Rose Harsent

Rose Harsent (birth date needs finding) was a woman of twenty-three employed by William and Georgeanna Crisp as a domestic servant at their home in the village of Peasenhall in Suffolk.

The Murder

On Sunday 1st June 1902, Rose's father came to pay her visit and found her body at the foot of the stairs. Her throat had been cut and an attempt had been made to set fire her to her body. (Presumably with a view to destroying the evidence.)
A doctor and policeman were summoned and concluded that she had been dead for some four hours, whilst the subsequent post mortem established that she had been pregnant at the time of her death. The police soon discovered a note addressed to Rose in which the anonymous author arranged a midnight assignation with her. They soon identified the handwriting as belonging to William Gardiner, who only lived a few hundred yards away from the Crisp household with his wife and six children. Gardiner who was a leading member of the local Primitive Methodist Congregation, where he was the choirmaster and a Sunday School teacher, denied any involvement in her death. The authorities however believed otherwise and, working on the theory that Gardiner had seduced his neighbour's servant and was thus the father of Rose Harsent's unborn child and had killed her in order to prevent this fact coming to light, on the 3rd June the police arrested Gardiner and charged him with her murder.

The Aftermath

The trial began on the 7th November at the Suffolk Assizes at Ipswich, and whilst the evidence of the note appeared to clearly demonstrate Gardiner's guilt, he strenuously denied having kept the appointment with Rose Harsent and claimed that he was at home in bed with his wife at the time of the murder, a story which was supported by his wife. In the event the jury failed to reach the unanimous verdict that was required at the time. Whilst eleven jurors supported a guilty verdict, one juror by the name of Evan Edwards insisted that Gardiner was not guilty and obstinately refused to change his mind. A re-trial was ordered and on the 21st January 1903 the case was heard once more before the Suffolk assizes. Once again the jury was divided, only this time around opinion had shifted in the other direction with ten jurors supporting a verdict of not guilty with the other two insisting on Gardiner's guilt.
Once again the jury was discharged and arrangements were made for Gardiner to stand trial for a third time, this time at Bury St Edmunds. But before the case came to trial the Home Office decided that there was no prospect of securing a conviction and lodged a plea of nolle prosequi. The case against Gardiner was dismissed and he was released from custody, having neither been convicted nor acquitted on the charge of murder.