Murder of Margaret Thomas
Lapstone Cottage Goytrey
26th October 1921
When morning broke on Wednesday 26th October 1921, it was a predictable start to the day for David Thomas and his wife Margaret. The couple lived at Lapstone Cottage, a small stone built house on the Llanover Estate, at Pengroesoped near Abergavenny. Having risen as usual just before 6am, David washed and readied himself for work, whilst his 48 year old wife prepared their breakfast of fried potatoes and bacon. This finished and having exchanged their goodbyes, David Thomas left for work. It was 6.45am.
David worked at Ffawydden Quarry about a mile and a half from his home. He was responsible for the removal of topsoil prior to the quarrying of stone. He returned home to the most horrible sight – the dead body of his wife on the kitchen floor bespattered with blood. Nearby was a piece of iron which was blood stained and there is no doubt that it was with this the brute – man is to good a name for such a villain.
Mr. Thomas found his wife was beyond human aid and went to raise the alarm, meeting on his way the village postman, he detached him to summon the local policeman P.C. Preece, who resided about 1 mile from the scene.
Critical investigations have and are being conducted. Yesterday the little white cottage was visited by a number of well known people in the locality and a good many of the women were overcome.
All evidence points strongly to the fact that the murder must have been committed early in the day – probably soon after the husband left for his work. Mrs. Thomas’s routine would be to let the fowl and pigs out shortly after breakfast, but on his return Mr. Thomas fond the animals still locked in their pens. Neither had she commenced her daily chores.
The husband, attired in ordinary everyday labourer’s clothes was a pathetic picture.
The inquest was held in the village Temperance Hotel at Pengroesoped, the husband was called as the first witness, he said he was David Thomas of Lapstone Cottage and his wife’s age was 43, he had left the cottage at 6.40 and returned at 5.30pm, when on gaining access to the house he found his wife dead. On the way to work he saw young Billy Thomas and spoke to him. On his return home unable to get into the house, thinking his wife had gone for milk or water, he discovered the pigs had not been fed and were ravenous, after a while he tried the other door and found it to be on the latch, when he got into the house he found an iron bar about a foot long lying by his wife’s right hand.
Missing from the house were several items; a silver watch of his wife’s; a metal watch of his own; a navy blue suit; navy blue waistcoat and trousers; a pair of light black boots; a tie; 19s; a pair of pants; a singlet; two good razors and bar of shaving soap. In the house they found a tin can close to the wall. In the bedroom witness said he found a folded handkerchief, also missing was £4 in treasury notes.
He had seen a strange man about several days before on the canal bank.
Mrs. Thomas sometimes worked for Mrs. Rosser Llanover and on the 13th October on arriving at work she seemed very upset and said about 8am that day she had seen wet footprints on her path leading to the door of her house. She then went up to the door of her shed and found a big man sitting there and it frightened her. She asked him what he wanted and he said some sticks to light a fire. She told him to be off as she had to carry her sticks a long way. She did not see him again.
William Williams of Llanover said he saw Mr. Thomas working at the quarry on the day of the murder and passed the time of day with him. Alfred Thomas, son of the last witness said he also saw Mr. Thomas in the quarry on the day in question.
Mrs. Elizabeth Evans, widow, Pengroesoped said that Thomas had come to her house to see if his wife had come for water, he then went back home and half an hour later came rushing back shouting someone has murdered Maggie, he then went to Henry Jones for help.
The body was covered in a red quilt and lots of mats but you could still see her legs, nurse Saunders of Tredegar examined Mrs. Thomas and found her dead.
Critical investigations are and being conducted but nothing tangible has been discovered. The murder must have been committed early in the morning, soon after the husband left for work.
Mr. Bryn Morgan of Glan-y-nant Farm said he had seen a man washing himself in the brook, asked if he knew Mrs. Thomas he said she was one of the most jolly women you could wish to know. At one time Mrs. Thomas was housekeeper for Mr. Charles at Park-y-brain Farm.
The funeral of Mrs. Thomas, which took place at Saron Baptist Chapel, a distance of one and a half miles from her cottage was lined with about two thousand people, many to pay genuine respects and many from morbid curiosity.
William Sullivan, 42, a tramping labourer from Cwmbran was charged with the murder of Margaret Thomas.
George Henry Smith, milk seller, Mamhilad said on Friday October 21st he saw prisoner and asked him where he was going; he said he had come from Newport workhouse and was going to Abergavenny workhouse. He again saw him on October 26th heading towards Pontypool. Florence Smith, wife of witness also identified Sullivan as the man seen on the dates mentioned.
A pair of boots left at Lapstone Cottage along with a dirty pair of pajamas and a very dirty handkerchief were discovered by Mr. Thomas and handed to the police. These items were identified as belonging to Sullivan.
Annie Jones of the Forge Hammer Inn, Cwmbran, said Sullivan was drinking in her pub on the 26th October paying 2s 6d for his first drink and later £1 note for drinks with his brother.
Lily May Groves (14) Albion Road, Pontypool, indentified Sullivan as the man who called at her home asking her to ask her mother if she would like to buy a pair of boots and a coat. He wanted 2/6d for the boots and 2/- for the coat. He was told to come back at 6pm. He left the boots and coat on a chair.
Hannah Eliza Groves, 54 of Albion Road Pontypool said she purchased the items from him.
Sullivan was found guilty of the murder of Margaret Thomas.
(Full article can be read in the Free Press section)
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