. Indignant at the thought of what her poor wronged sisters had suffered at his hands, she pronounced her Absolution in words that would horrify many a woman of today…
“You’ve a fine prospect before you,” she said. “If you die now, you’ll go straight to Hell; if you recover, you’ll of there round by the gallows!” These must have been some of the last words that ever fell on his ears. God can forgive such wretches. Whether He does, is another matter. …Two of his sons finished up on the Warwick race course, near the Gaydon Arms for highway robbery.