*Disclaimer* I mean no disrespect to anyone mentioned in my posts or friends/family of the people involved. Any information used in my blogs is found on the internet or in books, and then compiled together for my posts. I do not claim the information in my post to be 100% accurate.

Constance Kent | Murder at Road Hill House

| On
July 27, 2019

Today's case took place in Devon, England and has inspired murder mysteries by the likes of Charles Dickens. We will be looking at Constance Kent, who she was, and why she committed this crime in 1860.

Her Family

Constance was born on the 5th of February 1844 in Devon, England. Her parents were Samuel Saville Kent and Mary Ann Kent. The couple had ten children but five died at a young age. After Mary Ann gave birth to their tenth child she went insane.

Not long after this, Samuel hired Mary Drewe Pratt as a governess and housekeeper, but they fell in love.

After the death of his wife Mary Ann, Samuel got married to Mary Drewe and they had three more children. While she was pregnant with their fourth child their youngest, Francis, was murdered.

The Crime

On the 29th of June 1860, Francis was put to bed in the nursemaid's room. Elizabeth Gough was the nursemaid at the time and in the middle of the night, she woke up to find he was gone. She just assumed that he was with his mother and went back to sleep.

However, when she awoke again she realised he was still missing. By 8am she had alerted the family and there was a search underway to find the young boy.

After an hour of searching a local farmer and shoemaker checked the disused servant toilet. When they lifted the lid they found a blanket covered in blood. They had found Francis' body.

When they picked his body up to move him his head almost fell off and his mouth appeared to be black as if he had been suffocated. 

At first, the main suspect was the nursemaid Elizabeth Gough. The local Superintendent believed that the child could not go missing without her knowing. His theory was that she was with her lover when Francis woke up and disturbed them, so they suffocated him and mutilated the body to hide the true cause of death.

Jonathon Whicher. Image credit: Wikipedia
Eventually, Scotland Yard joined the investigation and sent Detective Inspector Jonathon Whicher. He didn't agree with the Superintendent and suspected 16-year-old Constance. His theory was that she was jealous of the younger children, which made her commit the crime.

When she was put in front of magistrates there was not enough evidence to charge her, so Elizabeth Gough was charged with the murder.

The Confession

Constance spent time abroad at a convent in Brittany, and when she returned in 1863 she went to Brighton and joined a religious retreat. It was there that she confessed on April 25th 1865. She told Reverend Arthur Wagner that she murdered her stepbrother. She handed a noted over to the magistrates when she confessed to them. It stated:

"I, Constance Emile Kent, alone and unaided on the night of the 29th of June 1860, murdered at Road Hill House, Wiltshire one Francis Saville Kent. Before the deed, no one knew of my intention, nor after of my guilt; no one assisted me in the crime, nor in my evasion of discovery."

She said she murdered him because he was her stepmothers favourite, and she wasn't happy she had replaced her mother. 

Constance Kent. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Even after her admission of guilt people did not believe her, as parts of her story didn't match the facts. She said she had used a razor to kill the boy, but the wounds were caused by a knife. Francis also weighed 35 pounds and Constance said that she held him in one arm as she climbed out of the house before she killed him. She also said she thought the child was not dead, but he had almost been decapitated. 

Even though there were many anomalies in her stories, they were never brought up in court and she pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to death initially, but it was commuted to life because of her age at the time of the murder.

She spent 20 years in prison and was released at 41 years old. She moved to Australia to join her brother William and changed her name to Emily Kent. She lived in Australia until she died in 1944. She lived to be 100 years old and never recanted. 

Final Thoughts

Some believe that she never committed the murder and she was possibly covering for her brother or father.

William was equally resentful of their stepmother and at the time of the murder, he was 15 years old, and he would have been more capable of the murder. Some also believe her father could have been the killer, as he was a known adulterer and could've been sleeping with the nursemaid.

I think it is very possible she was covering for someone else the whole time. However, I am not sure why she decided to do it. The one thing that surprised me was that she never recanted even after her brother and father passed away.

What do you think of this case? Who do you think did it? Share your thoughts in the comments!
7 comments on "Constance Kent | Murder at Road Hill House"
  1. I heard about this case from a show on PBS and from the Mr. Whicher series. I believe she was involved but her brother played a bigger part.

  2. This is a rather bizarre tale. What was Elizabeth Gough fate?

  3. As always, fascinating stuff...hard to know what happened, but you lay out compelling arguments to be sure...

  4. The thought of one child murdering another is horrific. It seems weird that she would admit to something that she didn't do but I don't think she did it on her own.

  5. The thought of one child murdering another is horrific. It seems weird that she would admit to something that she didn't do but I don't think she did it on her own.

  6. I have NO idea what to think of this one! It really didn't sound like Constance did it, and if she didn't, she really took the fall for someone she really loved or cared about. I just feel awful for Francis. To kill a child to punish the mother...just horrible.

    Great post again!

    Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com

  7. Hmm interesting read! I'm not so sure she committed the crime either. Although, even if she didn't and she were covering for someone who did in fact commit the crime I view her as being just as guilty anyway. That poor boy didn't deserve to die!

    Renee @ Maritime Mama


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