William Layzell- Murderer

William Layzell was born on 24 May 1848 to Robert Layzell and Ellen Perry who were living at Little Gains, Upminster.

Ellen died in 1854 when William was only 6 years old and by the 1961 census William is living with his brother Henry and his father Robert at Halton, Upminster.

Like so many young men facing a bleak future William enlisted in the 1st Battalion 4th (King's Own) Regiment Of Foot in December 1870 as Private 1599 buying himself out at Gibraltar on 3 December 1878.

In March 1880, on his return to England, William married Sarah Deeks and they had a son, Edward William Lazell at Hornchurch while he was in the emply of the local surgeon , Mr W Brasted.

The family them moved to Grays where William worked for Mr Ruddall at the Elms before promotion from groom to coachman in the employ of General Beauchamp at Hurst , Broad Hinton, Berkshire where we find them in the 1891 census.

Also employed at Hurst was a 19 year old called Herbert Baigent who lived nearby with his parents. Herbert was employed to help the gardeners but also to help in other areas of the estate including the coachman.

In early August 1891 young Edward Layzell was playing in the orchard of the estate and was seen by Herbert Baigent to kick some fallen apples. Baigent reported this and William was taken to task about his sons behaviour.

The relations between the two men had not been good but this event led to William calling Baigent a 'sneak' as this was not the first time that Baigent had informed in William and his son.

On the morning of 1 August 1891 Baigent was milking cows in the cowshed when William entered and remonstrated with Baigent the words were meet with 'cheek' and after the conversation escalated Baigent said " You doesn't dare hit me" an enraged William Layzell picked up a pitchfork and hot the young man three times with it causing two wounds and fracturing his skull. Baigent was instantly killed at which point William said " Oh what have I done" and " I have killed Herbert".

He was arrested and remanded in custody appearing before Reading Assize Court on 11 November 1891 where he pleaded guilty and although the jury convicted William they included a recommendation for clemency but he was still sentenced to death by hanging and returned to Reading Goal for the hanging to take place. Henry accepted his guilt as he has taken the life of Herbert Baigent and was said to have accepted and be at peace with his fate.

Layzell was teetotal and a devout christian who attended Hurst Baptist Chapel. He had acted rashly without premeditation and was very repentant

His solicitor appealed to the Home Secretary and a local petition was started which gathered several thousand names.

Fortunately for William the Home Secretary granted the appeal and substituted a sentence of Life Imprisonment for the death penalty.

He was sent to Parkhurst Prison as prisoner R340. Prison records show him to be 5 ft 5 1/2 inches tall, hazel eyes, fresh complexion and grey hair. He was a model prisoner and was released on 6 November 1906 to the Salvation Army at Grays where he became a coachman.

Sadly his wife Sarah died when he was in prison so there was to be no happy reunion.