While desperately searching for items to populate On This Day on our main website, I came across a story which really deserves the TV blockbuster treatment. It has murder, detective work, courtroom drama, a twist and – not entirely inevitably – an execution.
It involves the violent murder by his servant’s hand of the Whig politician Lord William Russell on 5 May 1840. It took place at the peer’s London residence. Members of Russell’s personal staff – Francois Courvoisier (valet) and Sarah Mercer (housemaid) – discovered what appeared to be a burglary and their master’s body the following morning. But the authorities smelled a rat, suspecting an inside job. Courvoisier in particular was in the frame although during his trial he continued to profess his innocence and point the finger at Mercer.
While the evidence was relatively scant, he stood a chance. But when new evidence came to light, he privately confessed to the crime to his barrister while continuing to protest innocence in open court. To no avail. Courvoisier was eventually found guilty and hanged outside Newgate Prison on 6 July 1840.
So what was the motive? It turns out that during his private confession, Courvoisier revealed that Russell had sacked him for theft and his solution to the predicament was this rather ham-fisted staged burglary and murder.
A bit more detail here.