In 1828 crime news in England was dominated by one story: the trial and execution of William Corder in Bury St Edmunds. Corder shot his lover, Maria Marten, after they had arranged to meet and then elope together. They met at the Red Barn in Polstead, Suffolk, having decided to run away because of fears that the parish officers were going to prosecute Maria for bearing at least two bastard children (one by Corder).
Corder was a fraudster and a Don Juan character and after murdering and burying Maria he fled to London, marrying a woman who answered an advertisement he placed in the papers, and setting up home with her in Brentford. This is where he was when he was eventually tracked down by the police in 1828. He was brought back to Suffolk and his trial began on the 7 August.
The murder story became a sensation, it filled the newspapers and was copied widely into murder broadsides and cheap ‘penny dreadfuls’. Corder’s skull went on display in Suffolk and a play and melodrama was written about the tragedy. The Red Barn murder had become a murder mystery with a number of twists and sub plots.
Meanwhile at London’s police courts the more everyday business of law or order were given less coverage by the papers as a result. The entry for ‘Police Intelligence’ in The Morning Post is almost cursory. It mentions a counterfeiter at Hatton Garden who was remanded while two men at Marlborough Street were prosecuted for ‘furious driving’ and an assault on another road user (‘road rage’ in the 1820s?).
Finally from Bow Street, several women were brought in and charged by the proprietor of the English Opera House in Covent Garden. He complained to the Bow Street magistrate, Sir Richard Birnie, about the ‘disgraceful conduct of the depraved characters of both sexes who frequent the avenues of this theatre’. Covent Garden was synonymous with prostitution in the period and this was a constant problem for the bench. Mr Birnie and his colleague, Mr Minshull sent the parcel of females to prison for a few days or weeks to ‘prevent their reappearance in that quarter for some time'(but not for ever).
[from The Morning Post, Saturday, August 09, 1828]