The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts: A Story of Confessions, Acquittals and Jailbreaks

Written by David Lassman Mick Davis
Review by Edward James

On 24 September 1851, 14-year old Sarah Watts was brutally murdered at a farmhouse near Frome in Somerset while her parents were at market. At the time Somerset did not yet have a professional police force, so the magistrates asked Sgt Henry Smith of Scotland Yard, part of the newly formed London Metropolitan Police, to help find the killer.

The Awful Killing of Sarah Watts is a true crime story with a gallery of colourful suspects, courtroom drama, sudden new evidence, gaolbreaks and more. Essentially a piece of local history, meticulously researched by two local historians, it has a wider interest as a detailed case study of law enforcement, criminal justice and the penal system at a formative stage in their development in Britain. The case remains unsolved, and readers are left with a set of scenarios to choose from themselves.