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Real skeletons in the closet

30th April 2011

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The skeleton of a local man was found in a cupboard at the University of Bristol 190 years after he was hanged for murder.

John Horwood, from Hanham, has since been buried next to his father at a cemetery in his hometown thanks to the investigative work of his great-great-great-grandniece, Mary Halliwell.

Horwood was only 17 when he threw a pebble at his ex-girlfriend, Eliza Bolsom, ultimately killing her.

Although her injuries were only minor, Dr Richard Smith decided Bolsom needed an operation. The procedure caused a fatal abscess and Bolsom died 7 days later.

Dr Smith testified for the prosecution at the trial and Horwood was sentenced to death by hanging.

After the execution, Horwood’s body was then presented to Dr Smith who dissected it before using the skin to bind a book about the whole ordeal. The book is now held at the Bristol Record Office.

Halliwell, 68, who had been investigating her family’s history, discovered Horwood’s story and decided to make sure he got the burial he had always been denied.

She stated that her wish was “to lay him to rest as his parents wanted” and that she feels she has now managed to achieve a sense of closure.

“I feel like I have finally ended a story that began 190 years ago.”

Horwood’s body was finally laid to rest at Christ Church Cemetery at 1.30pm on 13th April, exactly 190 years from the moment he was hanged.


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