On an icy January morning in 1803, George Forster was found guilty of the murder of his fourth child and estranged wife. Dragged from the bottom of the Paddington canal, their dead bodies formed the conclusion to a sorry family saga that had seen two of his children placed in the workhouse, and another who was dead already. Mr Bushwell, Forster’s boss from a coach-making workshop, had come to visit him in custody before the trial to see if he could help. Forster begged him to go to the Green Dragon at Highgate and ask if anyone remembered him being there on the evening of the murder, taking a glass of rum and asking after a Mrs Young. This, he hoped, would be his alibi. Mr Bushwell obliged, but it turned out that he was not allowed to give his evidence in court. Silenced by the power of the law, Forster listened helplessly as the judge pronounced the most dreaded verdict: hanging and anatomisation. When Christ returned to resurrect the faithful and take them with him back to heaven, Forster’s damned body would be in pieces.
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