WICKED BOY: The Mystery of a Victorian Child MurdererKATE SUMMERSCALE Book Number: 85902 Product format: Hardback
On 8 July 1895 Robert aged 13 and a plater at West Ham Docks, and Nathanael (Nattie) Coombes aged 12 set off from their home in Plaistow to go and see W.G. Grace playing at Lord's cricket ground. Telling a neighbour that their mother was unwell but would be going to Liverpool later, they returned home to sleep downstairs and were back at Lord's the next day to see Grace make his seventh century of the season. The third day they started pawning the family watches to raise money, and Robert put an ad in the local paper asking for a loan. Finally their aunt Emily came round and discovered her sister-in-law's decomposing body, stabbed to death by 13-year-old Robert, he claimed at Nattie's prompting to escape a beating. This gripping true-life crime story asks questions about the influence of social conditions and morbid psychology. Public interest was at fever-pitch and relations and friends gave interviews to newspapers, including the boys' father, who told a journalist that Robert had an "abnormally developed brain", and added that the boy would travel miles to see a murderer in the flesh. The boy had a passion for penny dreadfuls and pulp fiction of the day. Following the murder the boys had brought a dockhand, John Fox, to live with them, and there were questions about how much he knew. The boys were calm in the Old Bailey, showing no remorse, and a neurologist speculated that their mentality was a throwback to an earlier stage in evolution. Nattie struck a plea deal and gave evidence against his brother who confessed but his lawyers said he was insane. He was sent to Broadmoor. Later Robert went to Australia and was a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli, commended for bravery, followed by distinguished service on the Somme. By the famous crime fiction author, 378pp, 16 illustrations. Remainder mark.
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