Episode 6 Murder, Mystery and My Family


Episode 6

Top barristers Sasha Wass and Jeremy Dein re-examine a seaside case of murder and mistaken identity from 1900.


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Transcript


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The British justice system

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is the envy of the world,

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but in the past, mistakes have been made.

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Between the year 1900 and the year 1964,

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approximately 800 people were hanged in the United Kingdom.

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Many of those desperately protested their innocence.

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Some of these long-standing convictions

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could be a miscarriage of justice.

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She's received most of the blows

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in this position once she's already bleeding.

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In this series, a living relative

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will attempt to clear their family name...

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Myself and my family

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have always believed that our great-grandfather was innocent.

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..searching for new evidence...

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I can make the .32 fire both calibres.

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..with help from two of the UK's leading barristers,

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one for the defence...

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This is a very worrying case.

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I think the evidence is very suspect.

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..and one for the prosecution.

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I'm still of the view that this was a cogent case of murder

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committed during the course of a robbery.

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They're on a mission to solve the mystery,

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submitting their findings to a senior Crown Court judge.

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There is a real risk that there has been a miscarriage of justice here.

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I will look again at the evidence

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in the light of the arguments that you both have put before me.

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Can this modern investigation rewrite history?

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6am on September the 23rd, 1900.

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The body of a young woman

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was found among the sand dunes on Great Yarmouth Beach.

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She'd been strangled.

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A murder investigation led to a local guesthouse

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where the victim had lodged under the assumed name Mrs Hood,

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along with her two-year-old daughter.

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Seven weeks passed before police were able to trace her true identity

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as Mary Jane Bennett of Bexleyheath, London.

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Her estranged husband, Herbert John Bennett,

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immediately came under suspicion and was arrested for her murder.

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Unable to provide a convincing alibi,

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it took a jury at the Old Bailey just 45 minutes

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to find Bennett guilty, the judge passing a sentence of death.

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On Thursday the 21st of March 1901,

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despite fiercely protesting his innocence,

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Herbert John Bennett was hanged at Norwich Gaol.

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"I, Herbert John Bennett,

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"consider that I have been tried on suspicion

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"and not on evidence."

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Over a century later, Paul Fitchard,

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the closest living relative of Herbert and Mary Bennett,

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believes there are unanswered questions surrounding the case.

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Herbert Bennett is my great-grandfather

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and Mary was my great-grandmother.

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I can't see him being a murderer.

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There are so many pieces, different parts of the jigsaw,

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that just do not quite add up.

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So, who is the man behind the mystery?

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Born in the East End of London, Herbert Bennett was a bright kid

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who left school at the age of 13

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to work as a shop assistant and grocer.

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In 1897, aged just 17, he married his piano teacher,

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Mary Jane Clarke, two years his senior.

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Their daughter Ruby was born two years later.

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It's a tragic case.

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Whenever I think about Herbert and Mary,

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always, my mind goes to Grandma, to Granny, to Ruby herself.

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She was made an orphan.

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Desperate to know the truth, Paul has delved into his past,

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giving him an insight to his great-grandparents' relationship.

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You begin to form little personalities

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about the people that they may have been.

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I think they were both a couple of scallywags, to be honest.

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Herbert and Mary's relationship was marked by shady behaviour -

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a pair of con artists who orchestrated numerous scams.

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It's possible that that's what they were doing - ripping people off.

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I think the driving force was Mary.

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By June 1900, the relationship had soured

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and the couple were living apart.

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We know that they had separated

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by the time that she went up to Great Yarmouth.

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It was here, three months after the split,

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that Mary was brutally murdered.

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The big question is, did Herbert follow her to the coast to kill her?

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Myself and my family

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have always believed that our great-grandfather was innocent.

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I just hope we might be able to prove that that is the case.

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Helping Paul investigate his great-grandfather's case

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are two of the country's leading legal minds.

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Jeremy Dein QC is a top defence barrister

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with over 30 years' experience of serious crime.

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Reviewing the case for the prosecution is Sasha Wass QC,

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who has successfully convicted some of the country's

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most notorious offenders.

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-Hello, Paul.

-Hello.

-Nice to meet you.

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Before they begin their investigation,

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they have a word of warning for Paul.

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You, of course, are a descendant of both the victim

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-and the person who's been convicted.

-Yeah.

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Can I just ask you this -

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if the judge determines that this was a safe conviction,

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-would you be able to cope with that?

-Yes.

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We'd very much like it to go for him,

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but we are realistic.

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I just need to stress to you, Paul,

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that we can't simply revisit old ground.

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-That's not the way it works.

-OK.

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So, the target point here is to find something in the evidence

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which is, you know, a new angle that can be put before the judge,

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and, hopefully, we can uncover that.

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We will update you when we have some news.

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Thanks very much for your time. I appreciate it.

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The barristers will re-examine the legal case

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while searching for crucial new evidence

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that could cast doubt on the safety of the conviction.

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Jeremy, look at this.

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They'll then present their findings to a Crown Court judge

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who could recommend the case for review

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or uphold the original guilty verdict.

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The first task is to identify the key facts of the murder.

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So, Jeremy, we know that,

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on the morning of the 23rd of September 1900,

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the body of Mary Bennett was found on Great Yarmouth Beach.

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She had been strangled with a single mohair bootlace.

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The first person to come under suspicion

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was her estranged husband, Herbert.

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And Herbert Bennett was, in fact,

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seen in Great Yarmouth at the time of her murder.

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The evidence that he was in the area is open to question.

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From the moment Herbert Bennett was arrested,

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witnesses were paid by the media

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in advance of giving evidence to sell their stories,

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and their reliability has to be looked at by us.

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At the heart of the prosecution's case

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were witnesses placing Herbert in Yarmouth,

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and a key piece of evidence - a photo.

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Mary was in the habit of wearing a gold chain.

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And, in fact, you can see it on this photograph

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taken three days before her murder.

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She's there with her little girl Ruby.

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When the defendant's lodgings were searched,

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they found the gold chain.

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We have a woman who was estranged from her husband,

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and when police searched his lodgings,

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he was found in possession of items of jewellery

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which she was wearing within days of her murder.

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All in all, Jeremy, this looks like a pretty strong case

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against Herbert Bennett.

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Jeremy has a difficult task ahead if he's to convince a judge

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that this case was a miscarriage of justice.

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In Great Yarmouth, the setting of this mysterious murder,

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Paul is meeting up with his daughter Rebecca, who lives nearby.

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-Ooh! Hello!

-Are you all right?

-Yeah, I'm all right.

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-You?

-Yeah, good. Nice to see you.

-How are you?

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Paul wants to see for himself where his great-grandmother was murdered.

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It is really eerie. It's atmospheric.

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Mary's body was discovered in a secluded area of South Beach,

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popular with courting couples.

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So, here we are.

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Her actual body was found in a set of dunes similar to these,

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but really in the position right underneath

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where that roller-coaster sits now.

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-She was found lying in the sand.

-Yeah.

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Her legs were drawn up

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and her clothes were in disarray.

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There were witnesses that said that she had been seen with a man,

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-but nobody could identify the guy cos it was at night.

-OK.

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They knew that there was a man crouching by her or over her...

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-Right, OK.

-..at the time.

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Preserving the crime scene did not occur to the police in 1900.

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There was a horse and a cart brought up here.

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-Trampling over evidence.

-Yeah, they just wanted to remove the body straightaway

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-and get it to the mortuary.

-Did they know who she was when they found her?

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No, no. They had no idea who she was.

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Local gossip led officers to a nearby boarding house,

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called Mrs Rudrum's, where the victim had been staying.

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The only thing that notified the Rudrums

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that she didn't come home that night...

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CHILD CRIES

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..was the sound of Ruby crying the following day.

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The Rudrums lived at 104 of Yarmouth's historic Rows -

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narrow alleyways of medieval houses tightly packed together

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that formed the social heart of Yarmouth in 1900.

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The police arrived to escort landlord John Rudrum to the mortuary

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where he confirmed the dead woman as his lodger.

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The problem was, she was staying under a false name - Mrs Hood.

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When they found out that this was Mrs Hood,

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the police went to the Rudrums and searched her room.

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On the mantelpiece, they found a photograph

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of her on the beach with Ruby.

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So, why was Mary in Great Yarmouth with Ruby using a false name?

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Did Herbert know they were there?

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The barristers are analysing events

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in the week leading up to the murder for clues.

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Mary arrived at Mrs Rudrum's boarding house

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on Saturday the 15th of September -

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a week before her murder, using the alias Hood.

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When she arrived, John Rudrum, the landlord,

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briefly saw a man who he associated with Mary Bennett,

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and then, during the week preceding her death,

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she went out with a man she referred to,

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on a number of occasions, as her brother-in-law.

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On Friday the 21st, the night before she dies,

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Alice Rudrum, the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Rudrum,

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overheard Mary talking to a man and hears them kiss loudly.

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We know that that can't have been Herbert Bennett

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because there was evidence that he was at work

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in Woolwich at that time.

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Since splitting from Mary,

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Herbert had found work as a clerk at Woolwich Arsenal.

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Paul has returned to London to visit the area.

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This is where Herbert was employed

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just after he came back from South Africa.

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In 1900, Britain was involved in a war against the Boer states

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over the empire's influence in South Africa.

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It was at this time that Herbert and Mary

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boarded a cruise liner from Southampton.

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They went to South Africa under the pseudonym of Mr and Mrs Hood.

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The trip took about a month

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and they were only in South Africa for about four days

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and then they travelled back here to the UK.

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It was shortly after that that Herbert got the job here,

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at the Woolwich Arsenal, as a clerk, which sparked all sorts of rumours

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about the reason for that trip to South Africa.

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Was he indeed being asked to spy

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on behalf of the Boers against the UK?

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Spy conspiracy or not,

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Mary had used the pseudonym Hood before

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on a suspect trip to South Africa with Herbert.

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Just months later, she used it again

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to conceal her identity in Great Yarmouth.

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On the 22nd - the day of her killing -

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she headed out dressed up

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and met this brother-in-law under a clock.

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And then, at about 9pm,

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Alice Rudrum saw her meeting a man by the town hall.

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What's clear is there was at least one other man, if not more,

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hobnobbing with Mary Bennett in the days leading up to her killing,

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and that's obviously very, very important

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in a backdrop of a situation

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where we don't even know why she was in Yarmouth.

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A really murky picture.

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Testimony given by the Rudrums at trial

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revealed that Mrs Hood received a letter postmarked from Woolwich

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just days before she died.

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And we know that Herbert Bennett was working in Woolwich

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and he was living in Woolwich at the time.

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Yeah, but why, if Herbert Bennett killed Mary Bennett,

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would he have written that letter

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from Woolwich to her address in Yarmouth?

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Surely, that would be a lead to him. That doesn't fit.

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We really don't know, with any certainty,

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what Mary was doing.

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There's a connection with Yarmouth, obviously, for the Bennetts,

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and she was in Yarmouth,

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but beyond that, it's just a mystery.

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Seven weeks after her murder,

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the police finally uncovered Mary's true identity,

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tracing her to Bexleyheath via a laundry label

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found in an item of clothing.

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Herbert quickly came under suspicion

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and was arrested on the 6th of November.

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He told police that, on the night of the murder,

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he was drinking in a pub in Woolwich with two friends,

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but his friends failed to corroborate his alibi.

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He had the wrong weekend.

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Paul has arranged to meet relatives of his great-grandmother

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in that very pub.

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-Hello.

-Are you Paul?

-I am.

-I'm Kim.

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-Hello, Kim.

-Nice to meet you.

-Nice to meet you. Hello.

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-This is my mother, Deborah.

-Hello, Deborah.

-Hello.

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-Nice to meet you.

-Nice to meet you, too.

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-We are...

-We are related.

-We are!

-We are indeed.

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-Fourth cousins?

-It's up that far, yeah.

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I think so. We have William Clarke in common, I think.

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That's correct. That's my great-great-grandfather.

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Both are descendants of William Clarke, Mary's father,

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and Kim has a surprise for Paul that could shed light

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on their ancestor's enigmatic past.

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-So, this is Herbert and Mary Jane.

-Oh, wow. How did you come by this?

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Well, I believe this was in William's possession.

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-Right.

-So, it's quite important...

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-Yeah, absolutely.

-..to me, in that respect.

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Kim believes this photo was taken

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shortly after Herbert and Mary married,

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whilst on honeymoon in Great Yarmouth.

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They both knew Yarmouth.

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They've both been to Yarmouth as a couple.

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He may have been telling the truth that he wasn't actually in Yarmouth

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at the time of the murder, but we know he'd been up there.

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There was obviously something going on, wasn't there?

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They were nefarious characters. Neither of them was squeaky clean.

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No, no. Something else that's sort of been thrown out there, isn't it,

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-that he was a spy?

-I think that was a red herring.

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It would be nice if we could say whether he was definitely guilty,

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or if he was definitely innocent.

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-I'm not sure that will ever happen.

-No.

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There might be something conclusive out there. We don't know.

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-Well, yeah. I'd like to see it, if there is, definitely.

-Definitely.

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It seems Herbert was regularly a stranger to the truth.

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He HAD been to Great Yarmouth, and more than once,

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as the police would soon discover.

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For now, they had their prime suspect in custody.

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So, did he have a motive?

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Sasha, what would you say Herbert Bennett's motive

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for murdering Mary Bennett was?

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They were a married couple who were estranged.

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There was evidence that their relationship was tempestuous,

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and he was engaged to be married to someone else

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while his wife was still living.

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Upon his arrest, Herbert had asked that his new fiancee,

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a parlour maid called Alice Meadows, be informed.

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Did Herbert want rid of his wife to marry his new love?

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The prosecution were entitled to suggest

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that there was an identifiable motive to kill her,

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to separate himself from a woman he was already separated from.

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But it doesn't really make sense.

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Motive was by no means the central plank of their case.

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And, in fact, you can take out the proposed motive altogether,

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and still have a fairly strong circumstantial case

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against Herbert Bennett.

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Alice Meadows arrived at Woolwich Police Station

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to discover that her new fiance was a married man.

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But she, too, had a revelation.

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Several weeks before the murder,

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the couple had visited Great Yarmouth,

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staying at the Crown And Anchor Hotel.

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News of Herbert's arrest quickly spread through the press,

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who began a campaign to convict him,

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portraying Mary as the innocent victim,

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strangled by her deceitful husband.

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Paul has returned to Great Yarmouth to search the local archive.

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He wants to see for himself how powerful the story was.

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This would appear to be from the Yarmouth Mercury,

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the very first journalist's account

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of the murder of my great-grandmother.

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"The tragedy on South Beach.

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"Suspected case of murder. A mysterious affair."

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Then goes on to reveal the facts as they knew it at the time.

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This was my great-grandmother.

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Sorry.

0:18:060:18:07

They're talking about my grandmother, my great-grandmother.

0:18:160:18:19

What strikes me in this

0:18:290:18:32

is the level of detail that they go to.

0:18:320:18:35

Everything's here in the paper.

0:18:350:18:38

Anybody could come forward with quite a detailed witness account,

0:18:380:18:42

and not actually have even been there.

0:18:420:18:45

You could make yourself a witness in this murder.

0:18:450:18:49

How would anybody be an unbiased juror?

0:18:490:18:52

Herbert had been tried in the paper before they'd even got to court.

0:18:520:18:57

He did not have a very fair trial at all.

0:18:570:19:01

Couldn't have had.

0:19:010:19:02

The man faced with the arduous task of defending Herbert Bennett

0:19:050:19:09

was the eminent barrister of his day, Sir Edward Marshall Hall.

0:19:090:19:13

He insisted the trial be moved to the Old Bailey in London

0:19:130:19:17

in an effort to mitigate the prejudice against his client.

0:19:170:19:21

The case against Herbert relied heavily upon the testimony

0:19:210:19:24

of key witnesses from Great Yarmouth,

0:19:240:19:27

but how reliable were they?

0:19:270:19:29

Herbert Bennett always denied that he was in Great Yarmouth

0:19:290:19:33

on the weekend of the 22nd of September.

0:19:330:19:38

However, he had been staying at the Crown And Anchor

0:19:380:19:43

on two previous weekends not very long beforehand.

0:19:430:19:47

As far as the weekend of the murder is concerned,

0:19:470:19:50

five separate witnesses place Herbert Bennett in Yarmouth.

0:19:500:19:55

Can I just show you where they would have been?

0:19:550:19:57

The first witness is a man called William Borking,

0:19:570:20:01

who was working at the South Quay Distillery -

0:20:010:20:04

very close to where Mary was in lodgings

0:20:040:20:07

at the Rudrums' guesthouse.

0:20:070:20:10

Mr Borking saw a man he identified as Herbert Bennett

0:20:100:20:15

with a woman he identified as Mrs Bennett

0:20:150:20:19

in their distillery between about 9.30 and 10 on the 22nd.

0:20:190:20:24

So, really, within hours of Mary's death,

0:20:240:20:27

he places both of them together.

0:20:270:20:29

We just don't know how accurate or reliable a witness he was.

0:20:290:20:34

He gave very brief evidence, it was damaging,

0:20:340:20:37

but how detailed it was is a matter of concern.

0:20:370:20:42

At about 11.45, two people from the Crown And Anchor,

0:20:420:20:48

Edward Goodrum and a witness called Reid,

0:20:480:20:52

both see Herbert Bennett arrive,

0:20:520:20:55

and he says to Mr Goodrum that he needs to catch

0:20:550:20:58

the 7.20 train the following morning.

0:20:580:21:01

The following morning, we then have a witness

0:21:010:21:04

who sees a man he identifies as Herbert Bennett at the station.

0:21:040:21:09

So, all of these witnesses present a pattern

0:21:090:21:13

of Herbert Bennett's presence in Great Yarmouth,

0:21:130:21:16

and his movements in Great Yarmouth.

0:21:160:21:19

We know that this is a case where

0:21:190:21:21

there were huge problems with the media.

0:21:210:21:23

In the case of Goodrum, he sold his story to the press.

0:21:230:21:28

The judge himself had described the press's coverage of the case

0:21:280:21:33

as a disgrace and a scandal.

0:21:330:21:36

The press had tried, condemned,

0:21:360:21:40

and effectively executed Herbert Bennett

0:21:400:21:42

within 24 hours of his arrest.

0:21:420:21:45

Clearly, they'd done irreparable harm,

0:21:450:21:48

and that has to be the backdrop to historic consideration

0:21:480:21:53

of the safety of the conviction in this case.

0:21:530:21:56

The eyewitness testimony is simply one aspect of this case.

0:21:560:22:00

This is a very strong circumstantial case,

0:22:000:22:02

and each of the strands so far has held together.

0:22:020:22:06

The manner in which witnesses gave evidence in 1900

0:22:060:22:09

gives rise to real anxiety.

0:22:090:22:11

Cross-examination was very brief.

0:22:110:22:13

Issues weren't comprehensively probed.

0:22:130:22:16

The trial was unrecognisable from what it is today.

0:22:160:22:19

Eager to learn more about the man

0:22:220:22:24

who defended his great-grandfather...

0:22:240:22:26

-KNOCK ON DOOR

-Come in.

0:22:260:22:28

..Paul has arranged to meet barrister Sally Smith.

0:22:280:22:30

-Hello.

-Hello, Paul. It's very nice to meet you.

0:22:300:22:34

She's written a recent biography about Sir Edward Marshall Hall.

0:22:340:22:38

-Come and have a seat.

-Thank you.

0:22:380:22:39

-Well, this is fascinating.

-Isn't it?

-So, you're Herbert Bennett's...?

0:22:400:22:45

-Great-grandson.

-Great-grandson. And as you know,

0:22:450:22:48

-Bennett was defended by Sir Edward Marshall Hall.

-Yes, yes.

0:22:480:22:51

He was famous for getting more people off the death penalty

0:22:510:22:54

than anyone else ever has.

0:22:540:22:55

-And, of course, he wasn't successful in this case.

-No.

0:22:550:22:58

It was undoubtedly one of Marshall Hall's failures.

0:22:580:23:01

Marshall Hall always thought Bennett was a very clever man,

0:23:010:23:05

and he said that the whole hallmark of that murder

0:23:050:23:09

was not that of a clever man.

0:23:090:23:11

You know, there were so many obvious things

0:23:110:23:13

he could've done to cover his tracks...

0:23:130:23:15

-Yes.

-..that he wouldn't do.

-Yes.

0:23:150:23:16

And he was convinced of Bennett's innocence.

0:23:160:23:20

Of Bennett's innocence, yes.

0:23:200:23:21

Despite losing the case,

0:23:210:23:23

at a time when there was no recourse for appeal,

0:23:230:23:26

Marshall Hall never gave up the fight

0:23:260:23:28

to save Herbert from the gallows.

0:23:280:23:31

Marshall Hall wrote to the Home Secretary,

0:23:310:23:34

and to an old friend of his, Forrest Fulton.

0:23:340:23:37

"My dear Fulton, I am much concerned about that man, Bennett.

0:23:370:23:42

"Worthless scoundrel though he no doubt is,

0:23:420:23:45

"the more I think of it,

0:23:450:23:47

"the more convinced I am that he never murdered that woman."

0:23:470:23:50

His great difficulty with the case was that

0:23:520:23:54

Bennett wouldn't admit that he'd been to Yarmouth.

0:23:540:23:57

-At all?

-At all, ever.

0:23:570:23:59

-Because that was really pretty obviously a lie...

-Yeah, yeah.

0:23:590:24:02

..the jury were very unimpressed by the rest of his story.

0:24:020:24:06

Marshall Hall's last-ditch effort to save Bennett failed.

0:24:060:24:09

Herbert's inability to account for his whereabouts

0:24:100:24:13

on the night of the murder cost him his life,

0:24:130:24:16

but was it proof of his guilt?

0:24:160:24:19

Hoping to find an answer,

0:24:200:24:22

Jeremy and Sasha are re-examining the details of the murder itself.

0:24:220:24:26

Does the murder weapon offer any clues?

0:24:260:24:30

Sasha, Mary's body was found on the beach.

0:24:300:24:33

She'd been strangled with a mohair shoelace tied round her neck.

0:24:330:24:37

One knot at the back of the head and one on the left front side.

0:24:370:24:41

It's very curious, isn't it?

0:24:410:24:42

Because a mohair shoelace would not be the first choice of weapon

0:24:420:24:48

if you were planning a murder.

0:24:480:24:51

There is evidence that the shoelace had actually broken at some stage,

0:24:510:24:54

and doesn't suggest to me

0:24:540:24:56

that this was necessarily a premeditated murder.

0:24:560:25:01

So, could Mary have been murdered in an opportunistic attack?

0:25:010:25:05

A young couple on the beach that night,

0:25:050:25:08

Alfred Mason and Blanche Smith, had come forward with information

0:25:080:25:12

of a curious incident in the sand dunes.

0:25:120:25:15

The evidence of Alfred Mason and Blanche Smith

0:25:150:25:20

was that they heard what they thought

0:25:200:25:22

was a romantic encounter on the beach at about 11 o'clock.

0:25:220:25:27

They heard a woman's voice saying, "Mercy, mercy, mercy."

0:25:270:25:31

They didn't interfere because they didn't think that there was

0:25:310:25:33

anything violent or un-consensual taking place.

0:25:330:25:36

But now, looking back at it,

0:25:360:25:38

that that was actually the occasion on which Mary Bennett met her death.

0:25:380:25:44

According to Dr Lettis, who conducted the postmortem,

0:25:440:25:48

Mary had died about 1am.

0:25:480:25:51

And, of course, at that time, the evidence is

0:25:510:25:53

that Herbert Bennett was already back at the Crown And Anchor.

0:25:530:25:57

The medical evidence and the eyewitness evidence

0:25:570:26:00

are at loggerheads. They can't both be correct.

0:26:000:26:04

The testimony of the couple on the beach

0:26:040:26:06

tallies with the eyewitnesses who placed Herbert

0:26:060:26:09

back at the Crown And Anchor by 11.45,

0:26:090:26:12

but the police doctor suggested time of death was later.

0:26:120:26:17

Could this put Herbert in the clear?

0:26:170:26:20

Jeremy and Sasha are seeking the help of Home Office pathologist

0:26:200:26:23

Basil Purdue.

0:26:230:26:25

Basil, knowing what we know today, how reliable would it be

0:26:250:26:30

for a pathologist conducting a postmortem

0:26:300:26:34

at eight o'clock in the morning

0:26:340:26:35

to actually pinpoint the time of death

0:26:350:26:39

as six or seven hours previously?

0:26:390:26:42

First of all, I don't know what the scientific basis was

0:26:420:26:45

for that calculation. It's not made clear at any point.

0:26:450:26:50

Even if one makes allowance for that,

0:26:500:26:54

it has to be said that that narrow a band of time of death

0:26:540:26:58

is completely unreliable.

0:26:580:27:01

Even given the best modern methods of calculation using

0:27:010:27:04

accurate temperature measurements, the bracket is far, far wider.

0:27:040:27:09

And, in any case, pathologists are pretty cautious

0:27:090:27:13

about giving evidence of this kind

0:27:130:27:15

when there are so much better external methods

0:27:150:27:18

of finding these things out that we now have -

0:27:180:27:21

CCTV and phone evidence and things of that sort.

0:27:210:27:24

So, inherently, there's no scientific basis,

0:27:240:27:28

and in a single word, it's baloney.

0:27:280:27:33

Thank you very much indeed.

0:27:330:27:35

So, the only evidence remaining to indicate time of death

0:27:350:27:38

is that of the couple on the beach,

0:27:380:27:40

which supports the case against Herbert.

0:27:400:27:43

But Sasha has just taken delivery of a significant treasured item

0:27:480:27:52

that could be far more enlightening.

0:27:520:27:54

To obtain physical evidence that can be re-examined

0:27:560:27:59

from a case over a century old is extremely rare.

0:27:590:28:03

Jeremy, look at this.

0:28:030:28:07

These are the original exhibits from the trial.

0:28:070:28:11

This is the actual necklace that was found in Mr Bennett's home address.

0:28:110:28:17

It was said at the trial to be the exact necklace

0:28:170:28:20

that Mary was wearing.

0:28:200:28:22

You'll remember this photograph was taken three days before her death.

0:28:220:28:25

So, of course, it was a critical piece of evidence.

0:28:250:28:28

Because if that is right,

0:28:280:28:29

it would appear that the necklace was taken off her

0:28:290:28:33

whilst she was at Great Yarmouth,

0:28:330:28:35

which, again, would point to Bennett being the murderer.

0:28:350:28:39

Given the importance of these exhibits,

0:28:400:28:42

I suggest that it would be really helpful

0:28:420:28:45

to obtain some modern-day expert help

0:28:450:28:48

to see whether this necklace can really be linked

0:28:480:28:51

to the necklace shown in that photograph.

0:28:510:28:55

The barristers have asked forensic experts Harry Smy

0:28:550:28:58

and Maria Maclennan to analyse the photograph using modern techniques.

0:28:580:29:03

Will they be able to say definitely whether the chain worn by Mary

0:29:040:29:08

in the photograph is the same chain found in Herbert's possession?

0:29:080:29:13

We have a very, very small photograph here,

0:29:130:29:15

which is almost impossible to see

0:29:150:29:17

for those of us who don't have fantastic eyesight,

0:29:170:29:20

but you've managed to enlarge it quite considerably.

0:29:200:29:24

We've blown it up to about 75%.

0:29:240:29:26

If we then blur out some of the background material

0:29:260:29:29

so we can focus more on Mary herself,

0:29:290:29:32

and then lighten the area...

0:29:320:29:34

You don't want to go too far, edit it too far,

0:29:340:29:36

where we go to the realms of manipulation,

0:29:360:29:38

to then we're altering what the picture tells us.

0:29:380:29:41

At the time of the trial, magnifying glasses were used.

0:29:410:29:44

How much improved would you say the procedure is today?

0:29:440:29:48

I could give you both a magnifying glass

0:29:480:29:49

to look at the image now, and you may see different things.

0:29:490:29:52

This way, we don't have the same degree of difference as we would,

0:29:520:29:55

say, looking at a picture through a magnifying glass.

0:29:550:29:57

-So, Maria, you are really an expert in jewellery?

-Yes.

0:29:570:30:02

So, what we would like from you is an opinion about

0:30:020:30:05

whether this necklace can be matched with the item of jewellery

0:30:050:30:11

worn by Mary on a photograph taken before her death.

0:30:110:30:16

At the trial, there was much contention between

0:30:160:30:19

whether the design that we see in the photo was that of a chain,

0:30:190:30:22

or that of a rope design.

0:30:220:30:25

The design we have here is a chain. We can see the individual links.

0:30:250:30:28

However, I think it's entirely possible

0:30:280:30:30

for either design to be photographed in a way that

0:30:300:30:34

it can be interpreted as one or the other.

0:30:340:30:37

-You've looked at another photograph, Maria, is that correct?

-Yes, we have.

0:30:370:30:40

If what we have in this second photograph

0:30:400:30:42

is also the same chain as Mary was seen wearing

0:30:420:30:46

in the beach photograph, we can see a very clear example

0:30:460:30:49

of just how differently an item can photograph in different contexts.

0:30:490:30:54

Looks much thicker, for starters.

0:30:540:30:55

It does, absolutely. Much more prominent.

0:30:550:30:57

Even today, with our more modern procedures,

0:30:570:31:00

we can't use jewellery as a reliable,

0:31:000:31:03

-foolproof piece of evidence.

-So, does it concern you that the jury

0:31:030:31:06

were told by one of the experts at the trial

0:31:060:31:09

that the chain here was what can be seen in the photograph?

0:31:090:31:12

It was speculation, and it was opinion at best, I think.

0:31:120:31:15

You're saying that it cannot be said with confidence

0:31:150:31:20

that the item that's seen round Mary Bennett's neck...

0:31:200:31:22

-Yes.

-..on the beach photograph is this original exhibit chain?

0:31:220:31:27

It would be quite dangerous.

0:31:270:31:28

And might perhaps have misled the jury?

0:31:280:31:31

Yes, I think so.

0:31:310:31:32

Something as subjective as this, absolutely.

0:31:320:31:35

-Thank you both very much indeed.

-Thank you. Thank you.

0:31:350:31:38

Could this be the breakthrough that Jeremy needs

0:31:380:31:41

to unsettle the original conviction?

0:31:410:31:44

Maria's opinion has made me feel much less certain

0:31:440:31:47

about whether Herbert Bennett was rightly convicted.

0:31:470:31:51

Paul has returned to London for an update on the investigation.

0:31:550:31:59

-Hello, Paul.

-Hello.

-How are you? I'm going to just put this down.

0:32:010:32:05

He has no idea what valuable evidence

0:32:050:32:07

the barristers have been able to obtain.

0:32:070:32:09

Well, we've had some very interesting discussions

0:32:090:32:12

with people about the evidence.

0:32:120:32:14

But before I tell you any more, I want to show you some things,

0:32:140:32:16

-and you may want to put your glasses on.

-Oh, Lord.

0:32:160:32:19

All right, this has to be done with gloves.

0:32:190:32:22

This is the original photograph.

0:32:310:32:35

And even with glasses, I can't see the chain.

0:32:360:32:40

So, wait for this.

0:32:430:32:45

This is Mary's chain.

0:32:490:32:53

-Oh, Lord.

-I know.

0:32:530:32:55

This was the chain that was the exhibit in the case,

0:32:550:32:59

and this was the chain that the prosecution witness said,

0:32:590:33:04

with certainty, was the chain that Mary was wearing, all right?

0:33:040:33:10

This was the chain that was found in Herbert's lodgings in Woolwich.

0:33:100:33:14

-Can I touch them?

-Put gloves on because it's very precious.

0:33:140:33:18

-If we hold it up just so it can...

-I didn't realise it was so long.

0:33:180:33:20

I know. It's very, very lovely.

0:33:200:33:22

-That's gorgeous.

-I know. It is.

0:33:250:33:28

-I know!

-After all this time...

0:33:280:33:31

There you are. But it's lovely, isn't it?

0:33:320:33:35

-It is. A crucial piece of evidence.

-Absolutely.

0:33:350:33:39

Now let me put it here.

0:33:390:33:40

Feel free to touch it, as long as you've got the gloves on.

0:33:400:33:43

-Yeah.

-All right?

0:33:430:33:44

-And this is the original photograph?

-Mm-hm.

0:33:440:33:47

-That is so tiny.

-Mm.

0:33:480:33:51

-And there's my grandma.

-Mm.

0:33:510:33:53

-That's amazing.

-We've spoken to some experts

0:33:560:33:59

in jewellery and photography,

0:33:590:34:01

and I want Jeremy to tell you the results.

0:34:010:34:03

What's emerged is some very important information.

0:34:030:34:06

The forensic jewellery experts said

0:34:060:34:09

that it wasn't possible to say, with any confidence,

0:34:090:34:13

that this necklace is the one that Mary is wearing on the photograph.

0:34:130:34:19

It went further than that because, in her view,

0:34:190:34:22

it was wrong and dangerous for the prosecution

0:34:220:34:26

to suggest that the jury could be sure.

0:34:260:34:29

And if the prosecution wrongly tried to convince the jury

0:34:290:34:32

that it was the same necklace,

0:34:320:34:34

then that may be an avenue for opening up the case again.

0:34:340:34:38

Yes. It's fantastic.

0:34:380:34:41

I'm just totally blown away, at the moment.

0:34:410:34:44

It's... Oh, my hands can't stop shaking.

0:34:440:34:47

As to how this is going to move the case along,

0:34:470:34:52

I'll have to leave that in the hands of the barristers.

0:34:520:34:55

And, hopefully, they can put as strong a case

0:34:550:34:58

as they possibly can to the judge.

0:34:580:35:00

There are fundamental questions about the safety of the conviction,

0:35:000:35:04

and at the moment, I feel positive, yes.

0:35:040:35:06

None of the new evidence has caused me to feel uncomfortable

0:35:060:35:11

about the safety of these convictions,

0:35:110:35:13

but I would like to look at the trial papers,

0:35:130:35:16

and, in particular, I'd like to look at the judge's summing up.

0:35:160:35:19

Buoyed by the revelation of potential new evidence,

0:35:210:35:25

Paul has one last important visit to make.

0:35:250:35:28

He's arrived with his daughter, Rebecca, at Norwich Prison,

0:35:290:35:33

where Herbert was hanged.

0:35:330:35:34

The prison chaplain has difficult information to show them.

0:35:380:35:42

Now, I can tell you that he was prisoner number 1,622.

0:35:450:35:50

Herbert was the second...

0:35:500:35:52

..person to be executed.

0:35:530:35:54

And here, we have the records.

0:35:540:35:58

Goodness gracious me.

0:36:000:36:02

And he would have immediately been buried.

0:36:020:36:05

-Straight away?

-Straight away.

0:36:050:36:06

Removed him from the scaffolding and taken him to...

0:36:060:36:08

-Taken from the scaffold.

-..and out to the burial plot?

0:36:080:36:11

Put in the coffin and taken straight away.

0:36:110:36:13

Now, if we stand on this side, please.

0:36:270:36:29

There's a cross at the top, and it says,

0:36:320:36:34

"12 men were executed in this prison between July 1898 and 1951.

0:36:340:36:40

"Their bodies are buried here."

0:36:400:36:42

-Are they one on top of the other?

-No.

0:36:420:36:44

So, there's 12. One, two, three...

0:36:440:36:47

Unmarked.

0:36:480:36:50

-I'll leave you in peace.

-Thanks, Father.

0:36:560:36:58

I find that hard.

0:37:030:37:05

It's just horrible.

0:37:100:37:12

I found that tremendously moving.

0:37:180:37:21

And it just makes me even more determined

0:37:220:37:25

to get my great-grandfather exonerated.

0:37:250:37:28

Judgment day has arrived.

0:37:330:37:35

Jeremy and Sasha will soon make their submissions

0:37:350:37:38

before His Honour Judge David Radford.

0:37:380:37:41

For Paul, this could be the start of a legal process

0:37:410:37:44

to clear his great-grandfather's name,

0:37:440:37:47

or the judge could uphold the original conviction.

0:37:470:37:50

-Hello there. Hi again. Nice to see you.

-How are you?

0:37:500:37:53

I'm fine, thank you. Nervous.

0:37:530:37:55

It's time for us to go in and see the judge,

0:37:550:37:57

-so follow me, we'll go in.

-OK.

0:37:570:38:00

Judge Radford has over 40 years of experience at the criminal bar,

0:38:030:38:07

and sat at the Court of Appeal.

0:38:070:38:10

For this programme, he'll be treating this matter

0:38:100:38:12

as he would any other case.

0:38:120:38:14

We are here this afternoon

0:38:160:38:18

to consider whether the conviction of Mr Bennett

0:38:180:38:22

for murdering his wife in 1900

0:38:220:38:25

is, in my view, a safe or an unsafe conviction.

0:38:250:38:30

-Mr Dein?

-It's my submission that this was a weak, questionable,

0:38:300:38:35

and highly circumstantial case.

0:38:350:38:38

Bedevilled by press sensational reporting,

0:38:380:38:44

the kingpin of the prosecution case

0:38:440:38:47

was the finding of a necklace at Mr Bennett's address in Woolwich.

0:38:470:38:54

At trial, the prosecution placed very heavy reliance

0:38:540:38:58

on the proposition that the necklace that was found

0:38:580:39:03

at Mr Bennett's address in Woolwich

0:39:030:39:06

was the necklace worn by Mrs Bennett on the beach.

0:39:060:39:10

However, in the course of this inquiry,

0:39:100:39:13

we've had the benefit of very great assistance

0:39:130:39:16

from two modern-day experts.

0:39:160:39:18

Based on the original exhibits, the evidence of the two experts

0:39:180:39:22

casts very serious doubt on the safety of Mr Bennett's conviction.

0:39:220:39:27

One simply cannot say that the necklace recovered

0:39:270:39:30

from Mr Bennett's lodgings was the one worn in the beach photograph.

0:39:300:39:35

There is more than enough information to suggest that

0:39:350:39:38

the two photographs we have reveal different necklaces,

0:39:380:39:42

and in the circumstances,

0:39:420:39:43

Your Honour should regard Mr Bennett's conviction as unsafe,

0:39:430:39:46

and declare that it ought to be reconsidered.

0:39:460:39:49

-Yes, Miss Wass?

-Your Honour, the Crown say that

0:39:490:39:52

this was a compelling circumstantial case.

0:39:520:39:55

There is very clear evidence

0:39:550:39:58

that Mr Bennett was in Great Yarmouth

0:39:580:40:01

at the time that his wife was murdered.

0:40:010:40:04

He was seen in her company.

0:40:040:40:06

He was seen without her within a very short period of time

0:40:060:40:09

of her having been killed.

0:40:090:40:11

-In terms of the publicity and the intervention of the newspapers...

-Yes, that's another point.

0:40:110:40:15

..no witness gave evidence

0:40:150:40:18

that they would not have otherwise given,

0:40:180:40:20

and no witness came forward solely

0:40:200:40:23

as a result of press intervention.

0:40:230:40:26

The necklace evidence remains important.

0:40:260:40:28

This is a valuable piece of jewellery,

0:40:280:40:31

not just in terms of its monetary value,

0:40:310:40:34

but also in terms of its sentimental value.

0:40:340:40:37

William Clarke gave evidence,

0:40:370:40:40

he identified the necklace that had been taken

0:40:400:40:43

from Mr Bennett's lodgings in Woolwich,

0:40:430:40:47

and he positively identified the necklace

0:40:470:40:50

as being the necklace that his mother

0:40:500:40:52

had asked him to give to his daughter, Mary.

0:40:520:40:55

And that provides strong support

0:40:550:40:58

that the necklace that was worn on the beach photograph

0:40:580:41:02

was more likely than not to have been the necklace

0:41:020:41:06

that was found amongst the defendant's property

0:41:060:41:10

when he was arrested some time later.

0:41:100:41:13

Yes, well, I'm grateful to both of you for your submissions.

0:41:130:41:16

I now wish to consider them before I reach my own conclusions.

0:41:160:41:21

Sasha has highlighted that a strong case remains against Herbert.

0:41:220:41:27

Paul is unimpressed with Jeremy's submission.

0:41:270:41:31

I wanted to say so much in there. I really wanted to say so much.

0:41:310:41:35

I wasn't given the opportunity to.

0:41:350:41:37

What Jeremy has done, Paul, is exactly the right thing,

0:41:370:41:41

because there's no point in Jeremy saying to the judge,

0:41:410:41:44

"We don't like the verdict."

0:41:440:41:46

No, but we could offer an alternative.

0:41:460:41:48

Well, in fairness to Jeremy,

0:41:480:41:49

he put forward the strongest arguments that there were,

0:41:490:41:53

and I think we've just got to try and wait patiently

0:41:530:41:55

until the judge comes up with a decision.

0:41:550:41:58

-And we don't know what that's going to be.

-No.

0:41:580:42:00

Jeremy has presented the only new evidence

0:42:010:42:04

uncovered by the investigation,

0:42:040:42:06

but will it be enough to question the guilty verdict?

0:42:060:42:10

The judge has reached his decision.

0:42:100:42:12

This new evidence,

0:42:130:42:15

which Mr Dein relies on, from the photographic experts,

0:42:150:42:20

may that have rendered unsafe the jury's verdict, which,

0:42:200:42:24

given the very strong cogency, in my opinion, of the other evidence

0:42:240:42:29

that the prosecution were able to rely on,

0:42:290:42:32

properly guided by no less than the Lord Chief Justice?

0:42:320:42:37

I have concluded that

0:42:370:42:39

there was nothing unsafe, in my view, about the verdict.

0:42:390:42:43

I will now rise.

0:42:430:42:44

Well, I'm very sorry about that, Paul.

0:42:520:42:54

I'm really sad that you're going to go away desperately disappointed,

0:42:540:42:58

-but...

-Well, it doesn't change anything.

-No, it doesn't.

0:42:580:43:01

My mind, on Herbert's innocence, hasn't changed one iota.

0:43:010:43:06

It only can be re-examined on fresh evidence,

0:43:060:43:09

and I do understand that point.

0:43:090:43:11

I just wish it wasn't so limited, that's all.

0:43:110:43:14

Top barristers Sasha Wass and Jeremy Dein re-examine a seaside case of murder and mistaken identity from 1900, in a case involving false names, suspicious journeys and 100-year-old evidence.

Great Yarmouth, September 1900 - a woman's body is found among the sand dunes. She had been murdered. The first mystery facing police was not identifying the killer but the woman herself - she had been staying in Great Yarmouth under an assumed name. A clue from her clothing allowed the police to name her as Mary Jane Bennett, and suspicion immediately landed on her estranged husband, Herbert Bennett.

Now, over 100 years later, Herbert's great-grandson Paul is investigating the case, and he has doubts about his ancestor's guilt. Can a modern investigation shed new light on the evidence that was used to convict Herbert for murder?

Sasha and Jeremy receive a breakthrough in the form of crucial physical evidence from the original investigation - a necklace found in Herbert's possession on his arrest that may have been worn by Mary at the time of the murder. Could this be the key to unlocking this mysterious case?


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