‘I have this gruesome story to tell’ - Descendant of murderer visits Norwich to find out more
PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 31 January 2019
It was the gruesome discovery of a severed hand on Martineau Lane which prompted the start of a murder mystery which gripped Victorian Norwich for almost two decades.
It took 18 years from that grisly find in June 1851 for Martha Steward’s murderer to be found.
The victim’s husband William Sheward might have got away with murder but for a drunken confession in a fit of remorse on New Years Day 1869.
And now, more than 150 years later, the culprit’s great, great, great granddaughter Asya Taylor, has visited Norwich for the first time to find out more about her infamous ancestor.
Miss Taylor, 50, from Enfield, London, has investigated her family history previously but had stopped when her father died in 1989.
Restarting her search after looking online she discovered her gruesome past and was invited to the city’s Guildhall by history-based escape gaming experts History Mystery who have brought to life the tale through an escape game called Body of Evidence.
Miss Taylor said: “I knew about the story but coming to Norwich I have been given a lot of extra detail now and it’s just fascinating.
“Being in the exact building where William Sheward was taken and where Martha is still buried, it is really fascinating.
“Last year I thought I’m just going to Google it and I found, not only lots of things about it, but this game based on it which I couldn’t of dreamt of.”
Miss Taylor took part in the game with her son’s Ged, 13, and Rex, 11, at the Victorian prison where her relative was held. They were able to complete the puzzle in time while learning more about their past.
Miss Taylor added: “It was quite difficult and we needed lots of clues but it was interesting and fun.
“I find the murder very interesting and I do like to tell to people about it especially if they are from Norfolk.
“When I tell people about it they are quite shocked but I think it’s great that I have this gruesome story to tell.”
For more information about the game go to historymysterygame.com.
How the murder happened
William Sheward murdered his wife Martha and dismembered her body in 1851.
He went on to scatter her body parts around the streets of Norwich in a gruesome crime that went undiscovered for 18 years.
When the truth was uncovered, Sheward admitted he had been arguing with his wife whilst shaving and had fatally cut her with his razor.
In the days after the murder, the house began to smell so he decided to cut up Martha’s body in order to dispose of it.
Whilst many of the body parts were later discovered by dog walkers across Norwich, Sheward hid the crime by telling those with suspicions that his wife had run off to New Zealand to find a former lover.
It was not until 1869 that he confessed and after a two-day trial, Sheward was executed behind prison walls, leaving a new wife and family behind.
After the trial no-one came to collect Martha’s body so it was buried under Guildhall where it remains.