Thriller Thursday ~ The Fate of Rhoda

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Previous posts for this serial:
~ Accident or Murder?

~ The Vanishing

~ Dear John

The community of Watchfield was fraught in suspicion and both relations and neighbours were concerned by the mysterious disappearance of Rhoda Ann Carter (formerly Rhoda Ann Titcombe).  The answers to questions of Rhoda’s whereabouts and the events of the past few days, provided by her husband John Carter were unfathomably bizarre and certifiably untrue. Police Constable Charles Sparkes, of Shrivenham, was called to seek satisfaction in this case!

That Saturday evening, Constable Sparkes called on John Carter to inquire after Rhoda.  John insisted that his wife had left for her sister’s home in Eastleach Friday morning.  He explained that he and Rhoda had argued the evening before.  She had planned to fetch her sister and bring her back to stay with them during her confinement.  “I had told her, you won’t.  I married you to look after my children.  I says to her if you go you stop there; don’t you come back here again!”, Carter claimed. Constable Sparkes had known Rhoda for many years and knew her to be short-tempered, perhaps this explanation bore a resemblance to the truth.  When asked if Carter expected his wife to return, he replied that she was expected to return by carrier on Tuesday.

Map of the Watchfield  area showing East Leach

Map of the Watchfield area showing East Leach

Rhoda’s mother, still concerned, accompanied Cst. Sparkes into the Carter cottage and indicated that her daughter’s belongings were all accounted for beyond one set of clothing.  Rhoda had left with nothing but the clothes on her back!  Cst. Sparkes felt the need to investigate further as Rhoda’s mother accused Carter of “doing her daughter in”!

A trip to East leach revealed that Rhoda’s sister Jane Weatley and her husband David had not been visited by Rhoda. Carter’s story, an obvious concoction, while Sparkes was away, Carter bolted. Found in a meadow outside Watchfield, Carter is arrested.   It was thanks to John Carter’s brother James that the police were able to track him.  James, on a milk run, had encountered his brother John. and upon inquiring what he had been up to was told, “I did kill my wife and bury her in the blacksmith shop.” This statement from James and his direction made John’s arrest possible but it was the gruesome evidence, later discovered by Cst. Sparkes and Sergeant Benning from Uffington, which would soon seal the fate of John Carter and resolve the mystery of Rhoda Ann Carter’s disappearance…the body buried under the out building used as a stable!  This evidence would be detailed at the coroner’s inquest!

John Carter's arrest.

John Carter’s arrest.

The case continued next Thursday!
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Thriller Thursday ~ Second Installment ~ The Vanishing

Sketch of John Carter from the Illustrated Police News.

Sketch of John Carter from the Illustrated Police News.

Wish to catch up on previous Posts about my Great-Great Grandfather John Carter?

~Black Sheep Sunday ~ My Darkest Black Sheep

~Thriller Thursday ~ Murder in the Family

~Thriller Thursday ~ First Installment ~ Accident or Murder?

Nothing truly prepares you for that horrific genealogical find!  That discovery which at first seems a wrong turn, a climb out on the limb of someone else’s tree.  Then the heart halting reality sinks deep into your bones and your blood chills as every element of your research forms proof that you indeed are related to someone …well…far less than savoury!  But I digress, I must not rush my tale for although I learned of this story completely out of sequence I’d like you to follow the events as they happened rather than as my research unfolded and revealed them to me.

I take you back to John Carter, my Great-Great Grandfather, whose wife, of 16 years, Elizabeth Thatcher has tragically died after a fall down their cottage steps, her head bashed against the stone floor below.  An accident as ruled by Mr. Jotcham, the coroner!

John Carter was a cowman–a farm labourer but one highly valued for his skills, which included those of a blacksmith.  He worked and lived on Broad Leaze Farm near Shrivenham. The character of John Carter is said to have been “bad”!

…but he seems to have generally found employment, as he was what was known as a “handy man.” When he married his first wife, whose maiden name was Thatcher, he was groom and gardener to a gentleman, but got into trouble over some fowls.  He was greatly addicted to drink, and used his wife so badly that he was repeatedly remonstrated with and summoned.

the King and Queen Pub

The King and Queen Public House at which Elizabeth Ann Alder was a servant in 1887

John frequented the local public house, the “King & Queen” in Longcot.  Perhaps drowning his sorrows, perhaps celebrating his new found freedom–though I doubt being left alone with six children could be considered free–John met 18 year old bar maid Elizabeth Ann Alder.  Not two months after his first wife had perished, a now pregnant Elizabeth Alder moved in.with him at Broad Leaze farm cottages and they were soon married 19 Oct 1887.

St. Andrew's Church Shrivenham.  Where John Carter and Elizabeth Ann Alder married in 1887.

St. Andrew’s Church Shrivenham. Where John Carter and Elizabeth Ann Alder married in 1887.

A neighbour, Mrs. Cordelia Enestone, commented:

…he treated her very cruelly, beating her in a terrible manner, and she used to run to me for protection.  Once one of Mr. Carter’s little boys refused to wash his hands before dinner, and she gave him a tap, and for that Carter beat her unmercifully.

Elizabeth gave birth to a son John Nelson Carter in 1888.  One September Saturday of 1889 Mrs. Enestone stopped to visit with Elizabeth who stood outside her door polishing her husband’s boots.  Excited Elizabeth explained that she and John had plans to attend the Faringdon bazaar if he made it home in time.  They did not attend the bazaar and the events of that night ended in the vanishing of John’s young wife!

Broadleaze Farm Cottages, Shrivenham.

Broadleaze Farm Cottages, Shrivenham.

John’s 10 year old daughter Martha, disturbed by the din of what sounded like a falling chair and table in the night was baffled by her step-mother’s disappearance asking her father where she had gone.

Observant Mrs. Enestone, remembered much later that:

…about nine that night she heard Mrs. Carter give one terrible shriek.  She had often heard her screaming fearfully, but this was quite different; it was one piercing shriek, and then all was quiet, and she never saw her again.

When asked about the disappearance of his wife in the weeks to come John responded:

She’s gone off with a chap from Stanford, they live in Swindon, she took my last 24 shillings and my only solace is the baby boy she has deserted.

He had contacted Elizabeth’s family to let them know she had run away and could not be found!

Had Elizabeth truly run off?  Run off with a “chap from Stanford”…deserted her year old son? The possible revelation next Thursday… 
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