The Story of Constance West.

Road Hill House, front view
Constance Emille West (Kent)
Samuel Kent
The second Mrs Kent, circa 1863
Road Hill House, back view, with the drawing-room windows to the right
Rev Arthur Wagner
Gravestone in East Coulston churchyard, Wiltshire
Sketch of Elizabeth Gough in 1860
Jonathan Whicher
The Reverend Arthur Douglas Wagner 1825-1902
The Church of the Annunciation
Detective Inspector Jack Whicher

The Murder at Road Hill House

Constance Emille West

Constance Emille West was one of ten children born to Samuel Kent and Mary Ann West nee Windus. She was born on the 6th February 1844 in Sidmouth, Devon. While she was still young the family moved to a larger house in Road, a small village near Frome which was in Wiltshire at that time.

Her mother suddenly began to show signs of mental instability. On the 5th May 1852 when Constance was just 8 years old, her mother, Mary passed away as a result of a bowel obstruction. This left her totally devastated often having long crying spells when she thought of her mother. While they were still married her father was said to be having an affair with Mary Pratt who her father married soon after the death of his wife. (Some reports deny he was having an affair with anyone.)

Constance disliked her step-mother intensely and did everything she could to upset her. This brought the wrath of her father down on her.

She was described later as a very unpleasant child, often being sulky as well as rude and morose. Her step-mother couldn’t stand these moods of hers and told her husband.

As a result she was sent away to boarding schools, mainly for her step-mother to be free of her. She attended Bath, Worcester and Gloucester Boarding schools.

When she returned she found that in 1856 a new baby had been born to her father and her step-mother, Mary, his second wife. Constance didn’t know this until she had actually returned from her boarding schools. She was horrified to realise she had a step-brother. She didn’t like the little boy no more than she liked her step-mother. Everyone who saw Francis, described him as being a ‘very sweet little boy.’

Very sweet little boy.

The Kent’s doted on their little boy, even more as he got older.

During the night of 29/30th June 1860, while she was just 16 years of age she left her bedroom and crept down the stairs. Going into the parlour she opened a window that looked out across the gardens. It was a fine still night as she retraced her steps back upstairs again; but this time instead of going into her bedroom she crept into the nursery.

This is where her 4 year old half-brother, Francis Saville was sleeping. She gently picked him up and slipped a blanket around him. She carried him carefully down the stairs again and climbed out of the window and into the garden carrying Francis.

She went down the garden and sat down behind a large bush and close to the outside toilet. She took one of her father’s razors from her pocket and slit the little boy’s throat watching him bleed to death. She then picked him up carefully; not wanting to get any bloodstains upon her nightdress and put him into the outside toilet. Once in the toilet she plunged the razor into his small chest. She left the blood stained razor close by.

She returned to the house and went upstairs to her bedroom, satisfied with her night’s work. She was soon asleep again.

‘Where is he?’ where is he?’

She was awakened in the morning with great shouts and howls of crying bouts from her step-mother. ‘Where is he?’ where is he?’ she heard her step-mother screaming.

She smiled to herself knowing full well where he was but soon his bloodied body would be found. She thought to herself, who could have done such a wicked thing? At last she had got some sort of revenge against her hated step-mother.

Then a shout, ‘I’ve found him, followed by a hideous loud scream, when others joined the person who found him she could hear her step-mother screaming at the top of her voice, ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘please God, Nooooooooo.’ Constance, still in her bed laughed to herself, ‘serve her right,’ she thought.

The whole family were shocked when they saw what someone had done, especially the way the little boy had been so brutally murdered. There was no doubt it was a great shock to all those who saw his small bloody pitiful body.

The police were informed and Superintendent Foley attended and took charge of the investigation. Everyone was interviewed but there were no arrests. The local magistrates wanted to see an arrest and they badgered Supt. Foley for action. As a result he contacted Scotland Yard requesting some assistance.

Detective Inspector Jonathon Whicher

In a short while Detective Inspector Jonathon Whicher arrived. The guilt initially fell upon Elizabeth Gough, the nursemaid but after extensive inquiries discharged her from any guilt. Then maybe it was the mother, more inquiries but she was found not guilty in Whicher’s mind. Following a number of interviews Constance was arrested although she protested her innocence although she did admit to disliking the boy and his mother. There was no doubt in Whicher’s mind that she was the guilty one and had committed the murder. He had the famous ‘policeman’s gut feeling’ many years later it was proved that his ‘gut  feeling’ had been correct after all. She appeared in court but in the end she was released through lack of evidence.

Her father and step-mother strongly believed that she was responsible. She was sent away to a convent in France for a 2 year period.

On her return to England she attended a religious school in Queen’s Square in Brighton. It had been founded by the Rev. Arthur Wagner and called ‘The Community of the Virgin Mary. This was a group of protestant nuns who were later connected with St. Mary’s Home for penitent women.

The Rev. Arthur Wagner lived with his father at the vicarage in Temple Gardens but he then later moved next door to a house called ‘Belvedere’ which had been  left to him by his aunt Mary. His father died in 1870.

One morning, sometime between the early months of 1865 she confessed to Rev. Arthur Wagner that she had murdered her little step –brother. The school encouraged people to confess their sins on a regular basis. Constance stated she wanted this to be known publicly and was advised to go to Bow Street in London to tell the authorities.

This she did although it could mean that she could be executed for her crime of murder.

Bow Street Magistrates Court

She appeared at Bow Street Magistrates Court and confessed her crime. Later she appeared at The Old Bailey where she was found guilty, albeit she had admitted it.

She was sentenced to death by hanging. But after a plea for mercy the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She spent 20 years in the Portland and Millbank prisons. She was a model prisoner liked equally by the prison staff as well as the other inmates. Having spent the 20 years ‘inside’ she was released in 1885. Taking great care to thank the prison staff and saying goodbye to the inmates. She was aged 41 years at this time.

Some years earlier her brother, William had immigrated to Tasmania and so she also decided to follow him and emigrated during the early months of 1886. She stayed with him for a little while. They thought the world of each other. He worked as a government advisor on fisheries and had a very good job.

Ruth Emilie Kaye

Soon after arriving in Tasmania she changed her name to Ruth Emilie Kaye and having moved to Melbourne she trained as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Melbourne, before being appointed sister-in-charge of the female Lazaret at the Coast Hospital, Little Bay in Sydney. She worked for a decade at the Parramatta Industrial School for girls from 1898 until 1909. She was domiciled in the New South Wales country town of Mittagong for a year.

Then, in 1911 she was made matron of the Pierce Memorial Nurse’s Home at East Maitland, serving there from 1911 until she retired in 1932; she was then 88 years old.

She entered a private hospital in the suburb of Sydney, where she died on the 10th April 1944, and aged 100 years.

Note: –

Jonathon ‘Jack’ Whicher was one of the original eight members of the Detective Branch which had been established at Scotland Yard in 1842.

In 1860 he was called in to assist the investigation into the horrific murder of 4 year old Francis Saville Kent.

The murder had brought notoriety to the small village of Road (sometimes spelled as Rode.) This village was then situated in the county of Wiltshire. The local magistrates were impatient to get results from the local police and the local police chief requested Scotland Yard for help. They sent Detective Inspector Whicher to Road to assist the local police.

Which was born in 1814 in Camberwell, London, he was the son of Rebecca and Richard Whicher, who was a gardener. He was baptised on the 23rd October 1814 at St. Giles church in Camberwell.

After working as a labourer for a while he passed the physical and literary tests and joined the Metropolitan Police on 18th September 1837 aged 23 years. He was allocated the police number E47 (Holborn Division) He was 5.8’’ tall with brown hair, pale skin and blue eyes.

He married Eliabeth Harding (b. 1818) and had a son, Jonathon who was born in 1838. Sadly he died at a young age; by 1841 he was living in a police dormitory in station house in Grays Inn lane in St. Pancras.

Prince of Detectives

In August 1842 he and seven other men joined the newly formed detective Branch at Scotland Yard. He was allocated a new police number, A27 (Whitehall Division.) He was soon promoted to Detective Sergeant. Whicher was once described by one of his colleagues as a ‘Prince of Detectives.’ He was involved with a large number of arrests for a wide number of crimes. He was then promoted again, this time to Detective Inspector.


               The Rev. Arthur Wagner of Brighton.

Before he died the Reverend Arthur Wagner was so generous toy the poor people of Brighton, in particular as well as the down and outs of the town. He had given freely to the town over many years.

In fact, he was responsible for the building of some 400 houses in the Islingwood Road Area and also the Roundhill estate between Lewes and Upper Lewes Roads. He had also paid for, out of his own pocket five churches to be built, mostly in the poorer parts of the town. He made sure he had the top buildings in the area to build these particular churches. These churches were ‘The Churches of the Annunciation’ St. Bartholomews, St. Martin’s as well as St Mary’ and St. Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection.’

He attended the court hearing of Constance but refused to utter any words of what she had said to him while at the school. He asked not to be called as any sort of witness during her trial.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – BBC Store

              Published on 16 Sep 2014    

When three-year-old Saville Kent is found brutally murdered at the elegant Road Hill House on the edge of a sleepy English village, the local community is rocked. On the orders of the Home Secretary, Inspector Jonathan ‘Jack’ Whicher is despatched to the countryside to restore justice. Behind the seemingly respectable middle-class facade of the Kent family, he discovers adultery, insanity and jealousy in a world populated by gossiping servants, a wicked stepmother and rebellious children. The case proves the most difficult of his career. And when he reaches his shocking conclusion there is uproar and bewilderment…

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.


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