Hannah Burgess

An Executed Today entry: William Burgess, hanged for killing his six-year-old daughter Hannah. William was a widower and a drunk, and he murdered Hannah in cold blood and hid her body, basically because he preferred to spend his money on booze rather than day care.

It is a horrific story, but I was pleasantly surprised by how proactive the local people were. When William Burgess offered conflicting explanations as to where Hannah was and someone found the remains of a fire with burned scraps of her clothing, the local vicar traveled five hours on horseback to fetch the constable. Then they spent months pumping water out of a flooded mineshaft when they didn’t even know for sure whether Hannah’s body was there. (It was.)

This was rural England in the 1850s and life was pretty hard. It would have been easy to just look the other way and concentrate on survival, not caring about the little girl. But instead the community did their best by Hannah, which is really the only silver lining in this very dark story.

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