Historic Kirkby on Bain murder case is focus of BBC series

Ethel Major
Ethel Major

The case of a Kirkby on Bain woman hanged for murder more than eight decades ago is to feature on television this week.

Staff at the Horncastle branch of Chattertons Solicitors & Wealth Management welcomed the crew of BBC1 series, Murder, Mystery and My Family, who were investigating the 1934 case of Ethel Major(43) - accused of murdering her husband with a corned beef supper.

Edward Conway, Chief Executive Officer at Chattertons. EMN-190104-145722001

Edward Conway, Chief Executive Officer at Chattertons. EMN-190104-145722001

The series follows relatives of those convicted of murder and hanged for their crime, as they reinvestigate the evidence using modern forensics and team up with Barristers Jeremy Dein QC and Sasha Wass QC.

Richard Chatterton, a Horncastle solicitor and founder of Chattertons, was Ethel’s defence solicitor.

Chatterton’s CEO Edward Conway, said: “We were contacted by the series producers who were working with a descendant of Ethel Major to research her case.

“They were looking at the documents in the court files, which led them to us and Richard Chatterton - who was the solicitor who instructed Ethel’s defence counsel during her trial.

“Chattertons were heavily involved in the case and believed that Ethel was innocent. 

“One of the last letters Ethel ever sent was to him (Richard), thanking him for everything he had done for her.”

It is known that Ethel had a daughter at the age of 23, whom she named Auriol, in 1914, but refused to tell anyone who the father was.

Auriol was brought up by Ethel’s parents and passed off as Ethel’s sister. 

Ethel married Arthur Major in the summer of 1918 and gave birth to a son, Lawrence, in 1919.

It is believed that in the early 1930s Arthur found out about Ethel’s first child and demanded to know who the father was. 

Ethel refused to say and their relationship began to deteriorate.   

After eating poisoned corned beef on May 22, 1934, Arthur complained of severe stomach pains and died two days later.

Following an anonymous letter, the funeral was stopped by the police. 

Detectives from Scotland Yard were sent to investigate the murder.

Ethel was put on trial and found guilty.

She was hanged at a prison in Hull, in December 1934. 

The historic case of Ethel Major has also interested members of the Kirkby on Bain and Roughton CAMEO club. At their March meeting, members welcomed speaker Chrissy Chapman who went into more detail regarding the autopsy results. The autopsy on Arthur’s body was held in The Ebrington Arms, in Kirkby On Bain.

Investigators found Arthur had ingested a quantity of strychnine!

• The case of Ethel Major will be aired on BBC1 this Friday, April 5, at 9.15am.